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Italy Preview

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Head Coach: Silvano Ambrosioni (1992, ’96 Olympic coach).

Key Players: RHP Jason Simontacchi is a California native who has played in the Royals and Pirates organizations and enjoyed his best season in the independent Frontier League in 1998, going 10-2, 2.95. C Chris Madonna, a University of North Carolina product, hit better than .400 in Italy’s top professional league this summer.

How Qualified: Finished second in the 1999 European championship last August.

Olympic History: Did not qualify in 1988. Went 1-2 in the round robin in 1984. Went 1-6 in the round robin in 1992. Went 2-5 in the round robin in 1996.

Players With U.S. Ties: Most of Italy’s key players are Americans of Italian descent. In addition to Simontacchi and Madonna, OF Dan DiPace and INF Seth LaFera were born in the United States. Italian native 1B Claudio Liverziani played in the Mariners system for a couple of years, batting .251-8-64 in 1997 and ’98 at Class A Wisconsin.

Notes: Italy’s top professional league wrapped up its playoffs early to allow the best possible team to compete in Sydney. The team held out hope of getting Marlins RHP Jason Grilli, who easily would have been the ace of the staff, but that didn’t work out.

Outlook: Italy won two games in 1996, and that’s about the best it can hope for this time around. The team is realistic about its chances and hopes to avenge its loss to the Netherlands last year and establish itself as the best team in Europe. "The very important game is against South Africa," Ambrosioni said. "We cannot lose that one. And we really want to beat Holland, too."

Roster

Pitchers: Fabio Betto, Roberto Cabalisti, Marc Cerbone, Emiliano Ginanneschi, Christian Mura, Daniel Newman, Battista Perri, Diego Ricci, Jason Simontacchi, Michele Toriaco.

Catchers: Matteo Baldacci, Stefano Landuzzi, Chris Madonna.

Infielders: Alberto D'auria, Davide Dallospedale, Andrea Evangelisti, Seth LaFera, David Sheldon.

Outfielders: Luigi Carrozza, Francesco Casolari, Roberto de Franceschi, Dan DiPace, Daniele Frignani, Claudio Liverziani.

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