SKOWHEGAN — In football, there’s an old saying that if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don’t really have one at all. In softball, at least as far as Skowhegan Area High School is concerned, if you’ve got two starting pitchers then you’re probably going to be in extremely good shape.

The Indians, one year after playing for the Class A state championship, enter the Class A North tournament this week as the top seed in the region with that exact scenario. Both Ashley Alward, a junior, and Sydney Ames, a sophomore, have split time in the circle almost down the middle this season, just as they did a year ago — and it’s hard to argue with the impressive results for a team that went 14-2 in the regular season and won the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship.

While most of the state’s top high school teams feature a single bonafide ace pitcher who shoulders virtually all of the load throughout the season, Skowhegan head coach Lee Johnson is in the unique position of having two pitchers who would be the No. 1 on just about any team.

Johnson admits that it has been harder on him than on either Alward or Ames, who both put the team’s success over any of their own individual accolades.

“They’ve been together so long, they’re already used to sharing time and not making it about themselves,” Johnson said. “They understand that they’re both trying to help the team be successful. They’re both very unselfish kids. I’ve had to definitely work on getting a feel for when it’s time to make a change … and that’s something you work at as a coach. When you talk about a learning curve, it’s probably been more on me than it has been for them.”

Making things easier for Johnson is the fact that both pitchers are key contributors in other ways, too. When Alward isn’t pitching, she’s playing center field and occupying a spot in the heart of the Indians’ batting order. Ditto for Ames. Ames bats leadoff, while Alward hits out of the cleanup spot — and that bit of symmetry preserves the Indians’ lineup and keeps the rest of the players on the field from having to be shifted around from game to game based on who is pitching and who is moving out to man a different spot in the field.

Alward entered the program as a freshman two years ago and pitched virtually all of that rookie season. When Ames showed up last season to begin her own career with the Indians, Alward found herself adjusting to the change, as her innings in the circle were cut back. She found ways to make her impact felt in other places.

“I tried to take on my role of hitting and playing anywhere I could,” said Alward, who believes the current situation is best for all involved. “We both have confidence in each other, because we’ve been together for so long. We’re comfortable. We have each other’s backs, and it’s a good environment to have with both of us being able to throw on any day.”

Ames, who last year ended up pitching the majority of the postseason innings as a freshman, said that it’s a nice balance to have, and that remaining involved in other ways keeps her fresh for when her turn does come to step into the circle.

“It’s really good to have a break. To play in the field and get a bunch of balls hit to you,” Ames said. “I feel like when you’re pitching, you have a lot more pressure on you. You can take a breath and stand out there and be ready instead of having to pitch the ball every single time.”

The duo has a history with this current arrangement that goes beyond last season. On their 16U travel team, they alternate pitching starts. They also found themselves in the same situation growing up in the Skowhegan youth program.

“Ashley and I have known each other for a while, so we’ve been doing this for a while,” Ames said. “We did the same thing (in summer leagues). We’re pretty much used to it, so it’s not really new. ”

In fact, they’ve been doing it so long, they can almost predict who will pitch in which games. Alward and Ames both said that there’s never really an announcement from the coaching staff prior to games as to who will be getting the ball.

“It’s never really stated, but we kind of know,” Alward said with a laugh.

Both pitchers have good velocity, though they approach the game differently. Ames throws a screwball and a changeup that works inside to righthanded hitters, while Alward’s riseball and curve challenge those same batters on the outside edge of the plate.

Matchups against opposing lineups, particularly in the playoffs, could dictate who will pitch when over the next couple of weeks. They are often used in relief of one another, too.

“I have confidence in both of them,” Johnson said. “Even if we pitch one of them more come playoff time, we still know we may need both of them at some point. They’re both able to do what we need.”

No matter what, Skowhegan is in good hands when either Alward or Ames step on the rubber. The Indians outscored the opposition 108-31 in 16 games.

“I know from the pitching standpoint what they do for us,” Johnson said. “They make things easier on our defense sometimes. They make it so we don’t have to score a lot of runs. We have two competitive kids who give us a chance in every single game. If we go play defense and swing the bats, we should be in good shape. We also know that the game isn’t won and lost by them. They have a role, just like everybody else. I think they understand that, as well.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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