By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – Last season in semifinal action of the Bristol Little League softball city series, the young Mets squared off against a very experienced Tigers squad.
The Tigers, with an outstanding battery of pitching ace Jen Tabacco and standout catcher Mikayla Martin, along with the likes of Ali Martel, were simply too tough to stop.
The squad simply piled up the runs in every game and teams like the Mets – which was a scrappy squad during the 2011 campaign – couldn’t keep up.
In two city series tournament games, the Tigers outscored the Mets 27-8 and the 2-0 sweep propelled the winning squad in a best-of-three series with the Angels.
The Angels were also swept and the Tigers were champs for the third season in a row.
But fast forward to 2012, and the Mets were the team to beat.
The stellar squad boasted an experienced core that went undefeated in regular season play.
With the likes of Nicole D’Amato, Sarah Strilkauskas, Mackenzie Jankowski, Bridget Johndrow, Amber Zarick, Morgan Boucher, Kathy Mason and Ashlee White, the Mets brought together so many elements that eventually blended into a fine, finished product.
“I have eight girls that are aging out of the league this year and what better way then to end as champions,” said Mets coach Shelley D’Amato. “We’re thrilled…I can’t say enough about this team.”
No one could find a way to hang a loss on this squad all season long and enter the Bristol softball city series, the Mets earned a bye.
And because of the Angels forfeited in the semifinal round, the Tigers once again entered the championship arena.
But it turned from a best-of-three series into a one-game, winner take all challenge.
Simply put, the Mets would not be denied.
After a huge 12-2 victory over the Tigers in five innings of play on Wednesday, Aug. 22, the Mets broke a string of Tigers’ championships and took the tournament trophy home for itself.
“I’m just ecstatic,” said D’Amato. “It’s bittersweet because this is the end for a lot of kids but it’s been a great season.”
Jankowski led the way with three hits – including two home runs to lead a very powerful offensive onslaught by the Mets.
“Two in-the-park home runs, what a way to end your Little League career,” said D’Amato of Jankowski.
White and D’Amato were also stars on the offensive end and collected two hits apiece.
The trio combined for seven of the 12 hits the Mets compiled in the game against the Tigers Samantha Bender, a solid pitcher in her own right.
Defense was the calling card for the winners as the Mets played a crisp, clean game in the field that neutralized the Tigers’ offensive chances.
The Mets only made one gaffe in the game and that defensive presence blanked the Tigers on the scoreboard over the final four frames of play.
The Tigers lost of host of players from its championship squad from 2011 but when the team needed to get rolling, it won some big games and battled back to the title game once again.
“We lost a lot of girls from last year,” said Tigers coach Steve Rivoira. “Our girls peaked at the right time at the end of the season. We started playing better and better.”
Credit belongs to the Tigers as it battled the Mets all the way into the fifth stanza of play in the final game of the season.
Jenna and Ali Rivoira each drew walks and scored a run in the championship game while Tamhja Coe displayed a good eye at the plate and led the Tigers by drawing two base-on-balls.
“The Mets are a very talented team,” said Rivoira. “Our hats are off to them. They deserved to win.”
In the end, the Mets made all the right moves and coach D’Amato was very proud indeed of the newly-minted championship squad.
“I’m so happy I got the privilege to coach the girls for three years,” said D’Amato. “I’m so happy for all these girls. They all contributed to the win all season. I told them it’s great, we’re champions but we all come out here because we love the game.”
“I hope they continue it and I can watch them play in high school.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE