Verona Teams Excel In School’s Out Softball Tourney

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The 12U Barnstormers
The 12U Barnstormers

A little over 72 hours after Sara Tortoriello of the Verona 10U travel softball team threw the first pitch of the 2016 School’s Out Softball Tournament on Friday, Mel Naeris of the Verona 12U Verona team fired a laser past a bewildered Rockaway Rampage batter to seal the 12U championship. Over the course of the weekend, 23 teams from both New Jersey and New York played a total of 55 games competing for softball titles at three different levels: 8U, 10U and 12U.

In addition to being gracious hosts, all of the Verona girls displayed their exceptional softball talents as the 12U team won the championship with a 1-0 win over a strong Rockaway Rampage squad in a scintillating final, the 10U team advanced to the championship game but fell to their arch-nemesis Cedar Grove 4-2 in a heart breaker and the 8U team fought its way to the semifinals in a very talented division where it succumbed to the eventual champion Jersey Blaze, a club team from Red Bank.

The 12U team clinched its second tournament title of the year with a perfect weekend of softball. In pool play, the 12U Barnstormers secured the number one seed with an unblemished 3-0 record, recording wins over the Maplewood-South Orange Villagers (18-0), the Montgomery Devils (9-1) and the Manalapan Belles (11-0). The sterling pitching, hitting and defense continued during Sunday medal play with a 14-1 quarterfinal win over the MSO Villagers and a 6-0 shutout of the NJ Vipers. The semifinal win set up the championship showdown with its chief rival, the Rockaway Rampage (who were also undefeated in Saturday pool play).

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The 12U championship game between these two local softball titans more than lived up to its billing and was highlighted by fantastic pitching and defense. Naeris toed the rubber for Verona in the final tilt and her gritty “bend but don’t break” complete game performance was aided by flawless defense from her teammates. Verona second baseman Savannah Szamborski (one out over the shoulder grab of pop-up down first base line with bases loaded in the first inning and shoestring snare of soft liner and quick throw to first base to double up Rockaway leadoff runner in the sixth inning), Jackie Loudon (tracking down two towering fly balls in centerfield with runners on base in the third and fourth innings), Megan Meehan (snaring a two-out rocket groundball to third base to quell a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning) and Sabrina Thompson (her hustle in right field held Rockaway’s second-to-last batter to a triple on a ball that went all the way to the corner of the field) all made critical plays to prevent Rockaway from scoring any runs.

In the second inning, Szamborski and Thompson were also prominently involved in securing the lone run scored in the game. Verona ultimately loaded the bases following a lead-off single by Szamborski and walks by Kami Matthews and Sara Bochicchio. With two outs, Thompson’s patient at-bat against the talented Rockaway pitcher drew another walk to plate for Szamborski, which was all the 12U Barnstormers would need to win the title.

Verona’s pitching throughout the weekend was extraordinary. Naeris, Matthews, and Lia Tortoriello each recorded two wins (1 each in pool play and 1 each in medal play) while limiting opponents to a staggering two runs in six games. Sinclaire Infusino and Samantha Costigan expertly handled the catching duties over the course of the weekend for the 12U team and were instrumental in the team’s success.

The 12U offense, which scored a remarkable 59 runs in six games, was a well balanced attack. Each girl had at least two hits over the weekend highlighted by the following performances: Naeris (14 total hits with at least 1 hit in each game), Meehan (2 for 2, 2 RBIs and 3 Runs vs. MSO), Infusino (2 for 2, 1 RBI and 2 Runs vs. Manalapan), Tortoriello (6 total hits with a hit in each game), Szamborski (10 total hits with HR vs. Montgomery), Matthews (3 for 3, 2 RBIs vs. MSO), Costigan (7 total hits including 2 for 3 vs. NJ Vipers), Liv Garcia (3 run HR vs. MSO), Bochicchio (1-2 with 2B vs. Montgomery), Faith Reed (4 total hits including 1-2 with RBI vs. MSO), Thompson (3 total hits and championship winning RBI), Loudon (2 for 2 with 2B and RBI vs. MSO) and Kayla Brower (1 for 2 with RBI vs. both Manalapan and MSO).

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