D’Argento hopes to lift BC in tourney
Nicole D’Argento will take the ball Thursday in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference softball tournament against top-seeded North Carolina, just four days after she shut out the visiting Tar Heels over 4⅓ innings.
The Boston College women (23-29, 3-18 ACC), the 8th seed, gave North Carolina (40-12, 13-4) all it could handle over games last weekend. The Eagles won one game (4-3) and lost the regular season finale, 1-0, a game in which the former Ashland High star allowed one hit and had two strikeouts.
“It didn't matter who we would play in the tournament's first game, because I've been pumped up for this for the last couple of weeks,’’ said D’Argento, who was 62-0 in the circle in a storied career at Ashland High. She propelled the Clockers to a pair of Division 2 state titles, hit .700 as a senior with 13 home runs, was the Globe’s Player of the Year as a junior and senior, and culminated her career with a no-hitter against Hudson in the final.
Her 2012 season at the Heights has been her most productive as a collegian, as a pitcher and a hitter. She is 10-13 with a 3.77 earned run average, piling up 114 strikeouts in 150.1 innings. At the plate, she leads the Eagles in homers (9), runs batted in (31), batting average (.338), and slugging percentage (.558).
The numbers might have been even more impressive if not for a freak pre-season accident in which the 5-foot-7 D’Argento, who also plays first and second base, was hit in the mouth by a ground ball at practice.
“I couldn't work out for a while and I lost weight, which took some velocity off my pitches. I had been up to 65 [miles per hour] last fall, now I've worked my way back to about 62 or 63, but speed is all relative, it's how you locate the ball and what you put on it.’’
After pitching in 15 games as a sophomore and hitting .267 with 11 homers, D’Argento kept sharp last summer with the Concord U-23 Raiders. Last fall, she brought a renewed dedication to workouts under new BC coach Ashley Obrest.
“The bigger the workload, the more I seem to thrive on it,’’ said D’Argento. “I still have things to improve on, but I'm seeing the ball really well and my batting average has improved.
“Ashley is hungry to win and that’s how I feel. I'm pretty upbeat and I'm a huge competitor. I expect to go out and win every game, but obviously there's an adjustment because a 60-mile an hour pitch that blows away hitters in high school doesn't do it in college,’’ she said.
So D'Argento has focused on learning hitters’ weaknesses and hitting her spots. She is leading the Eagles staff in wins over 37 appearances, including 19 starts.
“I love this game so much and just want to be on the field contributing in every way I can,’’ she said. “I'm very fortunate that I get the opportunity to play other positions when I’m not pitching.’’
Obrest, who took over a program that had won 15 and 16 games the previous two seasons, learned of D’Argento's legendary high school career from some of the BC players.
“I went on the Internet and read a few articles about her and found it hard to believe those numbers were real,” said Obrest. “Then when I first saw her in practice I knew why, because she was the hardest worker I’ve ever coached or played with. She has the talent to go with it, and our players look up to her.
“Nicole is a special player who makes things happen.’’
She will bring all those qualities to the circle in Chapel Hill, along with the mindset that “we're not going to roll over, just because we’re the 8th seed. We're there to make a statement about BC softball.’’
win Bentley honors
A trifecta of honors has come to Bentley University grad student/starting quarterback Bryant Johnson. Although away from the diamond since his days at Milford High, Johnson was recently named Northeast-10 Conference Baseball Rookie of the Week after batting .474 over five games with three doubles, two homers, and eight RBI’s. He will receive the inaugural Jack Daly Award for academics, citizenship and football from the Jack Grinold Eastern Massachusetts chapter of the National Football Foundation Monday at Lombardo’s in Randolph. He was also named the university’s Male Athlete of the Year. Field hockey star Stephanie Sideris of Watertown was named Bentley’s Female Athlete of the Year.
Norfolk’s Kerry Eaton finished the season with a team-high 38 goals and added 12 assists for the women’s lacrosse team at Tufts. The Jumbos were eliminated by Middlebury in the semifinals of the New England Small College Athletic Conference tournament. Eaton, a junior who graduated from King Philip, netted five game-winning goals for the 9-6 Jumbos. . . . Jesse Davis, a 1999 graduate of Wellesley High, where he was football captain, is the school’s new football coach. He was previously the team's defensive coordinator. Millis High graduate Amanda Van Voorhis, head women’s basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, will also be the university’s associate director of athletics and senior women’s administrator. . . . Tracy Smith of Newton, a 1992 US Olympian, has been named director of development at Community Rowing, Inc.