LYNN — Chad Wilkins doesn’t consider it a big secret that his Lynn Little League senior softball All-Star team has had the World Series as its goal since it lost in the Massachusetts East Regionals last year.
“Yes,” the team’s manager said, emphatically. “Absolutely. You always have a goal to go further than you did the year before.”
Last year, the Lynners won the state championship but didn’t fare as well in the regionals, going 1-3 in the preliminary round before falling to New York in the quarterfinal.
“We were ready for (this year) from the moment we were eliminated last year,” Wilkins said.
The girls don’t have to go far to revisit their goal. The games are in Worcester, with two fields in use. One, Rockwood Field, is on the campus of Worcester State University. The other, Vernon Hills Park, is 20 minutes to a half hour across town. Opening ceremonies are Saturday (9) at Rockwood, with Lynn playing at 1:30 against Connecticut at Vernon Hill.
The tournament goes until next Thursday, with Lynn playing every day. It will play games against the host team Sunday (9) at Vernon Hill; Monday (also at 9 at Vernon Hill) against Rhode Island; and Tuesday (10) at Rockwood, against Connecticut again (Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are not represented).
This is a two-pool tournament. Lynn Is in Pool A, along with the other New England teams. Pool B includes five teams from the mid-Atlantic: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
The quarterfinals, scheduled for Wednesday, will pit the top four teams from each pool, and will be played both at Rockwood and Vernon Hill, and begin at 10 a.m.
Semifinals are Thursday, both at 10 a.m., at different sites, with the championship game the same day at 2 p.m. at Vernon Hill.
Wilkins says the girls will be ready.
“They’re a tight-knit bunch,” he said. “And we just want to do one step better than we did last year. One thing I’ll say about them: they may be nervous, but not too nervous. You know how it goes. It’s the same at every level.
“But, they’re a lot tougher than you’d think. They don’t melt under pressure, and it’s a lot easier to coach when you don’t have to worry about that.”
Wilkins goes into the tournament with help from assistants Chris Tobin and Chris Foglietta, both of whose daughters, like Wilkins’, play on the team. Foglietta’s daughter, Ava, is one of three pitchers. Combined, they are so effective that one of them, Abby Fila, is the starting third baseman.
The third, and starting, pitcher is Lily Newhall, who was the No. 1 hurler for the St. Mary’s softball team this season.
“Poise is a great word to use to describe her,” Wilkins said. “She just doesn’t get rattled.”
His daughter, Amanda, a first baseman for Lynn Classical during the spring, is the catcher on this team as Riley Mannion takes over at first. Amanda Tobin is at second, and, Wilkins said, “she was our best player defensively last weekend” when Lynn swept Woburn to win the championship.
Reese Brinkler gets the nod at shortstop.
Julia Nickolau patrols center field in an outfield that’s built around speed, Wilkins said.
“She can get to a lot of balls,” said Wilkins.
Another speedster, Kaelyn Jennings, plays left, backed up by Anna Fringuelli. In right, Gianna Coito and Emely Rodriguez share playing time.
The team has been together for about a month, but Wilkins said that’s not as difficult as it might seem at this stage.
“They’re all familiar with each other,” he said. “With girls, you can play against each other and still be friends. There’s real good chemistry among these girls, and that’s a nice thing.”
Steve Krause can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.