Softball championship tournament kicks off in Smithtown

Softball championship tournament kicks off in Smithtown

Home team 12U Bulls lose in semifinals, but event filled with joy and excitement

By Steve Zaitz 

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Smithtown became the epicenter of New York softball last Thursday, July 13, as teams from all over the Empire State descended upon the hamlet to fight for the state title — with the winner earning a trip to the Little League World Series East Region tournament.

For the 12 and Under home team Bulls, it was not to be.

St. James-Smithtown was knocked out in the semifinals by the Mid-Island All Stars from Staten Island and their phenomenal pitcher Gianna DiMaso, who tossed a complete game shutout. The Bulls had won four games over the course of the weekend to make it to the final four, but DiMaso was just too tough, allowing only four Bull base runners in six innings. 

Bulls Pitcher Isabella Russo, who led this same group of girls to the 11U championship in 2022, finished the tournament with a 3-0 record on the mound and pitched four scoreless innings against Staten Island in the semis. But single runs in the first two innings against Smithtown starter Julia Roman was two too many against the dominating DiMaso.

Despite the setback for the Smithtown side, the tournament has been a tremendous and entertaining success for everyone involved. It kicked off last Thursday with a festive celebration at Gaynor Park in St. James. 

Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim (R) and town Councilman Tom Lohmann (R) threw out nearly simultaneous first pitches. League President Richard Tomitz with fellow league board member Peter Russo, both of whom coach and have daughters on the 12U team, warmly welcomed the players and their families to Smithtown. 

Caravans of SUVs and minivans made the trek all the way from places like Orchard Park near Buffalo, Saugerties in Ulster County, also Fayetteville-Manlius and Chittenango, both suburbs of Syracuse. The visitors spent the better part of a week here. Harrison Little League in Westchester, and the eventual champion Massapequa who beat Staten Island in the final game, also participated.

Tomitz, Russo and other league organizers made sure all the players and their families were entertained even when there weren’t any games on the schedule. Saturday night featured a skills competition at Veterans Memorial Park in St. James. Players from all teams were invited to show off their speed, throwing accuracy and, of course, home run hitting prowess. Lefty sluggers Brooke Hanson and Isabella Russo of Smithtown took first and second place in the home run contest.

Skills Night was a jovial affair with the elder Russo keeping the crowd peppy as master of the microphone. Players from different teams shared laughter and selfies until it was time for Movie Night on the Lawn. The feature presentation had to be the 1992 film “A League of Their Own.”

Last Sunday’s atrocious weather wreaked havoc on the scheduled slate of games, and on Monday and Tuesday, eleven games were played in less than 24 hours.

As Staten Island was beating St. James-Smithtown, Massapequa International was crushing Fayetteville-Manlius, 15-0. A high noon, winner-take-all showdown saw Massapequa score a walk-off 2-1 win and punch their ticket to the regionals, to be played in Bristol, Connecticut.