Boys' Baseball Team Ranks 4th in the State
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Chris Gioia, Jennifer Gioia, Katie Bohn, and Michael Bohn
For the last four years, many of the boys on the 12U Boys All-Star Little League team have been playing baseball together. This year the All-Star team had an amazing season, which enabled them to rank fourth in the state. This week they begin playing in the State tournament. This is Rutherford spoke with the team’s head coach, Chris Gioia, and two of the assistant coaches Russ Snyder and Michael Bohn to learn about their team, unforgettable season, and the upcoming State tournament.
TIR: When did the 12U All-Star Baseball season begin?
Chris Gioia: First Game was on June 20th against Wood-Ridge. Practices with the team started June 8th, which was the end of the Rutherford Little League regular season.
TIR: You are the Head Coach of the team. Who are the Assistant Coaches?
CG: Russ Snyder, Jay Daly, Tom Weber, and Mike Bohn.
The team has a combined batting average of .436 with 151 hits 15 of which were home runs. Bulldogs outscored their opponents 134 runs to 11 runs in the District 5 Tournament and took 3 of the games in the Section tournament to move on to the NJ State Tournament.
TIR: Your team has already had an exciting season and will now begin playing in the State tournament. To what do you attribute their success?
CG: The Boys have been practicing since early March with their regular season Little League teams. A lot of their success can be attributed to their training with their regular season coaches through the years as well as their own efforts getting batting and pitching coaches.
These thirteen players are friends, so what can be better than playing ball with your buddies and winning while they are at it. They are an awesome group of kids and it's great to see them go this far in their final season of Little League Baseball.
Michael Bohn: This team is a very special group of young men. Most of them have been playing on the same All-Star team since they were 8, and they've become more than just a close, hard-working team, they've become amazing friends along the way. These boys head down to the field on their days off to practice on their own and even set up a Wiffle ball league to get in more reps. For these boys, baseball is life, and they love it.
They worked incredibly hard all year, from March through to this Section championship game, and they've really matured into a passionate and resilient team, never letting adversity get them down. We came into Sections undefeated, and very optimistic about our ability to advance. We faced LFSHB in the first game of the Section 2 Championship game, and they beat us 6-3 in a hard-fought game. The boys never let that loss defeat them mentally, and they came into the 2nd game ready to give it their all.
A great example was the last pitch of the Championship game - A very stressful bottom of the 6th, bases loaded, 2 out, 3-2 pitch count situation. Jack Williams (our catcher) calls timeout and walks to the mound to talk with Logan Bohn (our pitcher). The rest of the infield quickly rallies around them for a quick pep talk to refocus and energize the team. The next pitch was a called 3rd strike to seal the game. That camaraderie, friendship, and resilience are what has made this team so incredible to watch this year, and why I think why they've been so successful.
Logan Bohn told TIR, "I think our team has been so successful this year because we’ve really come together as a team and we know what it takes to win games together. Everyone on the team plays an important part, pitchers, hitters, fielders, and baserunners. We try and start off strong, trying to take the lead early in the game to boost our confidence and momentum, and we have stayed with this approach the whole tournament. Our only loss over those 14 games was the time we failed to do that against LFSHB (Little Ferry, South Hackensack, and Bogota) when they jumped out ahead of us early and we couldn’t fight back quickly enough. I think making it to the states will be an experience that everyone on this team will remember forever. We have the talent and we know how to work hard, our team just needs to execute and states could be ours."
TIR: The 12U team took the District 5 Title which brought them into the Section 2 Tournament. How did they go about earning the District 5 Title?
CG: The boys were undefeated in the District 5 pool play and took two games of the best of three for the championship against Elmwood Park.
Zach Snyder told TIR, "I think that our team has been successful due to our drive to win and succeed, our friendship with each other including the coaches, and lastly because we love doing what we enjoy most, baseball."
"I think we are so successful because of our chemistry with each other. We are a hard-working, skilled team but we have fun and make each other laugh. And we have been together since we were 8," Jackson Byrne explained.
TIR: There have been a lot of exciting games. Does one, in particular, stand out? What can you tell us about it?
CG: Winning the Section 2 Championship Game. Bulldogs won 6-3. This team has never won the Sections before and it is a huge accomplishment. It's very hard to win the 12 yr old sections and head to the State tournament. Rutherford is one of 4 teams left in NJ Little League to be playing baseball. That’s pretty huge!
"I think our team is really successful because of how we play as a team. I also think that we have fun while we play which is key for a team. The last thing that makes our team great is because when we play we play for the name on the front of our jerseys and not the back," explained John Gioia.
TIR: Your team is in the middle of the Section 2 Tournament. Where do they stand right now? What is coming up next?
CG: Rutherford won the Section 2 Tournament on Friday, July 22nd against LFBSH (Little Ferry, Bogota, South Hackensack) Score was 6-3. We have our First State Game on Wednesday, July 27th versus Toms River East.
"We have a really talented team who work well together on the field and we are friends off the field too," explained Henry Court.
Brady Dray told TIR, "The team has been so successful this summer because of the great pitching by Quinn Weber, Henry Court, Logan Bohn, and Jacob Rodriguez. Also, everyone on the team can really hit the ball well. There are basically no deficits in the lineup. In addition, the coaches (Chris Gioia, Russ Snyder, Jay Daly, Tom Weber, and Mike Bohn) have been awesome and supportive."
TIR: How long have you been coaching? Why do you enjoy coaching?
CG: I have been coaching since my oldest son was in Tee Ball. I cannot recall what year. I love baseball, so coaching the kids in our town is a pleasure. The program in Rutherford is great. People really care. It’s the best grass field and facility in the District. All the Board Members, coaches, and parents put a lot of time into getting these kids on the field. It's an honor to be part of Rutherford Little League baseball.
Russ Snyder: So I have been coaching every year since 2012. I’ve been with this group of boys on a diamond since they were 8. I love working with them. My greatest reward as a coach is that smile on their face after they find success doing it the right way. The culmination of hard work is my “I told you so” moment. What makes this group great is the support they have for each other and the internal drive to outdo each other. It's a delicate balance to find but they have it.
Michael Bohn: I've been coaching baseball for the past six years. I've been lucky to be able to coach Logan through his AAA years, and all 4 years in the Majors, including the last 2 years on the 11U, and now the 12U All-Star teams. I've also been able to coach my younger son Wyatt's teams over the past several years as well. For me, the most rewarding aspect of coaching is seeing these kids grow over the years. As a father and a coach, there's something incredibly special about being a part of their development into not just great ball players, but young men. I love helping them hone their skills on the field, but more than anything I enjoy seeing their love for the game grow. They are baseball players to their core, and seeing that as a coach and a father is one of the greatest feelings.