A historic day for Softball Ireland as the girls in green took on Italy in the final of the U19 Women’s Softball European Championships. After a hard fought game at the Ronchi Ballpark in Italy, Ireland were defeated by the hosts 7-3. Despite the defeat, Ireland have qualified for the World Championships in 2019, an added bonus on top of their remarkable achievement in claiming silver.
Throughout the tournament, Ireland have thrown some major surprises and for much of the match it looked like we were on for another. Having won 7 out of the previous 9 games in the tournament, the confidence was evident to see. Italy took a 1-0 lead in the first inning courtesy of a run scored by Cianfriglia. Ireland got themselves back into the game in the third inning taking a 2-1 lead after Hannah Monteleone and Nicole Franklin ran secyr for runs. There was also some fantastic fielding on display as Lilly Willmot took a sensational diving catch for Italy’s third out in the second inning. Italy then leveled the game and testament to the Irish defence, they showed their character to keep Italy scoreless despite having all three bases occupied.
It was the fourth innings where Italy took the game away from the Irish and scored 3 runs to Ireland’s zero. Despite the valiant effort from the girls in green they couldn’t mount a comeback and ended up on the losing side. Despite the loss, the delight on beating the odds and getting this far was clear to see as the ladies celebrated at the end of the game.
Coming into the championships, Softball Ireland President Colum Lavery, was confident that the Irish team could come home with a medal. Ranked 20th in the world, even Colum will be pleasantly surprised by the unbelievable efforts from the ladies. Having just conceded 16 runs prior to the final, Ireland have shown that they have some of the best young pitchers around in Makenzie McGrath and Kelly Nelson. The standard of fielding as well cannot be understated with some incredible catches being taken and stops been made throughout the tournament.
The U19 Women’s Softball European Championships began on July 16th with a record 17 teams competing. Ireland were drawn into a group consisting of Great Britain, Russia and Denmark, with the top two progressing into the next group-stage.
After a convincing 21-0 victory against Denmark in the opening game and a 3-1 win against Russia in the Stranzano ballpark, Ireland were defeated 5-2 by Great Britain to qualify second in the group.
Progressing into the top 8 for the first time in their history, Ireland were drawn into a group with Germany, Belgium and number one ranked, the Netherlands. In the first game of this group, Ireland faced Germany in a tight match. After no runs being scored in the first 3 innings, Ireland took the lead thanks to some superb batting which saw them score 4 runs. The match ended 4-1 to Ireland.
Next up was Belgium and runs from Maura Keary and Kelly Nelson helped secured a comfortable 7-0 win to guarantee at least 6th place. In the last game of the group and already guaranteed to progress to the next round, Ireland pulled off a superb upset against number one seeds the Netherlands. Maura Keary, Eimear Cunningham and Mackenzie McGrath all contributing runs to the team.
Moving into the final stages of the tournament, Ireland faced hosts Italy for the first time in what would be the eventual final. Italy won 7-0 before Ireland again faced Great Britain. After a 5-0 defeat Ireland had to beat the Czech Republic and hope Italy beat the Netherlands for a chance to progress to the final. A 1-0 victory against the Czech Republic thanks to a crucial run from Hannah Monteleone and three strike-out each by Makenzie McGrath and Kelly Nelson meant it was a nervy wait on the results from the other game. Italy ended up beating The Netherlands 4-3 which meant Ireland made history progressing to the final. Cue the celebrations!
— Softball Ireland ☘️ (@SoftballIreland) July 20, 2018
Reaching the final marks a huge landmark for Softball Ireland as they continue their efforts to grow the sport. With approximately 40 teams and 700 active players in Ireland, the success of the U19’s will hopefully drive more individuals to give it a go. With the Olympics around the corner and the promise the Softball team are showing, why not try it out and see if you can transfer your camogie skills to softball. You could be going to Tokyo 2020! If you want to find out more about softball click here!
The U22’s will be looking to emulate the success of the U19 team as they begin the U-22 Women’s European Championship in Slovakia from the 23 July – 28 July.