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Shrewsbury’s Porcaro sparks Brandeis softball to a strong start

JAN VOLK/SPORTSFIX

Lauren Porcaro is hitting .319, with six doubles, a triple, three homers, and 15 runs batted in for Brandeis.

Porcaro lifts Judges to healthy start

Her promising junior season on the diamond was derailed by a broken hand. Now healthy, Lauren Porcaro is putting together her best season for the Brandeis University softball team.

Batting cleanup for the first time in her college career, the former Shrewsbury High standout is hitting .319, with six doubles, a triple, three homers, and 15 runs batted in, while playing a nearly flawless center field.

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The senior captain’s play is a big reason the Judges are 15-9 overall, and winners of 10 of their last 11 games entering Thursday’s doubleheader Eastern Connecticut.

Porcaro took over as the starter in center field as a sophomore, when Brandeis qualified for the NCAA Division 3 tournament for the first time.

She broke her left foot in a surfing accident while studying abroad in Australia the first semester of her junior year. She wore a protective boot for eight weeks and recovered in time for the season’s start last spring.

Then, between games of a doubleheader at Tufts last April, she decided to take extra fielding practice. “They had some good hitters, so I just wanted to go out and shag some fly balls,’’ she recalled.

The extra effort essentially ended her season.

While trying to make a diving catch, Porcaro landed on her left hand, breaking two bones and putting her in a cast for several weeks. She came in as a pinch runner in the Judges’ final game of the season in the ECAC playoffs, a disappointing end to what had been a promising season.

Porcaro, who this season had made just one error in 22 games and had stolen 10 bases in 11 attempts, said both her foot and her hand are healed, and that she does not have to wear a brace on either.

“Just a little discomfort when the weather’s cold,’’ she said. “What’s more important is focusing on being a better player and a good leader, buckling down to contribute to the team’s success.’’

Brandeis head coach Jessica Johnson called Porcaro the team’s defensive MVP during its eight-game stint in Florida for the University Athletic Association tournament.

“She’s catching everything that comes her way, cutting down on her strikeouts, hitting with a lot of pop, and handling the slower pitches better,’’ said Johnson, who noted that a couple of Porcaro’s shots have knocked down opposing third basemen.

“When she comes to bat,’’ said Johnson, “I leave the coach’s box at third base and go back to the dugout, just to be safe.’’

Her strong start, Porcaro said, has given her a firm grasp on her role.

“There’s pressure batting cleanup for the first time, because you don’t see too many good pitches, but I don’t feel nervous and I’m having fun,’’ she said.

Her glovework in the field has also played a factor in the Judges’ strong start.

“I love fielding,’’ she said. “I’ve always been an outfielder. It’s my favorite position, because I like being the last line of defense. I also love the team atmosphere, which I’m going to miss.’’

Porcaro plans to stay in the game this summer, teaming up with her close friend Kristen LeMay, who played at Merrimack College, to mentor local youngsters.

“We’re going to hold tryouts and coach a 16-and-under travel team from the Shrewsbury area,’’ said Porcaro, who has 11 career home runs at Brandeis. “I can’t imagine my life without softball.’’

Former Milford star now playing AA ball

After seven seasons in the Can-Am League - culminating with his selection last year as the independent baseball circuit’s Player of the Year - Milford’s Chris Colabello, at age 28, is playing for the New Britain (Conn.) Rock Cats, the Double A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.

“It’s been a great experience, just awesome, especially since I’m so close to home,’’ said Colabello, a first baseman and designated hitter who was 1 for 13 at the plate prior to Thursday’s game against Harrisburg.

“I had a pretty good spring training, but there were some nerves. All in all, after the first week I settled in and relaxed,’’ Colabello said. “The good part is that I’m making contact. I had my first hit on Monday, a line drive over the shortstop’s head. I’d been looking for that first one. Standing on first base was a familiar feeling again.’’

What separates Colabello from other players making the jump from independent to affiliated minor league baseball is that most have had previous Double A or Triple A experience.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Colabello, who starred at Milford High and Assumption College, was also honored last season by Baseball America as the Independent League Player of the Year. He was second in the league in average (.348), home runs (20), and runs batted in (79) for the Worcester Tornadoes.

Headliners

Framingham State College junior outfielder Will Crofton of Hopkinton was honored as the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Week after batting .589 (9-for-16), with three doubles, four RBIs, and six runs scored in four games . . . Under the direction of head coach Mark Allen, along with assistants Chris Spillane and Larry Garland, the Franklin Bantam 1 boys’ youth hockey team captured the New England tournament last month, defeating the Maine Freeze, 5-1, in the championship game. Playing for the Milford squad were James Aldred, Owen Allen, Cam Benham, Joe Bourque, Alex Borkowski, Matt Daly, Nicky Downie, Marc Elliott, Tyler Garland, Nick Jasinski, Tyler Oakes, Kyle Neenan, Mason Saunders, Ryan Spillane, and Mike Sullivan . . . Lincoln resident Michael Ciampa, representing the Sudbury Knights of Columbus, won the organization’s statewide free-throw competition April 7 at Regis College. Participating in the 12-year-old division, he sank 18 of 25 shots, then four of five to win a tiebreaker.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.

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