Natick High’s Softball Team Strives To Keep Improving
The 2023 edition of Natick High’s softball team is aiming for a berth in the state tourney.
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Natick High’s softball team opened its season with two losses to a pair of dynamic squads — Lincoln-Sudbury and Newton North, the defending Carey Division champ in the Bay State Conference.
The slow start by the Redhawks may have been concerning for some but co-coaches Tom Lamb and Brenna Keefe remained confident that their players would improve and a tourney berth would fall into place.
So far, their confidence is justified because at Local Town Pages deadline Natick’s record was 6-5 as Lamb and Keefe continue to work diligently to enhance their team’s strengths and aim for a favorable seed in the playoffs. The Redhawks were also leading the Carey Division standings with a 4-2 record.
“We’re young in some areas and it takes time to jell,’’ Lamb said. “But, we’ve got all-around players and our pitching, hitting and fielding are good. We want our players to go from good to very good and from very good to great.’’
Keefe, who was the Redhawks varsity assistant last year, added that “our players have a high softball IQ and they’re versatile.’’ Two other key attributes that both coaches admire are the girls’ coachable nature and their work ethic.
The captains — senior pitcher/first baseman Dana Singer and junior catcher Olivia Schultz — personify the Redhawks’ strengths. After 11 games, Singer was 4-4 with 24 strikeouts and an E.R.A. of 4.63. Schultz was hitting .400 and her fielding percentage was .966.
“Dana is an all-around competitor who relies on a fastball and a change-up,’’ Keefe said. “Her control and accuracy are excellent. Lamb labels her as “a calm and poised captain who leads by example and by being vocal and communicative.’’
Schultz, a BSC all-star last year, gets high praise from Lamb. “Olivia is intense, a super player and leader,’’ he emphasized. Keefe also likes Schultz’ ability. “Olivia is very coachable,’’ she noted. “Strong defensively behind the plate, Olivia might have the strongest arm in the state. She’s vocal and leads by example. A line-drive hitter, she can run and is the fastest player on the team.’’
Sophomore Ellie Beigel, like Singer, pitches and plays first base. “Ellie has lots of intensity and drive,’’ Keefe said. “She’s coachable, very fast and relies on a fastball, curve and change-up. She’s also one of our top hitters. Lamb notes that Beigel’s status as a star goalie in ice hockey helps her in softball. “She’s poised, competitive and handles pressure very well,’’ he said.
Senior Marin Grundig provides a veteran presence at second base. “Marin is consistent and reliable,’’ Keefe said. “She’s fundamentally sound, solid and knows how to handle all the situations that arise. Batting second in our lineup, she has a high softball IQ.’’
Lamb calls freshman Katie McMahon “a budding star at shortstop.’’ A three-sport athlete (soccer, basketball and softball), she was batting .512 and had two home runs. “Katie has a strong arm, makes all the key plays, her transfers are excellent and she can turn a double play,’’ Lamb noted. “And, she hits hard.’’
Sophomore Jayme Kiley played left field last year but she’s at third now and handling the position superbly. “Jayme is smooth at third,’’ said Keefe. “Her arm is strong, too. She bats cleanup and can hit. Lamb likes her aggressive style at the hot corner. “Jayme takes charge,’’ he said. “And, she’s very effective handling bunts.’’
The outfield is being patrolled by junior Caroline Riley in left, senior Charlotte Gagliardi in center and senior Emily McMahon in right. Riley was hitting .429 after 11 games.
“Caroline played both the infield and outfield last year,’’ Keefe said. “She’s settled in as our leftfielder. She’s got speed, a strong arm and good range. Charlotte is our leadoff hitter. She loves to compete, is fast and is always positive. A line-drive hitter, she’s got great speed and range in the outfield. Her strong arm gets the ball to our cut-off infielder quickly.’’
“Emily is a returning starter,’’ Lamb said. “Her strong arm gets the ball to third base or the plate quickly. She’s got a good glove, is a consistent hitter and can bunt. She does a fine job playing right field, especially on our home field where the sun can be tough.’’
The Redhawks’ reserves are capable, coachable and ready when called upon.
They include senior Grace Walsh (outfield), senior Mackenzie Rocheleau (outfield), junior Daisy Malloy (outfield), junior Liliana Salvi (infield), and sophomore Cami Smith (catcher-second base).
“Grace is a very supportive teammate,’’ said Keefe. “She’s a team-first player who’s intelligent, hits hard and has a strong arm. Daisy is versatile, has a team-first attitude and is a strong hitter who has power. Cami is supportive and she’s also feisty and aggressive in a good way. She handles her catching duties well and is technically sound at second base.’’
Lamb weighed in on Rocheleau and Salvi. “Mackenzie is athletic, has speed and is energetic and enthusiastic,’’ he said. “A team player, she has speed and can pinch-run. Liliana is versatile, talented and enthusiastic. She’s a strong hitter who can play the infield, the outfield and pitch.’’
When Diane Whittaker moved on to Hingham to teach and coach, Keefe and Lamb were selected to lead the Redhawks in a dual-coaching capacity. Keefe is a native of Natick, graduated in 2012 and played softball and basketball. The 29-year-old Keefe teaches special education and history at NHS and has been on the faculty for four years.
Lamb is no stronger to Natick. The 75-year-old Lamb has coached football, softball and track at the varsity level, he coached freshman baseball and was a freshman and jayvee coach in basketball.
Both coaches have an athletic philosophy that teaches players to be competitive, to reach their potential and to enjoy their journey in sports.
“Life lessons that we hope our players learn are how to overcome adversity, to be resilient, to set goals, to be tenacious and to become leaders,’’ they emphasized. Lamb also said that it’s important for players “to leave their comfort zone and try something new, even if it means struggling.’’
The Redhawks had some easy-season struggles but it seems like a date for post-season play is in the mix. But no matter what the outcome is, one thing is for sure — Natick’s softball players have received quality instruction, they’ve improved and their future is bright.