For the third straight year, there’s a girls’ softball team from Hoboken headed to the RBI World Series with a chance to bring home a national championship.
The Hoboken Shockers, under the guidance of long-time softball coach Vinny Johnson, will head to Minneapolis this week to compete in Major League Baseball’s RBI (Rebuilding Baseball in the Inner-City) World Series.
The Shockers punched their ticket to Minneapolis by defeating Harlem in the Northeast Regional final last week at Macombs Dam Park in the shadows of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Johnson has been involved with the RBI softball program since 1997, but this marks the third straight year that they won the Regional title to head to the World Series.
Johnson is proud of the fact that the majority of the roster has been playing softball under his leadership since they were practically toddlers.
“Most of the girls started with me in Hoboken Recreation,” Johnson said. “Some played for me when they were 7-years-old. Others were 9. So they’ve been with me for a long time.”
That familiarity has helped the Shockers move through the recent RBI District tourney in New Jersey and now the Regional, defeating teams from Harlem, Queens and Boston to get to the World Series.
Johnson said that he had to do a little rebuilding with his team this year.
“We lost our heavy hitters and our best pitchers,” Johnson said. “We lost a lot.”
But Johnson managed to put together a great roster, a team filled with Hudson Reporter All-Area honorees from last spring.
Need proof? Well, all three post-season award honorees are members of the Shockers. So are prior honorees as well. Needless to say, it’s a talented group, the very best that Hudson County could offer.
Hudson Reporter Most Valuable Player Jayla Vega of Hoboken is one of the Shockers’ pitchers, sharing duties with Jessica Feria of North Bergen, who was the Hudson Reporter Pitcher of the Year.
Johnson, who worked with Feria when the two were part of the now-defunct High Tech program, is impressed with her pitching.
“She’s really developed into a good pitcher,” Johnson said. “With her and Jayla, we didn’t need another pitcher.”
Another post-season honoree, the 2012 Hudson Reporter Player of the Year, Natalia Estremera of McNair Academic, is the team’s first baseman.
For good measure, Johnson added veteran Angelique Nieves, the former Union City standout currently playing softball at Iona College. Nieves was the 2011 Hudson Reporter Player of the Year. Angie Nieves is the team’s mainstay at shortstop. She was a key player on the Shockers’ team last year that went to the RBI World Series.
“She’s been hitting the way she always hits,” Johnsons said. “She’s been ripping the ball.”
As you can see, it is a very talented team.
The catcher is Amanda Casillas, a former All-Area player at both High Tech and Union City. But Casillas was a third baseman in high school.
“She went to Monroe College and they turned her into a catcher,” Johnson said. “She can really play anywhere. She’s done a tremendous job back there.”
The second baseman is Ali Sarmiento of North Bergen. Teammate Sabrina Reyes is the team’s third sacker.
Desiree Rivera of Hoboken is the left fielder. The centerfielder is another Hudson Reporter award winner, but this one received the biggest prize of all.
Sybil Lynch, the 2011-2012 Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year, mans centerfield for the Shockers.
“Sybil has been playing for me since she was seven,” Johnson said. “We go way back. She always makes so many great plays in the outfield. On this team, the pitchers pitch and everyone else plays defense.”
Hoboken’s Jade Bracero is the right fielder.
Others on the roster include Nerylix Cerda of North Bergen, who has provided her share of clutch hits in the postseason, along with Kayla Morrisette of Hoboken, Amanda Zielinski of Hoboken and Naomi Olacio of Hoboken. Dysheka Burrell, also of Hoboken, is the team’s backup catcher.
How’s this for talent? Seven members of the Shockers – Vega, Feria, Estremera, Rivera, Lynch, Reyes and Morrisette – all earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors in 2012. Obviously, Johnson has a nose for talent.
The team leaves for Minnesota on Monday. They will face Hawaii in the opening round, hoping to improve on last year’s third place finish.
“It’s an exciting time for these girls and I think we have an exciting team,” Johnson said.
We’ll have more on the exploits of the Hoboken Shockers next week…--Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.