EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 23, 2013

carving her niche

Raider junior no longer just Kayla's little sister

On Softball
Dave Dyer

---- — Central Catholic junior Krista Maloney still gets the question, but it’s just not as frequent.

“Since I first came to Central, people would ask me if I’m Kayla Maloney’s sister,” said Maloney. “I still get asked.”

It’s only natural, of course, since older sister Kayla Maloney started her career at Central, becoming a standout pitcher from the outset, and then transferred to Phillips Academy, where she was a two-time Eagle-Tribune MVP the last two years.

“We were playing Haverhill and they were all talking about me being Kayla’s sister and some were asking, ‘What’s different between you and Kayla,’” remembered Maloney. “I said there’s a lot different.”

To start with, Krista gave up pitching a good five years ago, noting that pitchers don’t get as many at-bats at a higher level, and has dedicated herself to playing the outfield. She is currently playing center field.

For another, as anyone who knows them both will attest, Kayla and Krista have different personalities.

“I feel she’s more serious than I am, about softball and everything,” said Krista. “She likes to be in a zone and I like to be a lot more loose. But I still take it (softball) seriously.”

Central Catholic coach Stacy Ciccolo certainly agrees with that.

“Krista can be chatty and affable, but she is a very competitive athlete at heart,” said Ciccolo. “I have had the pleasure of coaching both Krista and Kayla Maloney and they are more similar then many would believe.

“Krista is extremely talented, works hard, really understands the game and is fun to coach.”

The younger Maloney has certainly carved her own niche and has definitely had a positive impact. She batted a solid .287 last year in her first season as a starter and, as the team’s leadoff batter, had hits in 11 of her first 20 at-bats this year. Among the hits are two game-winning hits.

Last week against powerhouse Burlington, in an otherwise ugly game for the Raiders, she had a leadoff home run.

“It was pretty exciting because it was my first home run in my high school career,” she said.

“I wasn’t looking for it. Hitting leadoff can be tough because you don’t get to see the pitcher. But I’m a lot more comfortable at it now and I like it.

“I really try to start off the game with a hit. I feel that sets the tone for the team and I have full confidence that we have players who will drive me home.”

Krista is one of only four starters back from last year’s 19-5 squad, but she is upbeat about the Raiders’ prospects this year.

“I feel we have a lot of players who didn’t play big roles last year who were ready to step up and they have,” she said. “I think we can have a good year and I want to be a big part of it.”

With the Raiders 3-1 and Maloney hitting .550, it’s a case of so far, so good.

Hard to figure ...

Manchester Memorial opened its season with an 11-4 loss to a young and inexperienced Londonderry team, looking bad in the process. But in the next game it nearly upset powerful Salem, losing 2-1.

Timberlane, meanwhile, is getting the kind of consistent pitching its lacked in recent years from freshman Kate Hoadley and, as a result, is off to a terrific 6-0 start. Leadoff batter Masha Lange, meanwhile, has been stinging the ball and fueling the offense.

Lost for the year

After losing seven starters to graduation, Pinkerton was going to be young and inexperienced anyway, but that became more pronounced when in the last inning of the preseason, junior standout Rachel Byrd suffered a season-ending ACL knee injury which will require surgery.

Byrd was coming off a season in which she hit .367 as the team’s cleanup hitter.

Hennequin to sign

Speaking of Pinkerton, senior pitcher Sam Hennequin has committed to play college softball at St. Anselm College and will sign a letter of intent at 2:45 p.m. on May 1 in the Pinkerton field house. Hennequin is the Astros’ No. 1 pitcher and has shown that she can swing the bat with authority as well.

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Softball Fab 5 The Eagle-Tribune's weekly ranking of area softball teams: 1. Salem 5-0 2. Timberlane 7-0 3. Central Catholic 6-1 4. Phillips Academy 1-0 5. Methuen 6-1 Honorable mention: Sanborn (5-1). Whittier (5-0)