Madison’s softball field isn’t ready to host a game yet, but the Bulldogs got in nine games in Orlando, Fla.
Coach Chris LeBlanc said the Bulldogs faced schools from their size — around 280 students — all the way up to a school of 1,600 students from Rhode Island.
“They pounded us pretty good,” LeBlanc said. “Two games later, we played them again, and we held them to 3-0 most of the game.”
LeBlanc said the team stayed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. Since teams can only do fundraising during their season, LeBlanc said it was actually a two-year process to raise the money for the trip.
“It was a good trip, because we certainly wouldn’t have got nine games around here,” LeBlanc said. “We stayed at the Disney Resort. When you do that, everything’s taken care of. They give you batting cages and a schedule, and they take you from the resort right to the game. It’s done first-class all the way.”
While the weather in Florida was good for softball, what LeBlanc described is not the Florida you see in commercials.
“To be honest with you, it was 60-70 degrees, but we didn’t see a lot of sun,” LeBlanc said. “It was overcast the majority of the time that we were there. Our fans were in sweatshirts and they had the ESPN blankets at some of the games.”
Still, the trip met its purpose. LeBlanc said he wanted to check out some combinations in the field, and the coaching staff thinks they now have the right one. That wouldn’t have been possible without going south. Madison even had to move Friday’s game with Hall-Dale to Farmingdale.
“As of today, neither of our fields are ready to play,” LeBlanc said Thursday evening. “There’s still a little bit of ice on the baseball field, and there’s snow and ice on the softball field. We practiced inside today.”
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Winslow opened its season Wednesday with a 22-4 victory over Waterville. Winslow coach Steve Bodge said the Black Raiders had 11 hits, including four for extra bases.
The Black Raiders needed to replace their pitcher, catcher, first baseman, and shortstop from last season, and Bodge said the early returns are promising. Right now, Hannah Doble and Hillary Libby are splitting the pitching.
“Like it always seems to, it’s falling into place,” Bodge said. “We have one plan when Hannah pitches, and a separate plan when Hillary pitches. But it seems to be working out good. I think we’re going to take the whole season to get ready, but providing we can win the games we’re supposed to, I think we’ll be ready by playoff time.”
The new catchers are sophomores Kiana Richards and Paige Veilleux. With Veilleux out, Richards is the Black Raiders’ only catcher at the moment.
“She’s really taken that to heart and doing a good job with it,” Bodge said. “She’s really working her tail off.”
Winslow should face tougher games coming up, as the Raiders are at Camden Hills on Friday and host Nokomis on Monday.
“I’m real interested to get to these next two games, to see where we’re at,” Bodge said.
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With seven seniors, Nokomis is expected to be a solid team this season. The Warriors had 20 hits, including three home runs in a 24-1 victory over Maine Central Institute on Thursday.
“The only problem I am having — which a lot of teams don’t have — is I have 10 starters, but only nine positions,” Nokomis coach J.D. McLellan said.
One player who has stepped in to fill a new position is junior Shannon Kasprzak at second base.
“She’s been the backup for two straight years, and worked her butt off to get here,” McLellan said. “She earned it.”
Sara Packard started Thursday’s game in the circle and struck out 12 batters without a walk in five innings. Packard missed part of last season on a school trip to Italy, and McLellan said she’s in more of a groove this spring.
“She wants to be the leader,” McLellan said. “She’s stepped up. She’s good at it. She loves softball. When you get someone who loves the games, wants to step up, helps us, that just makes a huge difference.”