The Fanning 500: Former St. Mary’s Softball Star Reaches Career Strikeout Milestone at Salem State

Salem State softball pitcher Kate¬lynn Fanning (center) is pictured with teammates Gabbie Vitale and Michelle Grifoni at a practice Friday at Alumni Field.

Former Boston Globe Softball Player of the Year Katelynn Fanning considered Division 2 schools before selecting Salem State University four years ago.

It was a good choice. The St. Mary’s High School Class of 2008 graduate has found SSU to be a perfect fit for her collegiate academic and athletic experience.

The 22-year-old senior will graduate in December with a degree in Nursing.  In softball, she has been a four-year starting pitcher and recently reached an impressed career milestone when she struck out her 500th batter.

A right-handed pitcher with excellent control, she’s won 10 games this season heading into the MASCAC Tournament. Fanning said this year’s team is talented and hoping to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, a feat the Lady Vikings accomplished in her sophomore year.

Fanning was team MVP during the 2010 season and received MASCAC pitcher of the year honors.

The jump from one of the best programs in the state at St. Mary’s High School to Division 3 college softball was challenging.

“In college, every single player is at a high level so you have to work harder,” said Fanning. “When you’re a pitcher, your curve ball better break because the opposing batters are really good.”

She said that St. Mary’s coach Colleen Newbury, a former All-American at Salem State (Class of 1999), prepared her well for entry into college softball.

“She [Newbury] was one of the best coaches that I’ve ever had,” said Fanning. “She just really cares about her players. She puts so much time and effort into every single one of them. I figured it out over the years that she’s one of the best there is.”

Fanning said she’s been fortunate at Salem State to have a coach who understands the balance between academics and playing a college sport.

“The coach is really good with helping us balance our busy schedules,” said Fanning, a Dean’s List student. “I have a set schedule and I know where I have to be at a certain time and that helps me get things done.”

SSU coach Leanne Harris has been at the helm for the past six seasons. The program has emerged as a MASCAC power during Fanning’s four years in the program. The Lady Vikings have gone from six wins in Harris’s first season to 29 this spring.

“After her freshman year, Katelynn really excelled as a sophomore and took us to the NCAAs and set a strikeout record,” said Harris. “She continued to stay strong her junior and senior years. Striking out 500 batters is like scoring 1,000 points in basketball. It’s a significant accomplishment. I like Katelynn’s dedication to softball and to the college. She’s a great student-athlete as a nursing major.”

Team captains Gabbie Vitale (Bishop Fenwick] and Michelle Grifoni (Peabody) say that Fanning is a great person and fun to be around.

“I just started catching her last year,” said Vitale. “We have a good chemistry. She’s intense like I am. We were rivals in high school but when we came to Salem State, we hit it off and we’ve become friends for four years. She’s awesome. She does really well in school and it’s fun to hang out with her.”

Grifoni said she first met Fanning during the Agganis Softball Classic.

“We’ve been best friends for four years and we want to work together in the same hospital one day,” said Grifoni, who is also a Nursing major. “Katelynn is one of our leaders. It’s been a special season. It’s probably our best year. I hope we qualify for the NCAAs.”

Fanning is getting a head start in her nursing career. She works as a certified nursing assistant at New England Baptist Hospital.

She was inspired to pursue a nursing career during her mother Michelle’s battle with cancer. Her mother is doing well today.

“One of her nurses convinced me to go toward the medical field,” said Fanning. “But I wouldn’t be in nursing if I didn’t go to Salem State. And I love nursing.”

Fanning still holds a connection to St. Mary’s. Her sister, Casey, is a member of the Spartans’ varsity softball team. Another sister, Meaghan, is a freshman at Salem State and a graduate of St. Mary’s.

“St. Mary’s is a great school,” said Fanning.

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