Netherlands vs. Italy (Final)
In the Final, the Netherlands collected 10 basehits, including three by Britt Vonk, who hit a 2-run homerun, which gave the Dutch Team two insurance runs in the third inning.
Vonk scored three runs and batted in two.
Chantal Versluis recorded two basehits and scored once.
Brenda Beers scored twice.
Earlier in the day, Italy played the backdoor-game, or second Semi-Final, against Great Britain.
Greta Cecchetti, who went the distance for Italy in the first Semi-Final on Friday-evening against the Netherlands, also pitched all innings in this match-up.
The righthander struckout six batters and gave up only three hits, while Erika Piancastelli homered.
Italy won 8-1 to reach the Final, meaning the British squad finished in third place.
In the Final, Cecchetti again started for Italy, but this time, it was too much.
The experienced pitcher faced a strong Orange offense, gave up three runs and left the game early.
Italy was not able to come back, while the Netherlands added more runs to register a comfortable victory.
It marked the fourteenth time in twenty Championships that the Netherlands and Italy faced each other in a European Championship Final since the first tournament was organized in 1979.
Through 1995, the two best teams met in a best-of-three Final.
From 1997 on, there is only one Final, which follows a series of Play-Off games.
Before today, the two European archrivals met in 23 final games with the Orange winning 13 of them.
Today's 7-1 score was the biggest run-difference in a Netherlands vs. Italy Final since the Netherlands won 10-2 in the 2011 Final.
Back then, the Championship also was played in Italy.
At Rochi dei Legionari, the Netherlands then won 10-2 in a mercy-rule, 6-inning game.
That game ended with a walk-off homerun from Saskia Kosterink, who now was the Bench Coach in the staff of Head Coach Juni Francisca.
...3 runs, 2 RBI's...
...3 hits, 2-run HR...
(© Ph: Marco Stoovelaar)
It was Italy that reached base first off of starter Ginger de Weert in the first inning.
With one out, she hit Marta Gasparotto, but she stranded on first base.
(© Ph: Marco Stoovelaar)
The Netherlands then struck with three runs in the bottom of the first inning off of Greta Cecchetti.
She walked lead-off hitter Britt Vonk and then gave up a line drive single to Chantal Versluis, who was back in the starting line-up after being hit on her chin by a foul ball on Friday-evening.
The bases got loaded when a sacrifice bunt by Jessie van Aalst ended in an error.
Hereafter, Dinet Oosting delivered a runscoring single that opened the score and kept the bases loaded.
Next batter Maxime van Dalen flied out, but then the next run was scored when Virginie Anneveld walked.
That led to an early pitching change, as Greta Cecchetti was relieved by Ilaria Cacciamani.
She got a comeback-grounder from Suka Van Gurp, which led to a force out at the plate for Van Aalst.
With the bases still loaded, the third run was added when Karin Tuk also walked.
The inning ended, and three runners were left behind, when Brenda Beers, the ninth batter in the inning, grounded out.
But the Orange-squad had scored and the three runs formed the basis for a convincing victory.
Italy reached again in the top of the second inning, but left two runners behind.
With one out, Beatrice Ricchi walked and with one out, Lara Buila was hit by a pitch.
There was a brief discussion between Dutch Head Coach Juni Francisca and Canadian Home Plate Umpire Susan Strafford whether or not Buila was hit, but the call was upheld and so, Italy had runners on first and second base.
They were left there, as Ginger de Weert closed with a strikeout.
The Netherlands then added another run in the bottom of the second inning.
Britt Vonk and Chantal Versluis led off with singles, then Jessie van Aalst delivered the third consecutive basehit to bring in Vonk and lift the lead to 4-0.
Versluis and Van Aalst advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Dinet Oosting and with two outs, the bases got loaded (again) when Virginie Anneveld walked.
A pop-fly ended the at bat and so, three runners were left behind for the second inning in a row.
In the top of the third inning, Italian lead-off hitter Laura Vigna flied out.
