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Sigonella catcher Hanna Davis reaches for the ball afer Aviano's Jasmine Vasquez misses it with a swing in the Saints' 12-8 victory Saturday.
Sigonella catcher Hanna Davis reaches for the ball afer Aviano's Jasmine Vasquez misses it with a swing in the Saints' 12-8 victory Saturday. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Sigonella catcher Hanna Davis reaches for the ball afer Aviano's Jasmine Vasquez misses it with a swing in the Saints' 12-8 victory Saturday.
Sigonella catcher Hanna Davis reaches for the ball afer Aviano's Jasmine Vasquez misses it with a swing in the Saints' 12-8 victory Saturday. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Aviano pitcher Amariah Morales tosses the ball toward first after fielding it cleanly Saturday in the Saints' 12-8 victory over Sigonella.
Aviano pitcher Amariah Morales tosses the ball toward first after fielding it cleanly Saturday in the Saints' 12-8 victory over Sigonella. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Sigonella sophomore pitcher Michelle Rodriguez tosses the ball toward home in the Jaguars' 12-8 loss to Aviano in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader.
Sigonella sophomore pitcher Michelle Rodriguez tosses the ball toward home in the Jaguars' 12-8 loss to Aviano in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Sigonella's Lindsay Parker connects with a pitch before Aviano catcher Eliana Morales can grab it in the Saints' 6-4 victory Saturday.
Sigonella's Lindsay Parker connects with a pitch before Aviano catcher Eliana Morales can grab it in the Saints' 6-4 victory Saturday. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Aviano sophomore pitcher Elizabeth Bond had a rough first inning against Sigonella - giving up four runs on five walks - but settled down to lead her team to a 6-4 victory on Saturday.
Aviano sophomore pitcher Elizabeth Bond had a rough first inning against Sigonella - giving up four runs on five walks - but settled down to lead her team to a 6-4 victory on Saturday. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – Six games into its season, the Aviano softball team didn’t look like a two-time defending European champion. Literally or figuratively.

Only two players return from last year’s squad, which took home top honors in Division II. And losses to Naples, Sigonella and Vicenza to open the season had Aviano desperate for a victory.

That didn’t look likely very early Saturday, though, as Aviano sophomore pitcher Elizabeth Bond walked five batters in the opening inning and the first four Jaguars to come to bat scored.

After that, though, signs of recent past glory started to emerge. Bond allowed only one hit and one walk the rest of the way and Aviano won 6-4. Then the Saints jumped on Sigonella early and often and held on in the second game for a 12-8 win and a sweep.

Aviano coach Brian Irizarry wasn’t about to predict a title repeat. But he liked much of what he saw.

“We’ve been playing some close games,” he said. With only two returners – and those didn’t start – there’s been a lot of moving around in the lineup and field to try to find fits, he said. “Leadership as well. That’s starting to emerge.”

Some timely hitting did, too. The Saints had only three hits in the first game – one more than Sigonella. The biggest one was Ariana Artis’ two-run single that broke a 4-4 tie in the fourth.

The Saints got as many hits (five) in the first inning of the second game as both teams had combined in the first. The first six Aviano batters scored. Eliana Morales’ two-run single in the second put Aviano on top 9-0.

Sigonella scored six times in the fifth to get within 10-7, but couldn’t get closer.

“Aviano just outplayed us today,” said coach Steve Larson. “They hit, we didn’t. They played defense, we didn’t. They ran the bases. We …” He shrugged and smiled.

The Jaguars had defeated the Saints 20-9 and 14-13 to open the season.

“They’ve improved a good deal since we saw them those games,” Larson said. “We knew they would. We have a little as well, though we didn’t show it today. We really don’t know anything about the other teams (at the European championships), but I think we’ll be right there.”

Harris.kent@stripes.com

Migrated
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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