WATERVILLE — For most area softball coaches, pitchers and catchers week is simply a chance for the battery to get a head start on the rest of the team. At Waterville Senior High School, it’s a chance for Tom Toner to start breaking in his new No. 1 pitcher.

With Madison Clowes having graduated last spring, the door has opened for junior Molly Wasilewski. Wasilewski saw spot duty last season for a Purple Panthers team that narrowly missed out on the Class B North playoffs.

“Things are a little different this year,” said Toner, Waterville’s second-year head coach.

Toner said he plans on using this week to begin implementing a strength and conditioning program. Wasilewski has already spent most of the softball offseason throwing three times a week indoors in Vassalboro, and she’s worked with a personal pitching coach.

But even she knows that there’s more to being a staff’s No. 1 than just pitching during the offseason. She’s excited for the opportunity to step into the shoes vacated by Clowes, who made the team at the University of Southern Maine as a walk-on freshman this spring.

“Yeah, I am,” Wasilewski said. “Who wouldn’t be? It’s more pressure, but when you’ve been working for this for so long, how can you not be excited that it’s here?”

While schools like Skowhegan, Winslow, MCI and others have starting pitchers returning from last year’s playoff teams, Waterville is starting over. Almost. Wasilewski pitched in approximately one-third of the Panthers’ games last season and got a taste of the starring role.

She’s concerned less with mechanics and know-how so early in the preseason and more concerned with building up her strength — something everyone will have plenty of time to do with nearly two feet of snow covering area fields.

“I’m really focusing on endurance,” Wasilewski said.

“This week, I really want (the pitchers) throwing 25-50 pitches, going and hopping on the bike or treadmill and really getting their heart rate up, and then come back and throw again,” Toner said. “I want to see how they do with that. It’s more like a game situation, getting up and down like that.”

One thing doesn’t change, no matter how experienced a pitcher and catcher are. Pitchers and catchers week is the first chance for a battery to build chemistry ahead of the new season.

“It’s about getting to know my catcher, learning signs and what pitches I throw,” Wasilewski said. “If you can’t catch what we’re throwing, it won’t be very effective.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC