Katie Bettencourt enters her first season as head coach of the Endicott softball team. (COURTESY PHOTO FROM ENDICOTT ATHLETICS )

New coach Bettencourt, Gulls ready to get started

BEVERLY-- A new face will coach the Endicott softball team this spring when Katie Bettencourt takes over the helm of the program. The third coach in program history, Bettencourt replaced Mark Veilleux who stepped down after last season.

A Peabody resident, Bettencourt previously spent two seasons as the head coach of the softball program at Division II Assumption College in Worcester. She was named Endicott's coach in June and begins her first season with the Gulls Sunday.

In gearing up for the season, Bettencourt feels the team has looked sharp and ready to take the diamond.

"The girls have worked really hard," Bettencourt, who played softball at Division I UMass Amherst, said. "We're heading into week five of our practices. They've worked hard to improve on all aspects, whether it's hitting, pitching or fielding. I'm excited to see how it translates out on the field."

Joining Bettencourt on her coaching staff are assistants David Bettencourt, her father, and Christine Della Vecchia. Bettencourt worked alongside her father during her two seasons at Assumption and has always appreciated the level of energy he brings in his coaching.

"He was with me at Assumption too," Bettencourt said. "He really is awesome. He works with the cathers primarily. The energy that he brings everyday is so contagious. He's been doing this for so long and he brings great energy. He does a great job."

Bettencourt and her father aren't the only members of their family to coach at Endicott. Her cousin, Kevin, is the head coach of the school's men's basketball team.

"It's been fun to get to know Kevin on a different level," Bettencourt said. "We're eight years apart and we'd only see each other at family gatherings. I'm living in Peabody now. My aunts and uncles are right down the road. I see them now more than I have in the past few years. I've enjoyed my time and it's been fun."

Throughout the preseason, Bettencourt has seen the team make strides in softball IQ as the Gulls gain familiarity with their new coach. Adjusting to a new coaching style brings its share of hurdles but Bettencourt likes the progress her team has made.

"It's been a big change for them but they've done a really good job adjusting to the new coaching staff," Bettencourt said. "It's been interesting getting through the year. We only have four or five weeks in the fall and then they're kind of off on their own. I feel that I missed a chunk but we've made up for that over the past five weeks. Their great, smart kids. Their IQ improves everyday and they retain information well. I have nothing but good things to say about the team."

The key for Endicott offensively throughout the season will be establishing the right approach at the plate. Bettencourt will look for the Gulls to improve their mindset on offense as the season takes its course.

"My big passion is offense," Bettencourt said. "Looking at our numbers from last year and heading into week five, the biggest thing about our hitting is going to be our mindset. We've done a good job with live pitching. It's going to be a constant battle with our mindset to make sure we have things right on the offensive side. That's going to be a point for us to improve."

Pitching projects to be one of Endicott's strengths this spring. The Gulls carry a talented staff of pitchers that includes Lynn native Michaela Hammil, a sophomore. Hammil, a St. Mary's alum, went 8-3 in the circle last season with a 2.42 ERA and 37 strikeouts. She pitched 81 innings and nine complete games.

"I think if you look at our staff, Michaela has some of the craziest movement on her ball," Bettencourt said. "Her ball breaks so sharp. It's been fun seeing her evolve. She's developed consistency and speed. She's definitely a player to watch for sure.

"Based off our practices, I'd say our pitching will be our strength," Bettencourt added. "The pitching staff has been very consistent through our scrimmages."

The Gulls will travel to Florida this weekend where they'll open the new season Sunday morning with tilts against Maine Farmington (9) and Framingham State (11:30). With a slate of early-season games against strong competition, Bettencourt will mix and match different combinations with her lineup in search of the right formula.

"I think the biggest thing is for us to find ourselves and for players to find their roles," Bettencourt said. "We'll find out what everyone's role is, what goes together and what doesn't. We have players that bring different things to the plate. It's going to be fun to see what mixes well together with our lineup, whether we go with more speed or more offense. It'll be interesting to see what goes together the best."

Endicott will play 10 games in Florida throughout the week before returning to campus for its home opener against Nichols in a doubleheader on March 24.

"We're definitely ready," Bettencourt said. "We're ready to get out to some warmer weather and out on the dirt. We're ready to compete. We're prepared and we're ready to go."

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