Braintree pair are making an impact at Bentley
Laura McDonough, a senior second baseman at Bentley University, and Jackie Gauthier , a junior centerfielder for the Falcons, call themselves the “Braintree connection.’’
Both took gymnastics classes as youngsters, played AAU softball together with the Bay State Thunder, and then captained the varsity girls’ softball squad at Braintree High.
Now they’re starters and captains at Bentley, and best of friends.
“I felt Jackie would be a great fit for our program and it’s great to have her here,’’ said McDonough.
“Being together has been awesome and it’s even fun just carpooling when we go back home.’’
Standouts on the Braintree squads that won Division 1 South Sectional championships in 2008 and 2009, McDonough and Gauthier enjoy a spirited banter in practice, according to Bentley head coach Michele DeGregorio.
“You should see them trying to be the first to catch a fly ball hit between second base and center field,’’ she said. “They have a great time out there, and their enthusiasm for the game is obvious.’’
Gauthier was named Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Week after the first three of 10 games at the National Training Center in Clermont, Fla.
She opened the season with four hits in seven at-bats (.571), highlighted by a single, double, triple, and two runs batted in to pace a 6-3 victory over Bridgeport.
McDonough, who missed the entire 2011 campaign and has battled back from two right shoulder surgeries, was a bright spot in a doubleheader loss last week. She had two of Bentley’s three hits — a first-inning double against Molloy and a fourth-inning single against Mercy.
In her return to the lineup last spring, she started all 38 games at second base and was the toughest to strike out in the NE-10 (six times in 108 at bats). She also had a team-high 12 RBIs .
Gauthier, a three-year starter, led last year’s team in slugging (.413, including .528 over the second half of the season), walks (17), home runs (3) and on base percentage (.363).
Through eight games (4-4), McDonough was hitting a team-high .348 (8-for-23) and Gauthier was second at .318 (7-for-22).
McDonough, a two-year captain who bats third, said she and leadoff hitter Gauthier are “each other’s go-to people. I was pumped for her to come here and it’s great having a friend and former teammate still on the same field.’’
The last time they played in a winning game together in high school, they celebrated an 8-0 victory over Norwood in the 2009 South final.
“I remember Jackie led off the game and hit a bomb over the left field fence that was just foul. She really tagged it, but then she got a single and scored to get us going,’’ said McDonough, who hit .400 with 25 RBIs her senior year at Braintree and also captained the soccer and basketball teams. “That year, it seemed every time she led off with a hit, we won.’’
Originally recruited as a shortstop, McDonough, who pitched Little League baseball as a youngster, started out strong her freshman season at Bentley, finishing the Florida trip with a 5-game hitting streak.
But a sprained ankle and a back injury slowed her down. After her recent surgeries, she’s just now starting to hit her stride.
“Last year was tough,” said McDonough. “Defensively I did OK, even though my arm wasn’t as strong, which is why I was moved to second base, but my timing at the plate was off.“Considering I wasn’t sure I’d ever play again, it’s just great to be back and in better condition than last season.’’
Gauthier, also a soccer captain at Braintree High, said she and McDonough hope to set an example of what hard work can accomplish.
“We always fed off each other in high school. A lot of times when Laura got a hit, I’d get one, too. Now we pride ourselves that if anything is hit our way we’re going to make the play, so in that way we can set an example.‘’
Both credit Braintree High softball coach Tom Grandy for instilling strong fundamentals and a resilient mental approach to the game.
“He’d never let you hang your head after a tough game,’’ recalled Gauthier.
DeGregorio, whose team opens its NE-10 season Tuesday with a home doubleheader against Stonehill, said McDonough’s team-first attitude during her year off led to her being elected a junior captain.
“It was hard for her to sit out and I felt badly for her. She was a top recruit who I really wanted in a Bentley uniform and even when she was injured she had a positive effect on our team,’’ said her coach.
“Now she’s swinging the bat a lot better and I envision her having a bounceback season.’’
She said the 5-foot-9 Gauthier has “size, speed and a great arm. I wish I had three outfielders like her. She gives 100 percent effort every game and every practice.’’
Track and field honors
Last weekend’s NCAA indoor track & field championships resulted in All-America (top eight finish) honors for several area runners.
At the Division 2 meet in Birmingham, Ala., the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s men’s distance medley relay (5th) and 4x400 men’s (5th) and women’s (4th) relay teams achieved All-America status.
Senior Craig Bennett (Milton High) was leadoff runner in the 4x400 and ran the second leg in the distance medley. Senior Shannon Cunningham (Foxborough High), leadoff for the women, set a school record (3:44.04).
Wheaton College competed at the D-3 meet in Naperville, Ill. and their All-American women’s contingent included senior Amanda Claflin (Pembroke High), sixth in the 60-meter dash (7.73) and senior Samantha Bennett (Weymouth High), eighth in the 800 meters (2:15.56). Bennett and Claflin also competed for the All-American fifth place 4X400 relay team (3:51.63).
All-star classic roster
Babson College’s Sarah Collins (Weymouth) and Allanah Wynn (Quincy), Bridgewater State University’s Michaela Cosby (Walpole); University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Colleen Moriarty (Canton); Keene State College’s Siobhan Carnell (Quincy) and Newbury College’s Catherine O’Connell (Quincy) have been selected by the region’s coaches to the 22-player roster for the New England Women’s Basketball Association Senior All-Star Classic. The game will be played at Western New England University Saturday at 1 p.m.