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09/01/2023 04:36 PM

Eagleson a Star Pitcher for Guilford 10U All Stars Softball

Guilford 10U All Stars softball pitcher Maeve Eagleson has been a force on the mound, pitching a no-hitter while striking out 13 batters in a regional tournament victory for the Grizzlies. Photo courtesy of Kyle Eagleson

The Guilford 10U All Stars softball team made an incredible run this summer, supplanting themselves as one of the region’s premier teams across the league. Undoubtedly, that run, which culminated with a trip to the regional semifinals in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliance of Maeve Eagleson.

Maeve, 11, was not only dominant on the mound, tossing a no-hitter with 13 strikeouts in a regional tournament victory over Rhode Island, but also doubled as one of the squad’s best hitters.

“I expected to go to sectionals,” Maeve says. “I didn’t expect to get this far.”

Consider those expectations met, and then some. Maeve’s no-no came on the heels of a 4-0 win over Maryland, in which she punched out 16 batters and also homered.

“She loves pitching,” says Maeve’s father, Kyle Eagleson. “But I really think the most exciting moment for her (she likes hitting more than pitching) was her home run in the game against Maryland. I could just tell by her face how excited and happy she was. Her pitching was unbelievable too.”

That’s one way to put it.

“If Maeve is not the strongest pitcher in this, she’s one of the top two strongest,” Guilford 10U All Stars Head Coach Andrea Klein says prior to the conclusion of the tournament. “She has a changeup, and she can hit different parts of the plate.”

In addition to her changeup, Kyle says Maeve is now working on a cutter with a personal pitching coach, in hopes of adding to her arsenal. That should suit her well as she shifts her focus to the fall season, which is scheduled to pick up after Labor Day. There will be a tournament in Bridgeport, followed by about two more months of competition before play heads indoors for the winter.

Maeve spent much of the summer pitching to Leah Michalowski, who also hit close to .600 out of the clean-up spot.

“The team was fun because I liked hanging out with all the girls,” Maeve says, adding that Michalowski is her close friend and neighbor.

As a collective unit, the All Star team found themselves very unified this summer, with some girls bringing more experience to the table and guiding the ones that had less exposure to big moments.

“It was a great group of girls that made tremendous progress throughout the (summer),” Kyle adds. “We started in mid-June, so it was sort of a quick ramp-up period, and they learned a lot of skills. They always played their hearts out. Some of the girls on the younger side, they looked toward some of the older girls for leadership. It was nice to see the bonding and leadership play out.”

Many of those bonding experiences took place outside the games themselves. The team, for instance, visited a local waterpark and took in a minor league baseball game, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, prior to which Maeve tossed out the first pitch. The latter came as a surprise.

“She was a bit nervous,” Kyle says with a laugh. “So when she got the ball, she quickly threw it. Then she kind of jogged off the field. She’s usually quiet in that respect. She doesn’t really talk about her success, she’s more of a perfectionist.”

When reflecting back on the summer season, filled with tremendous memories that Maeve can take with her as she continues on in her softball career, she notes that she particularly enjoyed the pre-tournament banquet. Held at a hotel ballroom, the event was followed by a two-to-three-hour dance party, featuring all the regional teams.

“It was just fun,” Maeve says.

Once the regional tournament got underway, Maeve and her teammates got the celebrity treatment. Games were streamed online, giving the players more exposure to the public.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Kyle says. “The whole town of Guilford was very supportive. I couldn’t believe how many people were watching it online or on social media. There was a lot of buzz in the community, which was awesome to see.”

A few local businesses even chipped in to help with the travel costs, which included six days on the road. Guilford advanced all the way to the regional semifinals, where it was beaten 5-4 by New York. In the finale, Maeve tripled and combined with Reagan Klein to strike out 11 batters in five innings. This performance gave Maeve much satisfaction, and helped significantly with her confidence.

“I certainly know she’s happy,” Kyle says. “Anytime we talk about (her success), her face lights up.”

When it comes to softball, which she’s played since the age of 8, Maeve is a fast learner. She’s especially ramped up her commitment of late, playing for the Shoreline Sting, an AAU team based out of Guilford. The team also draws players from surrounding towns, including Madison, North Branford, East Haven and Haddam-Killingworth. One of the benefits is better competition.

From the jump, Maeve had her eye on pitching.

“When she was 8 or 9, she always wanted to pitch but had no formal training or experience,” Kyle says. “The coach (at the time) just said, ‘OK, you want to pitch? You want it so bad?’ He put her in the game. She did amazing. She was kind of a natural at it and just took off from there.”

And now? Maeve is on the fast track to success.