AUGUSTA — A year ago, Skowhegan surprised itself and a number of Class A North softball teams by winning the regional championship.

With their pitching and a number of starters returning this spring, expectations for the Indians are high.

“I think they’re the team to beat,” said Cony coach Rocky Gaslin, whose Rams fell 6-4 Wednesday in the season opener for both clubs.

The Indians collected 11 hits, including four doubles while the pitching combination of sophomore Sydney Ames and junior Ashley Alward held the Rams to six hits. The pair alternated pitching in each game last season and coach Lee Johnson said he’ll stick with the formula.

“All through preseason we split it,” said Alward, who pitched the final three innings. “I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, depending on who has their stuff on what day.”

Ames left with a 5-4 lead and Alward was untouchable over the final three innings, striking out seven of the nine batters she faced.

“We started a lifting program through the school, our softball team did, and everybody’s just stronger,” Alward said.

The Indians jumped on sophomore starter Gabby McGuire for three runs in the first inning, collecting six hits, including doubles from Sydney Reed and Wylie Bedard. An outstanding play by Cony third baseman Alexis Couverette on Alyssa Everettt’s scorching bases-loaded ground ball saved a pair of runs and allowed the Rams to escape the inning.

Cari Hopkins relieved McGuire in the second inning and pitched well over the final six innings.

“She (McGuire) was missing her spots,” Gaslin said. “It was too high. Cari came in and calmed us down and gave us a chance to win.”

The Indians took a 4-0 lead in the third on Everett’s double to left. The Rams didn’t have a hit until McGuire led the bottom of the third with a single to right. Brooklyn Belanger followed with a single and the Rams got on the board when Jamie Coull’s bunt was misplayed. Freshman Carly Lettre followed with an RBI single and Couverette tied the game at 4 with a two-run single to left.

The Indians broke the tie in the fifth after Lindsey Warren split the gap in right-center for a two-base hit and later scored on a throwing error. They added an insurance run in the sixth on Warren’s base hit to left.

“We’re an experienced team with no senior,” Johnson said. “It’s a young group of kids that does have some experience because of last year’s run. We’re fortunate to have two pretty solid pitchers who can throw for us on any given day. They’re both going to get a lot of work.”

Warren finished with three hits while Everett and Reed had two apiece. McGuire had a pair of hits for the Rams.