|Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2021 by Marco Stoovelaar|
(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photo by Fred Versluis, Softball Europe & Marco Stoovelaar)
Netherlands Softball Team empty-handed in Final European Championship
CASTIONS DI STRADA (Italy) -
The Netherlands Women's Softball Team ended up empty-handed in the all-deciding Final of the 22nd edition of the European Championship Women's Softball in Italy on Saturday-evening (July 3).
Although the team took an early lead, the Orange Team was unable to hold onto it and lost 9-5 against Italy.
With that, the Italian team prolonged the European title.
For the Azzurri, it was the second consecutive title and its twelfth overall.
The Orange Team opened the tournament on Sunday-morning with a 16-0, mercy-rule, shutout against Austria.
On Monday-evening, the team recorded a 9-6 victory in what was an unpexted suspenseful and close game against Germany, then closed the First Round on Tuesday with a 16-0 win against Lithuania.
On Wednesday, the Netherlands opened the Second Round with an 8-1 win against France, then won 9-0 against Israel later in the day.
On Day 5 of the event (Thursday), the team closed the Second Round with a 12-2 win against Russia.
In the evening, the Orange-squad opened the Play-Offs with a 2-1 loss against Italy.
On Friday, the Netherlands closed the Play-Off Round with two victories.
First, the team shutout Spain 11-0, but in the evening a suspenseful game followed against the Czech Republic.
The Orange Team then won 5-4 on a walk-off walk in the seventh inning to reach the Final.
Besides winning the European title, there were several other qualifications at stake in this year's tournament.
As mentioned earlier, the six best teams qualified for the second edition of the Super6, which will be organized again next year.
These are the six teams that advanced to Group X.
The three best teams qualified for the 2023 WBSC Women's World Cup.
By reaching the Final, Italy and the Netherlands qualified for the World Cup on Friday.
The third team is the Czech Republic, which on Saturday won the Bronze Medal-game against Israel with a 2-0 score.
As European champion, Italy also qualified for participation in the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama (USA).
Other scores of Day 7:
11th-12th place: Ukraine vs. Austria 0-10 (5 inn.).
15th-16th place: Bulgaria vs. Hungary 7-0 (5 inn.).
9th-10th place: Croatia vs. Poland 0-1 (8 inn.).
13th-14th place: Slovakia vs. Denmark 6-1.
7th-8th place: Germany vs. Russia 3-2.
3rd-4th place: Czech Republic vs. Israel 2-0.
1. Italy, 2. Netherlands, 3. Czech Republic, 4. Israel, 5. France/Spain (tie), 7. Germany, 8. Russia, 9. Poland, 10. Croatia,
11. Austria, 12. Ukraine, 13. Slovakia, 14. Denmark, 15. Bulgaria, 16. Hungary, 17. Lithuania.
Netherlands vs. Italy
The Netherlands took an early 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning off of pitching-ace Greta Cecchetti, but was unable to take more distance and failed to hold onto the lead.
The Italian team came back, collected fifteen basehits, turned the game around in its favor and Cecchetti grew stronger.
The game, which lasted almost three hours, was attended by 500 spectators, the maximum that was allowed.
There was an emotional moment before the start of the game, as there was a moment of remembrance of Italian Softball Team Head Coach Enrico Obletter and former European Softball Federation President André van Overbeek, who both passed away this year.
The teams lined up from home plate to the pitching plate, with the players all embracing themselves.
Instead of a moment of silence, there was a steady applause from the spectators in honor of Obletter and Van Overbeek.
Enrico Obletter, who passed away on February 22, guided the Italian Team to the European title in 2019, then a few weeks later, he was successful again, as the team won the Europe/Africa Olympic Qualifier to qualify for the Olympic Games in Japan.
As we all know, the Olympic Games were postponed from last year to this year due to the measures against the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In February, Obletter was hospitalized with the coronavirus and passed away at the much too young age of 61 due to complications.
André van Overbeek, who was from the Netherlands, was the President of the ESF in 2009-2017 and in these years, he has done a lot for the development of softball in Europe.
