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  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Campbell High School's Lauren King is tagged out at the plate by Somersworth pitcher Erica Boulanger during a softball game Monday, April 30, 2012, in Litchfield.


  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Campbell baserunner Julie Marra takes off for the plate from third base to score a run for the Cougars during a softball game against Somersworth Monday, April 30, 2012, in Litchfield.


  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Campbell High School's Shannon Lavigne scores as Somersworth catcher Teagan Lajoie drops the ball during a play at the plate Monday, April 30, 2012, in Litchfield.


  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Campbell High School pitcher Allie Nolan winds up against a Somersworth batter during a softball game Monday, April 30, 2012, in Litchfield.


  • Staff photo by BOB HAMMERSTROM


    Campbell High School pitcher Allie Nolan winds up against a Somersworth batter Monday, April 30, 2012, during a softball game in Litchfield.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Another season, another girls title contender at Campbell

LITCHFIELD – When a small school enjoys the kind of success in girls sports that Campbell High School has, you form some quick assumptions about how they do it.

You assume a few very talented three-sport athletes carry them to that success. How else does a school with fewer than 300 girls win state titles in soccer, girls basketball and softball, like the Cougars did in one calendar year?

How do they qualify for five straight basketball title games, while making the final three straight times in soccer and twice in three years in softball?

The premise about talented, dedicated athletes is correct. What is not is the assumption that the majority of them play multiple sports.

The softball team that beat Somersworth 13-0 Monday, in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule, has a couple of kids who play other sports. Left fielder and No. 9 hitter Hannah Neild started at point guard in the Division III finals in basketball and earned All-State recognition as a freshman. She also plays soccer.

But the majority of a lineup that is off to a 7-0 start, outscoring opponents 83-13, are year-round softball players.

“I do cheerleading and softball,’’ said junior pitcher Allie Nolan, who struck out 10 in five innings and allowed just two base runners on Monday, “but mostly just softball.’’

Shortstop and leadoff hitter Julie Marra, who plans to pay next year at Endicott College, plays in the summer with the Hudson Heat. Nolan competes with the Diamonds Gems.

Both face high level competition outside the state.

“Back when I was playing travel softball you played mostly in New Hampshire,’’ said Campbell coach Laurie Gatherum, who played high school softball at Merrimack Valley in Penacook and at Bentley College. “Now the girls are traveling all over, which keeps it exciting for them and keeps them from getting burned out on one sport.’’

Seven years ago when she took over the Campbell program Gatherum said she had to beg girls to pitch. That changed when Julia Nolan, now playing at Keene State, took over on the mound four years ago.

She pitched them to two title games and their first championship last spring, with her little sister waiting in the wings.

“We all started with the Blast program in town,’’ Marra said, “then we all found teams outside of town.’’

Nolan said it was nerve wracking trying to replace the best pitcher in school history, who just happened to be her sister.

“We have pretty much the same motion,’’ Allie Nolan said. “She was really fast, I rely on accuracy and changing speeds.’’

The sport specialization has reached the stage at Campbell where only those dedicated to a sport even bother trying out. Gatherum had just 25 girls out for softball this spring and kept 23.

Still, both the varsity and junior varsity are unbeaten in their division for the second straight year.

“The biggest thing our kids have to deal with, and it’s come back to haunt us, is hitting against some slower pitching after playing tournaments on the weekend,’’ Gatherum said.

“Today we faced a pretty good pitcher.’’

Campbell hammered out 16 hits in just five innings against that pitcher, Somerworth’s Erica Boulanger. The biggest challenge right now, with a very young team, is finding the kind of competition that will sharpen their skills.

It might be a small school athletic program, but surrounded by larger school, Campbell has adopted the methods of the big schools.

And the proof is the banners hanging on the gym wall.