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McGAIR: Lincoln's McDonough ready to flash softball talents on All-American stage

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Darien

La Salle Academy graduate and Lincoln resident Darien McDonough, above, was selected to play in the PGF All-American Game in Huntington Beach, Calif. next Saturday. McDonough, who led the Rams to the 2019 state title, is headed to Boston College in the fall.

A little of this, a little of that …

• Who better to let Lincoln’s Darien McDonough know she had made the final cut for the 2021 Premier Girls Fastpitch (PGF) High School All-American Game than her soon-to-be Boston College teammate?

“You need to check the All-American rosters right now,” was what McDonough was told to do per Hannah Slike, future BC Eagle catcher who’s from California.

Who made the roster that was announced via Twitter on June 9? Was it Slike or McDonough?

“She said we’re both on it. We were on the phone and in shock,” said McDonough. “You had to keep checking social media. They put a countdown up that it would be coming out at 1 p.m., but I wasn’t sitting by my phone and eager to check. [Silke] kept refreshing the page so she saw it before I did. That’s when she told me.”

To clarify, McDonough is one of 20 girls on PGF’s All-American East roster while Slike is on the West squad. The actual All-American contest is set for one week from today – July 31 – and will air live on ESPNU at 3 p.m. East Coast Time from Huntington Beach, Calif.

“It’s something that’ll be both fun and competitive,” said McDonough when reached earlier this week.

A 2021 graduate from La Salle Academy, McDonough flew out to California on Friday to participate in her final travel softball tournament with R.I. Thunder-Lotti.

“Honestly, I would be bored,” said the outfielder in response to her desire to keep grinding during the time between the end of her final high school season and when she heads to BC. “I love softball and grew up in the Thunder organization. It’s great that I got to play one more summer season before college.”

The All-American news was months in the making. McDonough landed on the watch list that was released during the winter. In April, the list was reduced even further based on your region.

“It was cool just to be considered, but the closer it got, the more I was, ‘Oh my God, I might be able to make this,’” said McDonough, an outfielder who is believed to be the first Rhode Island native to participate in this event.

Through social media, McDonough has become better acquainted with her fellow All-American brethren – we’re about talking kids who are heading to Power 5 schools. Now she gets the chance to see them in a different light besides the acclaim brought about by softball.

“They’re all studs and everyone is talking about them, but now I get to see what they’re really like,” said McDonough. “When I was 14, I was playing against kids going to these types of schools. It’ll be an anxious experience, but it won’t be a culture shock.

“It’s unreal just to be included,” she added.

For McDonough, the buildup to next Saturday’s main event includes taking her headshot on Saturday and a dinner on Monday night where she’ll be presented with her All-American uniform. Also, ESPNU had her fill out a questionnaire in an effort to acquire information to be shared on air.

“I actually had to think about some of the answers,” she said. “One of the questions was about athletic history. I bet they talk about that one because my mom [Elisa] and grandpa [James] are in the Hall of Fame at URI. My brother [Jackson] is a college athlete [at Bryant, where he swims]. I told him they may talk about him on TV.”

***

• At the end of the day, Wes Pennington’s ability to rebuild the North Smithfield High football program not once but twice during his 12 seasons spent on the sidelines is a testament to his willingness to make it work.

From 2010-14, the Northmen under Pennington’s watch compiled a 27-12 league record. In short, he made football cool at a school that didn’t have much of a pigskin tradition to speak of. Then came a significant low point that left the program at a crossroads, the result of having no choice but to forfeit the remaining two games of the 2015 season due to low numbers.

North Smithfield athletic director Matt Tek remembers talking to Pennington about ways to get the Northmen back on track. When the option of forming a co-op with Mount St. Charles was presented, Pennington in so many words said, “Where do I sign up?”

“The way Wes runs things, we knew we had a good shot of making this happen. He embraced the Mount St. Charles kids as if they were North Smithfield kids,” said Tek. “He took the fact that we had to call [the R.I. Interscholastic League] and tell them we couldn’t finish the [2015] season as a personal challenge. That wasn’t going to happen during his tenure again.”

The merging of two schools for one common goal produced a sweet result in 2019 when the Northmen/Mounties captured the Division IV Super Bowl. The second rebuilding effort under Pennington’s watch was officially complete.

Turning around West Warwick has now become Pennington’s calling card, hence there’s a vacancy that Tek must fill with less than a month to go before the first day of practice. The deadline to submit one’s application in the hope of becoming the next NS/MSC head coach is next Tuesday.

“The situation almost demands we have someone in place sooner rather than later,” said Tek. “We wish Wes all the best of luck at West Warwick, but there’s not a lot of time. We’ll see who gets tabbed, but that person will have some big shoes to fill.”

***

• Proving she’s more than a success story on the soccer field and in the classroom, Cumberland High alumnus Abby Drezek has been nominated for the 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year award. The recognition comes after Drezek graduated and exhausted her eligibility with the UMass Lowell women’s soccer team.

You could probably write a book based off Drezek’s lengthy and impressive list of accomplishments during her four years at Lowell. A two-time soccer captain, Drezek earned a 3.96 GPA as an undergrad and also found time to participate in numerous clubs and activities – from promoting the importance of mental health on the behalf of student-athletes to collecting canned goods for local pantries.

For Drezek, the next step is to see if she’s the choice to represent America East Conference. That announcement will be made sometime next month. Conference nominations are then forwarded to the NCAA Woman of the Year Selection Committee, which then identifies the top 10 honorees in each of the three NCAA divisions. From those 30 honorees, the selection committee then determines the nine finalists (three from each division).

The 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced as part of an Oct. 17 awards ceremony in Indianapolis.

***

• It’s nice to spread the word about a pair of upcoming endeavors on behalf of the Woonsocket High football program after the decision was made to sit out last season.

Next Friday (July 30), the Novans will host a golf tournament at Crystal Lake Golf Club. There’s still a need for golfers – $125 per person, $500 per foursome – and sponsors. A post-round dinner is included following the 8 a.m. shotgun start.

On Saturday, August 14, Woonsocket will stage its inaugural “We Not Me” football camp. Taking place at Barry Field from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the one-day non-tackling event with a concentration in skill development is open to ages 8-13 and costs $20.

For more information, contact head coach Charlie Bibeault at (401) 864-6634.

***

• We’re now less than a week away from the MLB Trade Deadline. If the Red Sox want to be viewed through the prism of being perceived as a serious World Series contender, something needs to be done to increase the offensive production via first base.

***

• It appears the Triple-A team in Worcester has developed a habit of not paying extra close attention to the weather in the vicinity of Polar Park.

Already three times this season, games have been postponed due to inclement weather after a pitch had been thrown. This scribe can count on one hand how many times that happened at McCoy Stadium during my 12 seasons as PawSox beat writer. Let’s just say the rumbles in the sky rival the rumbles coming from the two dugouts and the stands. In other words, no one is happy if the game is called after the action gets underway.

By the way, if Worcester needs a weather consultant, I know a guy who would be perfect for the job.

***

• This column would have been longer, but it’s time to dust off the helmet and shoulder pads, for Patriots training camp begins next week.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03. Check out the “Ocean State Sidelines” podcast that appears on www.pawtuckettimes.com and www.woonsocketcall.com

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