‘One team, one family’

CCRI softball earns trip to its first World Series


The CCRI softball team enjoyed arguably its best season ever this spring and earned a trip to the upcoming NJCAA World Series this week in Chattanooga, Tenn. It is the first time in the program’s history that it qualified for the tournament and it will be entering the eight-team bracket as the No. 6 seed.
The Lady Knights have a stunning 30-2 record this spring and won their first 20 games. The team won its first Region XXI title since 2016 and broke the record for its best winning percentage ever.
The CCRI roster is made up entirely of Rhode Island natives, many of which had never played together before this season.
Leading the way have been Johnston’s Victoria Butler, who is a captain, as well as Janina Mazzulla. Also on the squad are Warwick natives Jenna Altieri, Sophia Chevian and Katie Motta.
“The hardest part of being a coach at a community college is recruiting. The past few years we’ve been trying, we recruited these girls and they’re all from Rhode Island. Rhode Island’s got a lot of talent. We have a fall league where we can see them and we felt that if we could get them to buy in and tweak a few things, then it would all come together,” said CCRI manager Paul Mercier.
“It’s been fun. I’ve known everyone playing in travel so it’s been good to come together. I’m excited because I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like to play softball somewhere else,” said Motta.
The key to this group gelling since day one has been its bond both on and off the field. The players have become close friends and feel that those relationships have carried them to such a historic season.
At practice last week, the team was donning t-shirts that said, “One team, one family,” which is a mantra they have stood by all spring long.
“We all get along as a group and we have great team chemistry. That allows us to play well as a group and keep up the energy. As long as our defense is solid and our bats are up, we’ll have nothing to worry about,” said Butler.
Altieri said: “We started slow in the fall, which happens with a new team, but we worked hard in the winter and that really helped us to return and be good in the spring.”
Chevian, who has emerged as the team’s top pitcher, is also excited to be part of such a historic group.
“It’s cool to be a part of history, CCRI has never done this before so it will be cool in the future to be able to look back on this,” Chevian said.
Although the players know what they have accomplished on the field, Mercier feels that they have not yet grasped the impact that have made on the program moving forward as it looks to solidify its place as one of the best junior college teams in the country.
“There is a lot of great local talent that does get overlooked. I don’t think its hit them yet what they’ve accomplished, but we’ve got something special here. Let’s go to the big dance and dance. Everyone is excited,” said Mercier, who is planning on keeping things simple as the team battles against the other top teams in the nation. “I don’t think that pressure will be a problem. I think it will be about them staying together as a team and doing what we do. If they do that, then they’ll be fine and we’ll be competitive every game. We can battle our way out of problems, we are going to stick to the plan, no tricks, and I think that will help them relax.”


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