---- — With the regular season in its final days, four of our local teams will play perhaps their most meaningful games of this season this weekend.
Peabody, Beverly, Bishop Fenwick and Danvers will take part in the seventh annual Courtney Marie Corning Memorial Softball Tournament tomorrow and Sunday at Endicott College in Beverly.
Corning, one of Peabody High’s own, was just 17 years old when she died in a car accident in January 2007. She was a talented athlete (softball and ice hockey), honor roll student and school leader for the Tanners who was well-respected by teammates and foes alike. She was killed a little over four months shy of her high school graduation.
The tournament was set up in her honor to perpetuate her light and legacy, which will always live on.
There will be doubleheaders both days. Beverly and defending champion Danvers play the leadoff game tomorrow at noon, while Peabody takes on crosstown rival Fenwick at 2 p.m. Tomorrow’s losing squads meet in the consolation game Sunday at 10 a.m., followed by the two winners in the championship game at noon.
Art Cronin, who coached Corning on the Northeast Quicksilver AAU team the summer before she passed away, helps organize the tournament in her memory every year.
“This tournament gives us the opportunity to honor Courtney for two days by playing the game that she loved,” said Cronin. “We can’t thank Mark Kulakowski and Endicott College enough for allowing us to play at their outstanding facility. I know the girls on all four teams are excited to play in the stadium in front of a large crowd.”
Danvers is back for its second year in the tourney and looking to hold onto its championship title.
“I think part of having a good season is finishing up strong, and that’s what we want to do in our last two games,” said Danvers head coach Tara Petrocelli. “We’ll talk as a team ahead of time and let the girls know who Courtney was and about the honor of being invited to play again. I want the girls to know what she stood for and how much she loved the sport.”
The tournament awards scholarships to a senior from each of the four teams. Last year, Beverly’s Jenna LoVasco, Danvers’ Sam DiBella, Peabody’s Kelly Donahue and Fenwick’s Katherine Melanson were given a rose and presented with the scholarships by Corning’s parents, Jack and Ginny.
It’s a moving day for all those involved — especially Peabody head coach Butch Melanaphy, who coached Corning in high school and had known her since she was a little girl at the softball field.
“It gets very emotional in the beginning when her mother reads a poem Courtney wrote in high school,” said Melanaphy. “It’s very hard. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for her parents.”
The second day of the tournament will take place on what would have been Corning’s 24th birthday.
The Corning Tournament isn’t just about the games— there will be silent auctions tomorrow and Sunday featuring hotel weekends, Red Sox tickets and golf outings. All proceeds from tickets ($5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors) will go to the Courtney Corning Memorial Fund.
Donations are appreciated by the family and can be sent to the Courtney Corning Memorial Fund, c/o Eastern Bank, 37 Foster St., Peabody, MA 01960.
Salem is hosting a first-ever alumni softball game Saturday, June 1, at Mack Park. The game will start at 7 p.m. and will feature players from the past 12 seasons. If any former players are interesting in playing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of the Witches, Wednesday’s game against Beverly went 12 innings. Neither team scored until the fifth inning, and the contest went 1-1 until the 12th. The Panthers (8-10) came up on top, 3-1.
“The kids really played loose and had fun every inning,” said Beverly head coach Megan Sudak. “There were plenty of 1-2-3 innings; we just kept saying ‘Believe in each other and it will happen.’ And they did. Everyone on the team, including those not in the field, played a role.”
Emily Pitman worked through all 12 innings, striking out 10 and scattering seven hits for the Panthers.
Sudak also made mention of the superb defense from Salem’s Desiree Martin at shortstop. “Martin must’ve had 10-12 line drives or ground balls hit to her,” noted Sudak. “I joked with her that she was like a Hoover vacuum out there.”
Abby Curran just finished up her freshman year at Tufts University. The former Bishop Fenwick standout and Hamilton native has had an extremely successful season with the Jumbos after helping them win the NCAA Division 3 national championship earlier this week.
A second baseman and utility player, Curran started in 32 of 46 games and played in eight of the 11 postseason contests. In 97 at-bats she knocked in 15 RBI, had two home runs and finished with a .278 batting average.
“Abby was a great addition to our team this year,” said Jumbos coach Cheryl Milligan. “We had multiple injuries and Abby stepped into the starting second base role for the last third of the season. In that time, she had some clutch hits and some great defense.
“We subbed her out some of the final games in the World Series to get a newly recovered and hotter bat in the lineup, but still used her in spots for defense. I’m certain with some experience under her belt Abby will continue to be a great asset to our team. She contributed a great deal more than we were expecting as a freshman, and we look forward to our future.”
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.