---- — Last summer, Pelham senior Hannah Paitchel decided to be more proactive.
A two-time Eagle-Tribune All-Star as a shortstop, Paitchel had always planned, if she could, to continue playing softball in college. But, coming from a small school, she wondered about her opportunities.
“I was definitely worried,” said Paitchel. “Being recruited isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s way easier if you’re playing for a bigger school like Pinkerton or Salem.”
With that in mind, Paitchel decided to play last summer for the Northeast Hurricanes, which features itself as a college showcase team.
“It helped,” said Paitchel. “I wanted every opportunity to be seen by a lot of schools and I started getting contacted.”
But it turned out that Paitchel didn’t really need to be contacted by anyone. The Hurricanes’ coach, former Merrimack pitcher Jill Gagnon, is the coach at St. Anselm College and she liked what she saw.
“She (Gagnon) pretty much dragged me (to St. Anselm) for a visit,” said Paitchel, an honor roll student with a 3.67 GPA. “I didn’t think I was going to like it and I thought I wanted a bigger school.
“But I did like it. I liked the players, I know the campus and they have a good business program, which is what I wanted to get into.”
So last week, Paitchel signed a letter-of-intent to play at St. Anselm, rejecting overtures from a number of Division 3 schools and deciding not to pursue potential opportunities at larger schools like Quinnipiac, Bryant and Syracuse.
Paitchel, who is also an excellent basketball player, becomes the first Pelham player in at least eight years, and perhaps ever, to secure a scholarship to play softball. Pelham coach Todd Lozeau has no doubt that Paitchel is worthy of what she calls “a real honor” to be a Python trailblazer.
“St. Anselm will be getting a great student and softball player come this fall and there is no doubt in my mind that she will have success furthering her education and softball career,” said Lozeau.
“She has been a staple in our success on both sides of the field and has shown great character as a leader and a teammate. Her statistics as a short stop and leadoff hitter speak for themselves, as she has received All-State honors in her previous two seasons.”
Now that she has made her decision on college, Paitchel can focus more on what she hopes will be a banner final season at Pelham.
“We’ve stuck with our six seniors for four years and I think the season’s looking good,” said Paitchel, who is currently battling an arm injury that is affecting her throwing ability. “We’re hoping to make it to the (Division 3) championship game.”
NECC gets restarted
The Northern Essex Community College softball team didn’t win a game in eight tries in its return to the diamond after an absence of 15 years, but the Knights did take some important strides.
For one thing, Northern Essex had a roster of 18 girls, which is more than first-year coach Bob Gillespie expected and, for another, seven starters are expected back next year.
With no time to recruit, Gillespie was forced to go with anyone interested who was already on campus. Except for one very important ingredient, it worked out well.
“We could hit and we score runs, and our defense was pretty good, but we really didn’t have a pitcher,” said Gillespie. “Obviously, that’s a big void and that’s my main objective in the offseason, to find a pitcher, hopefully two.”
Among the returnees are several locals who were productive in high school, including Adrianna Jo from Whittier Tech, Casey Birch from Haverhill, Alex McArthur from Haverhill and Andrea Mezquita from Timberlane.
If Gillespie can attract a pitcher of comparable talent, the future could be bright for the Knights.
“Recruiting won’t be easy, but I think we’ll do fine,” said Gillespie. “When girls realize the opportunity they have here, academically and financially, I think we’ll get the talent.
“We’d like to get it to the level of the (NECC) baseball program.”
Pentucket’s Tyler Feeney had a terrific sophomore season a year ago, batting .439, and she hasn’t missed a beat this year. If anything, she’s stepped it up a notch. Through last week, the Sachems’ center fielder was hitting an out-of-this-world .710 with 17 hits in 24 at-bats while scoring 11 runs and driving in 13 runs.
This year’s sophomore sensation for the Sachems is catcher Maddie Binding, who wasn’t even on the varsity last year. She enters the week hitting .583 with 14 hits in 24 at-bats.
Wide open in NH
It’s still early, but the Division 1 race in New Hampshire looks as wide open as expected. Headed into this week, defending champion Timberlane is in first with a 6-0 record while always strong Salem is right behind at 5-0. Manchester Central, at 5-1, is looking dangerous with pitcher Sarah LaVallee, and BG has the same record.
Salem has a big game Friday at Pinkerton (3-2).
Pelham senior Hannah Paitchel, is in her fourth year as Pelham’s starting shortstop. She has batted over .400 every year and is a three-time team MVP.
Freshman: .444, scored 18 runs
Sophomore: .471, scored 14 runs, first team Division 2 all-state
Junior: .431, scored 21 runs, second team Division 3 all-state