The Winthrop and Oak Hill softball teams are off to successful starts this season despite some drawbacks. So far, neither team has played a game on its home field due to the wet spring.

“It’s going to be a week or more before we can get on it,” Winthrop coach Chuck Gurney said. “I’ve been coaching somewhere for the past 15 years and this is the worst I’ve seen it.”

The Ramblers haven’t had a practice on their field either, using the gym, the field hockey field or the parking lot to get their reps in. They’ve played their two “home” games on the artificial turf at Kents Hill School.

“Kents Hill has been great working with us,” Gurney said.

The Ramblers, who lost their opener 10-9 to Lisbon, have yet to play the iron of the Mountain Valley Conference, but Gurney says his team can compete despite starting five sophomores and two freshmen.

Sophomore pitcher Layne Audet has been impressive so far, striking out 42 batters in the first five games. Gurney said her improvement can be traced to hard work in the offseason.

“She’s definitely picked up some speed,” he said. “She has a good change-up and has added a drop and a curve.”

The Ramblers have battled through injuries to senior catcher Kayleigh Oberg and sophomore infielder Moriah Hajduk. Oberg took it easy in preseason as she nursed a knee injury but has played every game. Hajduk broke her thumb prior to the season but has also stayed in the lineup. Gurney moved Hajduk from shortstop to second to take some of the pressure off her throws and put sophomore Kate Perkins at short. It’s worked out so well he plans to keep them there.

“She looked like a natural,” Gurney said of Perkins, adding Hajduk is better suited to play second.

They’re batting 1-2 in the lineup with Oberg, who hit .583 last season, in the No. 3 spot. The team has also picked up a solid center fielder in sophomore Maria Dostie, who transferred from Lewiston.

Oak Hill is 2-0 so far, having missed four games due to rain. Wednesday, the Raiders played their second game in nine days.

“We haven’t had any home games but we have practiced on our field,” sophomore pitcher Sadie Waterman said.

“We’ve only had three outdoor practices,” Oak Hill coach Allyson Collins said. “It’s been extremely tough. We have not played a home game. That will be a welcome change if we can get one in (Thursday).”

In one of those practices this week, the Raiders lost all-conference catcher Emma Hlister to a sprained ankle and aren’t yet sure when she’ll be back. Sophomore Abby Nadeau moved from third base to behind the plate in Wednesday’s win against Carrabec and played well.

“She’ll be our catcher next year,” Collins said. “Honestly, you can put her anywhere and she’s going to come through for you.”

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The Maine Principals Association recommends the use of face make in its softball bulletin for pitchers and infielders. This rule is not yet mandatory although the recommendation sounds like a first step.

Many infielder and nearly all pitchers are wearing the protective masks. Monmouth co-coach Dave Kaplan requires his pitchers and corner infielders to wear face masks, a lesson he nearly learned the hard way.

“Three years ago Kylie Kemp was playing third base and (Winthrop’s) Cat Ouellette hit a ball that was just smoked at her.”

Kaplan said Kemp made the catch but figured most players would have taken that ball off the face.

“I looked at (co-coach) Mike (Langlois) and said ‘we’ve got to do something.’ ”

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Monmouth is off to a 4-1 start and got a jump on many of its MVC opponents by going to Florida during April vacation and playing nine games in six days. It was the first trip south for the Mustangs. The players raised the more than $20,000 needed through a variety of fundraisers and coach Dave Kaplan said it was worth it.

“The bonding experience is wonderful,” he said. “But the other part is we won’t see competition like that this year.”

The Mustangs faced three Maine teams in Scarborough, Massabesic and Noble, which have a current combined record of 14-2 in Class A South this season. Among the pitchers they faced was Noble freshman phenom Raegan Kelly.

“She was the first pitcher we saw,” Kaplan said. “She was bringing it in the high 50s. We got better from there and ended up going 4-5.”

Games were played in Orlando in the morning, giving players a chance to take in some sights later in the day, including visits to the Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Planet Hollywood.

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