Boston High School: Shannon Smith

Snapshot: Milford softball's twice as nice

August, 20, 2013
MILFORD, Mass. -- On Monday evening at the Hoboken Club, the Milford High softball team was honored for its back-to-back MIAA Division 1 state championships.

During the proceedings, we handed out our 2013 Miss Softball Award to two-time recipient Shannon Smith. The recent graduate who's soon headed out for her freshman year at the University of Kentucky became just the second athlete in ESPN Boston's history to win two of our Player of the Year awards, joining Nicole Boudreau (Andover), who won consecutive Miss Basketball honors in 2011 and '12.

It also marked the end of an era, as the Scarlet Hawks graduate the program's three all-time hits leaders, with third baseman Caroline Fairbanks, center fielder Rachel Levine, and Smith all continuing their softball careers in college.

Here's a group shot from last night's festivities.

Milford's Shannon Smith is ESPN Boston Miss Softball

June, 27, 2013
PM ET and its high school section announced today that Shannon Smith, senior pitcher for the Milford Scarlet Hawks, is the recipient of its third annual “Miss Softball” award, presented annually to the top player in Massachusetts.

This is the second straight season in which Smith has earned the Miss Softball honor.

The Miss Softball Award winner was chosen by a panel of experts made up of staff, correspondents and state softball coaches. Smith will be presented with the award at a later date.

“I think we’ve all run out of adjectives to describe how great a high school softball player Shannon Smith has been,” said ESPN Boston High Schools co-editor Scott Barboza, who coordinates the site’s softball coverage. “Put simply, Shannon is a record-breaker and ends her career as one of the greatest all-time talents Massachusetts has ever seen.”

In her senior season, Smith broke the state’s all-time strikeouts record, finishing with 1,219 for her career while leading the Scarlet Hawks to their second straight MIAA Division 1 state championship game victory. Smith was 25-1 this year, with 358 strikeouts and an earned run average of 0.04. She was also one of Milford’s top offensive threats, hitting .489 with an .869 slugging percentage, along with a team-leading nine home runs and 35 RBIs.

In 2012, Smith went 24-0 with a minuscule ERA of 0.08. She allowed just 29 hits over 167 innings thrown with 359 strikeouts and 29 walks, while allowing only six runs all season, two of which were earned. Smith also threw four shutouts in the postseason on the Scarlet Hawks’ drive to the Division 1 state championship and an undefeated 25-0 record.

At the plate, Smith hit at a .460 clip with nine home runs and 40 RBIs.

Smith was also named Massachusetts softball Gatorade Player of the Year earlier this month, marking the third time the Milford ace claimed the award. Smith first won the award during her freshman campaign and again in 2012.

“Even for a player of her stature, when she started as a freshman and the bar was set so high, she set it higher every year,” Milford head coach Brian Macchi said. “Whether it was her pitching, at the plate, or her defense, she set goals and became a better player. The progression was amazing to watch.

“It’s sad to see her leave here, but I know she has the skill set and the drive to be very successful at the next level.”

D1 softball final: Milford 1, Agawam 0

June, 16, 2013

WORCESTER, Mass. – For the second year in a row, the Milford Hawks are the Division 1 state champions and, also for the second year in row, it was a freshman that delivered the winning hit.

Jill Powers’ sixth-inning double plated Allie Piergustavo with the game’s lone run, as Milford (25-1) took home the trophy with a 1-0 win over Agawam (18-7) on Saturday night at Rockwood Field on the campus of Worcester State University.

Heading into the sixth inning, Milford had already managed six hits off of Brownies starter Allison Wheeler, but had left seven runners on base. With two outs, Piergustavo drew a walk to reach base for the third time in the game. Powers came up next and wasted no time, drilling the first pitch on a line to the fence in left center and head coach Brian Macchi did not hesitate to wave Piergustavo home from first.

Macchi noted that his freshman shortstop had made an adjustment ahead of that crucial at bat, which paid off with the game-winning hit.

“Jill Powers has worked hard all season and it was funny that the inning before we were talking about staying back and thinking about driving the ball up the middle,” Macchi said. “She did it at the right time and it’s the biggest hit of her life to this point.”

He added, “Tonight, the bottom of the lineup getting the job done with Jill Powers knocking in Allie Piergustavo, it’s just a great way to end it.”

In the 2012 final, catcher Taylor LeBrun had the walk-off base hit as a freshman and Powers matched those heroics this season, although she admitted after the game that she was a little confused at the excitement over her hit.

“I was just in shock after I hit it, I was like why is everyone cheering so loud,” said an ecstatic Powers. “I was just thinking about knocking that run in; I wasn’t thinking about what point in the game we were at.”

Agawam’s only offensive threat came in the top of the first. Faith Rheault, who also delivered a stirring rendition of the National Anthem prior to the game, lined a base hit to right and advanced to second on a passed ball. After the second strikeout of the inning, star catcher Reilly Weiners drew a walk, but Taylor Marcotte bounced back to the pitcher to end the rally.

Agawam would not get another base runner for the remainder of the game.

Milford senior pitcher Shannon Smith, who is the state’s all-time strikeout leader and headed to the University of Kentucky next season, added to her impressive performances this postseason with 13 strikeouts. Smith allowed only three runs all season and none in six tournament games, while eclipsing the 1,200-strikeout mark for her career.

In the top of the seventh, protecting a one-run lead, Smith struck out the three, four, and five hitters in the Agawam lineup. It was a fitting end to a remarkable career.

Smith talked about her mindset heading into the final inning of her career.

“I knew those hitters were going to be amped,” she said. “I knew they were going to be trying to hit a homerun…and I just wanted to keep pitching my game, make sure the team stayed level-headed and focused for three outs, and then start the celebrations.”

Smith added, “Winning one is great, winning two is even better, but finishing my entire high school career with a state championship win – that’s probably the best possible situation that you could ever have.”

Macchi praised Smith’s contributions to the program both on and off the field.

“Just to watch her work day in, day out for these four years – she wanted to cap it off with a win today,” he said. “It just cements her legacy in Milford High athletics and the game of softball in the state. She’s been an outstanding student-athlete to coach; it’s been an absolute honor to watch her play.”

