Warriors honor Burnett before season-opening win

THE BURNETT FAMILY with Meghan’s retired Wakefield softball jersey.
(Brendan Kent Photo)

Published in the April 16, 2019 edition


WAKEFIELD — This past Thursday, April 11, the Wakefield softball team began their season with new coaches, fresh talent and a significant motivation for success.

The Warriors’ season-opener versus Winchester was played in honor of Meghan Burnett, a valued friend and talented teammate who passed away unexpectedly last June.

Before the start of the game, WMHS Athletic Director Brendan Kent and Meghan’s coach Tom Purcell retired Meghan’s varsity jersey, number 2. Coach Purcell, a close friend of the Burnett’s, commemorated Meg with a heartfelt speech, mentioning how he admired her “inspirational spirit” and how she always “played the game with passion.”

Despite starting later than anticipated, Wakefield was ready to play when they took the field. The Warrior defense consisted of an experienced all-junior outfield with captain Taylor Owens in right field, captain Sophia Gosselin-Smoske in left and Katie Pearl claiming center field, all of whom are third year varsity players.

This year, the Warrior infield will be led by senior captains Julia Difazio (shortstop) and Juliette Guanci (first base).

“We have good senior leadership. Our shortstop who kind of runs the field is Difazio, a senior captain, so I think the girls look to her and she knows what she’s doing,” said first-year head coach Chris Tolios.

Another major presence in the infield was starting pitcher Kayleigh Callanan, who pitched the entire game for Wakefield. Always aware of the next possible play, Kayleigh kept her teammates on their toes. The first inning was a bit inconsistent for her, but the junior pitcher found her groove in the second inning, striking out the last two Winchester batters. This momentum lasted her the entire game as she successfully battled her way through some heavy hitters.

On the offensive side, the Warriors wasted no time in getting their offense started. Leadoff hitter Katie Pearl got herself on base to start the bottom of the first, and was brought home moments later by a Difazio bunt that was fielded and thrown over the Winchester first baseman’s head. Wakefield bats continued swinging in the second inning, including a bomb to left field from Pearl that brought home Guanci and pinch runner Bella Zullo.

As the game continued, Wakefield refused to let up at the plate and on the base paths. The Sachems’ defense had trouble catching a break as the Warrior bats continued to connect with pitches, sending the ball roaring down the sideline or flying into the outfield. The extensive ability of their offense was especially demonstrated by triples in the third and fourth innings from Difazio and catcher Claire Curry, respectively. A few tough catches by the Winchester defense, including a diving catch by third baseman number 12 in foul territory, confined the home team to single digits. In the end, the Warriors had a total of nine runs scored.

Thanks to a solid, communicating infield squad, the Warriors were able to hold the visiting team to only four runs the entire game. Highlights for the defense included a crisply executed double play by Difazio at shortstop and junior Alexis Comeau at second in the top of the 6th.

Completing the infield team was the only freshman on the roster, third baseman Allida Kelliher, who put together an excellent performance in her first high school varsity game.

“She is just a very good softball player who has come a long way in a month,”explained Coach Tolios. “I think she’s going to be a staple of this team because she is very talented and is going to keep on learning and keep on getting better.”

The 2019 Wakefield softball team played hard until the last out of the game, getting the win for Meg 9-4.

The Warriors (2-0) also played an away game in Winthrop on Friday, shutting out the Vikings 8-0. They plan to use this momentum to carry them into their next few games, on the road today against Whittier Tech and back home tomorrow, 4 p.m. against Reading.