Softball: Unity key for Newport-Mesa All-Stars

Together they went, walking from table to table at Skosh Monahan's in Costa Mesa. The girls from the Newport-Mesa Softball 14U All-Star team asked customers to buy raffle tickets to raise money for their squad.

Each of the girls wore their jersey. They didn't mind that they were dressed differently from everyone else. They only cared they were dressed the same as their teammates.

This was just another example of the All-Stars' unity. They say they are like family.

Together they practiced Wednesday afternoon and then went to the Irish bar and restaurant for a special fundraiser.

When the girls told everyone their story, people wanted to donate to the cause, to help the team with its costs to compete in Oregon next week.

The girls weren't shy to tell them their team is the first in Newport-Mesa Softball history to reach the national tournament.

The Newport-Mesa All-Stars begin pool-play competition on Tuesday in Medford, where they will compete in the American Softball Assn. 14B Western National Tournament. They will attempt to reach double-elimination bracket play and reach the final day of action, Aug. 3.

Before they leave, they have been doing their best to raise money for their travel expenses. They have been gaining plenty of support from a Newport-Mesa community that is proud of the girls who have jelled as a team.

In addition to Monahan's, the All-Star team also had a fundraiser at the Beach Pit. Dick's Sporting Goods at Fashion Island showed its support for the girls by putting a display with a picture of the team and a jersey at the store.

The girls have been motivated by the support and they say they want to do their best for all their fans. They also want to play their best for each other. That's what has impressed each of the team's coaches.

"This is the first time a team from Newport-Mesa has gone this far," said Fred Bagatourian, the team's manager. "It's a pretty great accomplishment for these girls. I think it's been because of the camaraderie of the group. They've enjoyed the season. Also, they have worked hard."

Their hard work is paying off with a history-making feat. The team, which features several girls who have been playing on the same team for the past seven years, has made its mark.

The girls will be remembered and they are: Lauryn Terrazzi, Diana Surber, Katie Belmontes, Sammy Del Toro, Maddie Tumbarello, Mia Bagatourian, Brenna Alvis, Kendall Machado, Audrey Tumbarello, Ruby Ceballos, Leah Freeman and Isabella Patrick.

In addition to Fred Bagatourian, the staff includes Chad Machado, Kevin Del Toro and Lee Freeman. They've seen the girls grow up over the years and win plenty this season.

The Newport-Mesa All-Stars nearly won its district, reaching the title game in Fountain Valley, where they lost to West Grove, the team made up of players from Westminster and Garden Grove.

The Newport-Mesa All-Stars finished ninth in the state tournament in Lancaster to qualify for the upcoming Western Nationals.

Last year, they came close to winning the state tournament in San Diego, but that was in the 14C division. Yet, the fact that they came so close to qualifying motivated the girls to set a goal to reach the national tournament the following season.

And, here they are. Mission accomplished. But now they want to win some more, for each other.

"We have a team chemistry that you really can't find in a lot of people," said Maddie Tumbarello, who plays third base. "I wouldn't want to go up there with any other group of girls. I wouldn't want to continue softball with anyone else. I think just playing with them motivates me to do my best."

The girls enjoy cheering for each other and they also get happy for their annual pre-game tradition.

They write the opposing team's name within the warm-up batting circle near their dugout. They each then erase the name by crushing and sliding the dirt with their shoes.

"And then we have a little clap," Sammy Del Toro said.

It seems to be working.

The team's success gets Del Toro's father all choked up. If he talks about the team's past and the girls' ability to unite, his eyes begin to water and his chin shivers a little.

"They are starting to care about each other," he said. "It's not like a bunch of individuals out there."

Kevin Del Toro, the other coaches and the parents have also credited the great leadership from the manager, Fred Bagatourian.

They say his ability to be stern when needed and his display of care for each girl causes the players to want to win for him.

He's also modest, as he really wanted the other coaches to speak for this story.

"It goes without saying that his undivided devotion to this group of girls (many of them he has coached for the past 6-7 years) and his unwavering generosity to these girls is unmatched," Tumbarello's father, Steve, said in an email. "Having coached my own daughters over the past seven years, I can say that when I show up to Coach Fred's practices or even the games, I know that my girls are getting the most out of their experience and they always walk off the field with smiles on their faces. Certainly important metrics for teenage girls!! The girls love Coach Fred and I know that he loves the girls as if they were his own."

Now the Newport-Mesa 14U All-Stars family takes their game to Medford, Ore.

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