2022 Meghan Burnett "Fly High" Tournament Recap
The weekend of July 8, 9 and 10 was the Fifth annual Meghan Burnett “Fly High” Fastpitch Softball Tournament and the first one with no rain! The tournament was initially established in 2018, only two months after Meghan Burnett passed away due to complications during surgery. Meghan loved softball and had always wanted there to be a fastpitch tournament in Wakefield so friends got together and put together the first tournament. The success of this first tournament also enabled the creation of the Meghan Burnett Foundation the goal of which is to enrich the High School experience through sports, music and travel while helping students discover their own personal potential. Meghan was always smiling, always positive so each year it is the goal to infuse her joy into the tournament.
This tournament brings 16 teams from around New England to Wakefield to compete at the 14U and 18U levels. Usually there are a few participants who have a personal connection with Meghan whether they are coaches she played for or teammates she played or trained with who are now coaches themselves. This year there was even an umpire who was a former teammate. Programs from as far away as Burlington Vermont and as close as Saugus and Woburn played at Wakefield High School, Veterans Field, Mapleway Park and Lynnfield High School until only one team remained in each division. There was some excellent softball to be seen at all four fields and what follows is a recap of some of the action that played out this weekend.
Cassidy Silva of Wakefield behind the plate for the 14U Northeast Reign.
The 14U Northeast Reign made a good showing this weekend, featuring two players from Wakefield: Pitcher Kathryn Sliski and Catcher Cassidy Silva. Friday night at Mapleway saw the Reign square off against the North Shore Breakers. With Cassidy behind the plate, Kathryn was in the circle for the Reign and she notched her first of three wins, with the Reign prevailing 3-0.
On Saturday after losing their first game to the VT Storm, the Reign came back with a solid win over a strong South Shore Chaos team, which earned them the No. 3 seed for the elimination round.
They started Sunday with a 10-8 win in a close game against the Blackstone Valley Venom but that would be the end of their run as they fell to the VT Storm in the Semi Final Game.
Kathryn Sliski (Reign) shown throwing some heat in their win over the 14U South Shore Chaos
On Friday the 6:00 game at LHS was the first of five wins for the Rage where they defeated the NE Storm in a 12-0 contest. The 10:00 game on Saturday continued their offensive onslaught with a 13-1 win over the NE Hurricanes, completing Saturday with an impressive 5-2 victory over the Blackstone Valley Venom. This set them on top for Sunday, just edging out the Vermont Storm for the No.1 seed.
On Sunday the Rage took the 10:00 game 17-9 over the South Shore Chaos, after which they played one of their only nail-biters in a tight 5-4 victory over the North Shore Breakers in the semi-final game.
The Vermont Storm played all three pool games on Saturday, starting with an 8:00 win over the South Shore Chaos. In the 12:00 game they handed the Reign their only loss in pool play with an impressive 12-3 win. The Storm went on to finish the day with a well-played 11-8 win over the North Shore Breakers. Sunday saw the VT Storm team starting out with early leads and never looking back, defeating a strong NE Storm team 14-7 and then seeing the Reign for the second time, handing them their final loss 8-2.
In last year’s 14U championship game, it was the Rage vs Vermont Storm and after a close game, the Rage was victorious. This year the championship game once again included those two teams with a different result. Once again it was a close game with two well-matched teams. After some back and forth, the score was tied going into the last inning. After three games on Saturday and in their third game on Sunday, the Storm was able to reach deep and put two unanswered runs on the board in the last inning, bringing them this year’s 14U championship. Both teams were in it to the end but this time it was the Storm who finished on top.
14U Finalists (Rage) posing along side this years 14U champion, Vermont Storm
As has been the tradition with this tournament, the opening of the 18U games was preceded with performances of the National Anthem at the two fields. Sam Prosperi (a friend of Meghan) was the soloist at Vets field and the WMHS Marching band performed at Meghan Burnett Field. Once the opening ceremonies were finished and hats returned to heads, it was “Game On”!
WMHS Marching Band (Summer team) performed the National Anthem at MB Field on opening day and then again before the 18U championship game. This is one of those enhancements that sets this tournament apart.
