AUGUSTA — Cony had questions about its defense entering the 2015 softball season. The Rams will have to come up with some better answers than they had for Oxford Hills in their season opener Wednesday if they hope to contend for a regional title again.

Playing with an almost completely revamped infield from last year’s Eastern A finalist team, Cony committed 12 errors and fell to the Vikings, 17-4, in a game that ended after six innings due to the mercy rule.

The game was moved to Cony Family Field due to wet playing conditions at Oxford Hills’ field in South Paris.

Cony and starting pitcher Arika Brochu beat Oxford Hills 9-2 in last year’s Eastern A semifinals, but just four of the 17 runs were earned for Brochu on Wednesday. To the Vikings’ credit, however, they put the ball in play against the reigning Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Player of the Year (10 strikeouts, four walks) and kept the pressure on the Rams defense.

Oxford Hills rapped 11 hits, led by Anna Winslow, who had three singles, scored twice and stole a pair of bases. Shannon Fillebrown had two hits, scored twice and drove in a pair. Pitcher Erika Whitman also had two hits.

“(Brochu) is a really good pitcher and we’ve always had trouble hitting off of her, so we tried to prepare ourselves by speeding up the Juggs (pitching machine), working on those inside and outside rise balls and getting in position to hit them,” said Fillebrown, a senior center fielder. “I guess it must have paid off because we were able to hit off of her. It made us all feel good about ourselves.”

After Brochu set them down in order in the first, the Vikings struck for four runs in the second on four hits, including RBI singles by Fillebrown, Whitman and Madison Starbird. Two Cony errors and a pair of passed balls on the catcher also proved costly and foreshadowed the next inning, when the Vikings scored five unearned runs courtesy of four errors. Alyssa Morin had the only Oxford Hills hit in the inning, beating out a bunt single that scored Winslow.

“I knew we were going to have some bumps in the road with players playing new positions,” Cony coach Rocky Gaslin said. “I’m sure the girls learned something from it. (Oxford Hills) played a perfect game. We didn’t hit well at the start and didn’t put much pressure on them. They got up by a lot of runs, which made them relax. Once you start making errors, it’s contagious. I really felt bad for Arika. She worked her butt off.”

Whitman allowed seven hits and four earned runs in her six innings for the Vikings, fanning five and walking two. Oxford Hills played errorless defense behind her.

“She kept them a little off balance,” Oxford Hills coach Cindy Goddard said. “She gave up a couple of hits, but overall I think she was composed and didn’t rattle when they had opportunities to really open it up.”

“We picked on the little things, but altogether we’ve been playing really well. I think this year we’re going to be doing really well because we’re coming together as a team,” Fillebrown said. “Winning the first game just picks us up.”

Freshman Haley Ward drove in three runs for the Rams with a two-run double and a sacrifice fly. Autumn Sudsbury had two hits. Sydney Cheever had a double and Haley Stevens had an RBI single.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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