|Endicott College softball pitcher Jenna Bortolotti and her brother, Michael, who plays on the Babson College baseball team.|
Diamond skills shine in Milton family
Pitching, and winning, is a generational habit for the Bortolotti family.
Jenna Bortolotti, a senior pitcher at Endicott College, will step into the circle this afternoon in Providence and face St. Joseph’s of Maine in the first round of the NCAA Division 3 Regional softball tournament.
Last Saturday, the 5-foot-4 righthander from Milton went the distance in a 7-2 win over Western New England College, securing the program’s ninth consecutive Commonwealth Conference championship and a trip to the NCAA tourney.
The Gulls (35-6) rode a seven-hit, no-walk, one-strikeout effort from Bortolotti, the conference’s pitcher of the year, who has compiled a 17-4 mark with a 1.59 earned run average.
In the stands that day was a family entourage that included her brother, Michael, a Babson College freshman who was named the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Baseball Rookie of the Year, and her father, Paul, an assistant baseball coach at Curry College.
Paul Bortolotti, a Globe All-Scholastic at Milton High like his daughter, shut out East Boston in the 1974 EMass semifinals en route to the championship. Bortolotti and the 1974 squad are inductees into the Milton High Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of my kids. Whether they’re up 5 runs or down 5 runs, they keep an even keel and they just keep coming at you,’’ said Paul, who also pitched for the University of Massachusetts and area amateur teams.
“I can’t sit still, watching them. I’m always pacing around. It was a lot easier for me to pitch in a crucial situation than watching Jenna and Mike.’’
Mike Bortolotti showed the same grace under pressure as his dad did 36 years earlier. Last spring, he tossed a complete game 5-0 shutout vs. Stoughton High in the first round of the Division 2 South tournament.
As a freshman at Babson, Mike was 5-1 with a 1.12 ERA and held opposing batters to a .212 average in eight appearances, five as a starter for the Beavers (25-13 overall, 13-5 in the NEWMAC).
“Mike’s toughness clearly runs in the family, and I also think his maturity as a pitcher has to come from the fact the Bortolotti house is full of successful pitchers,’’ said Babson head coach Matt Noone. “To have a dad and a sister who can relate to what he is feeling as a pitcher, good or bad, has a positive impact. I would love to be a fly on the wall and hear dinner table conversations in that house in the spring.’’
Both son and daughter, who were coached at various levels by their father, credit him with instilling in them a passion for the game.
“My dad pretty much taught me everything I know except my pitching mechanics. He always told us to be tough on the mound,’’ said Jenna, who was named her college’s co-Female Athlete of Year on Monday night. “And it’s been cool sharing my experiences with him and my brother.’’
Mike Bortolotti said his father was upfront in advising him how to handle postseason pressure.
“He said you have to want it more than the other guy and that you need a big heart,’’ said Mike, whom Milton High coach Ted Curley said “caught fire’’ at the end of last season. “He helped keep me calm and be able to take my game to the next level in the state tournament.’’
A former Bay State Conference All-Star, Mike was “pretty shocked when I was told I was Rookie of the Year, but it felt awesome and it’s just a beginning, I hope.’’
Jenna and her Endicott classmates have advanced to the NCAAs four times. She was 5-0 as a freshman, 21-5 as a sophomore after an 0-5 start, and 20-7 last year when she received her first pitcher-of-the-year honor.
“Jenna’s most amazing attribute is that she never gets rattled and for two years in row has been the most dominant pitcher in our league,’’ said Mark Veilleux, Endicott’s head coach of 17 seasons.
“I have had a lot of good players go through the program but Jenna has cemented herself as one of Endicott’s elite players of all time.’’
A Bay State MVP at Milton, Jenna is the college’s career leader in wins (63).
Paul Bortolotti and his wife, Sue, found the schedule to their liking two weekends ago when Endicott and Babson played the same day at Wheaton College in Norton.
“I’ve also been pretty fortunate that the Curry staff has let me set my own schedule so that I can get to see the kids play on some of my game days,’’ said their dad, whose fellow Globe All-Scholastic and Milton High Hall of Famer, Dave Stoller, was the other half of the 1-2 pitching punch on the 1974 champions.
“It’s kind of nostalgic because both my son, Mike, and Dave’s son, Ryan, were pitchers and teammates at Milton High when Mike was a sophomore and Ryan was a senior,’’ said the elder Bortolotti.
Ryan Stoller is a junior pitcher at Framingham State University, after having transferred from UMass Lowell.
There was another poignant father-and-son moment last April 14, on the occasion of Mike Bortolotti’s 19th birthday. Babson visited Curry that day in a non-league game.
“We hugged and he wished me happy birthday,’’ said Bortolotti, who did not pitch in Babson’s 4-3 victory, “and it was a special moment.’’
Jenna Bortolotti said her dad’s foray into college coaching has been a great move.
“I’m really excited for him. He loves it,’’ she said.
The feeling is mutual.
Marvin Pave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.