---- — It was a tough year to be a North Shore softball team in this spring’s postseason dance.
Seven of our Salem News area teams made it into the state tournament — but all were eliminated after their first game.
Danvers was the top seed in a 12-team Division 2 North field, but was upset by Tewksbury in extra innings in the quarterfinals. The other local squad that was higher seeded than its opponent, No. 6 Peabody, was blanked by an 11th seeded Acton-Boxboro team that wound up reaching the sectional semifinals.
It begs the question: do our local teams see enough variety and competition during their regular season in order to get them properly prepared for the playoffs?
It’s most definitely a topic that’s up for debate; there’s some talk about reorganizing the Northeastern Conference by possibly a few new schools in the coming years, including the possible addition of another Div. 1 school in Masconomet. Without diving too much into the politics, it seems as though all of the local teams would benefit from such additions, not just in softball but in soccer and baseball as well.
The new proposal would also allow for teams to have more non-league matchups in the regular season schedule. It’s a chance for the NEC softball teams to play stronger opponents such as St. Mary’s and/or Concord-Carlisle in preparation for the state tournament.
Bishop Fenwick is one of those teams that benefits from being in a strong conference. The Crusaders play the likes of St. Mary’s, Arlington Catholic, Archbishop Williams and Austin Prep in the Catholic Central League; by facing top talent during April and May, they’re better prepared when the June playoffs roll around.
It’s definitely something to think about during the offseason.
After nearly 30 seasons as the Ipswich High softball coach, Doug Woodworth has decided to retire.
After coaching his final game against North Reading on May 27, Woodworth called it quits for the time being, but says he won’t close the door on coaching in the future.
”I’m not sure what’s ahead. I’ll still work somewhere, but I have no idea doing what,” said Woodworth, who is also retiring from teaching. “We’ll see what comes my way.
“I can’t say I’ll never coach again, but for now my softball coaching is over. Time for a little break.”
He coached his 500th career softball game earlier this year as the Tigers wrapped up their season at 4-14.
Along with coaching softball, Woodworth also coached golf, girls soccer and boys basketball at Ipswich High, leading his Tigers to a state championship back in 2005.
Woodworth helped his teams to six Cape Ann League titles and finished with a career record of 264-246 in softball. Combined with his other three sports he coached, Woodworth has been involved in nearly 1,000 games in his career, going a combined 468-456.
“I remember my first softball game, I was the junior varsity coach and the first game of the year the varsity coach got thrown out of the game over in Lynnfield,” explained Woodworth. “I had to go over to coach the varsity for the rest of the game while the coach sat on the bus. I wish I could say we won the game, but I don’t really remember.”
Woodworth also recalls coaching against Bishop Fenwick’s legendary Buddy Henry in the 1980s during a North semifinal game. “Of course we lost, but it was a good game,” Woodworth joked. “I had the honor of having Buddy on my coaching staff his last couple of years. I kind of gave him the reigns of the team. I figured ‘Who was I compared to this Hall of Fame coach?’ I learned so much from him, and every one of our players loved playing for him on our staff.”
Kendall Meehan was perhaps one the most gifted players to watch this spring. The Danvers High mound ace led her team to a 19-2 record by throwing 10 shutout performances and one perfect game.
The 17-year-old’s perfecto came against Lynn English in April, needing just 42 pitches to complete her gem.
A junior captain this past season, Meehan also batted cleanup and hit .520 with 26 RBI.
Four players from Pingree were selected to the First Team Eastern Independent League all-star team: juniors Christina Chalmers, Jill Witwicki, Gabby Muniz (who has committed to Holy Cross) and Haley Sabino. Sophomore Kelsey Dion and junior Caroline Fay received honorable mentions nods.
The Highlanders finished 12-5 (8-1 league play) and were in a three-way tie for first place in the league.
The 16th Agganis Softball Classic will take place Sunday (1 p.m.) at Fraser Field in Lynn. Locals participating include Danvers’ Chrissy Gikas (Endicott) and Julia Saggese (Merrimack), Peabody’s Olivia Brothers (Salem State), Jess Raymond (Salem State) and Mikayla Wallace (Westfield State) and Beverly’s Aimee McKenna (Curry), who will represent the North team. Bridget Genoversa-Wong (Minnesota) and Emma Walsh (Colgate), both from Swampscott, will play for the South.
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.