SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

August 8, 2009

Palmieri ready for role with UMass softball

Jean Deplacido

Last year was a learning experience for Tawny Palmieri. She was the only freshman on the UMass Amherst softball team to be red-shirted. Now she is looking forward to getting a lot of playing time somewhere in the infield.

"Coach (Elaine) Sortino told me she was thinking about red-shirting me and wanted to know how I felt about it," Palmieri said. "We sat down and made the decision together, and I think it's the best thing I could have done. I did everything with the team, practiced, went on all the trips and learned a tremendous amount.

"Playing Division 1 ball is so different from high school. I hope to crack into the lineup at third base or middle infield. I've talked to a lot of people who say they wish they could have had one more year of eligibility. Now instead of just getting into a few games I have my full four years ahead of me."

The former Peabody High star has been busy this summer playing AAU softball for the New England Firebirds. They travel all over to tournaments. This weekend, Palmieri is in Lowell playing for the U-23 team.

UMass has an opening at third base and as soon as Palmieri returns to campus fall practices will begin. She is hoping to be impressive in fall ball and ready to jump in once the season starts. The Minutemen were ranked 14th in the country at the end of last season. After winning the A-10, they made it all the way to the regional finals before losing a heartbreaking 15-inning game to Washington, 6-1. The Washington Huskies went on to win the NCAA title

"We had each won a game and that third game was the longest in the program's history," Palmieri said. "I think it ended at 1:30 in the morning. Even though I wasn't playing, I was emotionally, physically and mentally drained by the time it was over. It was a case of whoever scored first in extra innings was going to win. It was a wild one. We got 15,000 hits on our Web site for that game, which is amazing. Of course, we all felt so much worse because we lost."

The UMass program is still on the upswing.

"We're going to be strong again this year even though we had seven seniors graduate," Palmieri said. "It's going to be hard, but I know we'll be right up there again. The girls on the team are great, and I've been hanging out with them during the summer. I go out to Amherst a lot, and some of my teammates come to Peabody. I just love the school; it's an awesome place with something always going on. You could go outside at 3 o'clock in the morning and somebody would be out there. There's never a dull moment. I'm majoring in elementary education because they don't have a physical education major, and the idea of having four more years is exciting."

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Mike Pitt is running the Falmouth Road Race this weekend, raising money for the Dana-Farber Jimmy Fund. The former St. John's Prep football captain from Manchester recently graduated from Northeastern University.

"I did the race two years ago and raised around $1,000, which is the minimum amount," Pitt said. "This year, my goal was $1,500 and I'm already at $2,000, which is great because it's for a wonderful cause. You can't beat the Cape this time of year. I've been doing a bit of running, and I stay in shape by boxing and working out."

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The Peabody West state champion Little League team has lots of fans, but nobody is following the team more closely than St. Adelaide CYO basketball coach Jack King, who had many of the same youngsters on his team that won the state title and went to the New England Regional last March. A few key players on that squad were unable to go to the New England tournament because of a prior baseball commitment to play for the Firebirds AAU team in a tournament down south. With a full roster St. Adelaide would have been one of the favorites to win it all.

Matt Hosman, Austin Batchelor, Matt Correale, Traverse Briana, Mike Petrosino and A. J. DiFillipo all played big roles for the St. Adelaide Bantams — and now they are in Bristol, Conn., starting for the unbeaten Peabody West Little League all-stars, trying to capture the New England title — and a trip to the World Series in Williamsport. Nobody is rooting harder for them than their basketball coach.