There were few better outfielders in the region last year than Londonderry’s Leah Hunt.
Sure-handed and fast, Hunt played outstanding defense in center field while hitting an impressive .410 with four home runs. Two of her homers came off Alvirne ace Taylor Carbone, including one in the Division 1 state semifinals.
So what is Hunt doing as Londonderry’s everyday pitcher?
“She’s done some pitching in the past,” said Londonderry coach Wayne MacDougall. “I wish I could use her in center field, but she’s our only pitcher.
“She’s done a good job — I don’t know where we’d be without her — and I don’t really consider her a pitcher.”
Hunt begs to differ, however, and so far the statistics back her up.
In addition to leading the team in hitting with a .424 average, Hunt has a 6-3 record as a pitcher with 43 strikeouts and 16 walks in 64 innings with a respectable 2.40 ERA.
“I guess he (MacDougall) is used to seeing me play center field,” said Hunt. “I like it at least equal to playing center (field). I’m pretty happy with the way things are going,”
MacDougall certainly isn’t complaining. After losing eight starters from last year’s 17-5 squad, there were questions about whether the Lancers could be competitive this year.
But, led by Hunt’s multiple contributions, Londonderry ended last week with a 6-4 record and has shown that it is an upper division team.
“I’m hopeful and optimistic,” said Hunt, whose older sister Kelly played for Londonderry and is now a sophomore at UNH. “I think we can make the Final Four again if we get a little more consistent defensively and hit a little better.”
Hunt, who is a junior captain, hopes to keep leading the way.
“She is really a terrific ballplayer and whatever we do will be because of her,” said MacDougall. “She’s been crushing the ball, pitching very well and has really done it all for us.”
Also a surprise ...
While Hunt is clearly the team sparkplug, there have been other surprises for the Lancers. Cassidy Litch, a junior infielder, leads the team in RBIs and is batting .400 while sophomore outfielder Summer Vose is hitting a surprising .375.
Vose may be particularly motivated to have a big year in honor of her father, who died of cancer in March.
Andover had a terrific week last week, winning three of four games, and Meg Leary was a big reason why. Leary started the season with a separated shoulder but she has healed quite nicely for the Warriors, She was 10 for 12 with three doubles, two triples, a home run and eight RBIs. You can’t be much hotter than that.
Even hotter Maloney
Two-time Eagle-Tribune Player of the Year Kayla Maloney isn’t letting up in her final year at Phillips Academy, particularly at the plate. In five games, she is hitting an astonishing .800 on 12 of 15. In three games, she reached base every time she came to the plate.
Battle of the Dursos
In last week’s tremendous battle between Salem and Timberlane, Chelsea Durso won the family bragging rights. The former pitching ace is an assistant for Harold Sachs at Salem while her father, Bo Durso, is helping out the Owls this year.
Bo Durso’s presence may be one reason why freshman pitcher Kate Hoadley has developed so quickly.
Returning Eagle-Tribune All-Area shortstops Hannah Paitchel of Pelham and Masha Lange of Timberalne haven’t slipped a bit this spring. Paitchel, a junior, is hitting .391 and leads the team in runs scored while the Plymouth State-bound Lange is perhaps the best all-around player for the 11-1 Owls. She’s their most consistent hitter, has tremendous power for a leadoff hitter and has a terrific arm defensively.
Slump for Salem
While Salem remains one of the top teams in the area, its hitting clearly is not near the level of last year, when the Blue Devils were 22-1 and Division 1 runners-up.
At this point last year, Salem had five players hitting over .400, three of whom are back this year. But through last week, Sam Cloutier led the team with a .343 average followed by Rachel Morrissey at .322. Cloutier hit .449 last year, the second top returnee after Hannah Latham (.488).
Come back, Nicole!
Methuen is off to a fine start, but it might be even better if Nicole Perusse hadn’t transfer to Chelmsford. She’s been, perhaps, the Lions best player and through last week was hitting .474 with 16 RBIs.
FAB 5 The Eagle-Tribune's weekly ranking of area softball teams: 1. Timberlane* 11-1 2. Central Catholic 10-1 3. Salem 9-2 4. Phillips Academy 5-0 5. Whittier 9-3 Honorable mention: Whittier (10-1). Sanborn (9-2)