This Is Rutherford
Girls' Softball Team Ranks 4th in the State
Updated: Jul 26, 2022
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Photo credits: Romy Marchesani and Brad Kloza
Friendship, positivity, true teamwork, and perseverance were some of the most important reasons why the 12U Rutherford All-Star Softball team believes they had such an amazing season and ultimately ranked fourth in the state. The team's coaches were Jose Lastra (Head Coach), Brad Kloza, and David Griffin (Assistant Coaches). This is Rutherford interviewed the team's head coach, Jose Lastra, and Assistant Coach Brad Kloza to learn about these dedicated young women and a softball season they will never forget.
TIR: When did your team, Rutherford's 12-year-old All-Star Softball team, start their season?
Jose Lastra (Head Coach): The All-star season started with practice on June 9.
TIR: Tell us about the All-Star Softball season. How did they make it to the State Tournament?
JL: They had a bye for the first round of the District 5 tournament. They easily beat the Lodi and Cliffside Park teams. Then went in to beat Elmora in the final.
Marisol Lastra told TIR, "I feel like we did such a good job, especially because Rutherford hadn't been in the States tournament for ten years. I think we were so successful because we worked together as a team and never brought each other down."
"I feel really honored and proud of our team for making it this far. I think we were successful because we all worked as a team and never gave up on each other. We always had a positive attitude. Even if someone struck out, we would tell them not to feel bad," Briana Nicolas explained.
Lucia Marchesani told TIR, "When I heard that we were one of the last four teams in the state I almost fainted. It was such a great experience to be that far in the tournament. While our time was cut short in the state tournament, we had a lot of fun and gave Toms River a run for their money. It may not seem like a big deal to some people but this is the first time in ten years that Rutherford has gone to the state tournament. It was awesome to get to play teams that we knew were better skilled and more experienced than us. Thank you to our coaches and my favorite team ever for giving me the best All-Star season. #13 signing off. We will be back next year!"
TIR: The team made it to 4th place in the state, which is a huge accomplishment. To what do you attribute the team’s success?
JL: The team's resiliency to never give up.
Brad Kloza (Assistant Coach): These girls worked really hard all year long to get where they did, and we saw noticeable skills improvements in every player from April to July. But a driving force to their success was mental -- a communal positivity and a "never say die" attitude. Our pitcher and catcher (Payton Lewis and Sophia Clossey) are amazing players that everyone looks up to. Their consistent feedback to the rest of the team was always positive -- "we can do this" and "don't let one mistake ruin your day." It was contagious and everyone played with confidence.
Payton Lewis explained, "I am feeling very proud of my team. I think we did well because of all the hard work we put in and because we bonded as a team."
"I feel very proud of our team. We did our best. No regrets, no turning back. We did the best we could. I think we were so successful because we all worked together as a team, and there were no negative influences. We were all friends and we had such a strong connection with each other on the field," Sophia Clossey told TIR.
TIR: In your opinion, which was the best game of the tournament?
JL: The best game of the tournament I thought was the Cliffside Park game. They found themselves down 5-2 heading into the top of the fifth inning. After singles by Payton Lewis and Sophia Closey and a stolen base by Payton, Marisol Lastra ripped a single up the middle to score 2 runs. Later in the inning, Allie Diaz singled home Marisol to tie the game. After a scoreless 6th inning they went into extra innings where the bats came alive to the tune of 7 runs in 6 hits. They then went out to shut out Cliffside Park to win the game 12-5. The team followed that with a no-hitter by Payton Lewis to win the sections over Elmora 10-0.
"I feel like this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience playing with the top four teams in the state tournament, out of more than 300 Little League 12 U teams.
We are a group of really talented players and I think that we are all connected with a true love for softball. I also think that our friendships with each other really made a big impact on the teamwork part," Emily Cronin told TIR.
TIR: As the head coach of the team, how are you feeling about the team’s remarkable season?
JL: I feel honored to say that we were only the second team in the history of Rutherford Little League softball to make it to the states. After losing the last three years to Elmora and Ridgefield Park it felt great to get over the hump.
"I feel like we did a really good job this season and I'm proud of us for getting so far. I think we did so well obviously because of our skill but also because our dynamic was so good and we helped each other," explained Leah Griffin.
Samantha Bush explained, "I feel very proud and great because our team made it so far. I think we played well as a team and we were positive. We never brought each other down."
Grace Methe explained, "I feel very proud about my team’s success! I think that we put all of our efforts into every game that we played and our hard work paid off. Getting to the next level was so exciting.
I think that our team did so well this season for a few reasons. One reason is that we all became great friends so we were able to communicate well together! We worked very hard during our practices and we were all very committed."
TIR: Jose, you have been coaching for the last four years. Brad, you have been coaching for the last twelve years. Why do you both enjoy coaching softball?
JL: Being able to teach the girls is rewarding as well as just being around them and having a great time joking around and laughing.
BK: My dad coached most of my baseball teams so it's something like a family tradition, but I love the game and it gives me a chance to do something I love with my kids and their friends. Win or lose, seeing kids and teams improve from the beginning to the end of the season is always the most satisfying part of every year. And while I don't need to go to states every year to be satisfied, it sure was one heck of a ride that I will never forget.