The North Bellmore-North Merrick Little League’s 9- and 10-year-old girls’ travel softball team, the Lady Rebels, are this year’s state softball champions in their age division. Not only that, but they finished the season in third place in the entire Northeast.
The Lady Rebels lost their last game in the East Region Invitational Tournament, 3-0, on Aug. 6 in Old Forge, Pa., to Connecticut’s state champion team. A 10-3 win over Rhode Island’s top team in a consolation game the following day solidified their third-place finish.
The team comprised 12 girls from North Bellmore and North Merrick whom Little League coaches and officials selected as the top players in their age group. After meeting with his fellow coaches to discuss the choices, Tom Simone, who heads the 9- and 10-year-old girls’ softball division and managed the Lady Rebels, sent invitations to the players and their families to join the travel team in late May. From then until the regional tournament ended earlier this month, life revolved around softball for the girls on the squad.
“We’ve spent the last few months living and breathing softball,” said Todd Knowles, one of the Lady Rebels’ four coaches, with Simone, Luke Tarantino and Scott Greiner.
Some of the girls had played together before this spring’s travel season, and some had not. The team practiced two to three hours a day, according to Simone, using a field at North Bellmore’s Dinkelmeyer School for defensive practice and the batting cages at North Bellmore’s Gunther Field to perfect their hitting.
The Lady Rebels beat three teams to win the South Shore district title, and went on to win the Long Island championship as well. Then they headed to Fishkill, in Dutchess County, for the state tournament. They were 1-1 in pool play at the tournament, which took place July 22 and 23. On July 24, the girls were back on Long Island practicing, and on July 25 and 26 they returned to Fishkill, winning their final games and the state championship.