CRO Keeps ITA Close
When last these two teams met it was the 2019 European Championship and Croatia kept the undefeated Italians closer than any other opponent in the tournament, losing 2-1 in extra innings. The Italians currently remain undefeated and, once again, Croatia kept it closer than all the rest. Having outscored their prior three opponents by 21 runs, Croatia forced the Italians into the ninth inning for the first time in the 2021 tournament.
Italy took an early lead in the bottom of the first. With two outs recorded Dario Pizzano singled to right to reach. He advanced to third on two consecutive walks issued by Croatian starter LHP Jose Diaz. Ernesto Liberator singled through the left side to bring him around.
In the top of the third Jose Herrera had a solo shot deep to right to tie things up. In the bottom of the 4th Ernesto Liberatore kicked things off with a double to right. Federico Celli walked aboard and Erick Epifano bunted to the third base side. With all the runners safe, the bases were loaded up for Mattia Mercuri’s sacrifice that drove in Liberatore.
Noel Gonzalez reached on a fielding error by Croatia’s 2B Kruno Gojkovic that allowed Celli to score. Following a pitching change Leo Ferrini reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Epifano. At the end of four Italy was on top 4-1.
In the top of the fifth Croatia closed the gap with a double by SS Jose Herrera that drove in Kruno Gojkovic, who had reached on a single up the left side.
Come the end of the 8th, Italy grew the lead. Erick Epifano and Mattia Mercuri walked aboard. Noel Gonzalez bunted them over before, with two outs recorded, Dario Pizzano homered to right to bring the three around. Vito Friscia followed his lead and took one over the left field fence for a solo shot that put the Italians ahead 8-2.
With just three outs to make something happen Croatia was not ready to give up. In the top of the 9th they closed the gap. Antonio Horvatic began the inning with a double to left. Slobodan Gales walked aboard and Petar Rumora singled through the left side to load them up before having Juricic step in as a pinch runner. Kruno Gojkovic sacrificed his at bat to bring Antonio around.
Andrew Jones singled up the middle and Gales crossed on an error by centerfielder Federico Celli. Herrera then sacrificed to the same spot, driving in pinch runner Petar Juriic before the third out was recorded ending the game 8-5 in favor of the Italians.