Rye Stuns Mighty Tournament Foes Before Taking a Bow to Harrison
BY TOM MCDERMOTT
The Rye 12U District 20 Little League Tournament team after its win over White Plains. Pictured, front row:Penelope Gilmore and Caroline Joyce; middle row: Gabriella McGuire, Anna Bancroft, Rosie Zicherman, and Gabrielle Paes; top row: Avery Lanuza, Emma Stark, Reese McGill, Mia Escaleira, Jessica Lafferty, Nola Zicari, Olivia Hodes. Not pictured: Clara Meszkat
The 2022 spring season marked a milestone for Rye Girls Softball as they joined national Little League’s District 20 and could begin playing games against other District teams. At the end of the regular season, coaches nominated players not only from the Rye Rockets travel team (7-2), but the best players from the Blizzards, Thunder, and Hurricanes of the spring Rec League, to form a Rye District 20 Tournament team. And, as it turned out, quite a team it was.
In Rye youth and school sports, at every level, there is no greater rivalry than Rye vs. Harrison. Rye’s 12U team was given little chance to win as it began tournament play June 18 in Valhalla against their rival, a mainstay of the league for years.
At the end of four innings of a six-inning game, Rye found itself on the short end of a 6-3 score against Harrison. Not to worry. In a bravura flurry of hits and runs, Rye scored ten in the bottom of the fifth. Their mound ace, Penelope Gilmore, went all the way for the win, and Rye won,10-6. Gilmore recorded 12 strikeouts and two hits. Mia Escaleira also had two hits and 3 RBI, while Gabriel Paes scored two runs.
The next day, in the double-elimination tournament, Head Coach Winston Paes, who grew up playing cricket in India, and his fellow coaches, Stu Zicherman, Alex Lanuga, and Dennis McGill watched the girls lose to an experienced Elmsford team 3-0.
Once again, on June 21 against defending champ White Plains, Rye was not given much of a chance. But Gilmore pitched what Paes called “one of the best games ever” – flirting with a no-hitter over six innings of one-hit ball, surrendering a lone walk and fanning ten. Rye scored three in the second, three more in the third, and one in the sixth to shut out mighty White Plains, 7-0. Gabriella McGuire had two hits, as did Jessica Lafferty who also notched two RBI. White Plains’ only hit came with one out in the sixth.
As RGS President Genevieve Weber told the paper, “They played well and have been together for a few years now. It’s really a great story of commitment, friendship, and increased skill, along with more resources and parental involvement on the board and with coaching.”
The next day, Harrison avenged their earlier loss, eliminating Rye from the tournament, 9-4. Still, Rye was hardly deflated, having acquitted themselves and the entire RGS program from tee ball through 14 U teams far beyond expectation.
“The girls had a blast, and it was incredibly rewarding for me,” said Paes. “No one had given us much of a chance.”
Rye Girls Softball has made great strides over the past few years, with a more active board spreading the word about softball in Rye. The field at Disbrow was finally made into a real softball field and a new dugout was constructed with organization funding. Paes noted that the state-of-the-art batting cage by the field, along with professional training, has helped expand skill levels.
“The league is growing consistently,” said Weber. “After joining District 20 National Little League in spring – boys had been in it for years –, we had a pretty successful run considering it was our first try in the tournament. Softball is alive and well in Rye, and we are gooooood!”
Most of the girls of Rye’s 2022 District 20 Little League Tournament Team will carry the momentum into next spring’s 14U season. The rest of the League will not be taking them lightly.