The Hawks had several chances to take the lead earlier in the game. Milford had at least one base runner in scoring position in every inning but the first, but struggled to get the clutch hit that it needed.

In the second inning, Piergustavo crushed a double over the center fielder’s head, but Caroline Fairbanks, who went 2-for-3 in her final game, was thrown out at the plate on a very close call. In the fifth, the Hawks had runners at first and second with one out, but Wheeler wiggled out of the jam by getting Smith to fly out to right and Fairbanks to ground to short.

In the end, it was an unlikely contributor that broke the deadlock and gave Milford the one run it needed.

The five seniors on the team have each played since their freshmen seasons and have led Milford to three state championship games, back-to-back state titles, and an incredible 50-1 record over the past two years. Macchi reflected on the impact of that group and the fulfillment of its preseason goal.

“I told them that they had a chance to leave a lasting impression and they did that today,” he noted. “They had a mission at the beginning of the season – mission accomplished. We are always going to be a group together…from this point on we’re going to be known as 2013 state champs and it sounds really good.”

D1 softball semi: Agawam 2, Marlborough 1

June, 15, 2013
MONTAGUE, Mass. -- To get to this point, it goes without question that a little luck is needed.

For Agawam, on Friday night, the Brownies received their fair share and then some after pulling out a thrilling 2-1 victory over Marlborough in the Division 1 state semifinal played at Turners Falls High School.

With only three hits to its credit, Agawam won this tilt on the strength of its defense, its cool customer of a pitcher (freshman Allison Wheeler) and a lack of execution by the Panthers.

The Brownies (18-6) is back in the finals for the first time since 1995 when they lost to Bishop Fenwick. They will face Milford on Saturday at 7 p.m. from Rockwood Field in Worcester. Agawam and Milford are no strangers to one another. In last year's state semifinal, the Hawks dominated the Brownies, 13-0.

"Our defense got us here and our defense won this game," said Agawam head coach Kathy Georgina. "Allison [Wheeler] pitched great again. We are ready for Milford. This time we aren't walking in blind like last year. We know Shannon Smith is an excellent pitcher. We know what she can do and we know what we can do."

Against Marlborough, Agawam dodged a number of bullets to survive. The Panthers (17-7) finished the game having left eight runners on base, including seven in scoring position.

Trailing 2-1, Marlborough squandered a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead in the fourth.

With two runners on, Victoria Petrie lined a Wheeler fastball to right for a single. Lead runner Jessica Acosta, who was on second base, was waved around third. But right fielder Mary Kate Reidy threw missile to catcher Rielly Wieners. Just a few feet from home plate, Acosta stopped dead in her tracks and retreated back to third.

"We didn't get flustered," Georgina said. "Allison [Wheeler] showed tremendous maturity out there. That out we got [in the fourth] was a huge break for us.

Meanwhile, trailing runner Jen Bombard had already touched third at that point and went a few feet towards home. But once the senior saw Acosta coming back, Bombard spun around and headed back to second. Acosta barely got back to third safely with Wieners chasing her, but umpires ruled Bombard out because she never stepped back on third in her attempts to return to second base. Now with runners on the corners and two out, Wheeler struck out Erin Coughlin to end the inning.

In the seventh, Marlborough threatened again. Victoria Falco opened by singling to right. A steal and wild pitch moved the junior to third with two out, representing the tying run. But Wheeler got Erin Coughlin to ground out to end the game.

The Panthers jumped on Wheeler for a run in the first after Wieners threw the ball into center field trying to nail Bombard, who was stealing. Marissa Flynn, who reached on an error to start the game, scored easily.

The Brownies, after having trouble with Marlborough pitcher Molly McGuire early, finally got to the hard-throwing senior in the third. A Panther error and a Paige Circosta single put runners at the corners. Wieners then atoned for her earlier mistake by ripping an RBI single to left to tie things at 1-1. Taylor Marcotte followed with a ground ball to second. Flynn, Marlborough's second baseman, tried to go the easy route and throw out pinch-runner Jess Lingenburg streaking toward second. But Flynn's throw was off the mark and went into the outfield allowing Circosta to score the go-ahead run.

"We were able to get out of some tight jams because Allison hit her spots when she needed to," Wieners said. "She missed a couple of times but she really battled through it. Her mental toughness got us through this game. It's all about heart and our ability to manufacture runs when we needed to and do what it takes to get it done."

Marlboro, which finished with nine hits, will come away from this affair knowing the chances it left on the base paths, especially in the fourth and seventh innings. The Panthers also saw another chance to add runs snuffed out in the second. Again with runners on second and third and two out, Flynn smashed a hard grounder just to the right of second base. But Marcotte, Agawam's second baseman, dove to snare the ball and managed to throw out Flynn from her backside by a half step.

"Overall I thought we hit the ball well but just didn't get the clutch hits tonight," said Marlborough head coach Kyle Westcott. "We got a lot of runners on but didn't score when we needed to. It was an unbelievable season. No Marlboro softball team had ever won a district championship prior to this year. It was an amazing group and I'm proud of all of them."

D1 softball semi: Milford 3, Central Catholic 0

June, 13, 2013
TAUNTON, Mass. -- Milford’s Shannon Smith has set the proverbial bar so high that anything short of perfection seemingly qualifies as an off night for this senior right-hander who’s been given a full ride to Kentucky.

Smith blanked Central Catholic, 3-0, in a Division I state softball semifinal game on Wednesday and allowed two hits plus three walks replete with 17 strikeouts – including the 1,200th of her illustrious career. But Smith “only” threw 68 of 110 pitches for strikes and had to wiggle out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth before retiring the side in order in the seventh.

The Scarlet Hawks (25-1) now will get a chance to defend their state title when they'll play the winner of the other semifinal game between Marlborough and Agawam at Worcester State on Saturday.

“I had a little trouble,” Smith said. “I started missing high and low in [the sixth]. I had to relax and throw my game. I think I got a little excited that we were up and were having a good game.

“I got a little ahead of myself and was throwing too hard. I think I had to take a step back and relax and find the strike zone again, and I did.”

