By Arnie Leshin
Italy, the Europe-Africa champion, saved its best for its biggest moment as it stunned previously undefeated West Region power Hawaii, 4-2, last night to advance to tonight’s semifinals of the annual Little League Girls Softball World Series.
This looked like it would be mismatch before theteams took the field
in Portland, Ore. It followed undefeated Southeast winner North Carolina’s 4-0 zip over Central Region champion Iowa, and that was expected, and is favored over host Oregon, which won the district to qualify.
But game two’s result was a shocker. Hawaii had won all of its five starts, outscoring its opponents 35-10 and that include three shutouts. Only the 7-5 win over East Regional’s Pennsylvania was a tough test.
And Italy was on sort of a rollercoaster. It either went up or down, up for three victories and down for four setbacks. It had already lost to Louisiana, North Carolina and Oregon, the three other semifinalists, and was outscored 20-43.
But the team from Bologna, despite knowing it was the big underdog, came to upset the cart. It played its best game of the tournament, scoring once in the second inning, once more in the fourth, and added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth.
It had only four hits, but it also coaxed five walks, and ran the bases like a track team, and this included four stolen bases. Right handed pitcher Chiara Dilauro, the manager’s daughter, had a shutout going until Hawaii scored twice in the sixth. Hawaii had a lead-off single followed an infield hit. An error by the shortstop moved the runners to second and third, and it finally scored on a hit to short right field, but when the other runner got caught between second and home, she became the first out. The second out came on a ball hit back to Dilauro and she easily got the out at first.
Hawaii still had the one runner aboard and she fled to third and came home on a passed ball. But the final out came on a grounder to first, and Italy was whooping it up, tossing their gloves in the air and piling on. It had played flawless ball until the sixth.
“I am so proud of them.” said manager Rico Dilauro. “This was the best we played all season. We hit at the right times, got key outs, and ran the bases well. And Chiara did a good job from the circle.”
Italy picked up six strikeouts from Dilauro and she walked two. She gave up five hits, three coming in the sixth. Losing hurler Jenni Sinnett, who had been unbeaten in the Region and World Series, allowed four hits, fanned five, walked two, and there were a pair of errors behind her.
Now Italy will see if it can also upset Louisiana, which is 4-1 and got past Mexico, the Mexican Region champion, 1-0, with the lone run coming in the third frame on back-to-back doubles. The teams met earlier and Louisiana, from River Edge, won handily, 10-0.
Its lone loss came on day one to North Carolina, 7-0. Now it hopes to get past Italy, and if North Carolina defeats host Oregon, it could get a rematch.
North Carolina has a previous 7-1 triumph over the District 4 champions from Portland. Oregon is 4-3, and has been similar to Italy, playing at a .500 clip.
Oregon has scored 30 times and allowed 34. North Carolina is 5-0 and has outscored its opponents 40-3 with quality pitching, fielding and hitting. These two play the Tuesday opener.