By Jean DePlacido
---- — The Peabody Senior Fastpitch Softball all-stars are headed for Worcester this weekend to begin play in the New England Regionals. Peabody defeated Westfield in both games of a double header in Winchendon last weekend, 16-4 and 15-1 (best two out of three series). This is the second straight year the Seniors have gone to the state tournament, but it is the first time they won.
Shannon Pires pitched the first four innings in both games and Sara Hayward closed. Both ended early by the mercy rule. Ashley Jenkins wielded a red hot bat in the double header, and her teammates pounded out the hits.
“Westfield was very young and not that experienced,” said manager Bill Hayward, who is assisted by Steve Ghostlaw and Ken O’Brien. “The girls realize we’re going to face much tougher competition in the New England’s. The hardest part for me is getting everything coordinated before we leave.”
The teams have to check in on Friday night, and Hayward will attend a meeting for the managers. Peabody opens up on Saturday against Maine and then faces host city Worcester in the second game. Rhode Island and Connecticut round out pool play.
“As host city Worcester got an automatic bid, but that is a very strong team from what I hear,” said Hayward. “There is no representative from either New Hampshire or Vermont. Pool play will be Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with the top two from each pool (the other is mid-Atlantic) playing on Thursday morning. The winners from each pool will meet on Thursday afternoon to see which goes on to the World Series in Delaware.”
Dom DelBene, Ashley Ghostlaw, Paige Hayward, Meghan Lurvey, Michelle McHugh, Katie O’Brien, Courtney Sabino, Kayla Santos, Briana Silva, Katie Tansey, Megan White, and Shelbi Wilson round out the squad of 15 and 16-year olds.
“The girls are all excited, and the more you win the closer the team gets,” said Hayward. “They’re all coming together, bonding, and having fun. They have lots of activities for the girls every night, and since our games are in the afternoon there’s time for them to enjoy themselves.”
The tournament will be held at Worcester State College and Ty Cobb Field. Hayward thinks his team will do well if they continue to have good pitching and defense and play clean games.
“The amazing thing is how far this program has come in just three years,” Hayward said. “The coaches at all three levels have done a phenomenal job. When we first started and you drafted a team half the girls didn’t know how to play fastpitch. Keith LeBlanc, Tom Rossignol, and so many others have done a great job teaching young girls how to play the game.”
All three levels in Peabody – Senior, Junior, and Majors went to the state tournament this summer, and the Seniors brought home the title.