A couple of struggling local teams look to the future

Staff photo by TOM KING You couldn't tell that the Bishop Guertin softball team has been winless on the season as they celebrate a homer by Stephanie Coulombe during this past Monday's 8-7 loss to Alvirne.

The buzz in the dugout was constant.

Clearly, the Bishop Guertin High School softball team was that of a team that was having a successful season, defending its Division I state championship.

Guess again.

Prior to picking up their first win of the season over Manchester Central, the Cardinals had been 0-11, outscored by nearly 100 runs – a whopping 125-35 margin. Yet spirits for the Cardinals remain high, and it’s clear why.

“It’s one of those situations as coaches we’ve seen the potential in them,” Cards coach Leah Maciejewski said. “We’re really, really young. Full of potential. It’s one of those teams right now. But at the same time, great group of girls, so positive.”

The Cards lost basically their entire starting lineup to graduation. In the place of those players who won a title are basically a host of freshman and sophomores. Third baseman Stephanie Coulombe sometimes looks like a senior with her astute play.

“She’s one that not only does she have the physical ability, not only the mental toughness, but the poise to be there,” Maciejewski said.

The Cards just have two seniors. The starting infield has three freshman, one sophomore, two juniors; two sophomores and a senior in the outfield. Their starter in the circle the other day, Emma Charron, is a freshman converted catcher.

Still, it would be so easy for things to break apart at the seams.

“It’s always easy to stay positive when things are going well for you,” Maciejewski said. “One of the things we talked about with the girls is having a season of character. And building that character in terms of being a good teammate. I credit it to them, it’s not easy to do.”

Things weren’t always so bubbly on the sidelines for the Cardinals this season. Last week they had been pummeled 16-4 by Bedford – a title game rematch – and Maciejewski could see the enthusiasm waning.

But in a second game against the Bulldogs, they were much more competitive.

“They started finding the joy in it again, it was much better,” Maciejewski said. “It’s not easy to do.”

Maciejewski was a successful player at Guertin and in college. She cringes at the term “rebuilding” because “That implies a little bit of ‘It’s OK (to lose)’ attitude. These girls know I have very high expectations for them always – only because I know, the potential I’ve seen that they have to succeed.”

That potential will like take a year or two to come to fruition, but right now the Cards look like they’ll keep having fun trying to reach it.

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Guertin softball isn’t the only local team with a new coach struggling this spring, obviously. The Merrimack High School baseball team has had a rough go of it as well, with the same issue – youth.

The Tomahawks went into Wednesday’s game vs. Salem at 2-11, and had given up double digit runs five times.

“We’ve talked about trying to put together a complete seven inning game,” Tomahawks coach Kyle Harvell said. “And we’ve done that on a couple of occasions. … We’re getting there. We’re putting pieces together, getting guys going.”

And again, the Tomahawks have been lively on the bench and very much engaged.

“It’s a good group of guys,” Harvell said. “We’re getting to know everybody a little different, from assistant coach to (now) head coach. It’s been a bit of a transition period.”

Harvell’s team started the year at a huge disadvantage, playing on the road for the first three weeks thanks to drainage issues on their home field. That included finding places to practice either inside or out as well.

“You can only spend so much time in the gym before everything gets real repetitive and tough to get better,” Harvell said. “Once we got out here and could see everything full size, we’ve made giant leaps the last couple of weeks. Having some predictability in the schedule helps.”

There are young players in key positions. Shortstop Keaton Miller is a sophomore. Freshman Mike Lyna started the other day in right field for his first varsity start and had two hits.

“We’ll get them all moving together,” Harvell said.

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Meanwhile, one local baseball team that one might have thought would have a tough time this spring has recovered from a slow start.

When the Souhegan Sabers, with a host of new starters from a year ago, began the campaign at 0-2, outscored 18-2 in those games, not many were surprised. But then they turned it around and won four straight before falling on the road to Hanover the other day to stand at 4-3.

“My kids weren’t going to bury their heads in the sand,” Sabers coach Bill Dod said. “They were going to hve to work hard every day and become competitive. That’s what they’ve done.”

The irony is for the first time in Dod’s 50 years of coaching he had an April without playing a road game, thanks to all the postponements. Souhegan, which was at Kingswood on Wednesday and visits Hollis Brookline on Friday, didn’t play a road game until last week’s surprising win over Windham.

“They just come to practice every day and work hard on everything I’ve asked them to do,” Dod said. “We’ve improved defensively since the first week, and improving every aspect.”

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Keep an eye on these local tennis teams:

Bishop Guertin girls (unbeaten), Souhegan boys (unbeaten), Hollis Brookline boys (6-2 at last look), Milford girls (9-1 prior to Wednesday’s match with Souhegan), Nashua South boys (8-3 going into Wednesday) and Nashua South girls (8-2). It’s one of the best tennis seasons the area has seen in years….

Still on tennis, Cards coach Barry Ndinya is getting a big lift from the bottom of the ladder, especially at No. 6.

“Natalie Sheehy is playing outstanding tennis,” Ndinya said, noting how well she played in an 8-0 win against Timberlane the other day. “She was moving well and using her forehand to dictate the points. She gained a lot of confidence from (Monday’s) match.”….

Another good performance earlier in the week came from one of the bigger upsets of the spring, Alvirne’s 5-3 baseball win over Bishop Guertin. Broncos reliever Hayden Callery, after BG loaded the bases against him in the top of the seventh, struck out No. 3 hitter Brett Anderson and cleanup hitter Sam Boudreau before retiring the tough Alex George on a deep fly to left.

“Callery is as mentally tough as they come and he picked it up to another level,” Broncos coach Mike Lee said.