Practicing on the McVey Elementary School ball fields in the late afternoon earlier this month, the East Meadow Fillies softball team was hard at work fine tuning their fundamentals.
Situated in the infield, the girls charged aggressively when coach Joe Cuttone batted a slow rolling ground ball. At the crack of the bat, the girls screamed simultaneously, “Bunt!” and once fielded, a second unified scream identified the base in which the ball was to be thrown to.
After several rounds of this, the girls took a water break, joining together on the bench to share a laugh. With broad smiles on their faces, it was evident that the group of 11- and 12-year-olds enjoyed being together.
It’s the dichotomy that has made the team so successful since they began playing together a few years ago: fun off the field, business on the field. “We always trust each other during a play,” said Gianna Imperiale, 12, who plays first base. “We always communicate.”
With their vast commitment and hardworking nature, it doesn’t take much enforcement to compose the girls during games, said Cuttone. But, still, he said he always tells them, “Just focus on softball for two hours. That’s all we ask of them.”
And they do.
Last month, the girls won the Williamsport Tournament’s Section 6 11U Long Island Championship, after winning four games by a combined score of 62-5. The victory propelled the girls to the state championship in upstate Fishkill, where they finished as the runner-up, winning two games and losing two.
It was a new experience for the girls, who had never traveled abroad for softball. “We got to celebrate as a team,” said Amy Mallah, 11, who plays third base and shortstop. “We do that a lot but, but it was for something bigger.”
And it also gave them extra time to spend with each other. The team of 12 comprises all but two students who attend Woodland Middle School. Some have known each other since second grade. “You can see we work together,” said Arianna Duhs, 11, one of the team’s outfielders. “We’ve been playing together forever.”
“The more we play together … we’ve become closer,” added pitcher Julia Cuttone, 12, whose twin sister Rosanna is also on the team.