It was 29 years ago this month when Kelly Curtin LaPierre took the field for the first varsity game of her Lynn English softball career.
The beginning of what would become LaPierre’s All-Star career could not have been more dramatic or more historic.
Then-English Coach Patrick Gecoya had inserted Kelly, a freshman who had excelled on the JV team all season, as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning at Memorial Field – only after Gecoya had held up a runner at third to halt English from a mercy-rule victory.
“They could have won the game and ended it,” recalled Jim Curtin, Kelly’s father, who never missed a game.
In the top of the seventh inning, LaPierre took her position at second base as English pitcher Kathy Kiley worked on a perfect game against crosstown rival Lynn Classical.
“Kelly was nervous and I remember our first baseman, Beth Cove, talking to her and calming her down,” said Gecoya.
“Beth moved her over because she knew no one was going to pull the ball against Kathy Kiley,” said Jim Curtin.
LaPierre would be tested on the second out of the inning as a tricky groundball spun to her left. LaPierre, who had been flawless in the infield all season for the JV team, chased the ball down and threw out the runner at first base by a couple of steps.
“I bobbled it a little but I kept the ball in front of me,” recalled LaPierre. “I had to move to my left to get to the ball. It wasn’t an easy play. I knew Kathy had a no-hitter going but I’m not sure I knew it was a perfect game.”
Kiley struck out the final batter in the 14-0 victory to wrap up the first and only perfect game of her career. It was the seventh no-hitter for the two-time Northeastern Conference MVP.
“I remember everyone signed the softball after the game and I got to sign it, too,” said LaPierre.
English would go on to finish 16-2 and claim a share of the Northeastern Conference title, the Bulldogs’ fifth title in five years under Gecoya’s leadership.
LaPierre would go on to become one of English’s greatest infielders and leadoff hitters of all time. Martha Jamieson became the head coach in her sophomore year before Alisa Fila took over the program in her junior year.
LaPierre became a captain and NEC All-Star in her senior year and helped her team win the NEC All-Star Game with a run-producing basehit.
Interestingly, Curtin and other outstanding players from that golden era of English softball, including Kathy Kiley, Stephanie Holt, Melanie Merryman, and Jodi Votano, have not yet entered the English Hall of Fame.
LaPierre was a left-handed hitter who began perfecting the art of slap-hitting as a child.
“We used to practice with Kelly hitting wiffleballs off cones in the yard two or three hours a day when she was 2-3 years old,” said Jim Curtin. “She had a nice swing. We made her a lefty so she could get to first base faster.”
LaPierre traveled to youth softball clinics where one of her coaches was Bishop Fenwick legend, Bud Henry. She played in the Wyoma Farm League on a team coached by her father and later in the Greater Lynn Babe Ruth Softball League.
Her love of sports
continues at BC
LaPierre matriculated at Boston College where she studied Political Science and Communications. She tried out for the Division 1 Eagles softball program. Maintaining her interest in sports, LaPierre worked with Dick Kelley in the BC sports information department.
“I used to go in and see Mr. Kelley every day and bother him until he actually gave me a job,” recalled LaPierre. “He was a great guy.”
LaPierre also took an internship with The Boston Globe where she wrote several stories under the direction of High School Sports Editor Bill Griffith.
At the Globe, she had the opportunity to meet and work in the newsroom with such legendary sports reporters as Will McDonough, Bob Ryan, Mike Madden, and Dan Shaugnessy.
She also wrote sports for the Lynn Item and worked at the New England Sports Network.
Becoming a schoolteacher
Looking toward a career in education, LaPierre began substitute teaching at Marshall Middle School (where her mother, Donna, was a science teacher).
“I loved it, so I ended up getting a job at Marshall as an English teacher,” said LaPierre, who is now at Pickering teaching in her 20th year in the Lynn school system.
It was at Marshall where she would meet her future husband, Brian LaPierre, who was also a teacher.
They married in 2005 and have two children, Owen, 12, and Dylan, 8. Both sons play flag football.
Brian LaPierre is a popular Lynn councilor-at-large and one of the city’s most visible public officials. He was the top vote getter in the last election.
“Brian works hard – and he earns it,” said Kelly.
Speaking about her parents, who have been a part of the journey every step of the way, Kelly said, “I’m blessed.”
Sports set the foundation
Looking back at her debut as a high school freshman, LaPierre said she’s grateful to Pat Gecoya for bringing her up to the varsity.
“Through sports, I made a lot of friends and learned responsibility,” said LaPierre.
Jim Curtin said he used to bring a pre-teenage Kelly to Fenway Park where she would get autographs from Red Sox players. Jim’s brother has been a ticket taker at Fenway for 47 years.
“Marty Barrett (a second baseman) was my favorite,” said Kelly. “I liked [Mike] Greenwell and [Roger] Clemens, too.”
Jim Curtin remembered a humorous story about his daughter’s softball career at English.
“Kelly had a softball game and her driver’s license road test on the same day,” said Jim. “She went for her driver’s test in her softball uniform, got her license, and came back in to the game. She didn’t want to miss the game.”
Three decades after preserving a perfect game for Kathy Kiley and the Lady Bulldogs, Kelly Curtin LaPierre still enjoys sports and is a perfect role model for young athletes pursuing their dreams just as she did.