It isn’t just impressive that the Bordentown Little League 12-year-old softball team reached the East Regional Tournament this summer.
It’s how it was done.
With complete and utter domination.
In going 9-0 while winning the District 12, Section 3 and New Jersey State tournaments, Bordentown outscored its opposition by a combined 79-4. The Bombers beat Vermont, 10-0, in the first-round of regions before being eliminated by an 8-3 decision to Staten Island. They were held under double figures just three times, with the closest win being 3-0 over Logan in the states.
“We threw it out there a long time ago that potentially it could be long summer,” manager Mike Hoppe said. “We gauged a commitment from the parents early on, before little league season started, for if we made it that far. I coached most all of them since they were 6, I’ve watched them grow. I was very confident with how far they could go.
“Obviously a baseball and softball game can go anyway you never know what happens. But these girls are rocks. A terrific group of girls, they all get along. When you talk about a team, they go beyond. There’s no cliques, they are super friendly, just a great group. I really thought the sky was the limit with these girls.”
And in shooting for the stars, Bordentown had to extinguish the brightest of them all to get through districts. Robbinsville has completely dominated not only District 12 during the decade, but the sectionals and states as well.
‘To beat Robbinsville was a super proud moment, it was very intense for our girls. It was something they set out to do for a long time.’
It looked like more of the same this year when Robbinsville opened with a 10-0 win over West Windsor. But Allison Hoppe never blinked as she fired a 4-0 shutout victory in Bordentown’s opener. After blanking East Windsor, the Bombers faced Robbinsville again and came up with a 5-0 triumph.
“That was kind of like a reassurance that our practices actually paid off,” said Allison Hoppe, who did not allow an earned run through the states, which encompassed 40 innings. “We were strong on defense and hit very well throughout the tournament.”
“To beat Robbinsville was a super proud moment, it very intense for our girls,” Mike Hoppe said. “It was something they set out to do for a long time. We played great defense, had great pitching and the girls made the big plays they had to.”
Third baseman Cadence Mapes-Klemic felt that while it was notable Bordentown beat Robbinsville en route to the 10-year-old district title two years ago, it was even more impressive this time around.
“Winning the 12-year-olds is the max, if you can get this, it’s amazing,” Mapes-Klemic said. “Robbinsville is our number one rival. Normally they’re confident they can beat us because Robbinsville has so many lessons and classes to get better and Bordentown doesn’t have as many, but we’re still good. The fact that we beat them, it was like, ‘We beat Robbinsville, we can do anything now.’”
And so they did, storming through the sectionals and states like a team possessed.
“It felt pretty amazing to get past Robbinsville, but the feeling of winning sections and states was equal,” Mapes-Klemic said. “We all had confidence in ourselves we could do it. We executed everything right, and it all worked out. Everyone was in shock we made it to regionals, but we’re very happy to have had this chance.”
It should not have been too much of a shock, since this was the second time in three years this nucleus won states. It also put together an undefeated middle school season last spring. Years of playing together has led to a cocksure cohesiveness.
Allison Hoppe and her twin sister Erin have both played travel ball for their dad since they were in grade school, and were teammates with Mapes-Klemic, Lauren Scharko, Katrina Benton and Emeline Kovac. They picked up several huge additions along the way, including Alyssa Marchetti and Kelsey O’Dell. Also contributing were Selin Flynn, Claudia Ramos, Mya Gronostajski, Lilian Nucera and Angelina Demkowicz.
“When we came into this league, we put the program in place and it was kind of the antithesis of what others do,” Mike Hoppe said. “We set the travel up to make our little league team better, with the end goal in mind of competing at a high level in district play. A lot of the travel teams in the area don’t advocate their kids playing recreation for diverse reasons, but we kind of set everything up with that end goal in mind.”
‘We definitely thought we would do good. We had played together for a long time, so we were confident about it.’
The team has four solid pitchers and it was actually Erin Hoppe and Mapes-Klemic who did the brunt of the hurling during the 10-year-old season. But Allison Hoppe took the forefront this year.
“Her consistency has gotten way better,” her dad said. “She’s got five or six really good pitches. She prepared well and every game she came out and gave us a super solid effort.”
Allison was also part of an outstanding offensive team, as she noted, “we had a really strong lineup. It’s not like some of the lineup is weak and the other part is stronger. It’s just strong all the way through.”
Mapes-Klemic was the leadoff hitter and Mike Hoppe noted, “her on-base percentage is ridiculous. We call her our ironman. She’s our rock in the infield and she’s our best athlete.”
She was followed by Erin and Allison Hoppe. Erin, a second baseman, went from a singles hitter to finding the gaps for doubles and triples in the tournament. Allison crushed line drives past infielders who could only wave at the ball. Scharko hit cleanup and was Bordentown’s top hitter, while also tracking down any ball hit her way in centerfield.
Rightfielder Benton hit fifth and “probably has the most upside of anyone on our team,” according to Hoppe. O’Dell batted sixth and “played a stellar shortstop, and she has long ball potential.”
The bottom third of the lineup featured first baseman Gronostajski, catcher Marchetti and leftfielder Kovac.
“Mya had consistent at-bats,” Hoppe said. “Alyssa was stellar defensively and also hit well, and Casey showed the most improvement on the team. She was a hard worker and very dedicated, but we were surprised by how many clutch singles she got for us. She really stepped up her game.”
Mapes-Klemic felt the team was spurred greatly by its manager and coaches, Chuck Sheppard and Lance Kovac.
“They were great motivation,” she said. “With every tournament we went into they would tell us ‘You earned this, you deserve to be here.”
And much like her father, Allison Hoppe felt this team had what it took before the tournament season started.
“We definitely thought we would do good” she said. “We had played together for a long time, so we were confident about it.”
And they certainly played that way.