The Finch’s Aces softball program has undergone a metamorphosis the past few months, boosting its numbers from two teams to six teams and benefitting from an influx of talented players at all levels.
But it was the girls at the 18U level -- the Finch’s Aces 18U Premier squad and the 18U Showcase unit -- that turned heads this past weekend during the Jennie Finch Fall Invitational at Diamond Nation in Flemington, N.J.
Call it a coming of age party of sorts for the Finch’s Aces with the tournament’s namesake -- Olympic softball legend Jennie Finch -- on hand to interact and instruct the girls ages 10-18 years old. Finch was particularly impressed with the Aces’ two teams at the 18U level.
“I left New Jersey fired up over our Aces,” said Finch. “They were a lot of fun to watch.”
The Aces 18U Premier team reached the championship game in the 18U field before falling, 2-1, to Tsunami 18U Gold-Romano. The Aces, who had scored a whopping 48 runs in their first five games, were handcuffed by Tsunami ace Jen Sweeney, an age-eligible freshman at the University of Scranton.
Finch’s Aces softball director Jackie Spina, who coaches the Aces 18U Premier team, was thrilled about her team’s balanced play.
“The Premier team scored a ton of runs,” said Spina. “The dominance they showed throughout the tournament was impressive. Our defense was solid, we had timely hitting and our pitching was on-point all weekend.”
The Aces 18U Premier team went 5-1 and outscored its tournament opponents 49-11. That performance was not lost on Jennie Finch.
“I was thrilled to see the level of talent Jackie’s team has reached,” said Finch. “It definitely looks like a huge step in the right direction.” Finch posted a photo of the Aces 18U Premier team on Instagram on Saturday under the caption:
“jfinch27 - These ladies fired me up tonight. It was fun to watch them compete and (for me) to be part of all the excitement of the Finch’s Aces program. Keep working hard y’all.”
Equally exciting was the performance of the Finch’s Aces 18U Showcase squad which reached the semifinals opposite the Aces Premier team. The Aces 18U Showcase fought hard throughout the tournament and went toe-to-toe with the Premier team in the semis before falling 3-0. The semifinal pitting the two teams at the top of the Finch’s Aces program clearly exhibited the depth of talent within the program.
“Wow, what a great group of girls,” said Aces 18U Showcase coach Chuck Many. “We’ve been together for only four weeks and the effort and team spirit was outstanding. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these girls.”
The 18U Aces Showcase team went 2-2-1 in tournament play, losing a pair of close games to powerhouse teams. “ Chuck’s team battled their way through,” added Spina, “really showing perseverance on Saturday in getting wins against some tough teams.”
The Aces had varying success at the lower levels as the other four teams failed to reach their respective tournament championship games. But the many positives from the weekend “will be used to build off of the rest of the fall,” says Spina.
“Success can be measured in many different ways,” said Spina. “Although our younger teams didn’t reach their championship games, there were triumphs throughout the weekend. Having Jennie here at our great facility was inspiring for the girls. She is a powerful speaker and she motivated the girls tremendously throughout the weekend.”
Finch also conducted a clinic on Friday night after a meet-and-greet with the Aces.
Tom Tarulli, the Aces’ recruiting coordinator so instrumental in the building process for the program, came away from the weekend-long Fall Invitational with a bit of a hop in his step.
“The success of the Finch’s Aces program is going to rely on our ability to outwork everyone else,” said Tarulli. “We are building a culture of teamwork starting from the top of our administration and trickling down to our coaches and players.
“I’m excited, after witnessing the success of the tournament and the success of both 18U Aces teams, to see what the future holds for the entire organization. The girls proved their hard work last weekend in the way they played. If our girls continue to put the work in and are holding themselves accountable, we will be successful on and off the field.”