Hereafter, Dutch Head Coach Juni Francisca came out to the pitching circle.
While Ginger de Weert had not given up a hit yet and had thrown two fine innings, she was replaced by veteran Rebecca Soumeru.
,,The choice wasn't that difficult, as this was part of my game-plan'', Francisca explained afterwards.
,,We've looked to the previous games Italy played and based our pitching on that for this game''.
...Dinet Oosting, Britt Vonk and Karin Tuk...|
...with the Championship-trophies...
(© Photo: Fred Versluis)
Soumeru walked Marta Gasparotto, then gave up a runscoring double to Erika Piancastelli that made it a 4-1 score.
But that was to be it for the Italian squad.
With Piancastelli on second base, a foul-pop followed, then Soumeru closed with a strikeout.
The Netherlands then dealt the deciding blow in the bottom of the third inning.
With one out, Brenda Beers singled and Britt Vonk followed with a line drive, 2-run homerun down the rightfield-line.
That lifted the lead to 6-1 and with that, the Orange-squad had taken a decisive lead!
Rebecca Soumeru would allow only three more batters to reach base in the remainder of the game.
The righthander retired the side in the fourth and fith inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, the seventh Orange-run was scored.
With two outs, Brenda Beers hit the ball through the middle for what appeared to be a single, but it was ruled an error.
Hereafter, another pitching change followed, as Alice Nicolini took over.
She was greeted with a single by Britt Vonk, which was her third basehit in the game.
With that, she reached base in her fourth at bat.
With runners at the corners, pinch-hitter Damishah Charles singled through the middle to bring in Beers and make it a 7-1 score.
In the top of the sixth, Italy got another runner in scoring position.
With one out, Giulia Longhi singled, then her pinch-runner Frabrizia Marrone advanced with two outs when an error was made on a grounder by (re-entry) pinch-hitter Beatrice Ricchi.
They both were left behind, as a grounder ended the at bat.
The Orange-squad got its final runner in the bottom of the sixth inning.
With one out, pinch-hitter Shareday Christina singled, but the Italian defense then turned an inning-ending double play.
And so, the Netherlands was now three outs away from recapturing the European Championship-title.
Veteran player Lara Buila led off with a single for Italy, but a pop-fly then accounted for the first out.
Hereafter, Rebecca Soumeru struckout Alice Parisi, another experienced player on the Italian roster.
With two outs, Marta Gasparotto hit the ball into short rightfield and there, it was rightfielder Jessie van Aalst, who made the final out of the inning, the game and the tournament!
The Netherlands was European Champion for the tenth time!
...The players celebrate the 10th European title for the Netherlands...|
(© Photo: Fred Versluis)
Two years ago, the Netherlands was left empty-handed in the Final against Italy when the event was held in Rosmalen (Netherlands).
Last year, the Orange-squad played a strong World Championship in Canada and wrote history by finishing in fourth place, the highest ranking ever.
And now, there was European success again.
,,We underscored that finishing in fourth place year was no coincidence, we showed that we are the best team in Europe'', Head Coach Juni Francisca said afterwards.
,,Yes, I knew that we had a very good chance to win it all, but I didn't expect that it was this convincing.
Our defense can be ranked in the top-3 of the world, our pitching is maybe in the top-6.
We have to get some better offensively.
But we have a very solid team, which can compete with the top of the world!''
The Netherlands is ranked in eighth place on the World Ranking List.
Despite the rain and long days, the Netherlands played twelve good games and won them all.
Francisca: ,,We played 12 games in seven days.
Luckily, the team stayed healthy and came through the tournament.''
With the capturing of the European title, the Netherlands Team continues its preparations and its road to the Olympic Games of 2020, which then will be held in Tokyo (Japan).
Softball (and baseball) then will make their comeback on the Olympic Programme.
Francisca: ,,Yes, the Olympic Games are the focus., that's where it is all about.
The players now will have two weeks off, then we will start our preparations for next years World Championship''.
That event also will be held in Japan.