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GIRLS' SOFTBALL NOTEBOOK

Natick softball taking Tom Lamb’s football lessons to dominate the diamond

Stepping onto the diamond as head coach, Tom Lamb has the Natick softball team on the ball, playing with intensity, and competing game to game as the Bay State Conference leader.
Stepping onto the diamond as head coach, Tom Lamb has the Natick softball team on the ball, playing with intensity, and competing game to game as the Bay State Conference leader.MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Tom Lamb doesn’t want to talk about himself.

“It’s not about me, I like to think I’ve always thought that way. It’s about the kids and what we can do to help them get to a high success level,” said the longtime Natick football coach, educator, and administrator.

But after guiding the Natick softball team to a Bay State Conference-best 13-1 record — topping Braintree in the first round of the conference tournament — in his first season, the 73-year-old Lamb deserves some credit.

“I absolutely love Coach Lamb; he was my dad’s football coach,” said Natick senior co-captain Maddie McCarthy. “Being able to play under him is such a privilege and we’re really grateful for that opportunity.”

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Lamb had served as a softball assistant in 2018 and 2019, as well as a freshman and varsity assistant football coach. Unexpectedly, he was thrust into a lead role again when Diane Whittaker was unable to lead the Redhawks this spring.

“Coach Whittaker asked me to fill in for this year, and I did it, and at my age, I’m glad I’m able to help,” Lamb said.

Although his football legacy is revered, with a 248-65-2 mark and four Super Bowl championships combined at Natick and Norwood, Lamb is not without experience on the softball field. He coached the Natick varsity in the late ‘80s, before departing to work on Barry Gallup’s football staff at Northeastern, and he has helped with the town’s softball program at the youth level.

“When I was helping out at the youth level, I got to know so many of these girls that are now juniors and seniors, coaching against and for them,” said Lamb.

“I look at it as I owe the softball program here some time because I left to take a job at Northeastern when I had been the softball coach in the ‘80s, so I jumped in when this opportunity came.”

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His idea of a next-man-up mentality is embodied by the team on the field; the Redhawks have received important contributions from a number of players in big moments, ranging from clutch pitching to timely at-bats.

“We’ve been able to have Katherine Canty handle all of our big games pitching, but to have elite hitters like Juliana Kiley and Jess Brill, and then not really have a dropoff through the rest of our lineup because everyone on this team is a great hitter, it allows me to be flexible with the lineup,” said Lamb, whose team carries 11 players and only returned four varsity starters from 2019.

Canty, a senior co-captain and Westfield State softball commit, has been dominant in the circle, eating up important innings, while accumulating three complete-game victories. But the ability for Canty and the rest of the Redhawks to rely on one another to pick each other up has been one of the team’s most significant strengths.

“Knowing that everyone behind me will make good plays and will help us win as a team is what allows me to be motivated on the mound,” said Canty.

The senior ace, along with classmates Martha Jennings, Ava Leombruno, and McCarthy, has helped guide the team through both the cancellation of the 2020 season and the unique head coaching change both on and off the diamond. The work that the senior leadership group and Whittaker put in during the absence of last year’s season eased Lamb’s transition into the interim head coaching role.

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“The year off has made us all appreciate these seasons for whatever they can be and Coach Whittaker did a really nice job keeping the team together through Zoom calls, and that was really important for the team building here, and allowed us to come back with an upperclassmen class that was really together, and has made the transition that much easier,” said Lamb.

While the crossovers between softball and football are not necessarily direct, Lamb’s extensive experience in athletics has allowed him to draw upon prior knowledge to help lead the Redhawks.

“Obviously the drills and the techniques are completely different from football but organizationally it’s not a big difference, we’re still trying to keep the intensity up and keep us competing from game to game,” said Lamb.

The Redhawks have been more than competitive, rifling through their schedule while compiling a plus-87 run differential and only dropping a game to 12th-ranked Newton North in the process.

For all the success that the Redhawks have had this season, and all of the victories that Lamb has had over his career, the opportunity to keep playing — and succeeding, in this unique season holds a special value for the players.

“He always wants to win, but he gives off the persona that it’s OK to lose but that he wants us to work as hard as we possibly can,” said Canty.

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For Lamb, as always, the focus is on his players.

“I want to keep having success for the girls’ sake, it’s a unique time in their careers, they deserve it, " said Lamb.

“Obviously the drills and the techniques are completely different from football but organizationally it’s not a big difference, we’re still trying to keep the intensity up and keep us competing from game to game,” TOM LAMB, Natick softball coach (throwing batting practice).
“Obviously the drills and the techniques are completely different from football but organizationally it’s not a big difference, we’re still trying to keep the intensity up and keep us competing from game to game,” TOM LAMB, Natick softball coach (throwing batting practice).MARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE
“I absolutely love coach Lamb [left], he was my dad’s football coach. “Being able to play under him is such a privilege and we’re really grateful for that opportunity.” MADDIE MCCARTHY, Natick senior captain
“I absolutely love coach Lamb [left], he was my dad’s football coach. “Being able to play under him is such a privilege and we’re really grateful for that opportunity.” MADDIE MCCARTHY, Natick senior captainMARK STOCKWELL FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Extra Bases

▪ In its first nine wins, No. 13 Woburn had a margin of victory of 9.6 runs per game. So Monday’s 2-1 Middlesex League win over Winchester in extra innings was a welcome development for coach Courtney Sigsbury in advance of the Middlesex League and MIAA Tournaments.

“I really don’t think we had been challenged until today,” said Sigsbury. “It was really a tournament-type atmosphere that was really good for the kids.”

Led by sophomore pitcher Morgan Barmash, junior center fielder Jenna Taylor, and a veteran team, the Tanners put together a 10-0 season en route to their first Liberty Division title since 2017.

“These kids set the goal from the beginning that they wanted to be Middlesex League champs and the more we kept going, they realized that they also had a chance to be undefeated,” said Sigsbury. “These little goals that we had at the beginning of the year started to become really realistic.”

▪ Despite a 4-0 loss to top-ranked Taunton on Monday, King Philip coach Kate Fallon-Comeau has plenty to be happy about with a young team. The 10th-ranked Warriors (12-1) have seniors Paige Berdos and Anna Bradley at center field and first base with a bunch of “fresh-mores” behind them as Fallon-Comeau put it.

“They’re go-getters,” said Fallon-Comeau. “They love softball and they love to be around the game and get better at it. They want to learn new things and master their craft.”

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The Warriors can tear the cover off the ball. They’ve racked up 137 runs with sophomore Libby Walsh (19), sophomore Charlotte Raymond (17), and junior Meg Sherwood (17) among the RBI leaders in the Hockomock.

Games of the week

Friday, No. 14 Millis at No. 4 Norton (3:45 p.m.) — The Tri-Valley league foes square off for the second time this season, this time with the regular-season title on the line. (Norton won, 18-3, on May 13).

Thursday, Billerica at No. 3 Lowell (6 p.m.) — Billerica, the D2 leader in the Merrimack Valley Conference, visits Lowell, the D1 leader, in the teams’ first matchup this season.

Wednesday, Marblehead at No. 7 Peabody (4 p.m.) — The Northeastern Conference rivals meet up for the second time this season, after the Tanners edged the Magicians, 1-0, on May 19.

Thursday, Newburyport at Triton (3:45 p.m.) — The Vikings host the Clippers in Cape Ann League action, hoping to avenge their 11-10 opening-day loss to Newburyport.

Friday, Holliston at Hopkinton (3:45 p.m.) — The Panthers hit the road to take on the Hillers in a rematch of a nine-inning Tri-Valley League epic May 14, which Hopkinton won 5-2.