It may seem like it was 10 minutes ago that Grace Rogato Field was buried under three feet of snow, but the high school softball season is already winding down and that means it’s John Holland Tournament time.
Saturday’s first game between English and Swampscott is at 5:30 p.m. with St. Mary’s vs. Classical at 7:30 p.m. The consolation game on Sunday is at 11 a.m. with the championship game at 1 p.m.
This year’s tournament will have a different look with the changing of the guard in the coaching ranks at Classical and English. Although this will be Classical coach Erica (Sonia) Richard’s first Holland as a head coach, she played in it all four years at St. Mary’s and then experienced it as an assistant coach at St. Mary’s for seven years under head coach Colleen Newbury. New English High coach Jack Bartlett spent all his Memorial Day Weekends from 2009 to 2012 watching his daughter, Chelsey, handle the catching duties for the Rams.
Both coaches’ staffs are loaded with Holland veterans. Although Bartlett’s assistant coach, Donna Mills, never played in the tournament, she did play softball for the late John Holland back in her Babe Ruth days. Bartlett’s other assistant, former English High pitcher Debbie Santos, played in it all four years as did Jen Mageary and Cara Crowley, who coach the English High junior varsity.
Richard’s assistant, Kristen Dean, played in it four times during her time at Classical and Emily Olson, who coaches the junior varsity with with Jenny Garrity, did likewise at St. Mary’s. Garrity was pitching for the Rams when they won the Holland in 2009. St. Mary’s has won it every year since.
Newbury, who has been at the St. Mary’s helm for 15 years, and Swampscott High softball coach Frank Kowalski, now in his sixth year as head coach, will be the seasoned veterans. The Spartans, who started this week with only two losses, will once again be sporting the bullseye given their record. There’s also fact they’re five-time defending Holland champs, have already won the always tough Catholic Central League Large title and they have both pitchers (Mia Nowicki and Michaela Hamill) back from a team that reached the Division 3 state semifinal last year.
Newbury will get to see just how well she taught her former player and assistant coach when the Spartans play Classical Saturday night.
“You always want the best for them (your former players). I think she’s having a good year, but in this case I just want our players to be a little more successful than their players,” Newbury joked.
Richard coached many of the St. Mary’s girls in both soccer and softball, so there will be plenty of familiarity.
“I think it’s going to be a little tough for them seeing her in green,” Newbury said.
Richard is excited about Saturday’s game.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I played for St. Mary’s and coached them for so long. Colleen has always been my mentor. I just hope she doesn’t throw in too many trick plays. She’s such a good coach and she’s always been a good friend of mine,” Richard said.
The Rams head into the Holland on a bit of a roll. They defeated Salem Monday to qualify for the state tournament at 10-5. They were scheduled to play English on Wednesday. Richard said the team got off to a good start, hit a rough patch half way through and lost a couple of games, then got back on track. Wins over Revere and Malden, teams the Rams lost to the first time around, provided a much-needed boost.
“When we beat Revere, that woke the kids up. That was definitely a season-changer,” Richard said. “We’re heading into the Holland Tournament with some momentum.”
The Rams will have their senior ace Ivy Martin in the circle. They also have a backup option with freshman Tori Adams, who fanned 10 in her first varsity start earlier in the week. Adams just returned to action after missing three weeks with a broken bone in her face (she was hit in the face with the ball after a runner coming down the first base line ran into her glove hand).
English has had a tough season. The Bulldogs were 0-15 after Monday’s game against Revere. Although it’s been tough sledding, Bartlett said he has seen improvement over the course of the season. He said in the early going, many of the losses were by the mercy rule. The Bulldogs then hit a stretch of five games where they lost three in a row by one run and a fourth by two runs, Bartlett said.
“I’ve seen a ton of improvement from the first game until now, probably more defensively than offensively” he. “We had a lot of games where we left a lot of runners on base.”
With no tournament bid at stake or league title, the Bulldogs still have plenty of motivation this weekend.
“We want to be the spoiler,” Bartlett said.
Although the Lynn teams battle it out in the Holland for city bragging rights, Swampscott always come in with the goal of spoiling the party for all three. The Big Blue were 10-6 after a win over Saugus Monday. They’re already in the state tournament, but a win in the Holland would give them some added momentum heading into the post-season.