By MIKE SMITH
The Total KAOS 16U softball team proved its mettle in Marlyand last week, battling against tough competition at the USSSA national tournament to secure a fifth-place finish, the best-ever showing for KAOS in the vaunted ‘A’ division.
The Total KAOS program previously finished second in the “B” division, but, according to head coach Dean Marino, the difference in the level of play between the two divisions is stark.
“The B teams are more like the local teams we play here; they’re taking kids from maybe one town, two towns,” Marino said. “But, with the A teams, the girls are coming from 70 or 80 miles apart, they have tryouts and cuts every year, so the A-level teams are very good.”
The Harrison-based squad’s run started on a sour note, as KAOS was unable to find a way to win behind Christina DeCarlo’s no-hit performance, losing their opener 2-0. But, after going 1-2 in pool play, the team came alive in the bracket round, pulling off five straight victories.
“In each game, it was a different girl who picked us up,” Marino said. “Christina DeCarlo an Netty Mendez had great tournaments, but we also had Tori Rivera get a hit to win a game, Stacey Mendez laid down a crucial bunt in the quarterfinals; everybody on the team did something to help us in a big spot.”
Marino attributes the team’s crunch-time success to the early-summer struggles of the squad as it had to find ways to win despite not having a full compliment of arms in the circle due to various injuries.
“We knew we were going to have to do different things to score runs and win games,” Marino said. “And the girls weren’t phased at all.”
For Marino, the pride over his squad’s high finish pales in comparison to the other award the organization picked up in Ocean City.
In addition to the fifth-place trophy, the team was also given the Sportsmanship Award, voted on by coaches and tournament organizers. This honor, Marino said, was a
testament to the way the players–and fans–carried themselves during the week-long tourney.
“Out of the 60 teams down there, this award showed that our parents and players respect the game,” he said. “The kids weren’t arguing calls, they’d run back to the dugout after striking out, everyone just carried themselves in an unbelievable manner. As a coach, this means more to me than winning the thing.”
With the summer season over, Total KAOS will close up shop until the team begins training in November.
“The girls are going to take a few weeks off, some of them play volleyball, field hockey; they do other things,” the coach said. “We’ll be back at it, but for now, they can just go back to being kids again.”