It’s year two of the softball co-op between Hamilton-Wenham and Manchester Essex, and there are signs of the program taking steps toward a brighter future.
The roster is a little bit larger this season, the team is a little more seasoned, and the chemistry required to turn high school student-athletes from four separate communities into one team is already on display early on.
“Last Saturday after practice, Celia Mann – who is a sophomore from Manchester Essex – one of my shortstops and one of my senior captains all hung out after the game,” explains Hamilton-Wenham softball coach George Shapiro. “It was good to see.”
There’s been some evident improvement on the field as well. The Generals lost to Ipswich, 11-3, and to Rockport, 14-5, in their first action of the season last week. While it might not look like much, the fact that the team is remaining competitive early on is a far cry from Hamilton-Wenham’s struggles in 2021.
“We haven’t won, but we’ve been much more competitive than last year,” says Shapiro. “We’re not losing with the mercy rule like last year. We’ve got a freshman pitcher who has thrown two complete games and not given up a lot of walks, that’s a lot better than last year.”
The Generals will also be able to rely on contributions from some key players hailing from Cape Ann, led by Abby Taron, who is back after missing last season with a fractured ankle. Normally the junior would play third base, but Shapiro is bringing her back slowly by assigning here designated player (similar to Major League Baseball’s designated hitter) status and giving her at-bats.
“She’s not ready to play the field, she’s just batting so far,” says Shapiro.
Mann will split time between second base and the outfield this year for the Generals, and Kyra Levasseur will return to play right field and is the backup pitcher for the team. Sophomore Morgan Laspesa will spend time behind the plate on both the varsity squad (she should start against Newburyport on April 18) and jayvee.
“All four of the Manchester Essex people want to be there, love to play softball and are committed to it 100 percent,” says Shapiro. “They’ve integrated very well with the Hamilton-Wenham girls.”
Factor in the ME players alongside those from Hamilton-Wenham, and there is some real talent to build around for the future. Ava Day is the aforementioned freshman pitcher who is working on her stamina, but has shown great promise just a couple of games into the spring. Hannah Marie Akoury will be a huge boost in the heart of the lineup, and is batting .500 so far with five runs batted in.
“In the next couple of years, this team will look really good,” says Shapiro.