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Italy, Croatia, Switzerland Will Meet In Italian Baseball Challenge to Prep For European Championship

 Leif Skodnick  |    Sep 13th, 2023 9:44am EDT

By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network

The Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball announced on Monday the start of the Italian Baseball Challenge event, which will be a series of exhibition games between the national teams of Italy, Croatia and Switzerland from September 16-17, prior to the start of the European Championships in the Czech Republic at the end of the September. 

The series will give the organizations an opportunity to evaluate players before building a roster for the European Championships later this month. 

Italy will begin their camp workouts on September 14 in the complexes in Ronchi dei Legionari, Cervignano, and Trieste prior to the Italian Baseball Challenge event. 

Italy, Croatia, and Switzerland will each have their rosters at this event to be at 27 prior to adjusting the rosters to 24 for the 2023 European Championships. 

All participating countries will have to name 24 active players to their roster for the 2023 European Championships prior to the start of the event. 

The 2023 European Championships will have six venues from September 24 to October 1 during the international senior event: Eagles Prague in Prague, Arrows Park Ostrava in Ostrava-Poruba, BrnoField in Brno, Třebíč Na Hvězdě in Třebíč, YD Baseball Arena Brno in Brno, and Strawberry Field Blansko in Blansko will be the host sites.

The relegation and placement rounds will be from September 28-30. The gold medal and bronze medal games will be on October 1.

The Italian Baseball League Serie A1 is now officially over for the spring-summer season with Unipolsai Fortitudo Bologna sweeping San Marino in four games on Friday. 

Second baseman Riccardo Paolini was named the Most Valuable Player for the final and will suit up with the Italian national team for the 2023 European Championships. 

Paolini batted .247 in the season and during the championship series he recorded five hits, two doubles, five RBI two walks, and struck out twice. 

Italy is No. 12 in the World Rankings and will have to maintain or improve their ranking to qualify for the Premier 12 tournament next season. Italy did not qualify in the U-12 and U-18 World Cups this year, which will have an impact on the World Baseball Rankings. 

The rankings that will qualify countries for the Premier 12 will be released on Dec. 31, 2023. The Premier 12 will be played after the professional seasons in Major League Baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball, the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan, Korean Baseball Organization, and Liga Mexicana de Beisbol have concluded. 

Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza will be the manager for Italy in the 2023 European Championships and will manage in the second consecutive international senior event following the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Piazza led Italy to the quarterfinals last March at the Tokyo Dome, where they lost to eventual champion Japan 9-3. Michele Geralli will take over as the third base coach for Italy, after serving as the outfield coach during the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He is the only other coach returning to the staff for the European Championships. 

The 2023 European Championship Roster will consist of players from the Serie A1 Italian Baseball League, professional players in the U.S. minor leagues, and at the college level in the United States. 

Vito Friscia, Nicolo Pinazzi, Robel Garcia, Michele Vassalotti, Gabriele Quatrini, Alex Bassani, Claudio Scotti, and Matteo Bochi are the only returning players from the Italian national team at the 2023 World Baseball Classic that are on the roster for the 2023 European Championships. 

Italy was one of the five teams from the World Baseball Softball Confederation Europe sector, along with the Netherlands, Israel, Great Britain, and the Czech Republic, to play in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. 

Italy has not won the European Championships since the 2012 tournament, when they beat the Netherlands in the gold medal game in Rotterdam. 

Italy has 10 gold medals at the European Championships, which is second all-time behind the Netherlands, which has won 24 gold medals. 

There will be four groups during the European Championships. Group A will be Austria, host nation Czech Republic, Spain, and Greece. Group B is Hungary, Italy, Great Britain, and Sweden. Group C will be The Netherlands, Ukraine, Croatia, and France. Group D is Belgium, Germany, Israel, and Switzerland.

The two locations of the Italian Baseball Challenge event will take place in Prosecco-Trieste at the ASD Junior Alpina Baseball and Softball Complex on September 16 and Ronchi de Legionari at Campo da Baseball Gaspardis, home of the New Black Panthers Serie A2 division team. 

The Federazione Italiana Baseball and Softball will have the Italian Baseball Challenge exhibition games streamed on FIBS.tv website and their YouTube page. 

Italian Baseball Challenge Schedule 

Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023 – Prosecco-Trieste – ASD Junior Alpina Baseball & Softball Complex 
9 a.m. EDT – Switzerland vs. Italy

Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023 – Ronchi dei Legionari – Campo Da Baseball Gaspardis
7:30 a.m. EDT – Croatia vs. Switzerland 
12 p.m. EDT – Italy vs. Croatia