By Joyce Erekson
Never underestimate the value of bragging rights.
That’s what is at stake this weekend when the Classical, English and St. Mary’s softball teams battle it out, along with neighboring Swampscott, in the John G. Holland Memorial Softball Tournament. The three Lynn schools will be playing for city bragging rights while the Big Blue try to throw a monkey wrench into all their plans like they did two years ago when they won it all.
Two of the four head coaches, English’s Cara Crowley and Classical’s Erica Richard, have experienced the Holland as both players and coaches. Crowley was a perennial all-tournament selection during her four years playing for the Bulldogs and Richard (then Erica Sonia) played for St. Mary’s. Both were Holland scholarship recipients.
Although St. Mary’s coach Paige Licata never played in the Holland (she played for Revere High), she knew about the tournament and when she took the Spartan coaching job she was excited to take part in it.
“I never had the opportunity to play as a player,” she said, adding that one of the things that makes it special is that all three Lynn teams play their games at Breed so they all feel like their home.
Licata said the timing of the Holland is perfect because it’s at the end of the regular season and the intensity of the games is a precursor to what players will experience in the state tournament.
“There are so many fans, so many alumni from all the schools, it’s great … It gets your adrenalin up. It gets your competitive energy flowing,” Licata said.
Richard is in her third year coaching the Rams. In her Holland head coaching debut in 2015, the former St. Mary’s assistant turned the tables on her former coach and mentor, Colleen Newbury, by beating the Spartans in the first round. The Rams ended up losing to Swampscott in the final.
Richard said what makes the Holland so much fun for the girls is that they get to play against many of the girls they grew up playing with on various Little League and until recently, Babe Ruth softball teams.
“Growing up you play softball with everybody from the city, but then everyone goes their separate ways for high school. The rivalry is there because everyone knows everyone,” she said.
Crowley is in her first year as head coach of the Bulldogs, but she served as an assistant coach at English for a few years so the Holland from a coaching perspective is not new. Crowley also has fond memories of playing in it and receiving the scholarship.
“It’s always a fun weekend for everyone involved,” she said. “It’s fun as a player and as a coach.”
The Bulldogs will play St. Mary’s in the opening round Saturday night (8). The Classical vs. Swampscott game will be at 6 p.m. The consolation game will be Sunday at 11 a.m. and the championship game at 1 p.m.
Although the Bulldogs won’t be heading to the postseason, Crowley was hoping for a strong finish this week and in the Holland. St. Mary’s (16-2) finished in a three-way tie for the Catholic Central League title with Austin Prep and Archbishop Williams. Classical (13-2) had wrapped up a share of the Northeastern Conference North title on Monday. The Rams had a chance to take it outright with a win Wednesday against Everett (the results weren’t available at press time). Swampscott was 9-7 heading into the homestretch this week. e
Whatever the outcome of the weekend, softball fans will get a chance to see some of the top pitchers in the area work their magic.
St. Mary’s senior Mia Nowicki has had a phenomenal year. Her most memorable performance this season came against Austin Prep. The game went 13 innings with Nowicki striking out 27 and hitting the game-winning homerun in the 13th. Nowicki has been on the varsity team since she was a seventh grader. She has committed to play softball at Assumption College.
Junior Tori Adams has been outstanding in the circle for the Rams. She was 13-2 at the start of the week with three games remaining. She had an ERA of 1.90 with 101 strikeouts in 81 innings pitched. Adams was particularly impressive in big wins over Danvers and Marblehead, two of the tougher teams in the Northeastern Conference. English (2-16) has been going with two seniors, Lindsey Lannon and Destiny Delgado.