In that precarious sixth, the North Sectional champion Raiders (20-5) loaded the bases on Krista Maloney’s double plus walks to Olivia Antczak and Leslie Moore. But Smith fanned Karoline Leavitt which allowed the Milford fans to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Prior to Leavitt’s at-bat, coach Brian Macchi paid a visit to Smith.

“I said we’ve been here plenty of times before,” Macchi said. “We just need one more out and we’ll go ahead and see if we can score more runs.

“We weren’t concerned about the runners on base. We just wanted to get that girl at the plate out and come hit. That was our focus. It was just [Smith] against the batter. Find a way to get her out and we secure our three-run lead and get to hit again.”

After Smith recorded that final out, she reflected on the meaning of the game – which, in a sense, was a bit surprising.

“Coach always gives us a speech before the game about Charlie Sand who was an old baseball coach at Milford who coached him and he always used to call this the ‘no-name’ game because you don’t win any trophies here but it’s still a huge game,” Smith said. “You’re not winning anything by winning this game but you’re getting an opportunity to go to the state championship.

“We call it the ‘no-name’ game. It’s probably one of the most important games of your season because there’s nothing to win coming out of this game, but it’s a crucial game to win.”

Go figure. In retrospect the Scarlet Hawks scored all the runs Smith would need in the first.

Sam Bonvino led with a single and scooted to second base when the ball eluded left fielder Olivia Ciccarelli for an error. Bonvino advanced to third on Lauren Hanna’s groundout to second and scored on a passed ball.

After Smith reached on an infield hit, Rachel Levine roped an RBI double to right-center for a 2-0 lead.

Milford added an insurance run in the fifth on Hanna’s single, a fielder’s choice and Caroline Fairbanks single.

“This time of the year, experience is a huge piece of your success,” Macchi said referring to his team’s post-season excursions. “Last year we were able to get the ultimate prize. And now we’re here again. We have a chance to do it again.

“It’s a great feeling to be there. But it’ll feel a lot better if we can finish it off on Saturday.”

South softball: Milford, Bishop Stang advance

June, 10, 2013

TAUNTON, Mass. – In the biggest moments, the best players need to be counted on. Under pressure, teams rely on the stars to step up, raise their games, and find a way to win. On Sunday evening at Jack Tripp Field at Taunton High, the consensus best player in the state and three-time Gatorade Player of the Year demonstrated once again why she receives those accolades.

Milford’s Shannon Smith reached base in all four at-bats, smashed a three-run homer, and struck out nine batters to lead the Scarlet Hawks to a dominating 7-0 victory over Bridgewater-Raynham in the Division 1 South sectional final. It was a meeting of the sectional’s top two seeds and the top two teams in the statewide, Top 25 poll, but in the end it was all about Smith and the Hawks.

Smith explained her approach against the Old Colony League champs.

She remarked, “They have some pretty good hitters and I just tried to keep breaking different zones – inside/outside, up/down, just to make sure that they weren’t expecting one certain spot.”

Smith added, “After the first inning, I adjusted to the umpire and we were good to go.”

The Trojans had an opportunity to change the story in the bottom of the first inning. Madi Shaw led-off with a double down the leftfield line and Stacey Korotsky followed with a walk. Chelsea Correia popped it up on the infield, but a tangle at first base allowed the ball to drop and the runners to advance on the infield fly rule.

With two runners in scoring position and only one out, the Trojans looked like they were going to be the first team to score on Milford (23-1) in the postseason. But, cleanup hitter Emily Kurkul bunted a liner right back to Smith, who then fired to third to double up Shaw and escape the jam.

Smith spoke after the game about the importance of that sequence.

“We start off the game a little shaky defensively too; I think we’re a little unsure- there’s a lot of pressure,” Smith said. “It really gave us a lot of momentum, and a lot of confidence too, and it relaxed us to get out of that.”

The game was scoreless into the top of the third, when Smith struck with a blast to left. Prior to Smith’s at bat and with a runner on base, senior Lauren Hanna battled B-R’s sophomore pitcher Sarah Dawson and fouled away several two-strike pitches to draw a walk that continued the inning. Smith promptly stepped up and made it 3-0 by following the plan that the team scouted in B-R’s win over Silver Lake.

“We watched them on Thursday, I guess, and we saw that she really pounded the inside corner for pretty much the whole game,” said Smith about Milford’s gameplan against Dawson. “I knew that she was coming inside and in my first at bat I took it deep, but not quite out…I knew where it was coming the second time and I really got adjusted to her and got a good piece.”

After the game, Milford head coach Brian Macchi made sure to highlight Hanna’s contribution to the big inning.

He commented, “It was just a real hard-fought at bat by Lauren Hanna that I have to keep going back to that allows that to happen. Without that walk, Shannon never gets up with anybody on. So, it changes the whole complexion of that game.”

Smith settled into a groove and allowed only two base runners (both with two outs) after the first inning, while Dawson was struggling against a patient and potent Milford line-up. Macchi credited the team’s approach and the work that it did in the cage for being successful at the plate.

“We’ve been practicing for three straight days…working that inside corner and making sure that we’re ready to clear our hips and drive the ball,” he said. “The girls bought into it for three days of work and did an outstanding job today.”

The Hawks, who finished with nine hits, broke the game open by batting around in the fifth.

A hit, a walk, and an error loaded the bases for senior Caroline Fairbanks, who lined a two-run single to left to make it 5-0. Sophomore Taylor LeBrun drove in a run with a single and then freshman Jill Powers, who went 2-2 with a walk, brought home a run with a hit of her own.

The 6-8 hitters in the Milford lineup reached base a combined six times, which Macchi believes is crucial to the team’s success offensively.

He said, “We had an inning where Allie Piergustavo got a hit, Jill [Powers] got a base hit, and Lizzie [Stallone] just missed getting a hit, but it allowed us to get back up to Sam [Bonvino, lead-off hitter]. Turning that line-up over is just as good as getting RBI’s sometimes because it allows the top of the line-up to do the damage.”

The loss was the first of the season for the Trojans, who finish at 23-1. Meanwhile, the defending state champions will advance to the Eastern Mass. final on Tuesday night against the North sectional champs, Central Catholic.

