Devastated by COVID, Shevlin Family Finds Solace in Softball Team’s Success

Devastated by COVID, Shevlin Family Finds Solace in Softball Teams Success

Jerry Carino

Story via Jerry Carino-Asbury Park Press

The cardinal appeared outside the kitchen window of the Shevlin family home. The red bird often is interpreted as a sign from a departed loved one. The Shevlins certainly took it that way.

It was April 16. Later that afternoon, Middletown High School North’s softball team rallied past Freehold Township 6-4 thanks for four RBIs and nine strikeouts by Mallory Shevlin.

The cardinal could have represented Mallory’s grandfather, Joe Hickey, who died of COVID in April 2020. Or perhaps her father’s first cousin, Robert Weber, a Port Monmouth first responder who died of COVID that same month. Or an aunt, an uncle or a handful of others. All told, the Shevlins lost seven family members and three close friends to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

“We were devastated,” mom Mary Shevlin said. “But we had to pull ourselves together for our kids. We told our kids we would get through this together.”

They did, and now Mallory, who nearly gave up softball during the 2020 lockdown, has pitched Middletown North into a championship game. The Lions’ journey to Friday’s NJSIAA Central Group 3 final at Steinert has provided solace to the Shevlins and a reminder of the healing power of sports.

“It’s bringing us back to life before COVID and we’re finally enjoying it,” Mary Shevlin said.

The Shevlin Family poses with Mallory during Middletown North’s Senior Day.

“I haven’t seen this in my family in a few years,” said Mallory’s dad, Dan Shevlin. “It’s important. We needed it.”

At the depths of the shutdown, with no season, no teammates around her and news of death pouring in from all directions, Mallory “was close to packing it in,” Dan Shevlin said. Making matters worse: College recruitment grinded to a halt, and the NCAA’s decision to award a fifth year of eligibility to athletes put her goal of playing Division I softball virtually out of reach as collegiate rosters quickly maxed out.

“It was super heartbreaking for me, and it was really hard to get out of,” Mallory said. “I owe a lot to my family and my friends and teammates for being there for me, knowing I was going through a hard time. I had their support unconditionally through everything.”

After a truncated, six-win season in 2021, Mallory has made the most of her senior campaign. She’s recorded 158 strikeouts while batting .326 with four home runs, three triples, seven doubles and 19 RBIs. In Tuesday’s sectional semifinal win over Wall, she struck out 10 while allowing just two runs.

Mallory Shevlin during the 2022 Shore Conference Tournament Second Round matchup vs Raritan. Photo via Thomas P. Costello

“My father would be so proud,” Mary Shevlin said. “He would be calling his friends and bragging about her. He would be collecting the newspaper articles about her.”

Next year Mallory will pitch for Brookdale Community College, which is making its own postseason run this month. Right now, the impact her success is having on her parents is not lost on her. After a grueling two years, it’s a ray of light.

“I feel like I am giving back after all the years of them following me, driving me to practices and games, traveling the state, seeing their support and love for me over the years,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to let them know that it was all for the right reasons.”

Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996. Contact him at [email protected]