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FIUNYC wins co-ed softball championship in inaugural season


“Can’t stop, won’t stop!” This was the mantra of the FIU Alumni Chapter of Greater New York (FIUNYC) during their co-ed softball team’s inaugural season.

The team of local alumni took to the field in June, led by FIUNYC Treasurer and Co-Ed Softball Manager Thomas Ruggiero ’05. Already an active member of both a soccer and football team, Ruggiero was the perfect candidate to lead the Panthers in their first NYC social sports league. After some research, he signed the team up with the Yorkville Sports Association, home to teams from the Sony Corporation, Rockefeller Group and Oppenheimer Funds. FIUNYC was assigned to the 10-team, Co-Ed Conference C, comprised of teams representing NYC’s medical, legal, financial and hospitality industries.

Members of FIUNYC Co-Ed Softball Team after receiving their YSA Conference Championship Trophy at American Retro Bar & Grill in on Oct. 15 in NYC. Pictured l to r: T. Nikki Chawla '06, FIUNYC Softball Manager Thomas Ruggiero '05, Hieu Pham '97, FIUNYC President Cedric L. Bess '99, and Jassie Vilela '04.

Members of FIUNYC Co-Ed Softball Team after receiving their YSA Conference Championship Trophy at American Retro Bar & Grill in on Oct. 15 in NYC. Pictured left to right: T. Nikki Chawla ’06, FIUNYC Softball Manager Thomas Ruggiero ’05, Hieu Pham ’97, FIUNYC President Cedric L. Bess ’99, and Jassie Vilela ’04.

FIUNYC finished the regular season with a 6-4 record, punching their ticket to the postseason with a 14-10 victory over the top-ranked ICS Ballers in the regular season finale. As the tournament’s fifth-seed, the Big Apple Panthers had the longest road to the Conference title. After two more wins, including a semifinal game against top-seeded ICS Ballers that took two days to complete due to darkness, FIUNYC faced second-seeded Fortress Credit for the Conference Championship. Only minutes after their semifinal victory, FIUNYC took the field again to play the championship game.

The Big Apple Panthers gave up five runs in the first inning. Then, the team rallied in the fifth and won the Conference C Co-Ed Championship 11-8 over Fortress Credit. Even though FIUNYC eventually fell one victory shy of capturing the overall league championship, the team achieved phenomenal results thanks to their team-first attitude and all-star leadership.

“I am very proud of this team,” explained Ruggiero. “Throughout the season, the players demonstrated some of the most selfless acts of class, determination, and camaraderie I have ever seen and I believe this is what led to their improbable success. This team has laid a foundation for success that the Big Apple Panthers can build upon, which we are all very excited about.”

FIU alumni who participated during the inaugural season of FIUNYC Softball included:

  • Thomas Ruggiero ’05 (Manager)
  • Cedric L. Bess ’99 (Bench Coach/OF)
  • Tom Bello Jr. ’04 (Pitcher/OF)
  • Hieu Pham ’97 (Pitcher/OF)
  • T. Nikki Chawla ’06 (OF)
  • Jassie Vilela ’04 (OF)
  • Elvi Guzman ’06 (OF)
  • Helyett Harris ’07 (OF)
  • Ron Schechter ’80 (Supporter)

Special thanks to FIU Athletics and the FIU Alumni Association for their support of the inaugural season of FIUNYC Softball.

– Cedric Bess, FIUNYC Chapter President

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