D2 South Final: Bishop Stang 5, Dedham 3
In Sunday’s improbable afternoon match-up, the no. 13 seed Bishop Stang claimed the Division 2 South title with a 5-3 win over no. 18 seed Dedham. Neither team was expected to make much noise coming into the postseason, but the Spartans would take home the hardware at Taunton High.

Stang came into the game on the heels of an 11-inning, 5-1 victory over Eastern Athletic Conference rivals Coyle-Cassidy and jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Dedham answered back with a pair of runs in the second on hits by Kristina Mitchell and Brianna Dozier.

The Spartan stormed right back in the fourth highlighted by a two-run double from second baseman Katie Wood, which was followed by another a double from Nicole Andrade. A Dedham error allowed an unearned run to score and it was 5-2 after four innings.

Dedham would get a run back in the sixth but failed to create any chances in its final at bat, giving Stang an unlikely sectional championship.

D1 South softball: B-R, Milford to meet in final

June, 7, 2013

TAUNTON, Mass. – Bridgewater-Raynham walked-off with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory in the nightcap of the Division 1 South softball semifinals at Taunton High’s Jack Tripp Field. Sophomore catcher Emily Kurkul lined a single to left center driving in the winning run and sending the Trojans to the sectional final.

“It was a great pitchers’ duel,” Trojans head coach Mike Carrozza said. “I mean it’s exciting. It’s a great atmosphere here playing in tournament ball. You know that you’re going to play all the best teams and the games are going to be really hyped up and the teams are bringing all their energy to the plate.”

Heading into the bottom of the ninth, Bridgewater-Raynham had managed only two hits off of the Lakers freshman starter Madisyn Barone. Stacey Korotsky made it three to start the inning when third baseman Abigail Alexiades had to hold onto a grounder, as the first baseman was late getting to the bag.

In close games like these, little mistakes can have big consequences. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner into scoring position, Kurkul stepped up to put an end to an exciting semifinal.

“I was just thinking that I needed to hit the ball hard, hit the ball through the infield and score Stacey,” said Kurkul about her mindset at the plate in the ninth.

She added, “It was amazing when I knew she was home. I saw her rounding third - it was just the best feeling ever knowing that we had won.”

Silver Lake took the lead in the top of the first inning off of B-R’s sophomore starter, Sarah Dawson. Lead-off hitter Emily Colton lined a single to center and was bunted to second. Two batters later, Alexiades came through with a big two-out hit to make it 1-0.

The Trojans manufactured a run to tie it in the bottom of the fourth. Junior Madi Shaw led-off with a walk and was bunted into scoring position. After a ground-out moved her to third, Shaw came home on a passed ball to bring the score level.

Both Barone and Dawson were stellar in the circle. The Silver Lake hurler did not allow a hit until the fifth and struck out 11 hitters on the night. Dawson matched her almost pitch-for-pitch. The B-R starter allowed only one hit and five base runners after the opening inning and struck out 10 Lakers.

When asked if his team will need to make any adjustments in the sectional final on Sunday against Milford’s Shannon Smith, Carozza replied, “Probably we’re going to approach it like we approach every game and just try to put the bat on the ball, run, bunt, steal, and hopefully things will work out.”

The loss ended the season for Silver Lake and also the long career of head coach Michael Brennan, who announced his retirement after 25 years in charge. Brennan won 335 games with the Lakers and had taken the team to back-to-back sectional semifinals.

Milford 6, Franklin 0
The newly crowned Gatorade Player of the Year did not disappoint in the opening semifinal on Thursday evening. Shannon Smith struck out 11 Franklin hitters, homered, and drove in two runs as Milford beat its Hockomock League rivals 6-0 to advance to the sectional final in its first year in the South region.

Smith struggled early in her start on Tuesday against King Philip, but there were no problems out of the gates on Thursday. She struck out the side in the top of the first on just 12 pitches. Smith then lined a two-out solo homerun in the bottom of the first of Franklin started Elizabeth Criscione that just cleared the 195-foot sign in the leftfield corner.

Head coach Brian Macchi noted that he had spoken with the team prior to the game about trying to get an early run to seize momentum.

“We talked yesterday and today coming up here on the bus about wanting to win the first inning to just set the tone for the game,” he explained. “Shannon [Smith] was the story on the mound and the story at the plate, getting the job done for us today. She’s obviously a huge piece to our success and she came up big for us.”

Milford broke the game open in the third inning. Smith singled to right to score Sam Bonvino, who had walked to lead-off the inning, and courtesy runner Sarah Jacques scored from first on Caroline Fairbanks double to left center. Tuesday night’s hero Rachel Levine followed with another double to make it 4-0.

The Hawks added two more in the fourth to complete the scoring.

It was an impressive win and Macchi is proud of his team for competing through the much longer, and arguably tougher, South sectional to reach Sunday’s final against the top seed, Bridgewater-Raynham.

“I told the girls all season long that this was going to be one tough challenge in the South bracket and looking at all the teams that you have in there,” said Macchi. “We feel fortunate to be where we are. It’s been hard earned to get to this point and we’re looking forward to a big challenge on Sunday.

The final between the top two seeds in the South will take place on Sunday at 6 p.m. back at Jack Tripp Field in Taunton.

Milford's Smith is Gatordade softball POY

June, 6, 2013
Today, Gatorade named Milford High senior pitcher Shannon Smith its 2013 Massachusetts softball Player of the Year. It is the second time the University of Kentucky signee has won the award, following her 2009-10 performance as a freshman.

Here's more from today's press release:
The state’s 2009-10 and 2011-12 Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, Smith led the Scarlet Hawks to a 21-1 record entering the Division 1 South quarterfinals against King Philip High, scheduled for June 4. The 5-foot-7 senior right-handed pitcher owned a 20-1 record with a 0.05 ERA and 293 strikeouts against only six walks in 138 innings-pitched entering the sectional round of eight. The three-time returning Mid-Wach A League MVP batted .486 with seven home runs and 29 RBI through 22 games. Smith led Milford to the 2012 Division 1 state title as a junior. Her 1,154 career strikeouts are a state record.

Smith has maintained a 3.64 GPA in the classroom and has served as her school’s student council secretary. In addition to donating her time as a youth softball instructor, she has volunteered on behalf of her church’s youth group, the Special Olympics and in association with the National Honor Society.

