Varsity Softball in Reset Mode at BHS
By KEN HAMWEY,
Staff Sports Writer
Lack of numbers is usually the prime reason why a high school varsity team is either dissolved or temporarily suspended. That’s exactly what’s occurred at Bellingham High, and that’s why a varsity softball team will not be competing this spring.
Athletic Director Michael Connor and coach Dennis Baker conferred on the numbers issue last year and decided “a reset’’ was in order.
“Due to a limited number of returning upper-classmen, it seemed prudent to reset the program with a junior-varsity-only season this spring, then move forward with jayvee and varsity teams competing in the spring of 2024,’’ Connor said.
Connor recapped the numbers that existed last year and how many of those candidates would be available this spring. “The 2022 season consisted of 27 girls,’’ Connor noted. “The breakdown was: six seniors, two juniors, one sophomore two freshmen, 10 eighth graders and six seventh graders. Only 18 girls were projected to be available for the 2023 season.’’
Connor revealed that a middle school waiver from the Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) was requested last year so the high school could field a junior-varsity program.
“Dennis and I discussed the situation last May, and I brought it up to the Tri Valley League Athletic Directors in September when schedules were being finalized,’’ Connor said. “Collectively, it was agreed that a reset was in the best interest of the Bellingham softball program and the TVL as a whole. The timing gave our league partners time to find non-league opponents.’’
Connor recalled that a similar decision was made with girls’ lacrosse, and he noted that “the program has grown since.’’
Courtney Parker, a former TVL all-star who pitched for Bellingham, joined the Blackhawks’ staff as Baker’s jayvee coach in 2021 and will continue in that role this spring.
Bellingham’s softball program has had a history of success. The 2014 team won the school’s only State championship when it defeated Grafton, 3-1, at Worcester State University. That team finished its season with a record of 25-1. During its playoff run, BHS defeated Norton, Fairhaven, Dighton-Rehoboth, Case, Tewksbury and Grafton.
During Baker’s 25-year coaching tenure, the Blackhawks qualified for the playoffs 17 times. There was no tournament, however, in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.