U-19 Women’s European Championship took place in three ballparks in Italy – Ronchi, Staranzano, and Cervignano. A record number of participants (17) competed for the European title and also for three tickets to the WBSC World Championship in 2019.
Italy won the U-19 Women’s European Championship. The title has been traveling to different countries every two years during the last eight years. It was in Italy in 2010, the Netherlands won in 2012, the Czech Republic seized the title in 2014, and Great Britain changed history in 2016. This year, the trophy goes back to Italy.
The first surprise of the tournament happened in theround-robin phase when Ireland defeated Russia 3-1 and eliminated this traditionally strong team from the top 8.
For the first time in the history of the championship, the top 6 teams were all at the same level, and until the very last game of the pre-final day, nobody new who would make the final and the bronze medal game. Up until now, it was always Italy and the Netherlands or the Czechs, who dominated in these competitions, and there were no doubts about it. This edition of the U-19 Women’s Championship changed history, though.
The night before the final day, there were two late-evening games played. Ireland against the Czech Republic, and Italy against the Netherlands. Any of the four teams could still make it to the final. „I am super excited to see, that we have now a good number of teams at the top level. It’s not only the top two teams as usual. I hope that we have just started a new era of softball in Europe,“ said Gabriel Waage, president of the European Softball Federation.
In the end, Italy and Ireland matched up for the final game. And the Czech Republic and the Netherlands played for bronze, and more importantly for the third ticket to the Worlds.
The Dutch team had a dream of winning this Championship and their disappointment from not making it to the final was visible also in the bronze medal game. The Czechs, on the other hand, finally started to hit and they were the stronger team in this important game. They won the third place and they will be going to the WBSC Junior Women’s World Championship (World Cup) next year. (Final score of the bronze medal game Czech Republic 12, Netherlands 8).
In the final game; Italy against Ireland; the home team was driven by the cheering crowd during the whole game. The whole Italian team stuck together and worked as one. Team Ireland couldn’t beat Italy in that game, but that didn’t make them lose their smiles not even for a second. When the final double-play was called by the umpires, team Ireland started celebrating as if that was their win as well…and it was. (Final score of the final Italy 7, Ireland 3). Italy proved to be the strongest team according to the statistics as well. When it comes to hitting,the Azzuri had leaders (or top positions) in most of the categories such as RBI, total bases or hits.
HISTORY MADE FOR IRELAND
Ireland debuted in European fastpitch competitions in 2015 at the women’s Europeans in Rosmalen, the Netherlands. The team back then consisted mostly of slowpitch players. Last year, Ireland participated to the Junior Women’s Worlds, and continued the program towards this year’s Europeans. Just like Great Britain, Ireland can take advantage of a good number of players with Irish heritage living in the US, playing high school or college softball. The quality of softball that the Irish team brought into this competition helped to increase the level of the tournament, and it may also push other countries to start working even harder. This success of the green team will help fastpitch softball to grow in this slowpitch country.