Friday evening, Vets field hosted the Blackstone Valley Venom vs the Rage which proved to be a close game, well played by both teams. The Rage pulled away and was up by three runs heading into the bottom of the last inning. The bases were loaded with two outs when Franny Fitch came to the plate. With two strikes, she lined a shot to Left field, tearing around the bases and beating the throw home to score a walk-off grand slam and win the game for the Venom, 6-5.
Unfazed by the sudden loss, Deb Smith, coach for the Rage took it all in stride. “Sometimes thats just how it goes”. After a spirited showing in pool play Saturday, the Rage had lost another close game but won their final game, earning them the 6th seed on Sunday. The Venom was on a tear, winning all three games, scoring 20 runs and earning the No.1 seed for the tournament.
As usually happens, (Elimination) Sunday is a new day and everyone gets a fresh start. Saturday’s results don’t dictate Sunday’s winners as 0-3 teams can go on to win the championship on Sunday, so this time the 10:00 game at Vets pitted the No. 1 seed Venom against the No.7 seed EMass Panthers. The Panthers have a reputation of being a strong, scrappy team but they had a rough go of it in pool play this weekend and were not going down without a fight. Panther coach Guy Cafarella noted “I like being the underdog”!
True to form, the Panthers came out strong going ahead early, but the Venom bats hammered away and they took the lead. Both teams exchanged blows until the Panthers exploded for 3 unanswered runs late in the game, resulting in their 7-4 victory over the favored team.
Izzy Lavasseur (Rage) delivering a pitch as Ainsley Thorne (VT Storm) is ready to break for home.
Meanwhile at Meghan Burnett Field, the Rage was battling back, starting with an 8:00 win over the 3rd ranked Vermont Storm, followed by another hard-fought, nail-biter win over the No.2 seed South Shore Chaos. This was one of the best games of the weekend as it remained a close, back and forth game throughout that included a Chaos 230-foot, 2-run bomb from Noey Giardina over the fence in left-center field. Still the Rage never let up and at the final out were on top 6-5, earning their spot in the championship game.
Kaelyn Chase (Chaos) connects with a low pitch, going deep on Sunday.
The championship games on Sunday were played at Vets (14U) and at MB Field (18U) with pregame anthem performances by Zachariah Baumhardt at Vets and the WMHS Marching Band at MB Field. This year, thanks to Matt O’Connor (with an assist from his sister Megan), the semi final and final 18U games at MB Field had the added benefit of a live announcer.
The 18U championship saw the 4th ranked Northeast Hurricanes (Salem, NH) facing off against the No. 6 seed Rage. The Hurricanes won some close games on Saturday, losing only to the No.2 seed South Shore Chaos. On Sunday however, they were not to be stopped as they posted impressive run-rule wins against every opponent, amassing an incredible 34 runs in 3 games! Adding to some impressive offensive play, the Hurricanes were lead by pitching phenom Julia Caruso, who had been recognized on Saturday as one of the best pitchers in pool play, despite being only 13. (Yes, you read that right, 13!). Her catcher Nalia Hilton is only 12!
The Hurricanes went on to complete their perfect day with a hard fought 10-0 win.
Julia Caruso, pitching for the Northeast Hurricanes in the Championship Game.
Not on my watch- Izzy Lavasseur (Rage) covering 3rd, keeps the Hurricanes runner close to the bag.
12 year old Hurricanes Catcher Nalia Hilton was a stud behind the plate, playing like she was leaving to play in college after the tournament!
Ella Bezanson (Rage) in a frequently seen pose this weekend, having stolen another base, this time in the final game vs the Hurricanes.
18U Champion Northeast Hurricanes
18U Rage- Tournament Finalists
In the end there were both nail-biters and some games called early due to the run-rule. There were teams dominant on Saturday and then “one-and-done” on Sunday. As always there were also teams who played well enough to win but at the last out came up short by one run. Everyone was in the running and as they say, a good time was had by all.
Meghan would've loved to be here…(or was she already?)
Meghan’s parents added “We got to see 250 girls play some great softball with the same heart and enthusiasm that we loved to see from Meghan- it was like having 250 daughters that weekend!”
The Northeast Reign 14U went Old School and played for Meg
Shannon Varvitsiotis (Chaos) throwing smoke on Saturday.
