Italy and the Netherlands traditionally have the top baseball programs in Europe. The Dutch won the 2011 World Cup, becoming the first European nation to win a senior-level tournament in the professional era of international baseball (since 1998).
Italy entered the 2012 European Championships as the defending champion, and repeated this year by beating the Netherlands 8-3 in Sunday's championship in Rotterdam. The Italians pounded 12 hits off three Dutch pitchers of note—ex-big leaguer Shairon Martis, Reds prospect J.C. Sulbaran and Twins righty Tom Stuifbergen.
Italy got three RBIs from national team stalwart Mario Chiarini and four hits from fellow veteran outfielder Lorenzo Avagnina in the clincher. Giants farmhand Tyler LaTorre had a pair of RBIs as well to back former Coastal Carolina righty and ex-Orioles farmhand John Mariotti, who went six innings and gave up three hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out six.
The Italians went 5-0 in pool play, outscoring opponents 45-4, then went 5-0 in the medal round. LaTorre went 8-for-12 in the tournament overall. He told the Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel, "We had one goal and that was to repeat as European champs." He added that he hoped to be part of Italy's next club, the March 2013 WBC team.
WBC qualifier nations Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Great Britain and France all participated in the Euros before heading off to the WBCs. Spain finished third, ahead of Germany (fourth) and the Czechs (fifth). Sweden, which was not invited to the WBC, finished sixth—ahead of Great Britain and France, which went 2-4 apiece in pool play and did not qualify for the medal round.
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