Valley Dispatch Photo by Gayle Simone
An intense offseason conditioning program that included batting practice at least three times a week has turned the Methuen High School softball team into an offensive dynamo.
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METHUEN — When the Methuen High School softball team took the field this spring, the players didn’t look all that different — but their bats did.

Starting the season 5-0, the Rangers have outscored their opponents 44-7 through last weekend.

The difference? An offseason regimen that included batting practice at least three times a week.

“This is the first year we worked out all winter,” said senior third baseman Jenna Lentine. “We’re all getting along and everyone respects the game.”

Coach Jason Smith said he noticed the difference in the conditioning of the team.

“A lot of them are in a lot better shape,” Smith said.

Deemed the vocal leader of the team, catcher Krista Brown motivates her team before games by taking a page from the movie Dodgeball and listing the five S’s of softball.

“The five S’s is just something you need to do,” Brown said without revealing her secret. “I was watching the movie one night and then I wrote out a speech for the team using the five S’s. I’m a joker. It kind of just stuck.”

Brown, who has been catching Merrimack Valley Conference standout pitcher Hannah Everson for the past three seasons, said that helps with her game. “I feel comfortable catching for a pitcher that can strike out any hitter in the MVC,” Brown said.

When Brown first caught Everson, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. “It was horrible. It was like I had a rocket shot at me.”

Everson has been a dominate pitcher in the MVC since her freshman year, but up until now the run support had not been there.”It makes me more confident knowing I’ll have the run support,” said Everson, who next year will pitch for the University of New Haven.

Smith added his team has always been able to win the close games, but said getting a big lead in one of the strongest conferences in the state is no easy task.

“We’ve been in enough close games; we know how to win those,” Smith said. “We’ve been able to put up some runs this year and it only makes Hannah better. They want to prove we’re a team, not just Hannah.”

The coaching staff credits the girls for the changes on offense this year.

“They made a commitment,” assistant Martha Tatro said. “And they made it to themselves; that’s the difference.”

Kelly Farragher put it more simple.

“I think we have heart,” the senior first baseman said.

Brown added the support is teamwide this year, not individually.

“We believe in each other. It’s not only knowing we can hit, but that our team knows we can. Everybody believes.”

Deb Green adds her own philosophy on the team.

“It’s all about knowing they can do it, believing they can do it and then actually doing it,” Green said. “It’s simple. Knowing, believing, therefore doing.”

Smith know the games will get tougher as the season goes on and hopes his team can beat the top two teams in the MVC — Tewksbury and Lowell.

Have a story idea? Gayle Simone can be reached at 978-970-4838 or by e-mail at gsimone@thevalleydispatch.com.