MIDDLEBOROUGH — Maddy “No-No” Barone shut out Hanover Monday, 9-0. Her earned run average is currently an infinitesimal 0.12. But she’s had a relatively bad week. Until last Friday, it was zero.
Looking back at two amazing streaks for the Silver Lake softball team that recently ended, the thing that stands out is that there was absolutely zero tension among the players to keep them alive.
They talked about hitting, the prom, the yummy chocolate chip cookies that one of their boosters baked. But not about the five consecutive no-hitters that Barone had thrown or the fact that the team hadn’t surrendered a run all season.
When the no-hit streak finally ended in Game 7 against Middleboro and the no-run streak in Game 9 against Bridgewater-Raynham last Friday, Barone was unconcerned. Silver Lake is still unbeaten at 10-0.
“I knew it was going to happen,” Barone said Monday after tossing a one-hitter. “They were two good teams.”
During the team’s half-hour bus ride from Kingston to Middleborough earlier this month, the unhittable softball pitcher with five pitches served as team beautician.
“I braided everyone on the team’s hair, just because they asked me to, I guess,” said the 16-year-old sophomore sensation.
It’s a safe bet that Nolan Ryan never did such a thing.
Through six games, the Lakers had not surrendered a single run while scoring close to 100. In a 9-0 Opening Day win over Middleboro, Barone gave up two hits; in the next five games, she gave up nothing.
Middleboro’s Lexi Pereira had one of those two hits.
“She was good and fast and had good movement on her pitches, but we’re more prepared now,” Pereira said before the rematch.
Barone no-hit Barnstable, Hingham, North Quincy (a 35-0 drubbing shortened by the mercy rule), Duxbury, and Whitman-Hanson. Opponents have had trouble making contact; Barone struck out 14 of 15 hitters she faced in Duxbury, and 17 against Hingham.
Hannah Johnson of Middleborough was a teammate of Barone’s last year on the Mass Drifters, a state champion under-16 team coached by Curt Schilling, the former Red Sox hurler who is currently battling cancer. She says Barone reminds her of Schilling.
“I know he always told her to never give up and to fight through everything,” said Johnson. “She’s always been a powerful pitcher and she’s getting better and better with more pitches. She’s gotten faster and has a rise ball now.’’
Middleboro coach Tanya Sullivan says Barone is remarkable for a sophomore, but not unhittable.
“She throws a lot of low stuff,” said Sullivan. “She’s good, there’s no question about that, but she’s not at this point the best high school pitcher I’ve seen.”
Silver Lake coach Tony Pina says the girls were aware of both streaks, but weren’t dwelling on them.
“We talked about the idea of not reading your press clippings,” said Pina. “It’s easier to get on the radar screen than to stay there. When you’ve got a lot of eyes on you, there’s pressure. But I think the pressure has been a good thing for them.”
Against Middleboro, Barone looks strong, striking out the side in the first inning. But there is no fist-pumping or other show of emotion.
“Maddy is pretty unassuming,” said Pina. “She’s not really seeking the limelight. She just goes about her business of being a pitcher and works hard at her craft.”
In girls’ softball, there are no no-hitter superstitions such as ignoring the pitcher in the late innings. And there were no major celebrations of the Silver Lake no-hitters — no one jumping into Barone’s arms the way Yogi Berra did to Don Larsen after the World Series perfect game in 1956.
Part of the reason is that no-hitters happen more frequently in softball. Supposedly, the national record for consecutive no-hitters is 10, most recently achieved by Samantha “Sammy” Albanese of Palo Alto, Calif., in 2010, according to MaxPreps.com.
A spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association said that organization does not keep such statistics for girls’ softball.
On the mound, Barone seems to have ice water in her veins. Literally. When her team is at bat, Barone is the only player not wearing a jacket or huddled under a blanket from the chill. Her mother implored her to wear gloves throughout the game, but she refused.
“I’m not cold,” she said.
In the second inning, Barone hits a Middleboro batter with a pitch. As Mykala Dimond steps up to bat, Silver Lake shortstop Emily Colton shades a little toward second, anticipating a steal attempt.
Dimond hits a hard grounder in the hole between short and third. Colton dives but can’t get it.
“It went under my glove,” said Colton. “I think I missed it by a couple of inches. If I didn’t cheat to second, I would’ve got it. It got me kind of upset, but I got over it.”
As the Middleboro bench applauded Dimond, Barone showed zero emotion — even though 27 innings of no-hit ball had ended.
“It didn’t bother me,” she said. “I just kind of figured it would happen sooner or later.”
She promptly got out of the inning and later smacked a two-run home run en route to a 7-0 win in which she recorded 10 strikeouts.
That made 77 strikeouts in seven games. And for Silver Lake, it was 101 runs scored and zero given up.
A dramatic win
The impressive numbers aside, Barone was more concerned with beating Silver Lake’s unbeaten archrival, Bridgewater-Raynham, on the road last Friday.
But in the first inning, with Silver Lake ahead, 2-0, the scoreless streak was unceremoniously shattered with an unearned run on an infield single, a steal, and a throwing error.
Bridgewater-Raynham added an earned run in the third that tied the score at 2-2. But the sweet-swinging Barone then smacked a solo home run over the center-field fence in the fifth that proved to be the game-winner.
“It felt good,” she said. “I felt it from the moment it hit my bat.”
In the sixth inning, Silver Lake center fielder Kendra Carley makes a circus catch, colliding with the temporary fence but holding on to the ball to preserve the 3-2 win.
“That was amazing,” said Barone. “I didn’t know she had caught it until our fan section in the outfield started cheering.”
The win gave Silver Lake the No. 1 ranking.
“It feels good to be ranked No. 1, but we need to continue winning and not thinking about it,” said Barone. “If you think too much about it, it could hurt us.”
Wheaton College pitching coach Kim (Jeffs) Popieniek has tutored Barone for the last three years. She says Barone does her talking between the lines.
“She doesn’t like to talk about herself a whole lot, which is something I admire in her,” said Popieniek. “Being humble and knowing that there’s always something you could do to get better.”
Barone is a little shy. Told by a reporter that she had reached her quota of “I don’t know” replies to questions, she laughs and says, “I know. I don’t know.”
Her father, Pete, who played high school baseball and coached Maddy as she grew up, says his daughter is a team player.
“Winning is more important to her,” he said. “She gets kind of embarrassed because of the publicity. She totally gets the team thing.”
Pete says Maddy was a high-level gymnast, which has helped with her pitching mechanics.
She also has three older siblings who played baseball and softball constantly, and she tried to keep up with them. Last year, her older sister Alex was her batterymate. That led to some fireworks in a game against North Quincy.
“It was the second pitch of the game last year, and Alex called a for changeup and Maddy floated one down the middle,” said Pete. “Liz Kelley hit it over the fence. Maddy was pouting at Alex for calling that pitch, and she went out there and set her straight.
“They joke about it now.”
Barone wants to study sports medicine in college because her gymnastics coaches loved it so much.
She also wanted to give a shout-out to Schilling. Her current 10-0 record and 98 strikeouts would certainly make him smile.
“He taught me like when to throw certain pitches and how to react to different ways batters are hitting,” she said. “He definitely made me a better pitcher. I just hope he’s feeling better.”Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.