Editor’s note: This is the first story in a continuing series in which players and coaches reflect on their favorite games.
Steve Malenfant bleeds crimson and old gold. The Newburyport alumnus played basketball, ran cross-country and graced the diamond before moving on to coach baseball, basketball, soccer, golf and gymnastics in various locales.
When asked about the greatest game he ever played, Malenfant, a Newburyport High English teacher and head baseball coach, is quick to answer. He remembers his first varsity baseball game in 1972 when the Clippers beat Phillips Exeter Academy, 5-2. Swampscott native Mike Lynch, now a news anchor at WCVB Channel 5 Boston, was the losing pitcher of record.
“We did something the previous team hadn’t done,” said Malenfant. “We beat Mike Lynch from Swampscott, and he was a year older. It was like … It was a championship. We were basically all JV players.”
Swampscott was a big Port rival at the time, and Lynch, who would go on to pitch and play quarterback at Harvard University, had already beaten the Clippers in football, basketball and baseball the year before. He moved on to his post-graduate year at Exeter.
Another factor that made the Exeter win so special for Malenfant was that it was the first of 616 varsity wins for 40-year coach and close friend Bill Pettingell.
“We all moved up with Coach Pettingell,” said Malenfant. “Sophomore year, we all played JV for Coach Pettingell. In junior year, it was virtually the same. We were basically a senior/sophomore team.”
But Malenfant and crew were about to step onto the field for their last, first game as Clippers, ever.
“I don’t wash all that stuff out,” Malenfant says of his surroundings both physical and symbolic. “Senior year, with each game, you want to go through every step. Because it’s the last time you’re ever going to do it. So you look around, you take everything in.”