They’re not the Four Aces of 1950s and ‘60s pop music fame. They’re even better. They are our Four Aces, as in Finch’s Aces, and they are headed south to Florida this weekend for the USSSA All-American Fast Pitch Games.
Four young ladies from Diamond Nation’s Finch’s Aces softball program tried out and made the USSSA All-America Games that begin with opening ceremonies on Monday, July 22 in Viera, Florida and concludes next Saturday, July 27 with the championship games at brand new Space Coast Stadium.
Making the trip for the Finch’s Aces are 10U players Sage Canavan and Ally Moschberger, the 12U’s Bella Malinconico and 14U Ace Amya Hill (in photo above). The girls check in on Monday morning before they meet their teams and begin practice in the afternoon. The tournament begins with pool play on Tuesday and Wednesday. The single-elimination playoff bracket play continues Thursday and Friday before Saturday’s age bracket championship games.
“It’s an honor to have these girls representing Jennie Finch and the Finch’s Aces program on a national level,” said Diamond Nation’s Director of Softball Operations Jackie Tarulli. “These four girls worked hard all year ‘round and deserve to be celebrated and appreciated.”
There were three tryouts in the Northeast Region — Richmond, Pittsburgh and Easton, Pa. — that were used to trim the number of girls to a select few. “The Easton tryout was extremely competitive,” said Stacy Canavan, Sage’s mom. “There were 200 players in the 9U-through-14U ages. It was quite an intense experience for Sage.”
The girls were evaluated by top players and coaches in the USSSA program based on their skill level and athleticism. Eight regional teams will compete in the even from the Far West, Northwest, Midwest, Central, Great Lakes, Southeast, Atlantic and Northeast.
Sage Canavan, a savvy center fielder for the 10U Aces, was both nervous and excited for the tryout but played well and got through the pressure-packed atmosphere to earn a spot on the team. “We are super proud of Sage for all her hard work to reach this moment and grateful to the Finch’s Aces for equipping her with the skill set needed to succeed. Sage’s reaction to making the team was pure joy and excitement.”
Canavan’s 10U Aces coach, Amanda Lombardi had little doubt about Sage’s ability to succeed in the tryout.
“For a smaller sized kid, she throws girls out from center field like she is Mike Trout,” said Lombardi. “We call her Sage Canonvan because of her arm. What I love about her is her eagerness to learn. She is always picking my brain about situations on the field.”
Canavan’s 10U Aces teammate, Ally Moschberger, had a powerful experience through the tryouts.
“Ally cried when she found out she made the team,” said her mom, Jeannine Moschberger. “The Aces have given Ally every opportunity to learn and grow in the sport she loves. Her hard work and dedication this last year is really paying off.”
The young Moschberger is always right in the middle of the action with her 10U Aces squad.
“Ally is a catcher, primarily, and plays third base when she isn’t behind the plate,” said coach Lombardi. “She is a competitor with the heart of a lion. Ally will give 110 percent every time she steps between the two foul lines. She is a prime example of what hard work and dedication is all about. I can’t wait to see what she does in Florida.”
Mark Moschberger, Ally’s dad, called the tryouts in Easton “fast-paced and very competitive.” Ally said, “I was nervous.” But she played her game and stamped her ticket to Florida. Ally is on the Far West National team and Sage will play on the Northeast National team.
It’s been quite a first year with the Aces for Moschberger, whose improvement makes her a bit of a comeback story. “She has been on a mission since parting ways with her former team,” says Jeannine Moschberger. “ A lot has changed in the past 12 months for her. I can’t say enough about the Aces organization and what they have done for Ally and her game.”
Bella Malinconico, on the other hand, handled her 12U tryout experience like the veteran 12U player she is. “I was nervous,” said Bella, “but it wasn’t hard.”
So when Bella says she’s nervous it’s probably a good thing. She clearly used the pressure of the situation to focus her talents to where they needed to be applied.
“I’m super nervous but excited that I was chosen to play in this event,” said Bella. “I look forward to meeting and playing with new teammates. I hope I can make coach Christian (Campbell) and coach Scott (Cahill) proud.”
Coach Campbell has no doubt Malinconico, his feisty shortstop, will achieve whatever she sets her mind to.
“Bella leads our team in quality at bats,” said Campbell. “She’s third in RBIs and slugging percentage and her development since the middle of last year is incredible.”
Malinconico came to the Finch’s Aces in the middle of the season last year and Campbell watched the transformation of a young player unsure of herself, to a player confident in her own ability and determined to perform well.
“Bella came to us with an attitude that said, ‘I’m not good but I can be and I’ll do whatever it takes to be good,” said Campbell. “She was raw and unsure of herself when she came to us, but now she plays like a senior in high school. The ability was there, but she lacked confidence at that point.”
Malinconico’s confidence truly has burst through the past several months. “She started to believe what her coaches, her teammates and everyone else was telling her about her ability,” said Campbell. “On top of all that, Bella is an amazing teammate and is loved by all the girls. She is hilarious, funny and goofy off the field. But on the field she is one of the most hard-nosed, competitive players I’ve met. I absolutely love this kid.”
Amya Hill battled a case of the nerves, too, during the 14U tryout but, like her fellow Finch’s Aces, her focus on what she hoped to achieve won out.
“The tryout was packed with a lot of girls, so I was nervous but I just stayed focused on my goal of making the team,” said Hill.
Then it became a waiting game to see if that goal had come to fruition.
“We received an email later in the evening while we were watching a movie,” said Hill. “I just started jumping on the couches and my siblings. I plan to visit my grandparents while I’m in Florida. They live close by.”
Amya plays shortstop, third base and outfield for the 14U Aces, filling those roles based on her team’s needs.
“Amya is one of those players who would run through a brick wall for a ball,” said 14U Aces coach Katya Corbett. “She goes all out and never has a clean uniform.”
Amya provides a nice bonus to the 14U squad with her excellent speed. “She is so fast around the bases,” says Corbett. “She has great running technique.”
Amya is starting to feel the nerves go to work as the event draws near but she knows how to make that work for her.
“I’m a little nervous but can’t wait to get on the field down there,” said Amya. Says Amya’s mom, Christina Hill, “We’re really excited to see what Amya can do out there.”
Those are coach Corbett’s words exactly, “It’s a great opportunity for Amya as well as a great experience,” said Corbett. “I’m excited to see what she does down there.”
The Four Aces will be going in different directions at times in Melbourne since they are playing in three separate age brackets, but Stacy Canavan hopes to make the trip a memorable one for the Finch’s Aces.
“We are so very excited to represent the Northeast Region playing in the USSSA All-American Games,” said Canavan. “We are looking forward to traveling with a number of fellow Finch’s Aces team members representing our program. This experience will, no question, leave Sage and the girls with special lifelong memories.”
Says Jeannine Moschberger, “We look forward to the challenge and we are hoping Ally makes memories and friendships that stay with her. It’s such an achievement for all of the girls.”