Little League champions first from New York State
Time seemed to stand still as a popped ball sailed through the air above Stallings Stadium. As Olivia Feldman raised her arm, the crowd held their breath, feeling the weight of this moment. Finally, the sound of a catch reverberated through the stands; friends, family, teammates screaming and cheering in glee. The Little League Softball World Series championship match was over, and Massapequa International was taking home the win.
The team from Massapequa Park pulled out an incredible victory against North Carolina’s Pitt County Girls Softball League on Sunday, August 13. The final score was 5-2.
Players from Massapequa International also included Emma Brown, Sienna Erker, Abigail Long, Alexis Fontana, Kylie Longaro, Emmerson Moore, Ava Rios, Eden Tesoriere, Cassandra Van Schuyler, Jocelyn Vandenberg, and Mia Victor. They were coached by Dominick Fontana, Joe Fackler, and Joann Brown.
This was a historic win, not only for Massapequa but all of New York. Since the tournament began in 1974, a team from the state has never secured the title. “It means everything,” Eaton said on a broadcast with ABC, “When I got this team, I didn’t know if we were a good team, bad team, nothing.” But the team held promise early on; scoring a 6-5 victory against Connecticut, which secured their spot as the Mid-Atlantic representatives. From there, it was onwards and upwards, with the team defeating Puerto Rico and Connecticut again to reach the finals.
An early 3-0 lead sparked hope in the team. Fontana scored the first run. No holds were barred against the southeast representatives, as Feldman and Fontana threw 52 strikes on 74 pitches. Mia Victor reached base with two outs in the bottom of the frame, and was able to score off a double from Jocelyn Vandenberg. The third inning saw a rise in tension as Pitt County’s shortstop brought North Carolina two points. However, this was all the offense the opposing team was able to offer Massapequa Park. International needed three more outs to secure their victory, which Feldman was able to achieve following a popped ball from North Carolina’s Lilliana Whitehurst.
This was the first time Massapequa International played in the World Series, which speaks to the dedication and heart the players poured into every game of the season. “All summer, like, missing some of the hangouts to go to practices. Like, it all pays off,” said Kyra Maddock, a friend of the team, during a post-game interview with CBS. “They work their butts off and they absolutely deserve this. We’re so proud of them.”
And ‘work their butts off’ the team truly did! The team remained undefeated throughout the tournament. Manager Rich Eaton commends the players for sticking to a tough training schedule. “We trained like a professional team. We worked out five days a week, two hours a day.” The girls’ mantra is not to chase wins, but to chase excellence. Safe to say that excellence was achieved.
“It’s just an incredible feeling because I’ve always dreamt of this and to have it happen is just insane,” catcher Sienna Erker said.
“Are we the best team in the world,” pondered Eaton. “I don’t know. But we are the champions.”