Van Overbeek, who was 74 when he passed away on May 4, also was a Vice-President for Europe of the International Softball Federation.
The Italian players and coaches all wore a ribbon with the text 'PER ENRICO' (for Enrico).
...Left: Enrico Obletter...
...Right: André van Overbeek...
(© Fred Versluis, Marco Stoovelaar)
There also was a special moment shortly before the game when special attention was given to l'Associazione Italiana Sclerosi Laterale Amiotrofica (AISLA) (Italian Association Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).
The goal of this organization is to provide care and treatment for people with ALS, specifically encouraging new research and a proficient medical structure for the care of these patients.
The ceremonial first pitch was then thrown by someone who has ALS.
The Netherlands had a strong start off of Greta Cecchetti in the top of the first inning and scored three runs to take an early lead.
Britt Vonk led off with a walk, moved into scoring position via a sacrifice bunt by Brenda Beers and scored on a single by Jessie van Aalst.
Maxime van Dalen followed with an RBI-double to make it t 2-0 score and she move to third base on a grounder by Cindy van der Zanden.
Moments later, Van Dalen scored the third run on a single by Mariëlle Vleugels.
However, the Netherlands was unable to take more distance and was held scoreless from the second inning on.
In the meantime, the Italian squad came back and turned the game around.
The Italian team got one run back in the bottom of the first inning off of starter Marjolein Merkx who for the first time threw for the main Orange-squad in a situation like this, in a Championship-game .
Italian lead-off hitter Andrea Howard got a good first at bat and then connected well on the sixth delivery of Merkx, as she drove the ball over the centerfield-fence for her fifth homerun in the tournament.
With one out, Emily Carosone walked and then was replaced by pinch-runner Fabrizia Marrone.
On the first pitch to next batter Erika Piancastelli, Marrone took off and stole second base, where a collission followed with short stop Britt Vonk who tried to catch the throw from catcher Laura Wissink.
As Vonk had no possession of the ball, Spanish 3B Umpire Ibón Arévalo Lafuente stretched his left arm to give the 'obstruction' signal, but at the same moment Danish 1B Umpire Jens Jakobsen also made a call, as he had noticed that Marrone had left first base too early.
And so, he gave the out-signal.
With that, Marrone was not on second base, was not awarded third base on obstruction, but was the second out instead.
Shortly thereafter, Pancastelli hit a single, but she stranded on first base.
And that ended a long first inning, which lasted 32 minutes!
After the Netherlands was retired in order in the top of the second inning, the Italian team rallied for three runs in its second at bat.
Giulia Longhi led off with a triple and scored on a following single by Elisa Cecchetti.
She then moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Brittany Abacherli.
When next batter Giulia Koutsoyanopulos was hit by a pitch, Orange Manager Ferenc Jongejan came out the dug-out to make a pitching-change and veteran righthander Lindsey Meadows was brought in.
She got an infield-fly, but then got the bases loaded when Amanda Fama walked.
Pinch-hitter Emily Carosone then followed with a 2-run single to put Italy ahead, 4-3.
Greta Cecchetti then retired the side again in the third (adding two more strikeouts).
Italy then had a chance to score another run in the bottom of the third inning.
Andrea Filler and Giulia Longhi led off with singles and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Elisa Cecchetti.
But a double play ended the at bat.
The Orange Team then got into scoring position again in the top of the fourth.
With two outs, Dinet Oosting and Laura Wissink both singled, but a grounder closed the at bat.
In the bottom of the fourth, Italy rallied for four more runs to take a commanding 8-3 lead and a mercy-rule victory even appeared to be in the making.
Lead-off hitter Giulia Koutsoyanopulos was hit by a pitch, then Andrea Howard followed with her second homerun in the game and her sixth in the tournament!
Another pitching change followed.
This time, Ginger de Weert took over, but she also would give up a homerun.
With one out, Emily Carosone singled, then it was Erika Piancastelli who drove the ball into deep left/centerfield for a 2-run homerun, which also was her sixth.
Next batter Andrea Filler walked and Giulia Longhi reached on an infield-hit (her third basehit in the game), which led to another pitching-change.
