Sarah Dawson started every game in the circle during an unbeaten regular-season run for the Bridgewater-Raynham girls’ softball team this past spring.
She finished 23-1 for a Trojan squad that was eliminated by eventual state champion Milford High in the Division 1 South tournament.
She carried that momentum over to Carol Savino’s Mass Drifters Gold 18U showcase team this summer. But at midseason, in the middle of July, she felt she wasn’t quite right.
The rising junior said that with no school, she let her mind wander to beaches and other summer staples that a 16-year-old normally enjoys.
“I just wasn’t there for a little while,” she said. “But it’s back, thank God.”
Her stuff was back in a 10-0 mercy win over the EMass Panthers 18U Elite team at the Worth Showcase in Dracut last Saturday. She threw four shutout innings, fanned eight batters, and allowed two hits with four walks.
Through 102 innings this season, she has compiled a 1.40 earned run average with 95 strikeouts, 63 hits, and 29 walks.
Aside from regaining her mental poise, Dawson had to learn how to share the ball and effectively polish her pitches because she has shared the circle with Courtney Zambello , a senior-to-be at Cardinal Spellman in Brockton.
She understands that Savino wants to expose both pitchers evenly, but substitutions can cause frustration, she said, especially when she is pitching well.
“Some days you might be doing really well and then she’ll take you out,” Dawson said of Savino. “You’ll be like, ‘I thought I was throwing the game of my life right there, why’d you take me out?’ But you’ve just got to have your fair share of time.”
Zambello, a southpaw suiting up for the Drifters for the first time, has come on in relief of Dawson in the majority of games this summer. A member of the Mass Xplosion 16U squad last year, she said that she combats idle time by warming between innings until she is needed.
Taking note of Zambello’s development this summer, Savino lauded the guidance of pitching coach Christina Berardi, an assistant coach at Southern New Hampshire.
“I wish I had [Zambello] a year ago, to be honest with you,” Savino said. “She’s a worker, she’s big, she’s strong, and she’s talented. Courtney hasn’t reached her peak yet.”
Dawson, who works with pitching coach Jen Lomastro , said the elite competition she faces forces her to work harder for outs, which aids her growth as a pitcher.
Her competitive drive is the result of growing up as the youngest of four siblings, with three older brothers: Andrew, 23; Kevin, 21; and Christopher, 19 — all athletes. She learned real competition when they would tease her and steal her dolls.
“It’s really toughened me up, honestly,” Dawson said. “I’d be such a girl if I didn’t have them. They’ve taught me how to be competitive, but also tone it down when I need to.”
Savino, in her 27th year at the helm of the Drifters organization, said Dawson, too, has yet to reach her full potential.
Dawson and Zambello work well in tandem because of their different approaches, said the coach.
The left-handed Zambello features a curve that hits 61 miles per hour on the radar gun. The movement of her off-speed pitches and “heavy” weight of her fastball have resulted in 117 strikeouts in 108 innings. She has a 0.84 ERA with 32 walks.
The 6-foot-2 Dawson has an repertoire that includes a changeup, drop ball, screwball, and rise ball.
Emily Kurkul , a rising junior at Bridgewater-Raynham, has been catching Dawson since she was 12, while Emily Garcynski , a rising junior for Savino at Norwood High, is the backstop for Zambello.
Seeing how well Dawson transitioned to her high school season after developing last summer, Savino predicts she will lead B-R to a state championship and expects Zambello to impress in her final year after her summer work.
“You’re going to see both of them excel,” Savino said. “No matter where they go, I can look back and say every one of my kids who moved on grew up here. They learned here.”
Schilling and friends fielding new team
Savino, along with former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, is teaming up with former US Olympic women’s softball coach Ralph Raymond to field a team to compete on the national level.
Tryouts were held Saturday and Sunday in Bridgewater. Schilling believes that there is enough interest to form two competitive teams, both 18U.
The current Drifters system starts at 12U and continues up to 18U, similar to the Plainville-based Rhode Island showcase team. The Polar Crush, based in Worcester, field two 18U showcase teams.
“Ralph and I will be working on one team,” said Schilling, who coaches the Drifters 16U program. “He will be involved as much as he chooses to be. Carol will be involved with the other team.” Savino will groom players for Schilling’s elite club.
The goal, according to Schilling, is twofold: to establish the Drifters as a national program while aiding in the college recruitment efforts of the players.
Noting the presence of the 89-year-old Raymond, Schilling said: “I think it speaks volumes about what kind of man he is. He’s given his life to girls’ softball. Winning Olympic gold, he doesn’t need to do anything else; he wants to be involved. From my perspective, the guy’s forgotten more about softball than I’ll ever know.”
An early pitching exit,
as Brockton Rox exit, too
It only took two batters last Monday night for Brockton Rox coach Jud Thigpen to realize he needed to make a change on the mound. After the first two Nashua Silver Knights reached base on an error and a single, starting pitcher Tyler Sapp was pulled in favor of Norton’s A.J. Bashaw.
“His third or fourth pitch, it didn’t have that zip and that pop,” said Thigpen. “We have that radar gun here, I noticed he was throwing 10 miles per hour off, his velocity was way down.”
The Rox, which surrendered three runs in the first, two more in the second, and one in the third, were swept in the best-of-3 series in the New England Collegiate Baseball League playoffs with a 6-1 loss.
Walpole High grad Johnny Adams led Nashua in hits (61), RBIs (39), and triples (2) during a regular season in which he batted .300 through 51 games. But the Boston College-bound infielder was 1 for 8 in the two-game series.
perfect tourney game
Neely Eddleston, a 14-year-old from Wareham, hurled a perfect game for the New Bedford-based Katman Sports 16U softball team in a 10-0 win over the Bay State Sharks 16U on Aug. 7 in the 2013 PONY 16U national tournament in Sterling, Va. An incoming freshman at Greater New Bedford Regional Voke, Eddleston was 9-5 this season with one save.Peter Cappiello can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @petecapps.