"She is headed to Kentucky and has the make-up to be successful in the SEC," said Denise Davis, owner of Planet Fastpitch. "Plus, she is a tremendous human. Her passions off of the field include volunteering at the Special Olympics and tutoring at her high school. She is a junior instructor at PFP, a great student and a superior role model. She has helped me guide hundreds of kids with her example. She’s a 360-degree player and person. Honestly, I hope she’s in the running for National Player of the Year."

Smith has signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball on scholarship at the University of Kentucky this fall.

Smith joins Gatorade Massachusetts Softball Players of the Year Emma Mendoker (2010-11, Amherst Regional High School), Nicole D'Argento (2008-09 & 2007-08, Ashland) and Kara Nilan (2006 – 07, Taconic) among the state’s list of former award winners.
BOSTON – A voice boomed over the Fenway Park public address system.

Please welcome …

It continued, rattling off a laundry list of accomplishments Milford High softball senior pitcher Shannon Smith has accrued in her four-year career with the Scarlet Hawks. The reigning ESPN Boston Miss Softball Award winner, the fulcrum to Milford’s MIAA Division 1 state championship last year, has already done more than just about any pitcher in recent memory has – and she still has one more postseason run upcoming.

… the most dominant softball player in Massachusetts …

[+] EnlargeShannon Smith
Scott Barboza/ESPNBoston.comOne day after setting the state's all-time strikeouts record, Milford's Shannon Smith threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park on Thursday.
As of Thursday, Smith sat one win away from 80 career victories – a staggering number considering Massachusetts teams play about 20 regular-season games a season. Of those 79 wins, 26 of those games have come in no-hit complete games. She also has eight perfect games to her credit. The University of Kentucky signee recently joined an elite club of pitchers to notch 1,000 career strikeouts. Her latest title is that of the state’s all-time leader in strikeouts in a career, breaking the record established by Shawsheen Tech’s Jennifer Elwell in 2004. Smith eclipsed Elwell’s 1,119 strikeouts during a 2-0 win over Marlborough on Wednesday. She finished the game with 1,128.

Her long-stated goal is to reach 1,200 strikeouts.

… from Milford High School, Shannon Smith.

About 24 hours after Smith claimed her latest record, she stood on the mound at Fenway. When she was introduced to the crowd, she gave a sheepish wave back.

Then she reared back and, from the full 60-feet, 6-inches away, threw a strike (over-handed nonetheless), on a line. A poor Red Sox staff member charged with catching the ceremonial first pitch was on the receiving end of the laser in what was likely to be one of the strongest efforts you’ll see in such a situation.

“She couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “She said, ‘You are really good, huh?’”

When Smith walked off the field back toward the first-base line where Milford head coach Brian Macchi and her family was watching, she stopped for a beat. The moment finally caught up to her. She took a deep breath with a glint of a tear in the corner of her eye. She gave a hug to her sister, Andrea. Now a senior at Framingham State, Andrea Smith once shared the circle with her younger sibling, forming a nearly unbeatable 1-2 combination during Shannon’s freshman season.

After regaining composure, Shannon and her entourage of family, friends and coaches walked back to their grandstand seats. Meandering through the crowd, Shannon was met with a couple of high-fives and well wishes from fans. She wore a home white Red Sox jersey, which the team presented to her before throwing out the first pitch. It came customized with her nameplate stitched on the back along with her No. 3.

Her coach beamed like a proud papa.

“The progression she’s made from her first game until now is significant,” Macchi said. “She has grown a lot. I know that she’s going to put the effort in down there [at Kentucky], just like she did here, and she’s going to be successful.”

Shannon Smith’s freshman season might be the greatest indicator of her character.

Andrea Smith was a wildly successful pitcher in her own right, compiling a 55-8 career record with the Scarlet Hawks before graduating in 2010. She committed to C.W. Post to play softball and spent a year there before transferring to Framingham State. During her senior season, Andrea split time with her younger sister during the regular season in the circle, with Shannon having a slight advantage in appearances (11-9). Shannon Smith went on to win her first of two Gatorade Massachusetts Player of the Year Awards that season, leading the Scarlet Hawks on a deep postseason run.

Through it all, the sisters handled what could have been a sticky situation with grace. Never the one to make a spectacle of herself, Shannon always had Andrea in mind.

“Her whole freshman year, when I told her she was going to pitch, it caught her off guard,” Macchi said. “She wanted her sister to be out there pitching; it’s just the type of kid she is and the kind of relationship they had.”

“[Andrea] never said one thing and she was supporting her sister one-hundred percent.”

Shannon Smith is on track for another Player of the Year Award this year, sporting an ERA of 0.06 through 20 games and having allowed only one earned run in 124 innings thrown. In the coming weeks, she and her teammates will look to defend their Division 1 state title in the tournament. A repeat title performance is about all that is left for Smith to accomplish before shipping off to Lexington.

But for as dominant a force as she’s been for so long, Smith still admits to getting nervous before taking the mound, so forgive her if she felt butterflies in the pit of her stomach before climbing the hill at Fenway.

“I was a little nervous,” Smith said. “I usually do get nervous.”

She chuckled, “I didn’t want to be one of those people who rolls it all the way to home plate.”

No surprise, Smith thoroughly weighed her options leading up to her Fenway debut. She debated going with her typical under-handed windmill delivery, instead settling on the traditional baseball-style wind-up. Seemingly, like everything the National Honor Society student does, it went swimmingly.

“I was a little worried about the size of the baseball, and the mound, I didn’t know if the hill would mess me up at all,” she said. “I wanted to go the safe route, go with what I know.”

It was a strike.

Recap: No. 2 Milford 12, OA 0 (5 inn.)

May, 22, 2013
EASTON, Mass. -- Those in attendance for Milford softball’s 12-0 romp over Oliver Ames were hoping to get a glimpse at history. Instead, what they witnessed was a resurgent Scarlet Hawks lineup hitting its stride.

Reigning ESPN Boston Miss Softball award winner Shannon Smith has the Massachusetts all-time strikeouts record within her reach, entering Tuesday’s action 13 punch-outs away. Smith struck out nine Tigers batters before the game ended in the fifth inning, called due to the mercy rule.

