Salem’s Ahearn off to impressive start
Curry softball coach Bruce Weckworth had no idea what to expect when he sent freshman Taylor Ahearn to the circle for her pitching debut against Wisconsin Lutheran during the team’s early-season swing through Florida in early March.
What she delivered left him grinning ear to ear.
A 5-foot-4 righty from Salem via Bishop Fenwick, Ahearn tossed a six-inning no-hitter in an 8-0 win. And she completed the masterpiece in grand fashion, retiring the last three batters on two short fly balls and a strikeout.
The no-no prompted her coach to turn the pages in the record book. Weckworth, who entered the season as the winningest coach in program history (377 wins), noted that only one other freshman - Kim Sturgis of Peabody in 2004 - had ever pitched a no-hitter in her collegiate debut. She beat Endicott, 1-0.
“I’ve been here a long time [17 years] and that’s the only other time something like this has happened, as far as I can tell,’’ Weckworth said. Ahearn’s pitches “moved a lot and she kept most batters off balance. Our defense played very well behind her and the catcher [Mikaela Carney of North Reading] called an excellent game.’’
Ahearn said she started thinking about the no-hitter “about the fourth inning. I tried not to, but as we got a bigger lead, it kept creeping into my head. I trusted my infielders and outfielders and my catcher to help me get the job done. When the game was over, I took a deep breath and said, ‘Wow.’ I was in shock.’’
She has not duplicated her feat, but has become the ace of the staff. Through 18 games, Ahearn was 7-2 with a 0.80 earned run average, completing all nine of her starts. In 61 innings, she has struck out 49 with just 10 walks. Ahearn has yet to be tagged for a home run.
“She goes out there and keeps the ball moving and keeps it low,’’ said Weckworth. “That always helps. She’s in better shape now than she was in high school and has adjusted to the game at this level well. She takes charge when she’s on the mound. She’s not afraid to shake off a sign and throw what she wants to throw.’’
It was that take-charge attitude that resulted in a 1-0 loss to Stevens Institute. “[Carney] called a curve and I wanted to throw a screwball, so I shook her off. The batter got around on it and it cost me the game. I’ve learned since that [Carney] is a junior and has been around a lot longer than I have. I learned from that mistake and trust her completely. It’s rare now when I don’t throw what she calls.’’
Ahearn said the biggest difference she’s noticed from high school to playing at this level is “that most batters, especially lefthanded ones, can slap the ball pretty much wherever they want. It’s been an adjustment, but I think I’m handling things OK,’’ said Ahearn, who has six pitches - fastball, curve, drop, changeup, screwball, and riseball.
Area athletes grabbed their share of honors from the MASCAC last week. Salem State sophomore Kyle McElroy of Newburyport was the baseball Player of the Week after batting .522 with 9 RBIs. Senior teammate Mario Padovani of Lynnfield was the Pitcher of the Week after allowing just one runner and striking out eight in a 20-0 rout of Norwich. Salem State also snared the softball Player of the Week in senior Michelle Grifoni of Peabody. She batted .533 with a pair of doubles and six runs scored. Worcester State junior Jon Parrella of Wilmington won the 400-meter hurdles and qualified for All-New England and was the track Athlete of the Week. . . . Kirk Czelewicz of Lowell was part of the Connecticut College 200-yard medley relay team that earned honorable All-America mention in the NCAA Division 3 Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis. . . . Brandeis sophomore Julian Cardillo of Medford finished 19th at the NCAA National Collegiate Fencing Championships in Ohio. Cardillo, who placed 17th at the 2011 NCAAs, won seven of his 23 bouts, two fewer than a year ago. His best win came in the first round of action, when he bested Reggie Bentley of Notre Dame University, 5-2. Bentley went on to finish in fifth place.
Around and about
Beverly inducted 10 individuals and the 1945 and 1946 state championships cross-country teams into its Athletic Hall of Fame last weekend at Danversport Yacht Club. Enshrined were George Misins (1961, basketball); Sarah Pierce-Manfra (1979, track); Dana Peters (1989, football and lacrosse); Amy St. Pierre (1988, cross-country and track); Shannon Corliss (1996, soccer); Kristen MacDonald-Simpson (2000, soccer and basketball); Brigid Burke Durant (2001; soccer, basketball and lacrosse); Jamie Connolly Grandmont (2001, track); Thomas “Doc’’ Rudkin (cross-country, track and basketball coach from 1927-1955); and Frank Forti, for contributions to Beverly athletics for more than 50 years. Rudkin was inducted posthumously.
John Vellante can be reached at JohnPVel@aol.com.