MARBLEHEAD — With three Northeastern Conference titles in the last four seasons, it’s safe to say the Marblehead softball team has had its fair share of success in recent years.
That continued last season, when the Magicians went 15-3 and won a first-round state tournament game against Malden. The season ended with a loss to Whittier Tech in the Division 2 North quarterfinal round.
Marblehead’s success is a motivator for coach Johnny Gold and his players. But they’re ready to take the next step this year.
“It does motivate us but I’d also prefer for us to go deeper into the tournament,” Gold said. “You always want to go farther and you want that for your kids.”
But Gold will be the first to admit the Magicians have their work cut out for them in 2019. With a tough as always NEC and several more tough matchups in non-conference games, Marblehead is looking at it’s toughest regular season in a while.
“We have an extremely difficult schedule ahead of us,” Gold said. “We’re just hoping that maybe it will prepare us for the end of the year. Every team in our conference is tough. We play Peabody, Danvers, Swampscott, Winthrop, Gloucester and Saugus twice and those are real tough teams.
“It’s not like we try to get easy non-conference games but this year we’re scheduled against some good teams,” Gold said. “Some of the other games are Methuen who is always real good, Burlington, North Reading who is extremely tough and Attleboro. You add all of that up and even if we’re 11-9 I’d call that a great season.”
While the road ahead won’t be easy, Marblehead has more than enough returning talent to have a successful season. It starts in the circle, with Charlotte Plakans (last year’s NEC co-MVP).
“Charlotte is extremely confident and as good a pitcher as there is,” Gold said. “Every good team starts with pitching and she is as good a hitter too. She signed to play in college next year with Bentley. Charlotte just works. She does it all during the fall and winter. She works hard all year and has an excellent work ethic.”
Along with Palkans the Magicians have a solid group of core returners including shortstop Mercedes Pelletier, catcher Jolie Quintana and outfielder Francis Paik.
“Mercedes is a three-time all-star at shortstop and is playing at Fisher College next year.” Gold said. “She has a very good work ethic as well. Paik is returning and probably going to be our center fielder. She’s very good and can take on that role. Jolie’s a terrific young catcher that just keeps getting better.”
Defensively Gold knows the Magicians will have another great season– he’s just hoping to see some younger players step up to the plate.
“It’s not as much defensively as it is can some of these girls hit at the varsity level?” Gold said. “We know who can hit it’s just for some of these players coming up we haven’t seen it yet.
“I always say that you don’t really know until you play your first game,” Gold said. “The junior varsity team last year was 17-0. There are kids that can play. All I know is that we are playing our hardest schedule we have ever played. We have had seasons with only a few losses but this year I don’t see how that is feasible.”
One thing that is working in Marblehead’s favor is Gold’s coaching staff, including some familiar faces and some younger coaches.
“Todd Norman has been with me for 13 years,” Gold said of his assistant coach,”As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the best coaches around.
“We also have some younger help in one of our former pitchers, Michaela Leblanc,” Gold said. “We also have Genevive Bennoit, a former St. Mary’s catcher who played at Salve Regina. If they can make the time, it will be great. You have these girls who have played at a higher level and whenever they have the time to work with us it’s a pleasure. They are quality young ladies.”
Although there are positions and question marks that need to be answered during tryouts, Gold’s excited to see what 2019 has in store for his Magicians.
“I think we are really strong up the middle with a pitcher, catcher, shortstop and centerfield,” Gold said. “We just have to fill in at third, second and first. Either way we have enough raw talent to make it work.”