EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Sports

June 18, 2013

A Step Above

Timberlane title, Central's Granite State nucleus highlight N.H. dominance

New Hampshire seems to be like the little engine that can.

In fact, in softball it’s the state than can do a lot. For much of the last 15 years, the best softball in the region has arguably been played in New Hampshire and that may not change anytime soon.

That was certainly the case this year. Well-rounded Timberlane won the Division 1 title, always-strong Salem lost in the Division 1 semifinals and beat the Owls in the regular season, and young Londonderry and Pinkerton teams were highly competitive.

In Division 2, meanwhile, Sanborn and Windham were among the elite teams, as was Pelham in Division 3.

Central Catholic, which was the top local team from the Bay State, was chock full of New Hampshire players. Four starters, including pitcher Olivia Antczak, were from Atkinson (and yet Timberlane still thrived!) while standout centerfielder Krista Maloney is from Windham and freshman Madison Borrelli resides in Salem.

It’s no wonder that one rival MVC coach calls Central “a New Hampshire all-star team.”

The New Hampshire rule should definitely continue next year. All of the above teams are extremely young with the exception of Salem and the Blue Devils return two sophomore pitchers and solid hitter Amanda Bickford and has plenty of young talent coming up.

Although there is a consensus that New Hampshire softball, at least in this area, is a step ahead, there is no agreement as to why.

Veteran Salem coach Harold Sachs, who is New Hampshire’s all-time leader in victories (540-75), has a few theories.

“I would say that every state has experienced a growth of lacrosse that is draining athletes away from softball (but) I believe New Hampshire is 3-5 years behind states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut,” said Sachs, who traditionally scrimmages — and beats — the top Mass. teams in the preseason. “Time will tell.

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