The Rhode Island Thunder program was founded two decades ago by Dave Lotti and for many years has been one of the top—if not the top club organization—in the Northeast.
The Thunder over the years have produced players who’ve gone on to play in conferences ranging from the ACC and Big Ten to the SEC and Ivy League.
Lotti’s teams, including his 18U Gold team, travel the nation competing against the best and can annually be found at top events like Boulder IDT, the TC/USA Nationals and PGF Nationals and this weekend is in Ohio playing at the Ohio Outlaws Invitational.
By the time the summer is over, the organization based in Providence, Rhode Island will have played in seven states from Pennsylvania to Georgia to California so it makes sense that Lotti has created a 14U Nationals team to build up the younger age players, getting them exposed to college coaches and ready to play at the next level by battling against their standout peers.
Here’s a look at this team which will likely be in the conversation before too long as one of the top teams in its age group…
When did the Thunder program start and what was the reason for you doing so?
Our program has been around since 1999, it started with both my daughters playing in an all-girls baseball league in Rhode Island called the Slaterettes. Eventually, I took the better players and formed a 12U RI Thunder Team.
You’ve had 14U teams before, why is this one different?
The idea behind it is to have the kids more prepared for a high level of play before reaching our 18U team. This is our first true 14U National team, it’s true we have had many 14U teams in the past but never one that played a real national-type schedule.
You’re certainly not dodging anyone with the amazing schedule you have!
This team’s schedule copies our 18U schedule to a T: Pennsbury, Ohio Outlaws, Team New Jersey, Boulder IDT, Atlanta Legacy, Triple Crown Nationals and capping it off with PGF Premier Nationals.
Where do you draw the players from?
The team is comprised of players from Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
How has the team looked and done so far in its early events?
So far we only have two tournaments under our belt, winning a PGF Premier berth in Pennsylvania at a Qualifier and then going 6-1 in the 16U bracket in Pennsbury last week with our only loss being by a 1-0 score.
You have a great corps of coaches with a lot of experience…
The team is coached by me, Elise Fortier, Manny Moitoso and Bob Rossi. Bob has coached with me for 15 years while Elise played for me for three years before going to Stony Brook and then transferring to Fordham where she still holds many records. Elise also coached at the collegiate level with stints at FAU and Hofstra and is also the organization’s hitting coach. Manny Moitoso is our youth coordinator and is the one who spent the summer of 2018 finding these players throughout the region.
With this team being new, how many teams are there now in the Thunder program?
As a whole, the Thunder organization currently has nine teams with five at 18U, one at 16U and three at 14U. I feel we have a great mix of 18s with the top team being RI Thunder Gold-Lotti—the team finished 3rd in Boulder in 2012 and had a 13th place finish in 2014 PGF Premier. RI Thunder Gold - Wilson had a 5th place finish at PGF Platinum in 2015 and we also have a 18u team that is geared around high-end academic players who want to go to school in the area which is RI Thunder – OC. Players from this team have gone on to play at schools like Worcester Poly Wentworth and Salve, to name a few.
What do you think are the strengths of the 14U National team?
This 14U national team is strong in all facets of the game as it has solid pitching, a very sound defense, some big hitters and the players run the bases extremely well. We have been working hard with this group since early August and are looking to reap the benefits of countless hours of practice this summer. What has really helped speed up their learning of the game is the fact that the 14U National team actually practices full time with our top 18U team. The young players get to work with, and next to, kids that are going to places like North Carolina, James Madison and Missouri, which has been so beneficial.
Here’s a closer look at the Rhode Island Thunder 14U National team… players are listed alphabetically with comments by Coach Lotti…