TEWKSBURY — You see it all of the time in sports. You are seeing it now with the Boston Bruins' goalie Tuuka Rask – a player who is "in the zone" and enjoys an incredible hot streak.
Well over the last few weeks, Tewksbury Memorial High School's Bella DeRoche was "in a zone". The senior slugger hit everything in sight and a small sample of that came this past week in the team's final week of play. In a back-and-forth 18-11 win over Lowell Catholic, she had a double and a triple and knocked in four runs and two games later against flame thrower Ryley White of Dracut, she had one hit, one walk and two RBIs in the team's 9-4 loss.
The strong week and the strong month with the bat helped DeRoche finish the season with some incredible statistics. She batted .359 with 1 home run, 18 RBI, while she had 13 singles, six doubles, three triples, had 23 hits, scored 16 times, walked 11 and struck out just ten times.
In the beginning of the season she said she was struggling a bit, but got some guidance from an old friend and that seemed to have turned things around.
"At one point, maybe around the third of the fourth game, I started to get into a little bit of a slump and when I got hits, they were just little dinky ones and weren't really going anywhere," she said on Thursday afternoon before the team's final two games of the season. "It was more about timing but also because I was dropping my back shoulder the last second and it threw off my timing and it would make me pop up or not be able to cut the ball in half.
“My old hitting coach Jim Maniscelo came to one of the games and he told me just to make sure that my hands stay back a bit and it worked."
Maniscelo had previously coached DeRoche for the past six years between in-town and summer softball. Since that suggestion, DeRoche took off and her offense helped the Redmen win three of its last seven games after starting out 1-12.
"Honestly, I'm just seeing pitches better," she said. "I'm doing a lot better staying patient and just waiting for a good pitch to hit. That definitely helps getting good hits since I stopped swinging at the junk and I don't have to anymore.
“I like the inside pitches so I stay close to the plate so I can get my hands out in front so I think down the middle and I can also go to (the opposite field) if it's outside. I usually swing at the outside pitches if it's right on the edge of the plate or if there's two strikes and I kind of have to."
While she has provided the big bat, DeRoche also brought a terrific glove to the team making just one error all season at first base. More importantly though she brought tremendous leadership skills to the team throughout the entire season. She was the lone senior on a very young team, which went through some big tough stretches, including having its starting pitcher leave the team at the midway point.
"We definitely had our bad games," she said. "Our starting pitcher quit during the season so we went back a little back. Some games weren't the best and that kind of stunk but we also worked through some of that. We shouldn't have beaten Burlington and we did that.
“We didn't play bad for most of the season, it was just a matter of if we weren't hitting and fielding in the same inning, then we would lose that inning and we would keep losing innings and then lose games. For not having a pitcher who has pitched at the varsity level for years, I thought we did a pretty good job."
Throughout the tough losses, especially when the team had lost nine games in a row, DeRoche was still there — cheering the team on, providing the boost of confidence to her teammates and of course, having a lot of fun like she knows how to do.
"Bella is the true definition of a team captain and the girls respected her,” said head coach Brittney Kannan. “She was clutch on offense and defense, making one error all season long. When we needed hits, she produced them. She was a leader and made sure that her team was ready to give 100 percent each game.
“We had a very difficult first half of the season and played some great teams. The outcome of the games weren't in our favor but because of Bella our team chemistry became stronger and our team played every game giving 100 percent. She will be missed immensely and has left a great impact on the program.”
DeRoche will also be missed in her other two sports, field hockey and basketball. In field hockey, she played defense and helped the Redmen reach the state tournament after missing it the prior year.
In basketball, she was a key role player off the bench, helping Tewksbury finish with the best season in program history, winning the MVC Division 2 crown, before losing in the Division 2 North Final at the Tsongas Arena.
"Basketball we had a really good run and that was super exciting to do during our senior year," she said.
During her three athletic seasons, you would see DeRoche batting, running, fielding, going up for a rebound or stickhandling all with a big knee brace on. It was just a few years ago when she went through a tough injury which kept her out of the line-up for the second half of the field hockey season, as well as the hoop and softball seasons.
"(During my freshman year), "I was a goalie in field hockey and I went to kick the ball. I rolled over it and my leg kind of pinned underneath and I went to roll up and a girl fell on me and my knee twisted when she fell on me. I tore my ACL and sprained my MCL. I had surgery, Oct 30th of my freshman year and was out basketball and softball season."
After nearly a year of being on the sidelines and rehabilitation, DeRoche came back to TMHS in the fall of 2016.
"I had to switch (from goalie to defense in field hockey) because I couldn't get the equipment over my knee," she said with a big laugh. "It was this big bulky thing and it wouldn't fit over my knee brace."
Despite the injury, DeRoche leaves TMHS with ten varsity letters, while being a part of seven state tournament teams, one league title, one trip to the sectional finals, while being a captain on a four-win team during her senior year. Before she goes off to UMass-Lowell to study mechanical engineering, she was asked about this past season and her overall softball career.
"I'm definitely sad about it, but I'm happy that I had the experience that I had," she said when asked about her softball career coming to an end. "My freshman year is the year they went to the state final, my sophomore year I got thrown in there and I started at first base, which was fun but also a little bit scary but we did make the state tournament that year. Then as a junior, we got a new coach. Overall it's been interesting but definitely an enjoyable experience."