The Cony softball team was far from a prohibitive favorite in Eastern Maine Class A entering the season, and with excellent teams from Bangor, Oxford Hills, Skowhegan and Messalonskee still on the schedule, the situation remains the same.
But the Rams may be a little better than everyone thought.
“They’re improving every day,” coach Rocky Gaslin said. “We’re swinging the bats, making good contact.”
They’ve already defeated Skowhegan and Messalonskee in close games and face Bangor at home Thursday. There have been a few position changes but a key to the team’s success has been the return of five veterans — Alyssah Dennett, Olivia Deeves, Maggie Russell, Michayla Dostie and Arika Brochu — all of whom played on the state championship team two years ago.
“It’s a good core group,” Gaslin said. “They know how to get it done. That’s how we’ve come back in the last couple of games. The young kids feed off that.”
In addition to his veterans, Gaslin is blending six sophomores and freshmen into his lineup. And he moved several players to new positions. Dostie is playing first, freshman Delaney Keithley is at second and Russell has moved to short. Deeves remains at third and Dennett behind the plate while Brochu has taken over the pitching duties and is averaging better than a strikeout per inning.
“She’s got four pitches going pretty well,” Gaslin said.
The Rams (6-0) are hitting the ball well for the most part, led by Deeves, who had 13 hits in her first five games. So far the team has outscored opponents 70-13 but tougher games lay ahead beginning Thursday and extending to Monday’s trip to Oxford Hills.
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It seems hard to believe Richmond can approach last season’s success, considering the Bobcats graduated nine seniors from last year’s unbeaten Class D state championship team. But they’re off to a roaring start. Tuesday, the Bobcats defeated Class C Sacopee Valley 14-2 to run their record to 4-0.
“We’re just hitting the ball so well,” coach Rick Coughlin said. “We’re hitting right down the line, we’re making contact.”
Coughlin hasn’t abandoned his bunt and run philosophy completely but he’s letting more of his players swing the bat. Just prior to beating Sacopee, Richmond won 15-3 over Buckfield, considered one of the teams in Western Class D.
Sophomores Kelsea Anair and Kalah Patterson and freshman Meranda Martin are the leading hitters so far.
“We do a lot of hitting and it’s just paying off,” Coughlin said.
Martin is the team’s pitcher.
“She’s quick and she doesn’t walk many batters,” Coughlin said.
In addition to her fastball, Martin throws a change, knuckle, curve and drop ball.
“She throws them all and they work,” Coughlin said.
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The return of Maranacook sophomore Sydney Cameron to the lineup has helped the offense. Now the team is awaiting the return of Kaitlyn Chick, who will make it even better. Cameron, who plays third base, is recovered from a broken finger suffered in preseason and has already belted a home run. Chick is recovering from an operation on her foot and may be two or three weeks away.
“She’s been my best hitter,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said of his junior outfielder.
First baseman Amber Ridlon has been the team’s most consistent player, batting nearly .500 while only committing one error over the past two seasons.
The team is 3-3 entering Friday’s game against Erskine and a couple more wins on its Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B schedule will likely qualify the Bears for the Western Maine Class C tournament.
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Erskine earned its first win on Tuesday. The Eagles trailed Belfast 3-0 after four innings, but then trimmed the deficit to 3-2 and scored two runs in the top of the seventh for the victory. Erskine won despite striking out 15 times.
The Eagles have a bit of a young lineup and were missing some players during April vacation, but they’ve been competitive. They lost 16-0 to Gardiner on opening day, but that score was ballooned by an 11-run inning. On Monday, Erskine lost 7-1 to undefeated Nokomis in a game that was 1-0 heading into the sixth inning.
“I said (Monday) I think we’re the best 0-5 team in the league,” Erskine coach Holly Tripp joked. “Everybody’s back where they feel comfortable. They’ve just got a little bit more maturity, a little more composure.”
Sophomore Mallory Chamberlain is handling the pitching for Erskine. While Chamberlain has some issues with her back, she’s developing well.
“The thing I love about Mallory is she can wipe her brain clean,” Tripp said. “She’s not going to have a mental meltdown. She can adapt to any situation. Yeah, a strikeout’s really exciting, but when you put thought into it and throw specific pitches to jam a great hitter, that’s really (exciting), and she’s starting to celebrate those little victories.”