They don’t play until Monday, but anticipation is already building for the Erskine-Cony softball matchup in Augusta for a couple of reasons.

First, both teams are at or near the top of the Eastern Maine Class A standings. Erskine is 5-0 going into today’s game against Lewiston while Cony, which faces Lewiston on Friday, is 6-0. Second, Erskine’s pitcher of a year ago, junior Sonja Morse, now pitches for Cony. Coach Rocky Gaslin was mum this week on who will pitch but there’s a good chance Morse will see some action.

“We always have Cony in the back of our minds especially with having Sonja over there,” Erskine coach Holly Tripp said. “That will be a very big test for us.”

Tests have been hard to come by for either team so far. Oxford Hills, though, did give both teams a run. Erskine squeaked out a 2-1 win against the Vikings while Cony scored five runs in the seventh to pull out an 11-6 win. Both teams can hit and pitch.

In addition to Morse, Cony features senior Emily Soule and freshman Arika Brochu on the mound while the Eagles have split time between junior Alyssa Gartley and senior Ashley Green.

“Gartley has better numbers at this point,” Tripp said. “She has funky movement on (her pitches)”

Both teams have hit very well so far. Oxford Hills pitcher Crystal West struck out eight of the first Cony batters she faced before the Rams got to her.

“It was cold and windy,” Gaslin said. “For some reason we got 15 hits. We got our timing down and we were all set.”

Sophomore right-fielder Maggie Russell had three hits in that game and a home run last week against Edward Little.

“She’s been on fire,” Gaslin said. “We’re getting some confidence in our hitters.”

Alyssa Brochu, Alyssah Dennett and Nicole Rugan are also hitting well, but as Gaslin points out, just about everyone is. Cecilia Fuller, who bats eighth, hit a home run Monday, the team’s fifth so far.

Erskine has also hit well. Senior Mikhaela Helm is batting .588 to lead the team while Allison Gauvin, Gartley and Meryl Bond are all hitting for high averages. Bond hit her first homer of the season Monday.

“She’s about to turn it around,” Tripp said. “I don’t think Erskine has seen such a depth of hitting in quite a while.”

* * *

With games against Nokomis, Oak Hill and Winslow, Waterville hasn’t had an especially easy schedule so far. But the Purple Panthers were 3-2 heading into Wednesday, after winning two games combined in 2010 and 2011.

Allie Forkey, a transfer from New York, has made a major difference in the circle. Forkey throws strikes and allowed 18 runs over the first five games. Waterville coach Matt Madore said the overall defense and hitting have also improved.

“Her team is incredible behind her,” Madore said. “They really trust her, and vice versa. Allie will be the first to tell you it’s a team thing. It’s not an Allie Forkey thing.”

Waterville is scoring 4.4 runs per game and Madore said that production is coming from everywhere.

“If you look at who’s scoring the runs, who’s getting the hits — it’s one through nine,” Madore said. “They see a runner on base and they’re excited to get to the plate and drive in that runner. Before, it was hoping we could get the bat on the ball.”

* * *

Rangeley split a doubleheader with Buckfield on Wednesday and is now 2-2. The Lakers lost 10-0 to Richmond, which is better than it sounds because most of the Bobcats’ games against Class D opponents don’t go the full seven innings.

“For us, we played well against them,” Rangeley coach Ashley Quimby said. “They only had two innings where they scored on us. We just weren’t hitting.”

Quimby said the game against Richmond on Saturday was supposed to be part of a doubleheader, but only one game was played because of scheduling conflicts. Instead of playing one game May 25 in Rangeley, she said the teams will make up that game as part of a doubleheader at a neutral site.

“It’s going to be in Farmington somewhere, but they have not set a date for that yet,” Quimby said.

Quimby said she hasn’t had her whole team available yet, but she has backups at every position. Catcher Taylor Esty is away on vacation, so Seve Deery-DeRaps is filling in and playing well.

“She did some catching in middle school,” Quimby said. “Taylor was the pitcher and she was the catcher.”

* * *

First-year Mt. Blue coach Paul Rodrigue has been coaching for nearly 40 years and shows no sign of slowing down. Rodrigue began coaching a team in Augusta North Little League when he was 19 years old and has been coaching ever since.

His resume includes stints as a head high school hockey coach at both Cony and Gardiner, but softball has been his passion. He coached Cony softball for several years and led the effort to build a new field behind the old school which has since been torn down. The former building contractor also built fields at the University of Maine at Augusta and Thomas College, coaching teams in both places, and the McGee adult softball field in Augusta.

Rodrigue’s college coaching resume also includes assistant’s jobs at the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine. Last year, he coached Old Town High School and led them to the Eastern Class B semifinals. Rodrigue has never stayed too long in one place but that hasn’t limited his success. This is his second stint at Mt. Blue. In 2009, he led the Cougars to the Eastern A quarterfinals.

This year, Rodrigue has his work cut out for him. Because of construction at the school, the team has no field. It recently moved to the University of Maine at Farmington after the Beavers’ season ended.

“We probably won’t have (a field) next year,” Rodrigue said. “It’s tough. The campus is torn apart.”

Mt. Blue went 0-16 last season but already has a win this year, no easy feat considering the team has only 11 players and starts four freshmen and two sophomores.

“We’re not only young, but we’re young and inexperienced,” Rodrigue said.

Rodrigue said only two or three of his players play softball in the summer and that’s the key to every successful program. He’s trying to change that mentality and has made a few basic requests of his team.

“Be a great teammate, be on time and work hard and improve one percent every single day,” he said. “Don’t worry about wins and losses.”

Rodrigue has had his share of wins. He was named Sunrise Conference Coach of the Year at Thomas and has led his high school teams to state championship games. But that’s not what keeps him coming back. A few years ago, he talked one of his Thomas players into coming back to school her senior year after she had decided to drop out.

“That’s the biggest W in my life,” he said. “It’s something special. You can’t buy it. To make a difference in a young person’s life, that’s why I keep doing it.”


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