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LaGrotta has adapted at Paul VI

Rosie LaGrotta had a night free from her team, so she went to Millville for a softball game and to see her former teammates play.

Pitcher, Rose LaGrotta. ( AKIRA SUWA  /  Staff Photographer )
Pitcher, Rose LaGrotta. ( AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer )Read more

Rosie LaGrotta had a night free from her team, so she went to Millville for a softball game and to see her former teammates play.

As an alumna does, she made her way around the field and caught up with a lot of the girls throughout the game.

The only difference was that LaGrotta is a senior at Paul VI and the girls she went to see were her former teammates from Sacred Heart. Together, they won the South Jersey Non-Public B title the last two years before the school closed because of declining enrollment.

Much of the Sacred Heart team ended up at Millville or Vineland, the Thunderbolts' opponent that night.

LaGrotta is the only one who went to Paul VI.

"When I first came in, I was nervous," said LaGrotta, who travels more than 25 miles from Franklinville to get to school. "I didn't know anyone. I came to school the first week - I was by myself. I didn't really talk to anyone.

"I adjusted, and I love it now."

LaGrotta chose Paul VI because she liked the school's environment, wanted to finish her education at a Catholic school, and knew of some girls on the team through summer softball.

The sport also helped her adapt to a new school and get to know people.

"I was used to the small, little school at Sacred Heart where everybody knew each other," LaGrotta said; Sacred Heart's final graduating class had 53 girls. "Here, there's like 300 kids. I feel like I see different faces every day.

"I met a lot of friends. I feel like I have more friends here than I did at my old school."

Paul VI coach Dawn Mader knew what to do to help LaGrotta feel comfortable at the school. Her son transferred from Gloucester Catholic to Audubon after his freshman year, and the experience helped her handle this situation.

"It taught me that you have to accept everything," Mader said. "We knew to have open arms for her. Our team is very close, and we're very accepting. There's no drama on this team. There's nothing. They include everybody in everything we do. We do so much it's crazy."

Paul VI does do a lot as a team. Before LaGrotta went to Millville to see her former teammates, she was with her Paul VI teammates scouting two other teams. Off the field, Mader organizes pasta and water-ice parties and trips to the movies.

"I like them because they're really close," LaGrotta said. "My old team was extremely close, and now we're really close."

"At first, she was a little shy," Mader said. "At first, she was really quiet, just sat back and took everything in. Once she saw that we're just carefree and we're so friendly, she just fit right in."

While Paul VI has helped LaGrotta, the pitcher has helped her team.

LaGrotta was Sacred Heart's all-time winningest pitcher with 65 victories. Splitting time in the circle with Alexa Toner, she has added six wins with Paul VI and is eight away from the South Jersey record.

Her experience, which includes a Non-Public B state title, also helps.

"Just because of who she is and Sacred Heart had such a prestigious program, the kids feed off her," Mader said. "The kids look up to her. We know she has a state championship under her belt. She has a South Jersey championship under her belt. We know she can help get us there."

LaGrotta wants to help Paul VI get to the South Jersey Non-Public A final, as it did last year. If she does, maybe the Millersville recruit can return to Paul VI one day to see her former teammates with whom she shares championship memories.