BATH — It was a successful 2021 season for the Morse softball team. After finishing as the No. 3 seed in Class B South, the Shipbuilders handled Wells in the opening round of the postseason before they were stunned by No. 6 Medomak Valley 8-7 after a five-run 7th inning. 

As it turns out, it was also the end of a very successful era of Morse softball as longtime head coach Wilfred Laffley retired.

“The timing is just right for me,” said Laffley, a lifelong Bath native who took over the Morse softball program in 2005. “I told my assistant coaches at the beginning of the season that it would be my last. I gave (Morse athletic director) Nate Priest my two cents on who I thought should take over for me.”

Wilfred Laffley watches the action in a game during this past season. Laffley announced he would retiring as head coach of the Morse softball program after 16 years with the Shipbuilders. Photo provided by Wilfred Laffley

It seems like Priest agreed. 

Last week it was announced that former Morse softball standout Brianna Bigelow would be taking over the program as its next head coach. 

“I’m super excited, this is something I’ve wanted for a long time,” said Bigelow, who just finished her third season on the bench under Laffley. “I know I have some big shoes to fill but I’m ready to go.”

Bigelow played for Laffley at Morse and graduated in 2012. She went on to continue her softball career at Emerson College in Boston and graduated in 2016 with a degree in journalism and sign language. She has spent the last few years working at her mother’s restaurant in Brunswick and working her way up through the Morse coaching ranks.

“To be honest, I have thought about coaching since I was in high school. I just didn’t think that the opportunity would present itself so soon in my life,” said Bigelow, 27. “I think my time and experience and all the things I’ve learned from in the last few years will be huge.”

Brianna Bigelow is the new head coach of the Morse softball team. Photo provided by Brianna Bigelow

After she graduated in 2016, Bigelow joined the Morse middle school program as an assistant coach. She took over the program for two seasons before becoming the junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach in 2019. 

It’s clear that Laffley had been grooming Bigelow to take over the role he filled for 16 years. 

“It looked to be the right time to make a seamless transition,” said Laffley, who turned 69 at the beginning of July. “It’s obvious that she has the knowledge and has what it takes to be a leader. She brings a lot to the program and knows these girls very well. I don’t think there was a better person to take the reins (than Bri).”

While the 2022 season will be a changing of the guard on the bench, it will also be a changing of the guard on the field. The Shipbuilders graduated eight seniors this past year.

The abundance of graduates made the timing even better for the change to occur.

“I’m excited about our strong junior class and underclassmen,” said Bigelow. “I’ve coached a lot of these girls through the years. A great foundation was left behind by Coach Laffley, I just have to make sure I bring it in the right direction.”

Bigelow’s work has already begun during the Morse summer program. She says it’s been a blessing in disguise to have “smaller numbers” at the program.

“We’ve been able to work independently with players. It’s helping me learn as much as the players,” said Bigelow. “It’s been wonderful to work on the small minute details, the things you don’t really want to spend time on once the season comes around.”

It’s been “different” without Laffley running the ship, she said.

As for Laffley, he was candid when asked what he’ll miss most.

“It’s much more than just coaching between the lines,” said Laffley. “I’ll miss being a leader and a role model and enjoying the grind of the season. Brianna (Bigelow) knows I’m just one call away if she needs me.”

Added Bigelow: “I know help isn’t too far away if I need it.”

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