Eastie Resident Fanning Winding Down a Tremendous Softball Career at SSU

Katelynn Fanning began her softball career on the fields of East Boston. The East Boston T-Ball League was her first stop.

When Robyn DiMeo launched the East Boston Girls Softball League at Festa Field, Fanning took to the pitcher’s mound and hasn’t looked back since. Always looking for a competitive environment, she continued her youth softball playing in Revere Babe Ruth as well.

The one constant in her development as a softball player was her father, John, and her mother Michelle. John served as his daughter’s coach and personal mentor through high school.

“I still go to him and ask, ‘what did I do wrong this game?’” said Fanning. “He’s at every game. The only games he’s missed are my first no-hitter at St. Mary’s and my first no-hitter at Salem State.

Michelle Fanning has attended virtually every game in which her daughter has played. Her support, guidance and encouragement have been instrumental in Katelynn’s maturation into a personable, confident, and bright 22-year-old woman who will graduate with a degree in Nursing this December.

Katelyn Fanning became a star at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn. Her team became a perennial contender for a state championship and she garnered some major awards, notably her selection as the Boston Globe Division 3 Player of the Year.

Colleges took notice of her superior pitching and hitting. After considering UMass/Lowell and St. Anselm. she chose to attend Salem State University four years ago.

It was a good choice. The St. Mary’s High School Class of 2008 graduate has found SSU to be a perfect fit for her collegiate academic and athletic experience.

A Dean’s List student, she has been a four-year starting pitcher and recently reached an impressed career milestone when she struck out her 500th batter.

A right-handed pitcher with excellent control, she’s won 10 games this season heading into the MASCAC Tournament. Fanning said this year’s team is talented and hoping to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, a feat the Lady Vikings accomplished in her sophomore year when she was team MVP and MASCAC pitcher of the year.

The jump from one of the best programs in the state at St. Mary’s High School to Division 3 college softball was challenging.

“In college, every single player is at a high level so you have to work harder,” said Fanning. “When you’re a pitcher, your curve ball better break because all of the opposing batters are really good.”

She said that St. Mary’s coach Colleen Newbury, a former All-American at Salem State (Class of 1999), prepared her well for entry into college softball.

“She [Newbury] was one of the best coaches that I’ve ever had,” said Fanning. “She just really cares about her players. She puts so much time and effort into every single one of them. I figured it out over the years that she’s one of the best there is.”

Fanning said she’s been fortunate at Salem State to have a coach who understands the balance between academics and playing a college sport.

“The coach is really good with helping us balance our busy schedules,” said Fanning, a Dean’s List student. “I have a set schedule and I know where I have to be at a certain time and that helps me get things done.”

SSU coach Leanne Harris has been at the helm for the past six seasons. The program has emerged as a MASCAC power during Fanning’s four years in the program. The Lady Vikings have gone from six wins in Harris’s first season to 29 this spring.

“After her freshman year, Katelynn really excelled as a sophomore and took us to the NCAAs and set a strikeout record,” said Harris. “She continued to stay strong her junior and senior years. Striking out 500 batters is like scoring 1,000 points in basketball. It’s a significant accomplishment. I like Katelynn’s dedication to softball and to the college. She’s a great student-athlete as a nursing major.”

Team captains Gabbie Vitale (Bishop Fenwick] and infielder Michelle Grifoni (Peabody) say that Fanning is a great person and fun to be around.

“I just started catching her last year,” said Vitale. “We have a good chemistry. She’s intense like I am. We were rivals in high school but when we came to Salem State, we hit it off and we’ve become friends for four years. She’s awesome. She does really well in school and it’s fun to hang out with her.”

Grifoni said she first met Fanning during the Agganis Softball Classic.

“We’ve been best friends for four years and we want to work together in the same hospital one day,” said Grifoni, who is also a Nursing major. “Katelynn is one of our leaders. It’s been a special season. It’s probably our best year. I hope we qualify for the NCAAs.”

Fanning is getting a head start in her nursing career. She works as a certified nursing assistant at New England Baptist Hospital.

She was inspired to pursue a nursing career during her mother Michelle’s battle with cancer. Her mother is doing well today.

“One of her nurses convinced me to go toward the medical field,” said Fanning. “But I wouldn’t be in nursing if I didn’t go to Salem State. And I love nursing.”

But Fanning is not ready to hang up her cleats just yet.

“I know I’m going to miss the fun and camaraderie of playing college softball at Salem State,” said Fanning. “I’ve met so many great people through softball. I’m so grateful to my parents for all their support. It’s been a great four years and I’d love to compete with my teammates in one more NCAA Tournament.”

Fanning will still maintain a strong connection to Salem State. Her sister, Meghan, is a freshman at the college and a graduate of St. Mary’s. Another sister, Casey, plays softball at St. Mary’s.

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