Just 10 months after winning the Class C state championship, the Madison Area Memorial High School softball team is geared up for another title run.
The Bulldogs may have lost a couple of bedrock pieces from that 2016 championship squad, but don’t expect a whole lot of drop-off when senior Madeline Wood uncorks her first pitch of the new season.
“These girls come in expecting to win a state championship. That’s what we do,” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said.
The Bulldogs will have a different look on opening day. They actually could have a different look on a lot of days as LeBlanc tries to find the right formula up and down the lineup. His roster is full of players who are also committed to offseason and in-season conditioning programs.
Three players beyond Wood appear to be locks — junior Ashley Emery led the team in hitting last year and will be the everyday catcher, senior Annie Worthen played first base on Skowhegan’s Class A North championship team last spring and Whitney Bess played error-free third base a season ago.
Madison also has a host of players capable of playing multiple positions around them, and the Bulldogs will try and turn that formula into another run.
After a strong season last year, Carrabec could pose plenty of problems for opposing teams. Samantha Lebeau (pitcher) and Bailey Dunphy (catcher) form an experienced battery, and Lexi Tallon is a seasoned shortstop coming off an all-MVC campaign.
“We had a really good year last year, but we played our worst game all year in playoffs,” Carrabec coach Craig Knight said. “We came into this season saying hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. We’ve kind of adopted that as a group.”
Monmouth returns all but one player from a team that finished 9-9 overall a year ago. Coach Dave Kaplan has a lot of faith in junior Emily Chasse, who will take over full-time on the mound, There’s plenty of competition in the MVC, led by Madison, but Kaplan says his team is ready to enter the top tier.
“I think we’re going to hit, I think we’re going to play defense,” he said. “We’re going to be solid all around.”
The Mustangs will get a jump on the field since they’re spending April vacation playing in Florida.
Winthrop squeaked into the playoffs last year and hopes to build on that success. Senior catcher Kayleigh Oberg, who batted .583, leads a strong returning group that includes sophomore pitcher Layne Audet, who fanned 87 batters a year ago and has added a couple of pitches. Coach Chuck Gurney says his outfield defense will be as good as any in the MVC. Most of the team played in the offseason and is ready to compete.
Hall-Dale returns three quarters in its infield but its outfield is brand new. Sophomore Kailey Roberts pitched in four games last season and will assume full-time duty. She’s one of seven returning players for the Bulldogs.
“We have a young team with nine sophomores or freshmen,” coach Steve Acedo said. “There’s quite a few teams that have their core coming back.”
Oak Hill had a great run a year ago, finishing the regular season at 14-2, losing only to Class C state champion Madison. The Raiders, who will try to earn a spot in the B South playoffs, graduated five starters from that team, including pitcher Makayla Nadeau. They do return all-conference catcher Emma Hlister, along with a couple of other seniors. Sophomore Katie Waterman is expected to pitch most of the time and coach Allyson Collins says her defense will hold up quite well.
Mt. Abram went 3-13 a year ago and just missed grabbing the final playoff spot in the region. The Roadrunners certainly could find themselves right back in the hunt for a playoff spot this season