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.”

• • •

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.”

• • •

Richmond senior Leandra Martin may be the team’s lone pitcher for the foreseeable future. Last year, Martin and junior Jamie Plummer alternated pitching each game while leading the Bobcats to the Class D state title game. This season, Plummer injured her pitching shoulder in preseason and Martin has thrown all three games. They include a no-hitter and a pair of three-hitters.

“She is strong and healthy and ready to pitch,” Richmond coach Rick Coughlin said. “She wants the ball.”

Martin no longer wears knee braces on each leg, the result of ACL surgeries the past couple of seasons. She’s throwing freely and striking out nine to 10 batters a game.

“She’s throwing junk, basically,” Coughlin said. “She has a nice drop ball, a nice changeup and is mixing in her fastball.”

The Bobcats, who have outscored their opponents 44-2 so far, were looking forward to a test Tuesday against Class C Sacopee Valley but the game was rained out.

“We need to play teams like that,” Coughlin said.

The team is hitting the ball well and shows no signs of letting up.

“They have a mission and the senior leadership is just outstanding,” Coughlin said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]


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