Last year Jenna LoVasco caught all but one inning in 24 games for the Beverly High softball team.
A two-year starter and senior captain, LoVasco has been with the varsity in some capacity since her freshman year and has already committed to playing Division 3 softball at St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Pa., this fall.
This past winter, the 18-year-old started between the pipes for the girls ice hockey team, and uses the techniques she learns in both sports interchangeably.
"Being a catcher really helps with my glove saves in hockey and vice versa," said LoVasco. "Being a goalie really helps me become comfortable blocking balls and getting my body in front of them."
As a sophomore in 2010, she split time behind the plate with Annie Sinclair before sliding into the starting role as a junior.
Head coach Megan Sudak, a former catcher herself for the Panthers back in 1995, expects a lot from her all-star backstop.
"I'm particularly demanding of my catchers," Sudak said. "They must take control and not be afraid to direct her teammates.
"(Jenna) is the backbone of our defense. She's vocal but at the same time leads by example. Its not always easy to spend hours upon hours catching pitchers, then drills and then game situations."
For a team that typically predicates itself on defense, the Panthers have returned most of their starting infield — Erin Silvestri at short, Natalie Shea at second, third baseman Aimee McKenna — with LoVasco anchoring things behind the dish.
"She definitely makes my job a lot easier, without a doubt," Sudak said of her confidence in LoVasco. "Some people take for granted how much control she has over a game; it's literally in Jenna's hands at times."
LoVasco, who built a strong relationship with Beverly's two top pitchers (Sarah Pezzulo and Rachel Willwerth) last year, made sure to work just as hard to do the same with this season's crop of hurlers, including sophomore Kate Silvestri.
"I feel extremely comfortable and content back there," said LoVasco, who has complete control in calliing pitches during games. "I know I play a big role in the game and try to not let it get in my head."
The senior captain also goes to pitching lessons outside of the Beverly practices with Silvestri in order to work on understanding what will make both of them successful.
"She has a great approach with all of our pitchers," added Sudak. "It's a testament to both Jenna's hard work and maturity."
Offensively, LoVasco hit in the cleanup spot last year. She hit a robust .475 with a .495 on-base percentage and led her team in hits (32). This spring, the power hitter will be batting third as Sudak wants to get her as many at bats a possible.
"Whenever I get up to bat I say to myself, 'OK, I'm going to hit the ball, it's my turn for a hit'," LoVasco said of her thought process. "Even though I don't always get a hit, I know there will be plenty more at bats. The key is going up with confidence in yourself and when you don't get the hit you were looking for, you tell yourself what you need to do next time and then shake it off — because there's always next time."
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Speaking of catchers, Bishop Fenwick's Jenn Corvo has been playing well out of the gate despite her team's slow (0-2) start.
The sophomore backstop has gone 4-for-7 and has come a long way since last season. She split time last spring with senior Gaby Trahant behind the plate before taking over for Trahant in the tournament run because of injury.
"It's great the she got a year under her belt," said Fenwick head coach Paul Lyman. "Defensively, Jenn's a great catcher and is really coming into her own as far as hitting is concerned. She's a good kid and good athlete."
Lyman talks of possibly moving Corvo to another position on the diamond because of her versatility, but acknowledges she's too valuable at catcher to move her right now.
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Masconomet has a new coach this spring as Mike Gibeley has taken over as head coach for David Tullgren and is looking to work in both new offensive and defensive systems.
The Chieftains didn't make the state tournament a year ago, winning only seven of 20 regular season contests. But they do return experience and leadership, especially at the shortstop position with Taylor Evans.
So far, Evans and company are off to a 2-0 start with wins over Pentucket and Triton and will look to extend that streak today against Newburyport.
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The North Shore Tech/Essex Aggie team has begun the season quickly at 3-0 start behind its widely successful pitcher, Amanda Lucey. She already has a pair of wins, including a one-hitter in her first outing.
Lucey, who was named last year's team MVP, is joined on the Bulldogs' hill by fellow hurlers sophomore Kaera Wyse and freshman Meaghan Zipper of Salem.
In addition, senior shortstop Kathryn Brebner is on a three-game hitting streak, knocking in six RBI as the Bulldogs have outscored their opponents, 38-18.
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Today's big Northeastern Conference matchup: Swampscott visits Danvers (Great Oak School, 4 p.m.) for their first meeting of the season. The Falcons return a handful of key players that will go up against a veteran Big Blue lineup.
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Fast Pitches, a column on North Shore high school softball, runs every Friday during the spring season in The Salem News. Contact Gianna Addario at GAddario@salemnews.com, 978-338-2615 and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.