1. Sports
  2. /
  3. HomeTeam

State softball: Extra-inning heartbreak for Newsome

Mary Beth Feldman and Co. hang tough, but Lake Worth Park Vista nudges out the Wolves for the 9A title, 3-2 in eight innings.
Newsome starter Mary Beth Feldman pitched four postseason shutouts before Friday night's 3-2, extra-inning loss to Lake Worth Park Vista. (SCOTT PURKS  |   Special to the Times)
Newsome starter Mary Beth Feldman pitched four postseason shutouts before Friday night's 3-2, extra-inning loss to Lake Worth Park Vista. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published May 25, 2019
Updated May 25, 2019

VERO BEACH — Mary Beth Feldman sees the field in narrow focus. The softball. The catcher’s mitt. The space between.

Staring straight ahead, the Newsome High pitcher winds up in windmill fashion before firing a pitch. Opposing batters are usually left flailing away.

This single-minded pursuit of perfection is a big reason the Wolves were able to play in Friday’s Class 9A state title game at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex. It was the program’s first championship appearance since winning it all in 2015.

The quest for another title ended, though, with a 3-2 eight-inning loss to Lake Worth Park Vista.

Some of Feldman’s goals were not related to wins. The game had been inextricably tied to pain and loss in the the past year.

Feldman still struggles to hold back the flood of memories from Jan. 5. That was the day her mother, Christine, died suddenly from complications with diabetes.

Feldman did not have much time to grieve. Her mother died weeks before softball tryouts. She gave little thought to suspending her senior season. The repetitive act of throwing a softball allowed the memory of her mother to sink somewhere deep into her subconscious.

The decision to go on was not just for rah-rah reasons, but also because softball is what defines her.

Newsome assistant coach Greg Feldman gives his daughter, starting pitcher Mary Beth Feldman, a few words of encouragement moments before the Class 9A state final. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)_

Playing the sport has been a family affair for more than a decade. Mary Beth and her older sister, Claire, pitched. Their father, Greg, coached. Christine worked behind the scenes.

They were together, for Little League, travel ball and high school softball. Four years ago, Mary Beth was in the stands with her mother and father to watch Claire win Newsome’s first state title.

Mary Beth wanted to join her sister as a state champion. Twice in the past three seasons, the Wolves came within a game of reaching the state semifinals.

This season, Mary Beth was down to her final shot.

Then came the death of her mother.

The Newsome players — and the Lithia softball community — rallied around her. The initials of Mary Beth’s mother, CF, were printed on shirts and displayed throughout the town.

Before the season, Wolves players each came with motivational sayings that hung in the dugout. They all adopted the slogan: “Play for something bigger.”

They were playing for Christine, who was honored at every home game.

“The support from everyone has been incredible,” said Greg Feldman, a Newsome assistant the past three seasons.

“What the family went through is very tough. But for Mary Beth, softball has been the easy part. She stayed focused through everything.”

Newsome leadoff hitter Bailee Leisti, left, gives Lindsey Harper a pat on the back moments after Harper collects the first hit of the Class 9A state final. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

Mary Beth was dominant, winning 13 of her 15 starts entering Friday’s final. She also had pitched four straight shutouts, including Thursday’s 13-0 semifinal win over Coral Gables.

There were plenty of family members in the stands for Friday’s championship, including Claire (who just finished her redshirt sophomore season at Utah) and younger sister Olivia.

The Wolves’ offense helped Mary Beth early in Friday’s final. Jada Smallwood had a sacrifice fly to score Bailee Leistl, and Jadeyn Ruszkowski followed by singling in Lindsey Harper for a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Park Vista answered with two runs in the fifth to tie the score, ending Mary Beth’s shutout streak. The teams continued to keep each other off the scoreboard.

Newsome had several spectacular plays in the field. Lydia Castro, the team’s catcher, dove to snag a few popups. Leah Zatkiewicz corralled a grounder and made a stellar throw to Ruszkowski, who stretched out at first base to get a runner out.

On offense, Leistl did her part, going 2-for-3 with a run scored.

And Mary Beth stayed focused as she continued to fire away. The Utah signee allowed eight hits and finished with six strikeouts.

In the eighth inning, the Cobras broke the tie.

That was enough.

“I can’t say enough about Mary Beth and everything that she’s been able to accomplish with what she’s been through,” said Wolves interim coach Ally Ledenham.

Afterward, Greg hugged Mary Beth before kissing her on the head.

“These are the kind that are fun when you win and horrible when you lose,” he said. “Mary Beth had big strikeouts. Big moments. They all played great. Pride cannot even describe how I feel about them.”

Contact Bob Putnam at Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.


  1. Newsome Wolves catcher Lydia Castro is dynamic behind the plate and with a bat in her hand. She is also committed to USF. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  2. Elli Black, 11, crosses the finish line in first place in the women's division at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
  3. There were many standout players for Tampa Catholic on Saturday, including goalkeeper Charlie Gembarowski, who set school records in shutouts (16) and wins (22) with the state semifinal victory. [JOSEPH WEISER  |  Icon SMI via ZUMA Press]
  4. Jesuit, ranked No. 6 in the state and 15th nationally by MaxPreps, will play for their seventh school title next Saturday in DeLand against Pembroke Pines Charter. [JOSEPH WEISER  |  Icon SMI via ZUMA Press]
  5. Shorecrest coach Jason Montoya, seen here in a previous playoff match, was happy with how his team played in Saturday's state semifinal. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  6. Elaine Jeffers, left, and mom Jennifer are all smiles in their pirate and parrot costumes after finishing the 15K and 5K races Saturday morning. Today, both Elaine, 33, and Jennifer, 60, will run their 61st half-marathon. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
  7. Joe Conrad, at the mere age of 90 in the orange hat, crosses the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K finish line with 30 of his relatives: kids, grandkids and so on. Conrad, who has set several age-group records at races the past few decades, finished in 59 minutes, 28 seconds, but he did, of course, benefit from all the pacers around him. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
  8. Cambridge Christian runner Reed Legg finishes first (15:29) during Saturday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  9. Tampa Bay Tech, still missing star sophomore Janiah Barker, falters in the region final Friday, but if healthy should make another deep playoff run next season. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  10. After its 3-1 victory over Westminster Academy of Fort Lauderdale on Friday, the Shorecrest girls soccer team  will be playing in the program's first state final next week in Deland. [CHUCK FRYE  |  Special to the Times]
  11. Land O' Lakes may have fallen one game short of a state final, but, as coach Jen Craven says: “We have some good kids coming from the local middle school. Looking forward, I don’t see any reason why you won’t see us in the show next year." [JOSEPH WEISER  |  Icon SMI via ZUMA Press]
  12. Carrollwood Day's Weeyah McGill, seen here during last year's state tournament, was dominant Friday against Seffner Christian. [SCOTT PURKS]