SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 2, 2014

Fast Pitches: Magicians don't let injury slow them down

Fast Pitches
Gianna Addario

---- — You can tell a lot about a team by the way it handles adversity.

Put aside the wins and losses, and a club — a good club — can take anything the season brings it and use it in a way that strengthens the group.

Marblehead has been without two of its key players for over a week now; starting shortstop Olivia Vener (sprained wrist) and second baseman Emily Promise (thumb fracture). Vener is the Magicians’ leadoff batter, who has excellent speed and skill running the bases.

“Olivia sets the team tempo in the lineup,” Marblehead coach Johnny Gold said about his four-year starter. “She already holds the school record for all-time stolen bases and is second all-time in hits.”

While the Marblehead co-captain bat is missed, freshman Montana Joyce has slid into her position almost seamlessly — giving Marblehead another shot at a postseason appearance.

“Montana has been so good that we haven’t had to rush Olivia back,” noted Gold. “She’s made only one error and is hitting over 400 in the leadoff spot. She makes all the plays and has a head for the game, knowing all the situations.”

Joyce, who Gold refers to as Marblehead’s shortstop of the future, uses her small frame to her advantage and is quick to turn plays in the field.

Promise, who is expected to return today or early next week, has started at second base since her freshman year. Freshman Ashley Stiles has been called upon in her absence and has been error free in the field thus far.

The Magicians were able to get both of their games in this week without weather interfering. Although the Magicians have gone 1-4 in their last four games, they’ve seen an abundance of talented teams, including a back-to-back games against Nantucket and a 6-5 loss against a strong Peabody club.

Marblehead can quickly make its way back to .500 with a win against Beverly this afternoon and a victory over Salem Monday.

Veteran players like pitcher Michaela LeBlanc and first baseman McKenna Barrett have been staples in the Magician lineup for four years. They’re leadership and guidance has allowed Marblehead to stay in the playoff hunt.

There’s something to be said for a team that doesn’t let a loss get them down, and with good reason. With LeBlanc on the hill, the Magicians are fully capable of getting the job done.

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Big congratulations goes out to Peabody’s Shelbi Wilson, who threw the first perfect game of her career four days ago. A junior for the Tanners, Wilson struck out eight batters en route to a 9-0 victory over Gloucester.

“I don’t think she knew what she did because after the game I told her and her mouth dropped,” said Peabody coach Butch Melanaphy after Monday’s victory.

The last hurler to fire a perfect game on the North Shore was Danvers’ Kendall Meehan, who blanked Lynn English last year.

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Swampscott is 6-0 in their last six games with wins over Winthrop, Gloucester, Beverly, Lynn English, Salem and Lynn Classical. Its next opponent, Revere, is riding a three-game win streak, including a victory over Northeaster Conference powerhouse Danvers.

Since Christina King returned the Big Blue lineup, they’ve gone undefeated. The sophomore second baseman has gone 11-for-17 at the plate in the last six games with five homers (including 4 out of the park), three doubles and 17 RBI.

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Danvers natives Sam DiBella and Chrissy Gikas were recently named to the Commonwealth Coast All-Conference First Team for Endicott.

This is DiBella’s second season picking up First Team honors. This spring sophomore catcher posted a .349 batting average while driving in 26 runs, hitting four homers on 29 hits in the regular season.

Gikas, who played 30 games at second base this year, led the team with a .412 batting average. She compiled 12 RBI and 39 putouts in the field.

The Gulls, which finished the regular season 22-11-1, earned the top seed in the CCC tournament. They faced off against Western New England in the double elimination first round, topping the Golden Bear 7-0. Endicott takes on Salve Regina today.

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The Beverly at Peabody softball game that was postponed last week has been rescheduled for next Friday. Yesterday’s match between the Panthers and Salem has been moved to next Thursday under the lights at Mack Park in the Witch City.

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Behind a four-game win streak by pitcher Christina Chalmers, Pingree has moved into first in the Eastern Independent League with a 4-1 record. The Highlanders dropped their first contest of the season to Governors, but since then have handled their opponents with ease, including two shutouts.

Last Friday, Pingree got by rival Winsor with a 3-2 win and look to continue its winnings ways today against Dana Hall. The Highlanders other two games this week were postponed due to the weather.

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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.