Shannon Tully could not envision the day when she would put on her softball uniform at Andover High for the final time.
But when the top of the seventh inning came and went on Tuesday, the senior captain took off her helmet in exchange for her headgear before realizing that she would not be trotting back onto the field for another half inning.
Her high school career was over, finalized with the Golden Warriors’ 10-0 loss to host Acton-Boxborough in the Division 1 North quarterfinals.
Tully and other area seniors are facing the harsh reality — that their high school playing days are over.
“It hit me when we were on the bus ride home after the loss to A-B,” said Tully, a senior captain.
“It’s tough knowing that I’ll probably never play softball again at this level, but I know what my future holds in four years, and it’s going to be in a classroom full of first-graders.”
Tully, who moved to Andover from Maryland in sixth grade, started out at third base in the youth softball in town.
“One game when I was younger my coaches put me in at catcher and I instantly fell in love with it,” Tully said. “I like touching the ball every play, being able to see everything going on around me and keeping the pitcher in balance.”
She got her first chance to showcase her skills as a freshman, one of three on the varsity.
“The first time I played as a freshman, I was really nervous and intimidated,” said Tully. “I remember sitting there freaking out thinking about the fact that I was replacing a senior catcher for a game. I can’t believe that was four years ago.”
Tully started in goal for the Division 1 state champion Andover High field hockey team last fall. This spring, she hit .394 with 13 RBIs, including 11 doubles and two triples, as an all-conference catcher.
Coach Steve Tisbert said that Tully’s tenacity and competitiveness helped make her an impact player for the Golden Warriors.
She is “one of the best defensive catchers around, throwing out over 90 percent of base stealers,” said Tisbert. “She handled our pitching staff flawlessly and is a great role model and mentor for our younger girls. We will miss her tremendously.”
But her softball career is over. She is headed to Providence College to study elementary education.
“Our mentality was that we were the underdogs this postseason and all season long,” said Tully. “We surprised a lot of people and for me, my biggest thing that I want to leave for the girls coming back next year, is that if you’re going to play, put it all out there 110 percent. If you’re going to go down, go down strong, and you want to be remembered for the things you stood for as a person alongside the things you left on the field as an athlete.”
At Swampscott High, senior ace Braden Engstrom left his mark with a 6-2 record that included two shutouts, three complete games, and 53 strikeouts this spring.
Marblehead lost to North Andover in the Division 2 North quarterfinals, 5-3, and for the senior captain, it was hard to swallow.
“It didn’t really hit me until we got on the bus,” said Engstrom. “I started tearing up and getting pretty emotional because it was hard to wrap my mind around the end of baseball. I have been playing since I was 6, so it was tough to have it end the way it did.”
Engstrom, the only Magician to earn all-league honors, remembers his first days in a high school uniform. “My first start was probably the worst start of my entire life,” said Engstrom. “I let up seven runs and was pulled after one inning, but it’s something that I’ll never forget, and ended up making me a better pitcher.”
He will atudy business at the University of Michigan.
Engstrom “is a great kid, a great leader, and has a tremendous future ahead of him,” said coach Jason Tarasuik .
Though his player career is over, Engstrom will remember the bond he and the dozen other seniors had. “We’ve been playing together since freshman year and most of us played together when we were younger, and not being around them every day is something that I’m going to miss,” he said.
Jennie Erekson started playing youth softball in Lynn at age 6, and by this spring, her senior season at Lynn Classical, she had established herself as one of the top infielders in the region.
The two-year captain took off her Rams’ uniform for the final time after Classical was eliminated in the Division 1 North tournament by Lowell, 9-7.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” said Erekson, who will attend the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “After the game the other night, I was really just looking around the field thinking back to when I was little. It’s upsetting because I know I don’t want to give it up, but I knew I had to think about my future and not my immediate feelings.”
The third baseman remembers starting out as a freshman for the Rams. “I think what I remember most is feeling so young next to the seniors and feeling like becoming a senior was so far away,” she said. “It went by so fast.”
She was a four-year starter for coach Chris Warren and hit .301 this season with 10 RBIs and 14 runs. “What I’ll remember most about Jennie is her leadership and defense,” said Warren. “She was a big part of the fact that we allowed an average of only three runs per game all year.”
Salem High baseball coach Jim Tgettis stepped down after four years with the Witches, the culmination of a 29-year coaching career. He coached at St. Mary’s of Lynn, Lynn Classical, and Salem, racking up 409 wins. Salem finished the 2012 season 11-10 after being knocked out of the Division 1 North sectionals in the preliminary round to Westford Academy, 12-1.
Coach Leo “Doc” DiRocco tallied his 300th win May 9 after the Tewksbury softball team defeated Andover, 14-1. He is 303-176 in 23 seasons.