With the two runners on base who represented the runs to get a mercy-rule run-difference, Kirsten Scheele took over the Orange-pitching.
The experienced righthander avoided giving up runs and thus avoided a mercy-rule loss, as a flyout an force out ended the inning.
The Netherlands was retired in order again in the top of the fifth, then the Italian team got another chance to do some scoring in its fifth, as it got the bases loaded with two outs.
With one out, Andrea Howard singled and with two outs, Emily Carosone was hit by a pitch.
After the two had advanced on a wild pitch, a force play was created as well as pitching around powerhitter Erika Piancastelli by putting her on base with an intentional walk.
The inning ended with a nice catch by rightfielder Jessie van Aalst on a hard hit by Andrea Filler.
The Netherlands got its next baserunner in the top of the sixth when lead-off hitter Maxime van Dalen was hit by a pitch.
With one out, a double play ended the at bat.
The home-team then got an opportunity to end the game via the mercy-rule in its third consecutive inning, but failed to do so again.
Just as in the previous inning, three runners were left behind.
Giulia Longhi led off with her fourth basehit in the game and moved when next batter Elisa Cecchetti also singled.
The two moved on a sacrifice bunt by Brittany Abacherli, then pinch-hitter Beatrice Ricchi delivered a runscoring single.
That lifted the lead to 9-2, meaning Italy was one run away from a mercy-rule win.
The next batter was Andrea Howard, who already had homered twice.
With runners at first and third base, Giulia Koutsoyankopulos re-entered as pinch-runner at first base for Ricchi, then Howard was walked intentionally.
With the bases loaded once again, Kirsten Scheele struckout the next two batters to end the inning!
...The Italian players celebrate winning the title...|
(© Photo: Softball Europe)
With that, the seventh inning began and it also started to rain somewhat heavier.
For the first time since the first inning, the Netherlands was productive again and came back into the game.
Dinet Oosting led off with a single.
Greta Cecchetti, who had thrown a solid game and struckout seven batters, was then relieved by Ilaria Cacciamani, but she was greeted with a towering homerun by Laura Wissink.
That narrowed the decit to 9-5.
Next, pinch-hitter Annemiek Jansen singled and moved to third base on an one-out double by Brenda Beers, which landed just on fair territory near the leftfield-line just out of reach of the diving leftfielder Elisa Cecchetti.
With runners now on second and third base and only one out, more runs appeared to be in the making.
And so, another pitching change followed.
Young pitcher Alexia Lacatena was inserted and she began with a strikeout.
Now with two outs, Maxime van Dalen hit the ball into leftfield where it was caught by Elisa Cecchetti.
That ended the game and the Italian team had successfully prolonged its European title!
The Italian players and coaches hugged each other, cheered and celebrated the title.
After awhile, the emotions got hold of the players and coaches, as there were tears when they chanted the name of beloved late Head Coach Enrico Obletter and the ribbon with his name was shown.
The Italian team captured the title under the leadership of Federico Pizzolini, who was one of the Assistant Coaches of Obletter.
After Obletter sadly passed away in February, Pizzolini was named as his successor.
After the game ended, Pizzolini wore Obletter's jacket as a hommage to former Head Coach.
The Italian Team captured the title again.
|Marjolein Merkx, L (1-1)||1.1||-||1||4||4||4|
|Lindsey Meadows||1.2 (*)||-||1||4||2||2|
|Ginger de Weert||0.1||-||1||3||2||2|
|(*) - Meadows pitched to two batters in the fourth inning|
|Greta Cecchetti, W (4-0)||6 (*)||7||1||6||4||4|
|Alexia Lacatena, SV (1)||0.2||1||-||-||-||-|
|(*) - Cecchetti pitched to one batter in the seventh inning|
|Homeruns: Netherlands: Laura Wissink (2)(7th,2-run,0 outs,off Cacciamani); Italy: Andrea Howard 2 (6)(1st,solo,0 outs,off Merkx; 4th,2-run,0 outs,off Meadows), Erika Piancastelli (6)(4th,2-run,1 out,off De Weert).|
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