By Steven Zaitz
When you are 10 or 11, and you’re on a team that has accomplished something that no other Smithtown little league squad ever has, life is as sweet as — Krispy Kreme?
“These girls made history because no softball team has ever won the New York State Championship out of Smithtown.”
— Rich Tomitz
The Smithtown 11 and under girls softball team, which is part of the larger St. James/Smithtown Little League family, traveled up to Rochester in late July to win the New York State Softball Championship. They outscored their opposition by a composite 58-6 in their five victories and put an indelible stamp on the softball world as well as the local community.
Left-handed pitcher Isabella Russo was a perfect 4-0 in the tournament and got the win in the title-clinching game against New City — a 14-2 mercy-rule rocking of the team from Rockland. She mixed a power, windmill fastball with a devastating change-up to bedevil opposing hitters throughout the tournament. Quinn Amari also picked up a win on the way to the crown.
“My circle grip change up was working pretty well,” Russo said. “It keeps the hitters off balance.”
“This is going to make all of our summers even more awesome than ever!”
— Brooke Hanson
That pitch fooled more than just the opposition, for whom Smithtown forced mercy rulings in three of the five playoff games.
“She even froze me in the dugout three or four times,” joked Rich Tomitz, head of the entire St. James/Smithtown Little League for baseball and softball and one of four coaches on the championship team. His daughter Nadia plays second base.
“These girls made history because no softball team has ever won the New York State Championship out of Smithtown,” Tomitz said. “I’m so proud of these girls.”
Peter Russo, who coaches with Tomitz and is Isabella’s father, also beams with pride.
“We as coaches are lucky that we got a group of kids that know how to set goals and accomplish that goal,” Russo said. “This championship is great for the team, the coaches and the parents of these girls and it just proves that they can do anything they put their minds to, and no dream is too big.”
“We as coaches are lucky that we got a group of kids that know how to set goals and accomplish that goal.”
— Peter Russo
The community of Smithtown at large also seems to be energized by this tremendous victory.
“A lot of parents grew up in this area and competed athletically in Smithtown at the high school level,” coach Eric Hanson said, who is the father of first baseman Brooke. “Now, our kids are playing community sports for the town itself and hopefully more kids will join the league and play town sports with a greater sense of pride.”
“It felt great to win,” Brooke said. “We are state champions, and nobody can ever take that away from us. This is going to make all of our summers even more awesome than ever!”
Shortstop Jiselle Singh was also awesome, smacking a three-run home run in the tournament finale. She is the stabilizing glue in the middle of the infield for this team and has a good chance of making the Smithtown West Lady Bull team in 2023 — as a middle schooler.
“I love being part of this team and I’m so happy we were able to win,” said Singh, who will attend Accompsett Middle School in the fall. Her father Sean is the coach who always has a fungo bat in
“The one thing our team has more so than a lot of teams I’ve been around is chemistry,” the elder Singh said. “They act like they were literally born together; they have fun and that’s what this sport is all about. They’re actually here just enjoying their lives and having the best time of their lives and building lifelong memories, so I think that’s the reason that they’re such a special group of girls.
“We played great and when we won, and we all threw our gloves way up into the air.”
— Gabrielle Krayewski
Catcher Gabrielle Krayewski remembers most vividly the moment the final out of the tournament was made and exactly how she felt when the ball hit her catcher’s mitt and the trophy belonged to Smithtown.
“We played great and when we won, and we all threw our gloves way up into the air,” Krayewski said, who stoked a two run double in the fifth inning against New City to put a little icing on the championship cake. “We all had Krispy Kreme after that, and the whole experience was amazing!”
The other players on this amazing group of 10- and 11-year-olds are outfielders Casey Connelly, Vanessa Borowski, Sydney Wetstein, Liana Roehrig, Avery Wierzbicki and third baseman Riley Connelly — and as the girls on this team embark on their middle school and higher-level athletic careers at different places across the district, they formed an unbreakable, lifelong bond on that last Monday of July in 2022.
“These girls, the coaches, the families and all of the siblings are connected for all eternity,” Tomitz said.