Chaos Asst Coach Mike O’Neil keeping his team loose during a tight spot in the inning
Liz Huggins (Spinners) makes the stretch to beat the Chaos baserunner to 1B.
Good eye- Brianna Ghilardi (Chaos) lays off a nasty drop ball.
Nick Goodreau, head coach of St Michael’s College Softball Team stopped by For a visit.
Lauren Celia (Rage) lays down a perfect bunt on Sunday
Izzy Lavasseur (Rage) making the throw to 1B after fielding a Spinners bunt.
Sophie Richland(VT Storm) makes the play on a Rage fly ball in deep centerfield.
Ally Lukasek (Venom) beating out an infield hit on Saturday.
Kara Johnson rounds third on her way to score in the Venom’s 7-2 upset over the Vermont Storm.
Mia Orluk of the Spinners takes care of an infield fly.
Chloe Ducharme of the Spinners fouls one off before going deep in Sunday's game vs the South Shore Chaos.
Audrey Tembreull (VT Storm) steals 2B as Mia Orluk (Spinners) receives the throw.
The Meghan Burnett Foundation would like to extend their gratitude to the WMHS Music program and all the volunteers that came out this weekend and made the tournament a success. They would also like to recognize and thank Dennis Fazio and the DPW grounds crew for getting the fields ready for a tournament of this magnitude (as they do every year) and their generous continued assistance throughout the weekend! The participating coaches, Umpires and USA Softball officials were all very complimentary of both the fields and the volunteers at those fields, and they all want to come back and do it again next July!
the Grounds crew at Vets made sure the players knew where they were.
The Spinners make good use of the infield sprinkler before the game.
At the end of the tournament, the Burnett Family posed with the officials including Buddy Brooks ( USA Softball Umpire-in-Charge) and Courtney Norton (Teammate of Meghan’s in the BayState Games and would’ve been a teammate and a classmate as well at St Michael’s College)
Cassidy Silva and Kathryn Sliski both of the Northeast Reign, pose with some old guy who was hanging around the field, learning how to use the sprinkler.
Nora and Peggy Hagopian were at MB Field for every game, running the scoreboard. When they saw it wasn’t in use at last years tournament, they took matters into their own hands and made sure it was 100% operational this year! Nora Pitched for WMHS and was last years recipient of the Fly High Tournament award. Nora just completed her first year at Bentley College.
The broadcast team- The parts of Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo were played by Matt and Megan O'Connor
The Sales Department- Paige Butland, Macie Story and Alissa Story.
Madalyn LoCoco was the recipient of this years “Fly High” Tournament award. Maddy has been active in the Marching Band, playing at the tournament all four years of her high school career as well as being active in the Tri-M honor society, participating in (and this year organizing) the annual Meghan Burnett Concert to benefit the Meghan Burnett Foundation.
Players from the 14U Tar Heels and the 14U Wakefield Middleessex league team helped out with concessions on Sunday. From Left: Addison Butland, Megan O’Connor, Jill Arcari, Katy Bergeron and Maddy Bergeron.
Every year the Boston Red Sox provide an item for raffle at the tournament. This year it was a framed, official MLB autographed photo of Xander Bogaerts and the winner was Jamie Butler of White ave. Seen here with his father, Doug.
Between Games, Nina Oliver shows how to "Fly High" as she helps the grounds crew by checking to make sure the infield sprinkler is working.
the vets Field crew was the dream team, from Left: Lou Amalfitano, Fred Malonson, Tim Coggswell (back row), Tom Purcell, Joe DiFazio, Dom Gasdia and Mike Truesdale.
Grounds Crew Volunteers Mike DeMarco, Mark Stark and Bob DeMarco getting MB field ready for Saturday.
the crew at Vets field included Tom Purcell, Taylor Purcell, Andrea Purcell, Jeff Butland and Cam Butland (Front Row)
the sales team at Vets rotated thru but in this photo we captured some of Meghans old friends and teammates. From Left: Vanessa Kadderas, Nicole Catino, Tom Purcell, Julia Purcell and Meaghan Gibbons.
The Old Man and the Sprinkler (with apologies to Hemingway) a student of Professor Fazio demonstrating the technique of using the hand to deflect the spray as Tim Donohue (Wakefield Youth Softball) Supervises the operation