BY GARY HAWKINS

Staff Writer

The Monmouth softball team gets its toughest test of the season Friday when it hosts unbeaten Madison. The Bulldogs return 15 players from a team that finished 11-7 last season and knocked Monmouth from the Western C playoffs.

“They have a talented team, there’s no doubt about it,” said Monmouth coach Rachel Bernier.

The Mustangs have played well despite several new players in their lineup, including three freshmen. They do have one of the better pitchers in the Mountain Valley Conference in senior Reen Kahl.

“Right now, she’s pretty sharp,” Bernier said. “She’s hitting her spots and she’s focused. It’s her last opportunity to show her skills.”

Bernier said different players have contributed each game. She’s particularly pleased with her freshmen — designated player Becky Bryant, third baseman Sharon Buzzell and shortstop Caroline Bonenfant.

“I’m very pleased with what they’ve been able to do so far as making that transition from middle school to varsity in the MVC,” she said.

Bonenfant scored the winning run in a 1-0 victory over Winthrop and Buzzell made a diving stop to take away a double later in the game to preserve the win.

• • •

Maranacook coach Don Beckwith knows the mercurial nature of a team that typically plays five freshmen in a game.

“We’re the type of team that anybody can beat or we can beat anybody,” Beckwith said.

The Black Bears only have two seniors on their roster but one of them is pitcher Sarah Boynton, the reason Maranacook can beat anyone. As the weather has started to warm up so has Boynton, who experienced circulation problems with her hands in cold temperatures.

Monday, she pitched a gem against previously unbeaten Oceanside, holding the Mariners to two hits while striking out 14.

She struck out seven and allowed two hits in a 5-1 victory over Waterville on Wednesday.

“She’s getting more command,” Beckwith said. “She’s moving the ball around and she’s got a drop ball going really well.”

Boynton is also a strong hitter.

“She’s a softball player,” Beckwith said. “I think she’s one of the better players in the (Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Class B division).”

Maranacook is 6-2 following Wednesday’s win against Waterville. Beckwith has juggled his defensive lineup, moving junior Jessie Smith from catcher to shortstop to steady the infield while putting sophomore Ashley Michaud behind the plate.

He usually starts three freshmen and subs two others during the game. One of them, Kaitlyn Chick, starts in right field and leads the team with 18 RBIs.

“She’s had three or four triples,” Beckwith said.

• • •

Cony coach Rocky Gaslin figured he’d get a strong game Monday from junior pitcher Sonja Morse when the Rams faced Erskine. Morse pitched for the Eagles last season.

“She was pumped,” Gaslin said. “I asked her if she wanted to pitch. I just wanted to see her reaction.”

Morse fanned 12 batters in Cony’s 5-1 victory while allowing just a bunt single. Her fastball topped out at 62 mph on a radar gun.

Cony’s pitching rotation is down to two, since senior Emily Soule recently left the team. That leaves Morse and freshman Arika Brochu as the primary pitchers and Gaslin said he’ll rotate them around.

“Next game we’ll go with Brochu,” Gaslin said Tuesday. “I’ll work them both. I’m not sure when and how but I’ll work them both.”

The Rams are 8-0 not only because of their pitching, but their hitting and defense as well. They have a team batting average of .464 and their are no weak links in the batting order. Senior second baseman Alyssa Brochu has an on-base percentage over .700 while junior Molly Russell is batting .529 and her sophomore sister Maggie isn’t far behind.

“They both have quite a few doubles and triples,” Gaslin said. “And they’re very good defensive players.”

• • •

After a lengthy layoff due to a bye and a rainout, Gardiner faces its toughest week of the season. It began with Wednesday’s win/loss at Nokomis and continues today against Winslow at home and Friday at Oceanside.. Both Winslow and Oceanside have one loss while the Tigers are 5-2.

“We’ve pretty well solidified all our defense,” Gardiner coach Ginger Shaw said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape for the second half of the season.”

The infield includes junior Taylor Banister at third, senior Jenna Moore at short and freshman Lily Chepke at second. Shaw alternates her three pitchers — Brittany Rollins, Kristal Smith and Kelsey Moody. Rollins, the hardest thrower of the three, usually starts, and is sometimes relieved by Smith. Moody, who recently returned from a family trip, is working her way back into the lineup.

Rollins has five pitches — a rise, drop, screwball, fastball and changeup — and has perfected them to the point that she uses all of them at any time.

“She doesn’t have a go-to pitch right now,” Shaw said. “She’s worked so hard on all of them.”

• • •

Erskine didn’t spend much time dwelling on Monday’s 5-1 loss to Cony. With tough games against Oxford Hills, Skowhegan and Messalonskee looming, the Eagles couldn’t afford to.

The Eagles (7-2) get the Rams again near the end of the season in South China and hope to play a little better in the field.

“Take away those errors and it’s a very different game,” Erskine coach Holly Tripp said.

Erskine made three errors and missed a couple more easy chances, Tripp said. Still, she pointed out they only had one hit against Cony’s Sonja Morse and they would have to improve in that department to make a game of it against the Rams.

“That’s probably the most dominating pitching we’ll see all year,” Tripp said.

Morse pitched for the Eagles last season before transferring to Cony and handed the Rams one of their two regular-season losses.

“She’s throwing a little harder, and her junk is still moving well,” Tripp said. “She did a good job of keeping the ball low. You’ve got to go against Sonja being aggressive.”

The Eagles got solid pitching from senior starter Ashley Green and junior reliever Alyssa Gartley. Tripp is still rotating her pitchers but may have settled on a pattern.

“Gartley threw a tough game Saturday against Edward Little, so I started Ashley,” Tripp said. “She’s good through the lineup once or twice. I’ll probably use both of them in the same game.”

Cony coach Rocky Gaslin had a radar gun on the pitchers in Monday’s game. Green was clocked between 54-56 miles per hour while Morse registered 58-63 mph with her changeup topping out at 47.

 

• • •

Messalonskee has turned into the comeback kids this season, winning four games in their last at-bat. And they’ve done it without a senior on the team and without sophomore pitcher Kai Smith.

“These kids, they don’t give up,” Messalonskee coach Leo Bouchard said. “They don’t point fingers at each other. We were down 7-0 to Bangor in the sixth inning and they were saying ‘We can do this.’ They are so positive with each other.”

Smith is rehabbing an injury and pitching with the junior varsity. In the meantime, sophomore Kassi Michaud is unbeaten. She experienced some arm issues last season with the junior varsity team, Bouchard said.

“I knew she was good,” Bouchard said. “She mixes her pitches well. The plan this year was to have a 1-2 punch,”

The Eagles are 7-1 despite having just two starters on the field from last year’s Eastern Maine championship team. Bouchard said his most pleasant surprise has been junior center fielder Courtney Veilleux.

“She’s turned four double plays this season, every one of them to end an inning,” Bouchard said. “And she’s hitting over .500.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.