EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 30, 2013

Big boost for Indians ... and mom

Sanborn freshman shines as pitcher, daughter for ailing mother

By Dave Dyer

---- — As a freshman pitcher, Caitlin Catalanotto has been a boon to the resurgent Sanborn softball team this spring.

As the team’s No. 1 pitcher, along with senior hurler Rebecca Colbert as a fine complement, Catalanotto has led the Indians to a 7-2 record, already just one shy of last year’s win total.

Through six games as a starter, Catalanotto is 5-1 with an ERA of 1.35 and has struck out 49 batters while only walking 10 in 47 innings and is also batting a robust .391 with 10 RBIs.

“She’s really come in and done a great job for us,” said Sanborn coach Dan Carbone. “She’s not only a good pitcher, but she can hit, too. She’s done everything we’ve asked of her.”

At this point, however, Catalanotto has done even more for her mother, Ruth, who is suffering from what appears to be terminal lung cancer. She had been sick for awhile and then, last year, was given six to nine months to live. She had hospice care from September through January.

“But I’m getting better — I’m not bedridden anymore — and I’m praying for a miracle,” said Ruth.

Caitlin is doing her best to make that miracle happen. She’s in her third year of being home schooled, partly so she can spend more time with her mother and help at home.

“I hadn’t been feeling well for awhile, but I was diagnosed a year ago and Caitlin was only 14,” said Ruth. “It was tough on her. But she’s been great and really taken charge at home, doing everything that I can’t.”

Caitlin, who helped the Sanborn middle school team win the state championship last year, wasn’t sure what to expect when she began studying at home, but it’s worked out nicely.

“I want to be home for my mom but it’s mainly for academic reasons,” she said. “I had some friends who were home schooled and I thought I’d try it.

“I like it. I have a lot more free time and I can be flexible about my schedule.”

Thus, Caitlin has no trouble making any of Sanborn’s practices or games, or getting to appointments with her pitching coach, Melanie Bettencourt out of Dracut.

Although she has a multitude of pitches, Caitlin considers her curve ball her “out” pitch. Sanborn coach Dan Carbone, on the other hand, is most pleased with her speed and location.

“She has speed for a freshman and she’s only going to get stronger,” said Carbone. “She also has a nice changeup, and that’s something you need to have.”

The combination has worked like a charm thus far and has been appreciated not only by Carbone and the Indians but by her mother who, as Ruth Barrett, was a softball player at Pentucket in her high school days.

Softball and baseball, in fact, run in the family. Ruth’s son, Nick, is a freshman pitcher at Gordon College, husband David was an avid player at Wayland High School and her father-in-law played in the Yankees’ farm system. Two other relatives played in the Cubs farm system.

With such a background, Ruth strives to see all of Caitlin’s games. She hasn’t missed one yet, including at Lebanon, and they probably uplift her more than any of her medicine.

“I love it,” said Ruth. “My son is in baseball and my daughter in softball — what could be better? It’s thrilling to watch them play.”

For her part, Caitlin is trying to help the Indians win as many games as possible while aiming, as a long range goal, to get a college scholarship.

Along the way, she wants to make her mother feel as comfortable and happy as possible, both with her time spent at home and her play on the field. At this point, she seems to be successful big time on both fronts.

Schedule pays off

Georgetown took its lumps last year, finishing 4-15, but coach Dave Tullgren believes that a tough non-conference schedule against Division 1 and Division 2 teams is paying dividends last year.

“We faced some very tough competition, but we got more competitive during the year and that’s helping us now,” said Tullgren. “The girls have a lot of confidence that they can play with good teams.”

The results seem to prove that so far as the Royals are 6-2. Senior Jane Erlandson is enjoying her best year pitching and classmates Shannon O’Brien, Devin Cudmore and Ali Newbury spearhead a much more potent offense.

Salem’s big week

Salem will find out how good it is in a busy week starting tomorrow. After a relative breather with Keene, the Blue Devils will face unbeaten Concord and surprising Timberlane on Thursday and Friday. Concord has been impressive with its pitching and defense while Timberlane has banked on its bats along with improved pitching.

Fast-starting rookie

It’s still early but, so far, Methuen freshman Kathleen LeFebre is living up to her billing. Through eight games, she was leading the team in hitting with a .481 average along with three home runs and 11 RBIs. Sophomore teammate Kelly Blackwell, meanwhile, was also hitting the ball with authority and stood at .429.

The Rangers, incidentally, have a big game at home tomorrow against Central Catholic. Originally scheduled for 7 p.m., it was switched to 3:45.

Call to all coaches

We would like to publish the area’s top hitting and pitching leaders at least twice but, this year, we’re relying on local coaches to supply the information. All coaches are strongly encouraged to email me statistics on your top batters and pitchers after Friday and Saturday’s games.

For batting, please supply at-bats, hits, runs, average, RBIs and home runs while pitching stats should cover innings pitched, strikeouts, walks, hits allowed and ERA.

Please email the information by Sunday morning to ddyer@eagletribune.com.

FAB 5 The Eagle-Tribune's weekly ranking of area softball teams: 1. Timberlane 9-0 2. Central Catholic 9-1 3. Salem* 7-1 4. Phillips Academy 3-0 5. Methuen 7-2 Honorable mention: Sanborn (7-2). Whittier (7-1)