By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
No matter what season it is, Mainland Regional High School sophomore Shea Scannell is in season. Throw a dart at a calendar and whatever day it hits, chances are Scannell is either kicking, shooting or throwing a ball.
In just her second year of high school, Scannell has quickly blossomed into a highly regarded player for three different Mustangs teams. She’s the starting varsity center-midfielder for the soccer team, point guard for the basketball team and, this year, left fielder for the softball team. She didn’t play softball as a freshman, not because she didn’t want to, but because she missed the tryouts to attend a soccer tournament for her travel team.
Mainland softball coach Frank Marascio took one look at Scannell in early March and knew she would be one of his nine starters. She’s the fastest player and has the versatility to play nearly any position.
“Her skill, obviously, made me put her on varsity. She’s the fastest girl in our program,” Marascio said. “You can see her speed. And she’s aggressive. She attacks the ball at the plate, and when you have an athletic girl like that it’s very easy to move her up the ranks.”
Moving to left field is a bit of an adjustment for Scannell, a natural infielder, but Marascio believes that her athleticism will help her develop into a potential All-Cape-Atlantic League selection somewhere down the road.
“She is definitely at the right level. Batting .500, I mean, you can’t ask for anything more,” Marascio said. “The biggest thing is (three-sport athletes) are more athletic. The softball athlete will play their position really well, but the athlete that plays more sports is a little bit more versatile. You can put them in different spots.”
To Scannell, the Mustangs’ leadoff batter, playing sports is just something she has been doing all her life. Like eating. Or sleeping. She is, not unexpectedly considering she’s a sophomore, trying to find her way on the varsity level ‑- a bit shy and worried more about letting her team down than her own statistics.
“I was expecting to play JV and maybe a little varsity if I could. I didn’t realize I’d be starting,” Scannell said. When she found out she’d be the Mustangs’ starting left fielder, Scannell said, “My heart dropped. I was like, ‘oh, no! Oh, my God.’ But I’ve been doing well so far.”
“She’s very, very humble,” Marascio said. “I tell her all the time what a great player she is and she doesn’t want to say, ‘Oh yeah, I am.’ A very humble girl, which is great because then they don’t develop an attitude or a cockiness.”
Girls soccer coach Christopher Connolly echoed those sentiments.
“She was our leading scorer last season but you wouldn’t know it by the way she carries herself off the field,” Connolly said. “She doesn’t brag. She just gets the work done.”
What has helped Scannell on the softball field is the presence and guidance of senior center fielder Alix Haberkern, one of only three seniors on a very young Mainland team.
“She tells me what to do so I’m not a lost puppy out there,” Scannell said of Haberkern.
“They learn a lot from the seniors,” Marascio said of his younger players. “Alex has been our center fielder for three years now, so to learn and get experience from an older kid like that, that’s an intangible you can’t teach.”
Marascio also said the makeup of the team, which includes five starters who are sophomores, made the decision to put a player with no varsity experience in a key outfield position that much easier.
“She has some friends on the team, so that makes it easier,” Marascio said. “She doesn’t feel like an outcast, or the black sheep, if you will. We’re starting five sophomores, they all know each other and they cross sports.”
“I know all the girls. They are just such great people and we get along great,” Scannell said.
Connolly said he’s not surprised Scannell is a three-sport varsity starter as a sophomore. She started for him as a freshman at the all-important center-midfielder position, which is comparable to being a quarterback in football.
“We had a good crop of freshmen coming in and she was one of them, and she definitely made her mark,” Connolly said. “She adjusted well. She’s a very hard worker and has a lot of poise. If she was nervous, you couldn’t tell.
“She came in and made the transition very well to high school. Shea can play any position, and I assume she can do that in basketball and softball.”
Connolly said he is happy to see Scannell get back on the softball diamond and is impressed with her success throughout this school year.
“I’m glad to see her go back to softball. She didn’t play it last year, but it’s great to see her getting back to it. Three-sport athletes are few and far between,” Connolly said. “You don’t really see it much anymore, let alone a sophomore starting three varsity sports. It’s not very common.”
For the 15-year-old, it also helps that her parents, Joann and Tim, are so supportive of her grueling schedule and her desire to play three high school sports as well as travel soccer and softball.
“They are proud of me. They always encourage me to try the best that I can and they are always there to support me,” Scannell said.
Still, the grind of season after season with relatively no down time, on top of maintaining high grades, can be rough on a girl who isn’t even halfway through her high school career yet.
“All year round, all sports. It’s very physically draining. I go home and just pass out on the couch,” Scannell said. “But I like sports. I can handle it. I’ve been handling it for a while.”