With the victory, the Scarlet Hawks (18-1) clinched the Hockomock League’s Davenport division title in the school’s inaugural conference season.

Milford broke it open in the top of the fifth, when the Scarlet Hawks clubbed three home runs, including a back-to-back job by Smith and third baseman Caroline Fairbanks. Sam Bonvino kicked off the home-run parade in the inning, continuing her hot streak at the plate, with a three-run shot to left, clearing the outfield fence by 25 feet. Bonvino’s round-tripper came one out after Allie Piergustavo was robbed by OA left fielder Erin Lynch, who went crashing into the outfield wall outstretched to snag a certain home-run shot.

“Once one person gets a hit, it’s a chain reaction,” Bonvino said.

The fifth-inning outburst reinforced what Milford head coach Brian Macchi has preached to his team in recent weeks. After hitting a mid-season lull at the dish, the Scarlet Hawks’ bats have awoken, collectively.

“I told them that hitting is contagious and it’s about putting the work in, which we have all season long,” Macchi said. “You’re going to have times where maybe the bats aren’t there and it’s about battling through. But we said that we wanted to make sure that we’re headed in the right direction come tournament time and I’m confident in this group where they are right now and their approaches at the plate the last few games.”

Smith needs three strikeouts to tie the all-time state record and four to break. It is likely that moment will come Wednesday as Milford plays host to Marlborough.

“They know,” Macchi said, “the countdown is on, everybody was counting on the bench during the game. They knew she had 13 to go today and now there’s four more.”

Recap: No. 12 North Attleborough 1, No. 1 Milford 0 (10 inn.)

April, 30, 2013

MILFORD, Mass. – The gloves flying through the air and the mass celebration at home plate after the final out was made, confirmed what everyone outside the foul lines already knew – this was more than just a standard regular season Hockomock League game.

“That probably, in my career, is the team’s best regular season win. Did that ooze tournament atmosphere or what?” asked an excited North Attleborough head coach Bill Wallace after the final pitch.

North Attleborough (7-2) pushed home one run in the top of the 10th inning, only the second run allowed by Milford (10-1) in 11 games this season, and the Rocketeers threw out runners at the plate twice in extra innings to pull off a 1-0 upset over the defending Division 1 state champions. The Rocketeers’ victory ended the Scarlet Hawks win streak at 35 games going back to 2011.

“It was just a great game,” said Wallace. “That kid [Shannon Smith] is a darn good pitcher over there, but luckily I have a darn good pitcher over here too.”

With the game scoreless heading into extra innings, the International Tiebreak Rule was used, which begins the inning with a runner on second. It was the first time that either team had managed to get a runner past first base.

In the top of the tenth, Colleran dropped down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Marissa Gifford to third. Senior catcher Meghan Wynn then smacked a grounder on a 1-2 pitch that third baseman Caroline Fairbanks knocked down with a diving stop, but Fairbanks was not able to get the throw home in time to prevent Gifford, who was running on contact, from scoring.

“I knew that in order to pull out the win that I had to be smart and make contact,” said Wynn about the last at-bat with the go-ahead run just 60 feet from home. “I know that she’s going to pitch smart and not give me anything to hit. I just have to watch the ball all the way to the bat.”

Milford had the heart of the order coming up in the bottom of the tenth and Smith, Milford’s University of Kentucky-bound senior, drew a walk to put the winning run on base with no outs. Fairbanks followed with a sacrifice bunt that moved both runners into scoring position. On the next pitch, Rachel Levine hit a hard grounder off Colleran’s glove to shortstop Jill Costello, who bobbled the ball but was still able to throw out Sam Bonvino at the plate.

Colleran, who seemed especially fired up for this game, then struck out Taylor LeBrun to close out the victory and set off the celebrations at home plate.

“It feels great; I’m so excited right now,” said Colleran, who struck out eight while allowing only two hits. “They’re a really great team, so I just knew that I had to move the ball around and fool them because I know that every kid on that team can put it over the fence.”

The game had a playoff atmosphere from the first pitch and the Hawks starter was her usual dominant self. Smith, who recorded her 1,000th career strikeout last week, started the game by striking out two batters in three of the first four innings. She finished with 17 for the game and allowed only one hit in the defeat.

After 35 consecutive wins, Milford head coach Brian Macchi was philosophical about the team’s first loss since the 2011 state semifinal against Amherst and its first loss as a Hockomock League team.

“It was two great teams going at it and in my opinion the two best pitchers and it showed. Shannon pitched great, Meg pitched great and it was fun to be a part of,” Macchi said.

He continued, “It’s been a while since we’ve lost a game and come back to work the next day. For me as a coach, you lose to a caliber team like North, we can learn from this and come back tomorrow and go to work. It’s definitely a learning experience for us and we’ll turn this into a positive.”

While Colleran was excellent in the circle, North also made several plays to get out of potential scoring situations. After a single by Smith in the first inning, North first baseman Jackie Del Bonis snared a line drive by Fairbanks to end the inning. In the bottom of the sixth Costello picked a hard grounder by Bonvino to prevent the heart of the order from coming up. In the bottom of the eighth, second baseman Gifford made a perfect throw home to prevent the winning run from scoring.

Following North’s shocking loss to Attleboro last Thursday, Wallace was thrilled to see his team bounce back with a total team effort and to pull the biggest upset of the softball season.

“Wins and losses in April aren’t as important as wins and losses in June, but from a team standpoint, I think now they believe, you know what, we’re with the Milfords and the [King Philips],” said Wallace.

“We were all really bummed out,” said Colleran about the team’s attitude after the loss to the Bombardiers. “I think this is huge, especially a game when we think we are underdogs. It could kick start us and boost us through the rest of the season.”

Macchi was thrilled about the playoff atmosphere surrounding the game and noted that Division 1 South is going to be a stacked sectional from top to bottom. He is hoping that this loss will add motivation for the Hawks to keep improving.

“Today was a great test and something that we can build on,” Macchi explained. “I am looking forward to practice tomorrow with these girls and seeing how hungry they are.”

