CUMBERLAND – Alex Pina swears that she’s going to have an anxiety attack.
Alli Mowry can’t wait to visit the ESPN studios, Chloe Kessler is anxious for that constant stream of popular music that pre-teen girls love, and quiet Jocelyn Bodington just wants to be with her extended family and have fun.
Along with other members of the Cumberland Little League Softball Majors (11-12-year-old) all-star team, friends and family, they departed this morning for Bristol, Conn., where as Rhode Island champions, they will participate in the annual Northeast Regional Tournament at the Bart A. Giamatti Sports Complex.
A caravan of vehicles collected at Bentley Field and began the trek to Bristol, where the girls will stay in dormitories with players from other states.
Bodington, who is the only player who was on last year’s team that ventured to Bristol and made it to the semifinals, said her teammates are in for a great experience.
“I think the best thing is being with your friends and meeting people from other states and making friends with them,” she said.
Pina and Kessler said Bodington has been peppered with questions about Bristol since Cumberland sewed up its third consecutive state championship last week by beating Warwick West Side, 3-1, in the final.
“Yeah, she’s answered about half of them,” said Kessler.
All of the girls are anxious, but Pina said while she is in a hurry to get to the cafe in Bristol because she’s heard players can visit there around the clock for snacks, she will have anxiety because the facility is not equipped with WiFi, limiting the ability for texting.
“Oh my God, I’m going to have withdrawal,” she said.
Team catcher Renae Lacroix said she is just hoping that the local team can play competitive games and enjoy the experience.
They are all anxious for what promises to be a steady stream of popular music both inside and outside the dorm.
“Music is our jam,” said Kessler. “We all love music.”
Lacroix pointed out that Warwick West Side played heavy metal music prior to the state championship game, but all that served to do was inspire the Cumberland girls.
“Yeah, it got me pumped up,” said Pina, who was the starting pitcher in that game.
Cassidy Carr is the oldest of six siblings, all girls, and her entire family is making the trip, renting two rooms at the Hampton Inn in Bristol.
“I’m really excited about making this trip and my younger sisters are already playing softball so maybe we’ll get to go back,” she said.
Abby Goncalves, the team’s talented shortstop and leadoff batter, is the only team member who does not attend a town middle school. She is a student at Good Shepherd Regional, which does not have a softball program, but she has been playing locally with these same girls for several years.
“This team has really bonded together and just being with each other and getting to know each other better will be great,” she said. “It seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun just hanging out there.”
The same group of girls won the Rhode Island championship as 10-year-olds and played in a regional tournament in Fleetville, Pa. The only newcomer is Dana Jackvony. There are only two 11-year-olds on the team, Kaitlyn D’Abrosca and Mackenzie Vallely, and they were part of a state championship 10-year-old team last season.
Manager Chris Bodington, who coached the girls to the state title two seasons ago along with assistants Steve D’Abrosca and Mike Lacroix, the same coaches as this year, is making his first trip to Bristol as a coach. He was there last year as a fan watching his daughter participate.
“For me, we’ve already accomplished what we set out to do, win the state championship and make it to Bristol for this tremendous experience,” said Bodington. “Everything else is just gravy.”
On Friday, Bodington found out that there is a whole lot more to being a manager than hitting ground balls in practice and instructing the girls. He, along with his wife, Amanda, and Amy Lacroix, were on the telephone literally throughout the day, conferring with Bristol officials, team family members and making hotel reservations.
“We’ve got a huge extended family on this team, and a lot of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends will be in Bristol to cheer for the girls,” said Bodington. “We’ve reserved a block of 14 rooms, but a lot of people made their own arrangements and others will be commuting to Bristol.”
The all-male coaching staff will be housed at the Hampton Inn, and team mothers will serve as chaperones in the dormitories and at other special events the girls will have.
“Virtually every single mother on this team has volunteered to help,” said Bodington.
It’s a big commitment. Adults are using vacation time, doling money out of their own pockets for hotels, food and other things, all to support the girls through the eight-day tournament.
Mike Lacroix said he’s excited for the girls, and said that the local team should be competitive.
“We know that there will be teams there that are deeper than us in pitching, but when it comes to fielding and hitting, we should be able to compete with anyone,” he said. “It should be a great experience.”
Because the tournament will be played on a grass infield rather than the normal dirt infield used for softball, the team has been practicing on grass Little League fields all week.
“I want them to get used to how the ball reacts in grass as opposed to bouncing off dirt,” said Bodington. “I want them to be as ready as they can be.”
Cumberland will play its first game on Friday, July 19, at 12:30 p.m. against Massachusetts and takes on Vermont in pool play on Sunday, July 21, at 2 p.m. They have a day off and then return to action on Tuesday, July 23, at 11 a.m. against Maine. They close out pool play on Wednesday at 8 p.m. against the Connecticut champion.
The top four teams from pool play will play crossover games against teams from the Mid-Atlantic Region, with winners advancing until there is a champion. The Regional winner earns a trip to the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore.