Nicole Rugan had an inkling this might be her year after she took Scarborough pitcher Mo Hannon deep in a preseason game.

“I never really knew I could do it,” the Cony High School catcher said. “When I got my first home run off Mo Hannon that was like ‘Wow, I can really do this.’ ”

Rugan went on to hit nine homers — including two in the conference championship series — to break the school record set by Cony coach Rocky Gaslin’s daughter, Devon. Nearly as important, was the job the Cony senior did behind the plate, calling pitches and stopping potential passed balls.

Overshadowing all of this, though, was the team’s undefeated season and first Class A softball state championship since 1983.

For her efforts, Rugan has been named the Kennebec Journal Softball Player of the Year. Cony’s Sonja Morse and Monmouth’s Reen Kahl were also considered.

Rugan lifted weights during the offseason and played softball for The Edge, a Portland-based team, but even she didn’t see the type of year she had coming.

“It surprised me a little bit,” she said.

In addition to the home runs, Rugan belted eight triples, including one in the state championship game, six doubles and batted .593. The home runs came naturally — she only struck out twice — rather than a conscious effort to hit the ball over the fence.

“You always had one good line drive out of her, if not three,” Gaslin said.

Less surprising for Rugan was the Rams state championship run. Rugan and many of her teammates have played competitive softball on a state and regional basis since they were 9 or 10 years old.

“From the time that school started it really hit us that this could be our year,” she said.

Rugan played for her mother Becky at age 9 and tried pitching for a couple of games.

“That didn’t work out,” she said. “I volunteered (to catch) and I’ve caught ever since. I’m in every play of the game no matter what.”

She would go on to play for her dad John, Dave Soule and Al Brochu, who coached Capital Maineiacs teams to state and regional championships.

“It was good competition,” Rugan said. “It made my love of the game stronger. As I got older I realized there was pressure. ”

This season Gaslin let Rugan call her own pitches.

“She was ready to call them and did a great job,” he said.

Rugan was behind the plate when Sonja Morse pitched a one-hitter against South Portland as the Rams won the Class A state title game 2-0. Morse had transfered from Erskine, but had the benefit of playing with Rugan during the offseason.

“We worked all winter,” Morse said. “She learned  more and I leraned more. We were comfortable with each other.”

When Rugan’s not playing softball, she plays field hockey. Last fall, she was a first-team Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference all-star and led the Rams in scoring. She’ll walk-on to play field hockey at Division II Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., where she was recruited to play defense.  She hopes to earn a spot and eventually a scholarship. If things don’t work out, she may try softball again.
“It’s always an option in the back of my head,” she said.

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.