AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – As the rain drops stopped falling Friday on the Aviano Saints softball team, the runs from Naples poured in like a flood.
The Wildcats, who have won the last four DODDS-Europe Division II softball titles, made it appear that a fifth straight isn’t too hard to imagine in a 20-0 pounding of Aviano in the second game of a doubleheader. Naples came from behind to win the first game, 13-10, as starters replaced reserves in the final innings and sparked the victory. Some rain fell, but didn’t halt play.
“We were trying to get (reserves) some playing time and see what they can do,” Naples coach Jesse Costa said.
Aviano, with about half the enrollment of Naples and without a single starter from last year’s team, had taken an 8-5 advantage through three innings, buoying hopes of a possible upset.
But it started falling apart for the Saints in the fourth. Isabella Krause, Naples’ standout centerfielder, entered the game for the first time and led off with a single. Davina Guttierez, who pitched the first three innings, then reached on an error. Autumn Grant singled in one run. Both Guttierez and Grant would score on a combination of stolen bases and Saints errors to tie the game.
Krause struck the decisive blow in the next inning, drilling a pitch down the left field line that rolled to the fence. The bases were loaded and Krause easily scored herself, flying around the bases for an inside-the-park grand slam.
The Saints picked up two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but the game then reached the time limit of 1 hour, 50 minutes.
Naples ace Bayley Caldwell pitched the final two innings and started the next game. She faced only seven batters in two innings in the second game, giving up a hit and no walks.
Aviano’s pitchers didn’t fare as well. After a quick scoreless first inning, Naples sent 25 batters to the plate in the second.
After an initial out, Tianna Frazier – who had four hits in the first game – was the only one of 17 straight Naples batters not to cross the plate. Krause had another home run – this time to right field – but the main damage came via five Aviano errors, eight walks, two hit batters and a series of wild pitches that allowed anyone who got on base to advance steadily toward home.
The inning ended after three Naples reserves had entered the game and scored, with the final out coming via an interference call on a Naples base runner.
Despite the lopsided score, Aviano coach Mark Baldwin said his team is making steady progress. Aviano only has one senior: Michayla Robinson, a transfer from Nile C. Kinnick in Japan, who was playing in her first games as a Saint.
Baldwin said the team looks better every time it takes the field. Weather cooperating, the Saints are set to do that again Saturday against Sigonella. Naples travels to Vicenza.