We just passed the 4th of July weekend so we’re we’ll into the middle of summer and it’s HOT, HOT, HOT across the nation… this map below from yesterday bears proof of that!
To cool you off (at least mentally), we present an Inside Pitch from talented 2023 outfielder Ava Venturelli, who plays for one of the top programs in the country in Dave Lotti’s Rhode Island Thunder Gold 18U team and is also carrying a 4.2 GPA.
The incoming sophomore was one of only two players to make Lotti’s 18u Gold Team last fall and is known as a hard-working, strong, consistent power hitter who has worked her way onto a powerhouse club team from the Northeast.
She spent last summer on the 14U Thunder National Team, which was her first time playing at the national level. Throughout the summer she consistently hit in the 5 or 6 spot and started almost every game in right field, while facing the top pitchers in the country and hitting off them for power, while also being able to skillfully bunt and show her speed on the bases.
As Ava tells us in this insightful piece, it isn’t easy being a baller from New England… sometimes it’s not the heat, but the cold and snow that is a softball player’s worst enemy (oh, for a few snow flurries right now for those of us in the 90-plus heat!).
So, without further, ado, we present one player’s perspective on why Northeasterners have to work just a little bit harder to make it in the sport…
Snow, COVID-19, quarantine, and Tom Brady leaving New England…did the world just end??
My name is Ava Venturelli. I am a 2023 outfielder from Taunton, Massachusetts and I play for Rhode Island Thunder Gold 18U- Lotti.
I’m a kid from New England where the odds are already against me as far as time to play softball outside, but I’m determined to not let that hold me back.
But then, COVID-19 hit our country in full force.
It’s hard trying to keep up my hitting and fielding reps throughout the winter when the ground is frozen, the fear of your bat cracking from the freezing temperatures, and the ball stinging so bad you could cry when you catch it.
But I managed to get my workouts in with a great trainer at Hops Athletic Performance and an awesome hitting coach who keeps me on my toes to give me daily drills to work all aspects of my swing. I look for any way to get reps in whenever I can.
I anxiously waited for the high school season to start in March so I could get back on the field with live play. It’s always tough in New England because our springs are cold and rainy, with lots of postponement of games and practices moved into the high school gym, but by March I will take what I can get (as little as it may be).
I was so lucky to earn a starting position on my high school varsity team at Taunton High in Taunton, Massachusetts last year as an 8th grader, and my team was the returning Division 1 state champs with only three seniors leaving.
I come from a huge softball community where talent is abundant and the love for the game is citywide. This past season, we had a few captains’ practices and tryouts were announced.
Then, COVID-19 hit.
March 13 was my last day of school and we were on quarantine basically for the next two months. I remember just finishing captains’ practice after school that last day and getting the text from my coach, Elise Fortier: “Practice cancelled for the next two weeks due to COVID-19.”
I was so excited to get my season finally going, and that text changed it all. Those “two weeks” turned into two months, but I continued training as best I could—running, hitting off the tee in the basement and, with the help from my mom and dad, doing some fielding and soft toss, but even that was a challenge because all fields were closed due to the Coronavirus.
Fast forward to June 1st: high school never happened and my travel team was not allowed to practice until June 6th. I was so excited to see my teammates and be back on the field doing the thing we all love and have been dreaming of for months!
We were so happy and then another blow came our way: no Boulder IDT, no DeMarini in Chicago, no Pennsbury… what more could happen, we wondered?
But Coach Lotti came through, like he always does, and got us in top tournaments playing top competition and the excitement began again. It’s not easy for a team out of the Northeast to get to play on such big stages especially when you often hear, “Where is Rhode Island?” “Is that near Long Island?” “Is that a state or town?”
We have heard it all.
So here we were, our first tournament being the Top Club Nationals in OKC and our pool consists of the Bombers, Hot Shots, Iowa Premier, Georgia Impact-Lewis, and Illinois Chill. Nothing like jumping head-first into playing against some top-ranked teams in the nation!
We usually get our feet wet at Pennsbury and start our run from there, but most of my team—including myself—just came off playing for the Rhode Island Thunder 14U National Team, so not only were we jumping to 18U, but playing against teams of all 2020 and 2021 athletes who are mostly committed to Power 5 schools.
My start wasn’t at all what I hoped for, but I was able to make some plays in the outfield and help my team in any way I could.
Next, it was onto the PGF Independence Day Invitational in Newberry, Florida. On my plane ride to Florida, my mom said, “Just put it behind you and focus on the next step,” so that’s what I did.
We got our schedule and again, wow, what a pool to play in. I felt my team was gaining some speed, but now we were facing Beverly Bandits-Conroy, Georgia Impact-Lewis (again) and Indiana Magic Gold-Rudd.
I started to feel more confident and felt like I was getting some footing again. I got some innings and was happy to make some catches in the outfield; I hit a double to score a tying RBI against the Indiana Magic and then stole my way around the bases to score against the Wichita Mustangs.
I know I’m not alone when I say in November, this game is so familiar to me, but by March it’s a bit foreign and this year it seems July is the “new” March.
I’m so lucky to have such a great group of teammates, with the majority being in the 2022 class, and I know I feel pressure, but I can’t imagine the pressure they must feel at this stage.
But I do know us Northeast kids are used to adversity and know we have to fight to be seen and recruited, all because of where we are from.
On to Atlanta Legacy this week and maybe, hopefully PGF Nationals 16U Premiere, but wherever we go, we will keep defying all the odds!