High schools

HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS’ SOFTBALL NOTEBOOK

Ali Gacharna on a power surge for Chelsea

Chelsea, MA April 26, 2017: Chelsea High School softball player Ali Gacharna is pictured as she takes some batting practice in a cage inside a gym at the school. (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis)

JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

Chelsea High senior Ali Gacharna has hit six home runs in the first three games of the season.

Ali Gacharna has incorporated a new drill into her pregame routine to help generate more power at the plate, utilizing the strength in her hips.

“A lot of times when I was batting, I didn’t turn my full waist to get all of my power,” said Gacharna, a senior pitcher/shortstop at Chelsea High.

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“So once I started practicing that drill, I got my hips turning into the ball.” She learned the drill last summer while playing for her travel team, the New England Rockets U-18 squad.

The results have been pretty impressive.

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In Monday’s 15-0 win over Presentation of Mary, batting in the leadoff spot, Gacharna smacked four home runs in a 4-for-5 performance, including a grand slam, and knocked in 10 runs.

A two-time Commonwealth Athletic Conference All-Star, she has hit six homers in the Red Devils’ 3-0 start. Chelsea’s scheduled game on Thursday at Saint Clement was postponed because of unplayable field conditions after this week’s heavy rain.

Gacharna led off the game with a solo blast to left field. Later in the first inning, she cracked a belted a three-run bomb deep to right field.

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“Right when I hit the ball, I could tell it was going toward left field,” she said of the first homer. “I could tell it was over [the outfielder’s] head by the way she was looking at the ball.

“As soon as that happened, I just ran as fast as I could all the way around . . . As soon as I [hit the first home run] I had so much confidence. I was ready to go.”

In her third at bat, Gacharna stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and smashed a deep ball to left for the slam.

“[The pitcher] tried to walk me at first but she threw me a high strike and thought it was a ball. I saw that and I hit it,” said Gacharna, who is hitting over .500 with 20 RBIs in three games.

“It was my first grand slam. It felt amazing to run around those bases and know I brought all of those runners in. It made me so proud of myself.”

In her fourth at bat, she cracked a two-run homer in the fifth inning. She put down a bunt in her final at bat.

“She’s a very good athlete, but I think the thing with her hitting is she has really good hands,” said Chelsea coach Ted Freeley.

“She can generate really good bat speed. She works at everything in the batting cages but I think her strength is her hands.”

“She was a good player as a freshman but she’s outstanding now. Every year she’s getting better.”

In addition to her prowess at the plate, Gacharna is also Chelesea’s best pitcher — with one no-hitter already this season — and best infielder (shortstop).

“She’s our best pitcher and these are league games for us, so I want our best pitcher pitching in those games,” said Freeley. “She also our best fielder, so it’s hard to keep her off the field.

“Softball’s all about pitching so if you’ve got a good pitcher that’s 80 percent of the battle.”

Chelsea put together a 12-4 record in the regular season last spring before being ousted by Mystic Valley in the first round of the Division 3 North tourney.

Off to a 3-0 start, “the confidence is up now,” Gacharna said. “The girls are ready to play against the harder teams and we feel like we have a chance to win. We’re going to push ourselves harder.”

Extra bases

 Whitman-Hanson enjoyed its spring break trip to Westminster, Md., where the Panthers took on Winters Mill High School.

“They couldn’t have been nicer,” said Whitman-Hanson athletic director Bob Rodgers. “They gave each of the girls a gift bag.”

Junior Colleen Hughes yielded no earned runs and was 3 for 4 at the plate in a 7-1 victory.

The Whitman-Hanson players raised funds for the trip by selling raffle tickets and working road races. They were able to take in a Red Sox-Orioles’ game at Camden Yards before a trip to Washington, D.C. . . . The Central Catholic softball team traveled to Florida during spring vacation for a matchup against Cocoa Beach, a 3-0 loss, on April 19. The following day, they beat Villa Maria Academy (Pa.), 16-0.

 Because of a construction project, the Braintree softball field is currently unplayable. The Wamps will play upcoming games at the Flaherty School’s softball facility while the athletic department looks at other options. Games against Weymouth (Monday) and Quincy (Tuesday) will be played at Flaherty.

Players of the Week

Tori Adams, Lynn Classical – The junior kept the Rams undefeated with 10 strikeouts and three hits in a 2-1 win over Peabody.

Jessica Bonner, King Philip – With two home runs and 5 RBIs, the junior led the Warriors to a 9-3 win over Mansfield.

Lauren Nelligan, Abington – Quicker than the speed of light, the sophomore scored on what was initially a bunt single, turning an error into a three-run inside the park home run in a 16-1 win over Archbishop Williams.

Kelly Nelson, Norton – The junior pitcher continues to throw heat, striking out 17 to lead the Lancers in an 8-0 Tri-Valley League shutout of Holliston and recording another 19 strikeouts in a 5-1 win over Ashland.

Caroline Zielinski, Hanover – It was the sophomore show for Zielinski, with 12 strikeouts and two hits at the plate to lead the Indians to a 7-4 win over Plymouth South.

Games to Watch

 Tewksbury at Haverhill, Monday, 3:30 p.m. – Two of the top teams in the Merrimack Valley cross divisions for this one. Hopefully the popcorn is good.

 Sacred Heart at West Bridgewater, Monday, 3:30 – Big matchup in the Mayflower Athletic Conference, as high-powered WB (6-0, 4-0 league) takes on the defensive-minded Saints (4-1, 5-1).

 Greater New Bedford at Dighton-Rehoboth, Friday, 4 – The No. 10 Falcons face a big test in No. 19 Greater New Bedford, with South Coast title implications on the line.

 Norwood at Walpole, Monday, 3:45 – Two teams that are near mirror-images face off for a shot at the Bay State Herget league lead. Norwood (5-0, 4-0, league) and Walpole (4-2, 4-1) should be a good one.

 Bridgewater-Raynham at Silver-Lake, Wednesday, 4 – At the recent town election in Bridgewater, just 4.74% registered voters filed a ballot. Maybe the crowd will be bigger for this heavyweight matchup.

Correspondent Lenny Rowe also contributed to this story.
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