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Dec 13, 2021

Holmdel Hornets 12U Travel Softball Team Captures USABL Fall League Championship

By Shanna O’Mara

The Holmdel Hornets 12U travel softball team advanced to the fall league championship this year with a resolution to not let history repeat itself. During the 2020 fall campaign, the girls lost to the Staten Island Wolfpack by just one run. This year, they were determined to emerge victoriously. Ultimately, their hard work and dedication paid off as they were crowned champions after defeating the Hamilton Hurricanes 14-6.

Sophia Vanario led the offense, going 3-4 with two triples, a double and 4 RBI throughout the game. Molly DeBias recorded three hits, one RBI and four stolen bases. Mackenna Savage had three hits, including a triple, and racked up two RBI and two stolen bases. Ava Forsyth and Mia Buitrago each had two hits and an RBI. Two hits, including an in-the-park homerun, came off the bat of Natalie Clifford. Neve Caspi, Lauren D’Amore, Kylie Lau and Bella McGoey also played key offensive roles in the victory.

  Starting pitcher Savage threw three and two-thirds innings, allowing six hits and four runs while striking out three. D’Amore then took the mound and threw the remaining two and one-third innings, giving up two runs and recording four strikeouts. The defense was flawless throughout the game, with not a single error committed in the field. 

The game was tightly contested through the first five innings. Coach Stacey Savage said, “We went into the sixth inning saying, ‘Here we are. Girls, you have worked so hard. Let’s do this.’”

The Hornets took a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the sixth then really opened up in the seventh, batting around the order, scoring seven runs and ultimately ending the game via the eight-run mercy rule.

Coach Savage said, “Not every game is an offensive blowout. Sometimes you’ll have games with more strikeouts than hits, but that just wasn’t the case that weekend.”

The coach said her athletes were awarded their medals on the field and continued celebrating together long after they drove away. 

“It’s more than just softball to them,” she said. “They’re friends on and off the field. They’re always talking about who is hanging out where and who is having dinner together that night. During the Summer Olympics, we all got together at one of the coaches’ house to watch the softball game. These girls attend Friday night [high school] football games together. Around the holidays, we adopted a family and went shopping together as a team. They want to spend time together and have such an amazing bond.”

All of the players are Holmdel residents or students, attending Indian Hill School, W.R. Satz Middle School or St. Benedict Catholic School. Rounding out the roster but absent from the championship game were Eli Salerno and Casey Zammit.

“Many of these girls have been together since the 8U division, and I’ve been with most of them since they first stepped on the field,” Coach Savage said. “It has been so special to see how they’ve grown.”

Players on the travel team commit to two years and practice year round. Games are organized based on talent and level of competition. After a successful run last year, the Hornets faced strong teams out of Freehold, Robbinsville, Monroe, Hamilton and Milltown this fall. Ultimately, they ended the season with an 8-4-2 record.

“They really are dedicated,” Coach Savage said. “They miss sleepovers. They commit to practicing. They go to bed early because they know they’re expected to be at the field early on Saturdays. They make sacrifices not just for their level of play but their team.”

Many of the players also participate in other sports, including basketball, rugby, lacrosse and soccer. With enthusiasm for the game, strong mindsets and physical strength, Savage said these girls are easy to coach and destined for greatness.

“Our assistant coaches – Jeff McGoey, Cory DeBias and Mike Forsyth – are all parents of a player on the team and are so amazing,” she said. “They do what is best for these girls and really encourage them to be better. Our players are such hard workers and have come so far. They practice twice a week, and many work out with each other or trainers the other days. You’ll hear their names again. They’re going to do big things on and off the field. Most importantly, I want them to walk off this field with memories, life lessons and friends.”