QUINCY — Most days this season, patrolling the outfield for the Silver Lake Regional softball team has been a dull task.
Take Monday’s 5-1 win over Quincy at Mitchell-McCoy Field, for example. The Presidents managed to hit just two balls out of the infield.
“It gets a little boring,” senior center fielder Victoria Smith said. “I literally play almost all in right field, because if they hit it, it’s going to be out there. It gets boring out there. She doesn’t let them hit very much.”
“She” is freshman righthander Maddie Barone , who is taking the Patriot League by storm for the Lakers (12-1), racking up 124 strikeouts in 68⅓ innings while walking just eight. Her ERA is a tidy 0.41.
Barone has been so impressive Silver Lake coach Mike Brennan told her and junior first baseman Jess Smith — who won 13 games in 2012 and sports a 0.37 ERA in five games this season — that the first-year ace would be the Lakers’ pitcher the rest of the way.
“I knew that she had potential, Maddie, to be a real good pitcher, but she’s a freshman coming to the varsity — you never know what you’re going to get,” Brennan said. “It’s been a pleasant surprise. It really has been. . . . We figure with her pitching, if we can get two runs, it’s game over.”
That is not hyperbole. The Lakers are undefeated when scoring more than once.
The lone run Barone yielded to Quincy was just the fourth she has given up all season. With a .405 average at the plate, she has driven in more runs (15) than she has surrendered.
But she does not do it alone. Right there is her older sister, Alex , a senior catcher and the team’s lone captain.
Alex is one of the team’s offensive leaders, batting .488 with 17 RBIs and six extra-base hits out of the third slot in the lineup, right behind Maddie, but she is as important, if not more so, behind the plate catching her younger sister.
The pair’s relationship is pretty typical: big sister looks out for little sister, and just wants the best for her. But she is also not afraid to be blunt and tell Maddie how it is. There is no beating around the bush with these two.
“I’ll be sure to remind her if she misses a spot or if she drops her shoulder when she’s hitting or if she doesn’t use her hips,” said Alex, who will play at Eckerd College, a Division 2 program in St. Petersburg, Fla., next year. “She’ll give it right back if she has to.”
The Barones have never formally been batterymates — separated by three grades, they had not played on the same team until this season — but after years of observation and pitching lessons, not to mention a childhood in which they hung around together while growing up with two older brothers (Nick , 23, and Derek , 22), Alex knows Maddie better than any other pitcher she has ever caught.
“I know [based on] exactly where the ball goes what she did wrong,” Alex said, before reverting to the first person, as if she is the one unleashing the pitches. “I know what I can throw, when I can throw it and what I can count on to be a strike in a full count.”
Brennan said the two are so in sync he generally backs off and lets Alex call Maddie’s pitches. (The sisters dispute this, to a point: “When he wants a pitch, he’ll make sure we hear it,” Alex said.)
Between the chemistry and talent of the Barone sisters, plus the hitting prowess of freshman Shannon Grindle (19 RBIs) and junior Abby Alexiades (.349, 15 RBIs), among others, Brennan said this team is the most talented he has had in his quarter-century calling the shots from the Silver Lake bench — even better than last year’s South sectional semifinalist squad.
“I knew we’d be good,” Brennan said. “Did I think we’d be 12-1 at this point? No, to be honest with you. . . . They know. They said, ‘Geez, we’re a good team. We can play.’ But I keep telling them, ‘We still have to play every game.’ ”
With a 24th consecutive state tournament appearance waiting in the wings, and a battle with Duxbury for the Patriot League crown that will likely go down to the wire, there’s one more issue at hand for the Lakers: Could Maddie strike Alex out?
“Hmm, I’ve never had to pitch to her,” Maddie said before trailing off and turning, deferring to her older sister.
“You would probably miss your spot,” Alex said on cue, “and give me one right down the middle.”
Five seniors lead Norwood
The Norwood baseball team, a squad with 15 seniors on its 20-player roster, is doing exactly what coach Kevin Igoe expected it to do at the beginning of the season: compete, and compete with the best.
The Mustangs (9-3) ripped off four straight wins, and six of seven, thanks mostly to a core group of five of those seniors — Kenny Michael , Anthony Perriello , Tyler Gover , Rourke Flynn, and Mark Saulnier .
In Monday’s 4-0 win over Dedham, it was right fielder Perriello (.523 average) who came up with three hits and two RBIs. The game before that, Michael, the team’s ace, and third baseman Flynn each had three RBIs. Saulnier, a rock behind the plate, had four RBIs two days prior.
Then there’s Gover, a catalyst in center field and at the top of the lineup, who leads the team in stolen bases (17) and runs (18).
“As he goes, we go,” Igoe said of Gover. “They have all been dominating all year for us. Those five are really the heart and soul of the team.”
At 9-1 in Bay State Conference play, Norwood sits one game back of Walpole in the Herget Division standings. Walpole is also the only team to beat the ’Stangs in almost a month, an 11-10 nail-biter April 26.
The teams face off again in Norwood May 20.
“We let them off the hook, but we’re ready and can’t wait to get them again,” Igoe said.
“We’re starting to catch fire at the right time. We expect to do real well come tournament time. It’s our expectation to be in the tournament and do some damage. We have the firepower.”
Here and there
Avon softball (13-1), which is running away with the Mayflower Athletic Conference, celebrated the 50th win of senior captain Maggie Hoffman’s career May 2, a 14-0 win over Bristol County. . . . Abington righty Mike Walsh (12.2) and Silver Lake righty Mike Lundin (11.9) own two of the best K/9 rates in the region.Tim Healey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @timbhealey.