Over the years, Phillips Academy’s Peter Drench has coached a number of terrific teams.
One team won 19 games, several captured the competitive Big East Tournament and some pulled off huge upsets.
But none had gone undefeated — until this year.
The Big Blue finished a rain-abbreviated season at 13-0, and they had few close games among their victories.
“It (going undefeated) had never happened, but it never really mattered to me,” said Drench. “I’d rather just play good competition.”
Nevertheless, Drench concedes that this year’s team was “one of the best we’ve ever had.
“What stands out for me is the cohesiveness of the team and that we had great senior leadership. And it all starts with pitching and Kayla (Maloney) has done everything for us.”
A two-time Eagle-Tribune Player of the Year, Maloney led the Big Blue to three straight Big East crowns, being named tourney MVP twice. By winning the final two games, including the semifinals with a no-hitter, she easily could have been a three-time tourney MVP.
For three years, Columbia-bound Maloney was the team’s ace pitcher and usually its best hitter, for both power and average. She hit an even .500 this season after hitting .453 a year ago.
“We’ve had some great players (recently Michelle Hollebeck, Lindsay Maroney and Sarah Onorato) but, when you look at everything she’s done for us, Kayla is right up there with anyone we’ve had,” said Drench. “She’s so talented and she’s a great competitor.”
The Big Blue also had some other terrific players this year, like shortstop Abby Chung and Andover catcher Nikki Pelletier, as well as two local players — Haverhill’s Kasey Hartung and Methuen’s Ravenne Nasser — who made huge strides.
Hartung, who Drench says may have been the most improved player on the team, switched to third base and Nasser, a sophomore, was not only excellent as the team’s No. 2 pitcher but played a fine center field and was the team’s leadoff hitter.