TOPSHAM — For new University of Maine Farmington softball coach Kat McKay, it’s not as much about a team that needs guiding as a program that needs changing.

The Beavers aren’t used to winning. They’ve had an especially tough time doing so in the two seasons since a .500 2014 campaign, winning only 12 of 57 games. Losing has become part of the culture, something McKay will admit.

It’s also what makes her so eager to fix it.

“I’m trying to change the culture of the program a little bit,” said McKay, who took over the program after spending the past four seasons coaching at Poland High School. “I want girls that want to be here, 100 percent, dedicated to the program, working in the offseason, which isn’t necessarily something they’ve done before.”

McKay isn’t about to make promises or guarantee championships. Her team is young, and experience playing regularly at the college level is thin. But the drive for improvement is beginning to trickle down to players hungry themselves to turn things around. “I came in with a clear mind, erasing the last couple of years,” said junior centerfielder and Mt. Blue graduate Kiana Thompson, one of the team’s three upperclassmen. “We’ve just got to get the stupid ‘L’ word out of our heads and push forward for a win.”

The Beavers showed flashes of promise in their opening doubleheader Saturday afternoon, letting a lead slip away in a 4-2 loss to UMaine Presque Isle before rallying to beat the Owls, 6-1, in the second game at the Howard Sports Dome in Topsham.


It was an example of the attitude McKay and veterans like Thompson are hoping to see. Rather than rue the loss, the Beavers refocused and raised their game.

“We talked about, in between games, our mental toughness,” McKay said. “I told them that we’re going to hit the reset button and do it again, and they needed to come out guns blazing. And I think they did.”

Shortstop Margaret Fogarty provided much of the damage in the win. She scored the first run of the game in the second on a ground-rule double by Alison Hamilton (3-for-8 for the day), then drilled a two-run double and scored during a three-run third that bumped the lead to 4-0. UMF added two runs on a single by Elizabeth Walker and groundout by Bonnie-Jane Aiken in the fourth.

“I saw that there were two runners on, and I knew it was my job to get them in,” said Fogarty, who was 3-for-7 for the afternoon. “Definitely, in the second game, our confidence was up. We were ready to hit.”

Presque Isle got on the bases but couldn’t find its way home against pitcher Skyler Watson, another freshman. The Cony graduate loaded the bases in the second, third and fourth innings but worked out of each jam, not allowing a run until the seventh.

“I just try to relax out there, and things like that, 3-2 count, bases loaded, is when I actually come through. Pressure situations are kind of my specialty,” she said. “You’ve just kind of got to take a deep breath and relax and just give it your all. Most of the time it ends up working in your favor.”


Farmington native Anastasia Albright — yet another rookie — got the start in the first game and pitched well, striking out eight and allowing only one earned run, but a defense that committed five errors helped the Owls take command. UMF led 1-0 on an RBI single by second baseman and Erskine Academy graduate Amber Grady in the fourth, but UMPI scored three in the bottom half. The key blow came when Emma Gogan hit an RBI single to center, then scored to make it 2-1 when the ball skidded by Thompson and to the wall.

UMF edged closer on an RBI single by Kylie Cunningham (5-for-7 for the day), but Nicole Marucci tripled and scored when the throw to third was wild in the bottom of the fifth to bump the lead back to two. UMF couldn’t rally back, and it was an example of why McKay isn’t expecting too much from her team too soon. With one senior, three upperclassmen and 10 freshmen on the roster, there’s a lot to learn for many of the team’s young players.

“We’re young, and I think that’s going to show in some of early games,” McKay said. “I think that they’re still a little shell-shocked. This is college ball, it’s more fast-paced than high school. They’re very talented athletes, but I want to make sure they have the composure they need to play in these games.”

For the freshmen being counted on to mature quickly — one of which is Grady, who projects to play often at second base though McKay said she’s still figuring out a stable lineup — the challenge to adjust isn’t too much to ask.

“We’ve had to do some growing up. We’ve had to step up our game,” she said. “We’re going from high school to college, and it’s different. But we’ve adapted well.”

The Beavers will take it. There are signs of progress, and it’s enough for the team to think that something promising could be in the works.


“I think we’re going to open a lot of eyes,” said Thompson, who had the defensive highlight of the nightcap by throwing a runner out at the plate to end the game. “We’re just a whole different team. I think people are going to underestimate us, but I think we’re going to come out and shine.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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