Agawam's Weiners not complacent

April, 25, 2013
AGAWAM, Mass. -- There are many adjectives you could attach to Reilly Weiners: fierce and competitor are a few that quickly come to mind.

A senior catcher at Agawam High School, Weiners is considered by many to be the best at her position in the state, let alone New England.

The Brownies are a perennial state softball power and Weiners is a big reason why. Last year, she batted .531 with 32 RBI in 77 plate appearances, helping guide Agawam to the Division 1 Western Mass. title before falling in the state semifinal to pitcher extraordinaire Shannon Smith and the Milford Scarlet Hawks, who went on to capture the state crown.

Weiners says the bitter taste of that defeat still remains and will only disperse should the Brownies get back to the state championship round and a possible rematch with Milford.

“I think talent-wise we are a better team than we were last year,” said Weiners. “We were thrilled to win Western Mass. last year because that is always one of our goals. But we want to go beyond that. I’d love to get back to the states and face Shannon Smith again. As a team we think about it all the time and it is definitely something that drives us.”

With Weiners orchestrating the leadership among this club, a second meeting with the Scarlet Hawks (albeit it would be in the state final this year now that Milford has now moved to Eastern Mass.) remains a possibility. Presently sitting at 4-3, the Brownies still have some work to do in the hotly-contested Valley League.

Few catchers are able to master their position the way Wieners has. Not only is she exceptional defensively, whether it be blocking balls in the dirt or throwing out would-be base runners, but also has the high IQ to control a game. Earning the trust of her head coach Kathy Georgina, Wieners has been handed the responsibility to be the coach on the field. Quite often you will find her moving her defensive mates around the infield in preparation against a particular opposing batter or lining up players up on cutoffs and relays. Offensively, she is a natural contact hitter with power.

“She really is amazing,” said Georgina, now in her 11th season at the helm, and a star in her own right at Springfield College. “I’ve known Reilly since kindergarten and watching her throw a ball as a first-grader in my physical education classes, I knew then she would be a good one someday. She is very sound technically. It is a blessing for me to have a player like her on this team. She knows the game inside and out and is one of the best high school players I have ever seen. It is also a luxury to have a catcher who can run the team on the field the way she does.”

Of all the things Wieners has accomplished on the field, perhaps the biggest, and most-difficult, one took place off of it. Admitting she was not pleased with her physical stature a year ago, Weiners was determined to do something about it. Her struggles with obesity, she believed, was limiting her abilities as an athlete. Once the high school season was over last June, Weiners adopted a daily ritual of distance running, weight lifting, cardio-vascular drills and maintaining a healthy diet. The end result was her shedding more than 80 pounds over the fall and winter.

“I felt good hitting last season but I just didn’t feel I was able to give 100 percent of my physical self everyday,” Weiners said. “After last season I started to work out hard every day. I think what I have done and still doing is only going to make me better. I am one who wants to get better at something each and every day. I feel like I have proven to myself and those who had doubted me wrong. I feed off of that every single day.”

Weiners admits she wasn’t proud in having difficulty taking part in team conditioning drills. On numerous occasions she was unable to finish jogging laps or run wind sprints, often finding herself short of breath. Realizing she would be going into her senior year as a team captain and leader, Wieners knew her lifestyle and eating habits had to change immediately. Now, with the excess weight gone, Weiners says she feels like a completely different person.

“I go out now and lead both physically and mentally and it feels great,” she said. “I feel I get a lot more out of the practices now than I ever did before. I can do all the conditioning drills without any problems. I feel a lot better about myself. I enjoy being out here playing and having fun instead of struggling just trying to get through it like I did in the past. [My weight] really held me back. Now I am a lot more excited to come out here every day and show that I have been working very hard with my conditioning and it is starting to pay off for me.”

From a softball perspective, because she is such an imposing force at the plate, Georgina says some opposing teams have already decided to pitch around her, which, in turn, has limited her production at the plate up to this point. Teams seem complacent to put her on base rather than feel her wrath with the bat. But sooner or later teams will have to pitch to her and take their chances.

With five new faces on the Brownies roster this season, Weiners, along with the other returning players, are making a point to remind all of them what the Brownies mission is for this year.

“We relay a message to them all the time about the hunger all of us returning players have to get back [to the state tournament],” she said. “We want to make sure they understand that. It sucked losing 13-0 to Milford last year and we want to be the team that beats them this year. We have great team bonding sessions here and we talk about that goal all the time.”

While Weiners has been nothing short of spectacular during her time at Agawam, freshman pitcher Allison Wheeler has also begun to open up some eyes. Sporting a blazing fastball, to go along with a baffling change-up and curve, Wheeler says having a veteran player the likes of Weiners as her battery mate has made her transition to the varsity level much smoother.

“I feel so comfortable pitching to Rielly,” Wheeler said. “As a freshman playing on varsity, I am so lucky to have a catcher like her behind the plate. She has helped me out in so many ways and keeps me calm when I get into tight situations. I feel it is a real honor for me to be pitching to her. Our relationship is very good and I think it will only get stronger moving forward. She is the best catcher that has ever caught for me and probably will be the best that I will ever pitch to.”

There is no arguing the fact that Wieners is a Division 1 college talent. Enough so that she was heavily recruited by a number of quality programs, including national powers Tennessee and UMass-Amherst. An honors student, Wieners has remained true in her beliefs that academics holds a higher importance than softball. That being said, she has committed to attend and play for Wesleyan University next season, majoring in English/Journalism.

“Reilly has made it clear from the beginning that she wanted to go to a college that had her major and also had a solid academic reputation,” Georgina said. “She didn’t want to somewhere to just play softball. Wesleyan had everything she was looking for and I think is a perfect fit for her.”

Weiners is the latest in a line of outstanding catchers who have played here. In the early 2000s, Teresa Bonavita was a much-heralded backstop who went on to star at AIC and later Temple University. Amy Mantha followed Bonavita and carved her own notch at Agawam before moving on to a successful career at Post University. Says Wieners, both left an indelible mark at Agawam and to her personally. Having grown up watching Bonavita and Mantha only heightened her desire to follow admirably in their footsteps. Another inspiration came from her father, Don. Also a catcher in baseball, Weiners says she would watch her father play in a local 30-and-older league and quickly noticed the style in which he played and started taking mental notes.

