PEABODY — The Bishop Fenwick softball team has found its new coach. After a search that started back when former coach Paul Lyman stepped down in September, Fenwick Athletic Director Dave Woods announced the hiring of Michelle Zullo to take over the program.
“I’m definitely excited,” Zullo said. “I know Fenwick’s had a good softball program. I played them when I played in high school. I’m really excited.”
Woods came away impressed with Zullo’s resume and said she’s a perfect fit to guide the Crusaders. Zullo was a four-year pitcher at Everett High and UMass Boston. After graduating from UMass Boston in 2015, Zullo stepped into coaching. The Everett native spent three seasons (2016-2018) guiding Pope John.
“Michelle’s coming from Pope John,” Woods said. “She did a tremendous job at Pope John and got the program moving in a really good direction. When she took over I’m not even sure they had 11 girls. Now they’re in the 40’s. She met the team last week. She brings a lot of enthusiasm. She isn’t that far from playing. The girls are looking forward to a good season.”
The Tigers made history with Zullo at the helm of the program. In 2017, they qualified for the Division 3 North tournament and made the program’s first postseason appearance in 14 years. In 2018, they qualified again (as the No. 2 seed) and defeated Latin Academy in the first round for Pope John’s first postseason win in 20 years.
“That team has the most amazing group of young women that I’m so sad to leave,” Zullo said. “I know they’ll continue that and I’m so proud to have coached them and be a part of it.
“We had a lot of success over there that I’m very proud of those girls for.”
Zullo ended her career at UMass Boston as one of the more decorated pitchers in program history. At the time of her graduation, Zullo ranked as the program leader in wins (27), appearances (79), complete games (60), innings pitched (457.0) and strikeouts (253), and was tied for first in career shutouts (six). At Everett High, where she was also a member of the school’s girls hockey and boys golf teams, Zullo earned 50 wins and tossed five no-hitters. She helped the Crimson Tide to four state tournament berths, earned Greater Boston League All-Star honors in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and was named a Harry Agganis All-Star in 2011.
She knows pitching’s a crucial component in softball but feels team efforts are the most important piece of the puzzle.
“I believe you definitely need a pitcher,” Zullo said. “It’s a tough game without one but I heavily believe softball’s a team sport. It’s a little offense, a little defense but having a pitcher definitely helps.”
Zullo also likes to keep softball fun for the players she coaches.
“(Coaching at Pope John) I learned a lot, it’s very different on the other side,” Zullo said. “I feel like I was in the position of the girls not too long ago. I feel I have a lot of knowledge to give them. I’ve learned a lot over the past three years. I always try to keep it fun and make sure the girls are having fun while learning. That’s the first priority in having a successful softball team.
“I like to make sure everyone’s on the same page. I like to make sure there’s no drama on the team and everyone’s having fun, enjoying playing. If you make the team happy, you’ll be OK and you’ll be competitive.”