CONCORD — Everyone who knows Galen Kerr has noticed that a weight has been lifted. Out in the circle, as she mows down opposing hitters, she smiles more than ever.
“I’m just having fun,” she said. “It’s my senior year and I’m not feeling the pressure I felt last year. I’m just enjoying it.”
A year ago, Kerr told herself that she needed to do it all for Concord-Carlisle High’s softball team to find success. After a few wayward pitches or a bad call, that burdensome approach caused the soft-spoken righty to show her frustration in her body language. It followed her away from the field, and fueled long talks with her father, Tom , during rides home to try to resolve the day’s disappointment.
Now, with a more laid-back approach, she has been close to untouchable. She has an earned run average of 0.94 and her WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is a minuscule 0.88. She strikes out an average of 10 hitters every game, and has helped pushed the Patriots (13-0) to their ninth straight Dual County League title.
“She’s a worker,” said Concord-Carlisle coach Lisa McGloin . “She’s a tough player. She’s very quiet, but her competitiveness and her willingness to do what it takes for the team is neat to watch.”
Kerr’s newfound demeanor can be traced back to last summer, when she didn’t pitch a single inning.
She found out late last spring that she had a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in her throwing elbow, meaning she would either need rest and rehabilitation, or surgery.
She chose the former, and spent months watching her friends on the Concord Raiders Elite travel team play without her. From her sideline perspective, she learned more about the game. But one lesson stood out among the others: Don’t take anything for granted.
“It renewed my want to play the game,” Kerr said. “I just came back so much more excited about it. Now that I’m playing again, I don’t want to let it go.”
She will join the women’s softball team at Wheaton College in Norton next year, but before then she hopes to help guide the Patriots to a long postseason run.
Twice a week in practice she pitches against her teammates, which has made their at-bats against most opponents feel relatively easy. As a team, Concord-Carlisle has a lofty batting average of .436. Junior catcher Angela DeBruzzi leads the way, hitting .512.
“We challenge each other and I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re so successful this year,” DeBruzzi said. “We do have expectations, and we’re all pushing each other and challenging each other.”
With eight starters back from last year’s team, including senior cocaptains Kerr, Belle Hankey and Hannah Yang , McGloin feels that her duties have been made simpler.
“I have the easiest job in America,” she said. “I go out and show them some skill work, and they work their tails off. They come earnestly, openly, and engaged to every single practice, every single thing that we do. I’ve had more fun coaching this group of kids than I’ve had in a long time coaching.”
Still, McGloin can be demanding. By now, her veteran group understands and respects her methods.
She doesn’t say much after a loss because she trusts that players know what went wrong, but after wins she keeps them grounded with a list of things to improve on the next day in practice; she calls her players to make sure they’ve made curfew, asking them to bang pots and pans at home as proof they are where they should be; and every day at 6 a.m. she calls her assistant coach, Cricket McCaffrey-Clark, to discuss the plan for that afternoon.
“I think that they have the best coach I’ve ever seen,” said Newton South coach Dave Salett , who has coached against McGloin for 13 years.
“She’s much younger than me, but I call her my mentor and my hero. She knows how to coach, she knows how to inspire. When you play her she’s out there to beat you bad. But once the game is over, she’ll help you with anything. She’s the queen of softball.”
With its dedicated coaching staff, a punishing lineup, and a pitcher on top of her game, Concord-Carlisle hopes to reign in the postseason. To be owners of a perfect record three-quarters of the way through the season is of little importance to a team that wants to compete for a Division 1 state title.
“We need to keep going,” Kerr said. “We can’t settle with what we’ve done so far. We just need to stay focused for what’s coming next.”
Trio of lefties reminiscent of a run in 1982
Steve LaForest remembers the last time the Waltham High baseball team had three left-handed starting pitchers. He was one of them.
Thirty-one years ago, LaForest, his twin brother, Scott, and Dan Perkins helped the Hawks advance to the North sectional final. Now the head coach at Waltham, LaForest and his brother, an assistant, have helped mold a starting pitching staff that features a trio of southpaws: senior Richie Scanlon and juniors Joe Dwyer and Nick Neshe .
Thanks in large part to its pitching, Waltham (11-4) clinched a tournament berth last week and captured the Dual County League’s Small Division title for the second consecutive season.
“I think it’s an advantage to have that many lefties,” said LaForest. “Other teams just don’t see it that much. I think the proof is in the results.”
Hawk lefties have dominated opposing lefty hitters this season, and their curveballs and their tailing fastballs that top 80 miles per hour have given righties fits as well.
Scanlon leads the staff at 3-1 and a 1.20 ERA.
LaForest has worked with his southpaws to teach them the tricks of the trade, like how to hone their pickoff moves to first base. He hopes his arsenal of arms — which also includes junior righty Ricky Manning , who is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA — can help the Hawks to a long tournament run so they might experience what he and his teammates went through back in 1982.
“You don’t want to predict anything, but I’d love to have these kids see what fun it is to go on a run like that,” LaForest said. “We still talk about it a lot. The tournament should be fun; a lot of times kids get so wound up and feel like they have to be perfect. I’d love to see them win a few and see that if they play their game they can have success.”
Here and there
While Shannon Smith has been completely dominant in the circle for Milford High this year — she threw her ninth no-hitter in a 10-0 win over Stoughton last week — she has quietly been one of the state’s best hitters. Through 16 games she has a .446 average with five home runs and 20 RBIs, combining with teammate Caroline Fairbanks to make one of the most potent middle-of-the-order combinations in the state. Fairbanks is hitting .509 with five home runs and 22 RBIs.