By Bob Behre

Rutgers University athletics has been such a large part of Gabby Donofrio’s life that it should be no surprise the tug the Scarlet Knights have on her heart.

Donofrio, a power-hitting third baseman for the Finch’s Aces 18U Premier team, gave a verbal commitment on Tuesday to play softball for the same school for which her dad, Doug Donofrio, played baseball. In fact, Gabby’s mom, Susan, and her dad met at Rutgers.

“I’m really excited,” said Donofrio. “Since I was very young we’ve had season tickets to Rutgers football and have gone to a lot of games with family and friends. I love the atmosphere at Rutgers. The campus is great and the softball team has been very welcoming.”

Donofrio, who batted third in the Aces Premier lineup and played third base during the Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational, has also participated in Rutgers softball camps and visited the Scarlet Knights’ softball practice a few weeks ago.

Gabby also considered St. John’s and Lehigh, but the big school atmosphere won her over.

“I wanted a big school with football games and other athletic events,” she said. “And I wanted to be close to home where my family could see me play and I could still see my siblings.”

The importance of family for Gabby Donofrio is understandable. She has a twin brother, A.J., who is a 6-2, 205-pound catcher/first baseman at Gill St. Bernards School in Peapack, N.J., and  two younger siblings, 14 year-old twins Alexis and Hunter.

Abby had a breakout sophomore season at Mendham High School last spring and that carried over into a tremendous summer with the Cheetahs program before she moved over to Finch’s Aces at Diamond Nation.

Donofrio batted .484 at Mendham last spring with 31 hits, including 7 HRs, and drove home 32 runs. She also drew 12 walks. She continued her prowess at the plate in the summer, batting .470 with 46 hits, including 6 HRs and 28 RBI. Donofrio drew 11 walks in the summer. Her outstanding play for her high school team earned her a First Team All-NJAC nod by the conference coaches.

“Gabby is a very strong player,” said Aces 18U Premier coach Jackie Spina. “She crushes the ball at the plate and is an outstanding infielder. She does a fantastic job at third base for us.”

Donofrio played for the Aces at the 12U level and returned in August under Premier coach and program director Spina. “The past few months have been great,” said Donofrio. “Coach Jackie is helping me grow as a player. She is an excellent coach.”

“I’ve had a really good experience at Diamond Nation,” said Donofrio. “The facility is great. I’ve been going to Diamond Nation since I was little, watching my brother play in tournaments.”

Spina is excited to watch Donofrio's develop further the next two years.
"During the past year coaching Gabby, her growth has been integral to her college recruitment process," said Spina. "She has grown as a player mentally and physically and I am really excited to see her develop even more as she prepares for college. I know she will only turn her workout regiment and training up a notch, knowing what type of atmosphere playing in the Big 10 will be. I am excited to watch it all unfold."
Donofrio has been a client of Thomas Tarulli Sports Marketing the past two years. Tarulli is the Finch's Aces softball Director of Player Development.