During his 15 year tenure as the Bishop Fenwick softball coach (1983-'97), the late Ed "Buddy" Henry revolutionized the sport in many ways while leading his teams to seven consecutive Division 1 state titles between 1990 and '96.
With eight state titles in all, including a Division 2 championship in 1985, Henry's Crusader clubs won 15 Catholic Central League crowns, all in-a-row.
There's little that Henry didn't accomplish as the Crusader coach, but none more important than the life lessons he bestowed on the girls he coached for a decade and a half.
"I draw upon things I have learned from Mr. Henry in my work and family life all of the time," said Gina (Marcinkowski) Murphy who was the winning pitcher in the 5-4 state title game against Agawam in 1990.
"I know that no matter what situation is thrown at me, I can handle it. It's such a tribute to Mr. Henry that the championship streak lasted so long and shows that it was him and his remarkable way of coaching that was the formula, not one or several players."
Murphy is just one of Henry's former players that will return to Fenwick this weekend as an honorary captain for the "At Bat for Buddy" softball tournament.
The tournament is set up to raise money for Henry's foundation — which awards two $1,000 scholarships each year to softball players who "demonstrate their love for the game and serve as examples of good sportsmanship in their communities through athletic commitment and community involvement."
Fenwick, along with eight other teams in the area (Reading, Concord Carlisle, Shawsheen Tech, Danvers, St. Mary's, Beverly, North Andover and Georgetown) will take part in the two-day, round-robin tournament.
Word of the tournament got around to the former players, who were more than willing to show their support for their alma mater and beloved coach.
"I heard about the tournament from former players and I am beyond excited to return," Murphy added. "It will be great to see the Fenwick family and friends that I share a bond with. Mr. Henry was definitely the nucleus to that bond."
Murphy along with her catcher-counterpart in the 1990 title game, Kate (Collins) Peterson, will serve as captains for the Beverly/Georgetown game, which will take place tomorrow at 4.
Peterson, who continued her softball career at Providence, says she owes Henry a debt of gratitude for helping her pursue her college dream.
"He taught us about setting goals, the concept of hard work, how to win with grace and lose with dignity," Peterson now an attorney said. "He taught us about commitment, teamwork and loyalty. If not for Mr. Henry, I would not have gone on to play four years of Division 1 softball at Providence College and I certainly would not have received a four-year athletic scholarship for a top notch college education."
With a record of 332-26 at Fenwick, Henry left in 1997 and eventually became the head softball coach at Shawsheen and even got his 400th career win there.
"I had four daughters and all of them played for Buddy," said current Fenwick coach Paul Lyman. "He was a good friend of mine, I coached at Wilmington while he was still at Fenwick."
This is the first year the Fenwick community is hosting the tournament. It's technically the third year of the tournament, since Buddy passed away in 2010, but it was held a various locations before finding a home at Fenwick. Different teams have been involved in previous years, but this year each team has some sort of connection to Buddy in some way.
"It didn't take off the way the committee had hoped," Lyman added. "Lisa McGloin (former player and now Concord-Carlisle coach) and Terry Henry (Buddy's wife) thought it would be better to have the tournament here at Fenwick, where Buddy's legacy was made."
Before the Fenwick/Shawsheen game tomorrow, there will be a ceremony to unveil the new banner that will hang in center field.
"We're hoping that a lot of people come out to support the cause," said Lyman who is in 11th season as head coach. "The teams involved are good-competitive teams and the ultimate goal is to raise money for the scholarship."
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Last week we highlighted Beverly's Jenna LoVasco and her veteran leadership behind the plate. For Salem head coach Dan Bertone, having a solid catcher is crucial for the development of his fairly young team.
"The catcher is in control of almost every situation out there so she needs to understand everything that's being called," Bertone said. "A solid catcher must manage the defense and be in control of the runners at all times."
The Witches (record) are looking to freshman Rachel Zipper to guide them at the backstop. After graduating NEC Alysia Mercado last June, Zipper has stepped into the role as the starting pitch caller.
"I'm looking for stability and growth," added Bertone. "There is no doubt (Rachel) has the ability, its just not a easy thing for a freshman."
Mercado was not only key in the Witches defense, but batted cleanup and was named the team's offensive MVP.
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Beverly got their first win on Wednesday, defeating Lynn English by a score of 13-3. Sophomore Kate Silvestri, who splits time between first base and pitching, threw a complete game, striking out eight batters.
"Kate has doing well," said coach Megan Sudak. "We are throwing a lot at her. She is learning more and more each inning, and is understanding the mentality that has to come with being on the mound."
The Panthers got the much needed win, after starting the season with three consecutive losses. The bats came through big time, as outfielder Alex Coults hit a three-run homer in the victory.
"It was vital to get the win for a variety of reasons," Sudak explained. "Obviously we don't want to be on a losing streak long, but more importantly, the kids have been improving so much from game to game and their work finally is showing off."
Beverly is one of the team's that will compete in the "At Bat for Buddy" tournament this weekend, taking on Georgetown tomorrow and Concord-Carlisle on Sunday.
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Masconomet is off to 4-0 start behind a sensational four games from pitcher Rachel Shamon. Shamon, a junior, pitched here and there last season, but has stepped immensely for the Chieftains as their ace.
"She's been doing unbelievable for us," said head coach Mike Gibeley.
Shamon has pitched all but two innings this year, but also gets it done as Masco's cleanup hitter. The Chieftains are back at it this morning, taking on Lynn English at 10 a.m.
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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.