“You could say playing catcher is sort of in my blood,” laughs Weiners. “I used to watch his games and he was very assertive behind the plate. He would take control of a game as catcher and I guess I picked up that trait from him.”

Weiners says her biggest fan is her mother, Dion Berte, who regularly attends Agawam’s games, cheering both her daughter and the Brownies on.

“My mother is truly amazing,” Weiners said with a smile. “She doesn’t know a lot about the game but is here all the time rooting us on. To be totally honest I don’t think I would have been able to do any of this without her and her support. She is so awesome.”

And in turn, Agawam would not be in the position it is in without her.

Preseason MIAA softball All-State Team

April, 9, 2013
MilfordBrendan Hall/ESPNBoston.comReigning ESPN Boston Miss Softball Award winner Shannon Smith hopes to lead Milford to back-to-back Division 1 state titles.
Megan Colleran, Jr., North Attleborough
Anna O'Neill, Sr., King Philip
Lauren Ramirez, Sr., Dracut
Kendal Roy, Jr., Grafton
Shannon Smith, Sr., Milford

Tori Constantin, Sr. 2B, King Philip
Stephanie Cornish, Sr. 3B, Abington
Alexis DeBrosse, Sr. SS, New Bedford
Caroline Fairbanks, Sr. 3B, Milford
Nicole Lundstrom, Sr. C, Dighton-Rehoboth
Bella Picard, Sr. SS, Blackstone Valley Tech
Madi Shaw, Jr. SS, Bridgewater-Raynham
Dakota Smith-Porter, Sr., P/SS, Turners Falls
Reilly Weiners, Sr. C, Agawam

Olivia Antczak, Soph. P, Central Catholic
Allie Colleran, Jr. SS/OF, Concord-Carlisle
Megan Cook, Jr. P, Bellingham
Haley Currie, Sr. 3B, Burlington
Sara Dawson, Soph. P, Bridgewater-Raynham
Kaleigh Finigan, Sr. 3B, St. Mary's (Lynn)
Bridget Furlong, Sr. 2B, Malden
Courtney Girouard, Jr. P, Fairhaven
Galen Kerr, Sr. P, Concord-Carlisle
Taylor LeBrun, Soph. C, Milford
Rachel Levine, Sr. CF, Milford
Michaela Mazure, Soph. INF, Burlington
Shannon McLaughlin, Jr. P, Tewksbury
Paige Mulry, Jr. C, Boston Latin
MacKenzie Navarro, Jr. 1B, Taunton
Alicia Reid, Sr. CF, Abington
Kelsey Saucier, Jr. P, Holy Name
Rachael Smith, Jr. P, Winchester
Lauren Tuiskula, Sr. P, Leicester
Jurnee Ware, Sr. P, Hudson

Recap: Milford 3, King Philip 0

April, 5, 2013
MILFORD, Mass. – The representing winners of the last three Division 1 state softball championships faced off Thursday. And, while most teams are feeling their way through the early season, a duel between Milford and King Philip always enlists a certain amount of intensity.

Reigning ESPN Boston Miss Softball award winner Shannon Smith looked near mid-season form in the circle for the Scarlet Hawks with 14 strikeouts in a complete-game, one-hitter in a 3-0 win over their new Hockomock League rival.

“You just look at this first week and playing a team like Taunton and then King Philip here, you know you were going have a test, big time,” Milford head coach Brian Macchi said. “We knew we were going to have an early indication of where we stand.

Milford (2-0, 2-0 Hockomock) churned out nine hits against Warriors starter Anna O’Neill and took an early lead in the second. Elizabeth Stallone drove in Caroline Fairbanks with a two-out single.

The Scarlet Hawks continued to produce with two outs in the fifth, when they pushed across a couple of insurance runs. Smith shot an opposite field single to the gap, scoring Sam Bonvino for a two-run cushion before Rachel Levine smacked a single to left, scoring Jenny Levine, who was running for Smith.

“In a game like this, you’re looking at one-to-nothing, as it could be the decider,” Macchi said. “But tacking on two runs … you just have that much more confidence as the game goes on.”

“She battled and found a way to get us another run, which was important.”

“She’s realizing that it’s her senior year and this is her last go-round. She’s relishing the opportunity to really leave on high note.”

“It’s a nice welcome to the league. It’ll be nice to see how the rivalries develop through time.”

With the addition of Milford and Taunton into the Hockomock League this year, both the Kelley-Rex and Davenport divisions have turned into an effective softball super conference.

While the defending champion Scarlet Hawks make their move from the Central sectional into the South, Macchi and his team realize how perilous the move could prove. They need look no further than their Thursday opponent, the owners of back-to-back state titles in 2010 and ’11.

The Warriors (1-1) have a new look this season, with an entirely new battery. O’Neill (10 strikeouts) takes over in the circle for Meghan Rico (George Washington) while junior Jordan Schaffer slides in behind the plate, taking over for another two-time ESPN Boston All-State selection in Olivia Godin (UMass-Amherst). KP also has a new head coach, as longtime Case bench boss Norm Beauchemin takes over for Jim Leonard.

And while the Warriors might be a team in (relative) transition, the Milford hurler still knew what the game represented.

“It means a lot to us,” Smith said. “It gives us confidence heading into the season just because it’s so early on and we’ve only played one other game. It shows us the potential we have. If we can beat a team like that this early, think of where we could be at the end of the year.”

Milford softball cracks final FAB 50 poll

June, 26, 2012
After claiming its first MIAA Division 1 state championship, Milford softball worked its way into the final ESPNHS Powerade FAB 50 rankings for the season.

The Scarlet Hawks, who completed a perfect 25-0 season behind ESPN Boston Miss Softball Shannon Smith, finished the season ranked No. 47.

Here's what the rankings crew had to say:

"Junior pitcher Shannon Smith, who has committed to Kentucky, struck out 22 batters last weekend when the Scarlet Hawks edged Malden (Mass.) 1-0 in nine innings to win the Division I state title. Smith was the team's batting leader as well, but the game-winning RBI single in the final came from freshman Taylor LeBrun."