NORWOOD, Mass. -- Fate couldn’t draw it up any better.
The quintessential two halves of a whole, they are the perfect complements. Even when listening to Norwood softball seniors Lauren Duggan and Ali Maloof speaking, they have a knack at picking up in conversation where the other leaves off.
“I just want to be a state champion in my senior year,” Duggan said. “That’s my personal goal …”
To which Maloof added, “I think that’s each of our personal goals and our team’s goal.”
That one-minded approach has lifted the No. 2 ranked Mustangs duo to the heights of success, evidenced by their 21-1 record last season. However, Norwood’s single loss came at the most unfortunate of times, falling in a Division 1 South seminfinal loss to Bishop Feehan.
This year, anything short of perfection would be a letdown.
“It was a wakeup call that any given team could beat us on any given day,” said Duggan about last year’s upset. “We just need to work harder. I think we’ve taken that into this season. I don’t think we’re going into any games expecting to win. We want to prove that we will win, not expect it.”
The prospect of having her dual aces back for another season puts Mustangs head coach Carol Savino in an enviable position. Duggan and Maloof were practically interchangeable in the circle, seeing an equal number of games and posting nearly identical ERAs — and skimpy ones at that – with Maloof (0.53) finishing a few tenths of a run lower than Duggan (0.59).
More than that, what’s interesting is how Savino has managed the pair’s share of the pitching duties.
Both Duggan and Maloof go through warm-ups before each game as though they are about to start. Then, after watching each of her pitchers in the pregame, Savino makes the decision as to whom will get the nod.
“This way, they’re both ready to go,” Savino said. “They make it easy because they’re both so good and on any given day they can be dominant. It just so happened that they both started an equal amount of games last year.”
Aside from their brilliance on the mound, the pair has been the driving force behind Norwood’s offense. Maloof batted at a mind-boggling .678 clip last season while earning Bay State League MVP honors and setting the table at the top of the lineup while Duggan, who will play college softball at UConn, provided pop to the middle of the lineup, mashing the ball with a .400 average.
Whenever they’re not pitching, Duggan and Maloof also provide steady defense to the left side of the Mustangs infield. Duggan’s delivery time on the ball from third base is unparalleled across the state high school ranks and Maloof, who will join Southern New Hampshire’s softball team next year, plays a peerless shortstop.
And, through it all, they have each other’s back.
“The best part of that is that if one of us isn’t having a good day, we know the other one is there to pick us up,” Maloof said of sharing the mound duties with Duggan. “It seems like whenever one of us did have a bad game, the other one was there. We pick each other up.
“It’s so much better like this. So many teams just have that one girl that they depend on. It’s good to know that there’s somebody you have someone you can rely on.”