After a disappointing start to their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Australia’s national softball team, the Aussie Spirit has beaten Italy 1-0 at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.
Both Australia and Italy were handed losses on the opening day of the tournament and now needed to fight to stay in medal contention, Italy came out swinging from the outset, looking to make its mark early on.
However, as was evidenced all game, Australia was better defensively than its opening game and was quick to produce critical outs.
The game-winning run came from Taylah Tsitsikronis, courtesy of a Jade Wall two-out infield single where a silky pickup but late, errant through helped Wall reach first and Tsitsikronis to cross home plate.
Ellen Roberts closed out the game in place of Kaia Parnaby as the Italians were beginning to start a late rally in the seventh to progress the game.
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Swinging from the very first pitch, the Italians were set on getting baserunners early with Andrea Howard connecting but grounding out to third base on the first pitch of the game.
Amanda Fama was Italy’s first baserunner with a single into centrefield and while she would advance to third, consecutive groundouts prevented a score.
In reply at the bottom of the first, Australia’s lead-off Michelle Cox struck out before Leigh Godfrey singled to centre. Stacey Porter then grounded into a double play as the Italians went back into the dugout.
To start the second inning, it was a three-up, three-down inning as the defensive efforts from the Spirit was on show.
A linedrive up the third base line resulted in a lead-off double for Tsitsikronis to kick things off in the second inning for Australia. Advancing to third, Tsitikronis was the first to score a run, coming home on a two-out single via Wall.
Italy’s first two hitters of the third inning each grounded out to second base Leah Parry before a Howard single, although the Spirit got the leading runner for the third out on an Fama groundball.
Parry flew out to third base as the lead-off batter for Australia at the bottom of the third, and a groundout to Cox followed. Godfrey earned a walk to keep the Spirit alive but was out on a forceplay at second when Porter grounded to shortstop.
Australia remained tidy in the field, delivering another three-up, three-down inning on the Italian side, keeping its one-run lead heading into its fourth turn at bat, though the the first three batters for the Spirit were retired in consecutive order in the bottom half.
Parnaby continued to pound the strikezone and it was another inning where Italy couldn’t find a baserunner, three consecutive hitters going down in succession to start the fifth. It was much the same for the Spirit in the bottom half, each of their hitters grounding out to third base, highlighting the pitcher’s duel.
A lead-off single to Giulia Koutsoyanopulos got Italy fired up at the top of the sixth inning and though a sacrifice bunt from Howard, she advanced to second. Two groundouts to the next two hitters saved Australia from any trouble.
Back to the top of the order for the Spirit to start their sixth turn at the plate, Cox grounded out but Godfrey made it safely to first via an infield single. Porter connected well on a Greta Cecchetti pitch but it was caught by the left fielder before Godfrey was caught stealing second during Tsitsikronis’ at-bat.
Italy’s final chance to stay in the game began with Erika Piancastelli who made good contact but flew out to rightfield and the team was down to its final out when Parnaby struckout Andrea Filler. Guilia Longhi kept the inning going with a linedrive up the third base line that stayed fair and got into a scoring position when she stole second.
A base on balls delivered by Parnaby towards Laura Vigna saw Spirit coach Laing Harrow make a pitching change, bringing in Ellen Roberts with the task of finding the final out. Vigna got to a 2-2 count before Roberts put a pitch by her to claim victory.
Spirit starter Parnaby managed 6.2 innings in the pitching circle, giving up four hits with two strikeouts whereas their closer Roberts secured the save. Godfrey was Australia’s only multiple-hitter, getting on base twice while Tsitikronis scored on a Wall single.
For Italy, Cecchetti took the loss by pitching six innings, giving up four hits for one run with two strikeouts. Four separate Italian hitters collected a hit each during the contest.
The standings after the second day of the softball tournament at this year’s Olympic Games has Australia sitting third with one win and one loss and as for Italy, after two losses, its falls to fifth in the six-team competition.
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