Skowhegan started the season 6-0 and looked to some like the exact same team that went 16-4 and won the Class A state championship last year.

Three losses in the last five games served as a reminder that this is not the same team. The Indians graduated six starters and are still quite inexperienced with just two seniors on the roster.

“We got off to that good start and some people started thinking it was going to be that easy,” Indians coach Lee Johnson said. “It takes time. The hard part is keeping those young, inexperienced kids confident.”

For Johnson, that starts in the circle, where freshman Ashley Alward is dealing with the pressure of the position. Alward’s debut was a memorable one, a 15-strikeout performance in the 3-2 season-opening win against Messalonskee. Other strong performances, including a shutout of Lewiston and a 2-1 win over Brewer, followed.

Rough outings against Bangor and Cony brought her and the Indians back down to earth, but Johnson is impressed with how she’s dealt with the adversity.

“She’s done well holding herself together,” Johnson said. “She’s mentally trying to stay focused, and I’ve been impressed with how she’s held her composure.”

Another freshman who has more than held her own this year is Wylie Bedard, who is leading the team in hitting. Bedard is batting cleanup behind her sister, junior Eliza, one of three returning starters, along with Renee Wright and Bonnie-Jane Aiken.

“We have a lot of freshmen who’ve done a great job stepping in and competing against juniors and seniors,” Johnson said.

Older role players have also filled holes in the starting lineup, junior Tara Bernard among them. Bernard was a substitute role player on last year’s team who has made the most of her chance for regular playing time.

“She’s done a pretty solid job for us in left field and as a hitter,” Johnson said.

The Indians host Lawrence today in a game that was rained out on Tuesday, then travel to Oakland for a rematch with Messalonskee on Friday. The two teams switched home dates and played the opener at Skowhegan.

Johnson would love to see his team win those games, improve upon its 8-3 record and move up the KVAC standings. But he’s more intent on having his team finish as strongly as it started.

“We were fortunate early on to get some big wins against Messalonskee and Oxford Hills that have helped us, but I think the most important thing is getting better every day,” he said.

• • •

Win some, lose some. It’s a fact of life for everyone, including the Monmouth Mustangs.

Monmouth is 6-5 and sitting in the middle of the Western C Heal point standings. Keeping with the even-tempered theme, co-coach Dave Kaplan said his team is about where he expected to be heading into the season’s stretch drive.

“We’ve beaten up on very good teams and lost to some teams that aren’t so good and that’s the mark of a young team,” he said. “We’re certainly capable of playing with the heavyweights in our division, just not every day.”

The Mustangs started May in promising fashion by shutting out Hall-Dale and doubling-up a solid Lisbon team before suffering back-to-back losses to Carrabec and Oak Hill. They swung back the other way with easy wins over St. Dominic, Mt. Abram and Boothbay, then fell to top-ranked Madison, 13-3, on Monday.

Pitching is one of Monmouth’s strengths. Junior Kaitlyn Canning drew the majority of the starts in the circle early in the season, including the 6-0 shutout of Hall-Dale.

“She’s been exceptional,” Kaplan said. “She has a good fastball. She brings it in pretty good. But the big thing for her is she has a deadly curve ball and a plus change-up.”

Recently, Kaplan and co-coach Michael Langlois have sent freshman Em Chasse to the circle more frequently and the freshman has shown some promise.

“She’s doing great,” Kaplan said. “She’s been doing more pitching in the easier part of our schedule and we’ve been giving her those starts. She actually threw very well against Madison but the defense just fell apart.”

Kaplan is hoping for more consistency from his defense down the stretch, as well as from his offense. Two bright spots at the plate have been senior Caroline Bonenfant and freshman Tia Day.

“Tia’s been a pleasant surprise as a freshman,” Kaplan said. “She took a couple of years off from softball. She’s come back this year and plays well in the outfield and makes good contact in the leadoff spot.”

• • •

Winthrop’s first win of the season came with a bang last Friday, a 25-7 thumping of St. Dominic in Auburn.

The Ramblers (1-8) have seven new starters on a roster consisting of four freshmen, five sophomores, a junior and three seniors. Even some of the upperclassmen are inexperienced, returning to the sport for the first time in as much as four years

“We’re doing like a young team should,” first-year coach Chuck Gurney said.

“They’re working hard,” he added. “The parents have come up to me and said ‘We knew this was going to be a long year.’ Not having a JV team really hurts.”

Help is on the way and, Gurney hopes, better numbers to develop players with a JV team. He got his first look at the middle school team recently and liked what he saw, and he’s looking forward to the chance to coach many of those players during the summer in travel softball.

One current player Gurney is excited about building around is sophomore catcher Kayleigh Oberg, who homered in Monday’s 20-7 loss to Carrabec.

“Two more years with her and she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Gurney said. “She’s a good ballplayer.”

• • •

Last year, a young Carrabec team steadily improved as the season unfolded and finished 7-9, reaching the Western C quarterfinals

With seven returning players, the more experienced Cougars figured to get even better as they got older. But in one crucial aspect of the game, they actually got younger.

Pitcher Sam LeBeau and catcher Bailey Dunphy, both freshmen, have formed a solid battery for coach Craig Knight this year.

“I’m very pleased on where we are, very happy with the progress of our freshman pitcher and our freshman catcher,” Knight said.

Their strongest performance came in a 3-1 win over Monmouth on May 6, when LeBeau tossed a three-hitter with nine strikeout and Dunphy threw out a key base stealer and drove in the go-ahead run.

But there are growing pains to go with the flashes of brilliance. Last week, LeBeau gave up nine hits and Dunphy had an error in a 10-6 loss to Oak Hill.

The ups-and-downs are all part of the maturing process, Knight said. Applying the lessons learned from the downs as much those from the ups is a sign of progress.

“Sometimes you’re going to get exposed when you’re a freshman,” he said. “They’re going to learn from this game and they’re going to be stronger on Monday,”

The Cobras did indeed bounce back on Monday with a 20-7 win over Winthrop, but there are some tough tests on the horizon. Their schedule the rest of the week consists of home games with two teams that are within striking distance above them in the Western C Heal points — Lisbon (Wednesday) and Dirigo (Friday). Next Tuesday, they’ll face their rival and the No. 1 team in Western C, Madison.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33