Rutherford pitcher Jordan Finelli pitches to Saddle Brook on Monday, April 1, 2019, in Rutherford. Rutherford defeated Saddle Brook in an 11-10 walk-off win for the first game of the season. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com)
RUTHERFORD (By Darren Cooper / Record Sports) – The pain felt like being stabbed in the back. Now, Jordan Finelli is front and center for the Rutherford softball team.
The sophomore right-hander made a successful return to the pitchers circle for the Bulldogs on Monday, earning a win and going 5-5 at the plate in an opening day win over Saddle Brook.
The last time Finelli had tried to play on that field, she ended up leaving the game in agony as a strained back muscle forced her to the bench.
“I have never experienced such bad pain,” Finelli said. “I was disappointed because I didn’t want to let my teammates down.”
Finelli’s exact injury was never specified. She mentions the rhomboid muscles (the muscles that attach the edges of your shoulder blades to your spine) in her back, and believes they were inflamed from overuse.
After the Bulldogs’ season ended, Finelli went to physical therapy and stopped throwing for a while. She and her pitching coach, Jamie Piela, worked on a different technique throwing her curveball, which they thought may have been the root cause of the pain.
“She missed the last three weeks of the season so we are keeping an eye on her and have her working with the trainer on maintaining strength in that area,” Rutherford coach Helen Antzoulides said. “Her future is bright. She loves the game.”
Finelli, the middle child of three, can’t remember when she started playing softball. She just remembers doing it. She joined her first club team when she was in fifth grade. She wasn’t always a pitcher, but she does love the feeling of being in command.
“I think it gives you a very good sense of power,” Finelli said. “You control the game. You set the tone. I think in that respect, it is something I love doing. It gives me adrenaline.”
Her older brother Justin was a key member of the Bulldogs’ two sectional championship football teams. He joked that his little sister is the second best athlete in the family, but gives her credit for working hard.
“She was a good player when she was younger and some people take that for granted,” Justin said. “But she works at it. We work out together and she’s always on the field throwing with my dad. She has a great work ethic.”
As a freshman, Antzoulides gave Finelli the ball and basically said, “Let’s go.” Finelli laughs that she did have some “welcome to varsity” moments like the time she faced Ramsey star Victoria Corcoran in the circle and when Immaculate Heart Academy standout Ryleigh White rocketed a pitch off her.
“I’m telling you that ball probably went over two fields,” Finelli said, laughing. “As soon as I saw that ball come off the bat, I was like, yep, she got that one.”
Antzoulides coaxed Finelli to play volleyball for the Bulldogs. She has spent the last two years on the junior varsity just as a role player, doing different things. But softball is her game. She said Monday that she’s been totally pain free and her only goal now is to win.
“Nothing comes easy, you have to work for it,” Finelli said. “In the offseason I really put my time in so that when the season rolled around I would be at my peak. I want to win and take my team as far as we can go. We have potential. It comes down to reaching that potential.”