Kirsten Pelletier pitched nine-plus innings on Saturday — and played the outfield — then left the Bates College softball field with her shins wrapped in ice.

Less than 20 hours later, she tossed seven more innings and gave the Bobcats their first win over Tufts in 11 years.

The last time Bates beat Tufts was around the same time Pelletier found her athletic calling, when she was in third or fourth grade.

“I was not an athlete when I first started softball,” she said. “I was like the kid that everyone left behind.”

She played sports, but, she said, “I was not good.”

Then, one day, she saw a girl pitching a softball.

“I was like, ‘Dad, I want to do that, too,'” Pelletier said. “I started seeing a coach and she just transformed me into running — actually running, pumping my arms.”

The win over Tufts is only one of the milestones Pelletier, a sophomore from Sidney and Messalonskee graduate, has helped the Bates softball program reach this season.

She opened the season with a no-hitter, highlighting one of the Bobcats’ best opening stretches of the century, and they have already surpassed last year’s win total a little more than halfway through the season.

Years after taking up pitching in elementary school, Pelletier moved onto a standout career at Messalonskee, which she helped win the 2015 Class A state championship with a complete-game, two-hit shutout in a 1-0 win over Scarborough in the title game.

As a senior in 2016, she was named Maine’s Gatorade Softball Player of the Year and the Morning Sentinel’s Softball Player of the Year.

Bobcats coach McKell Barnes convinced Pelletier to matriculate and pitch at Bates.

Pelletier has been the Bobcats’ ace since she stepped onto campus.

The team went 5-32 the year before she arrived, and 10-18 last year. This season, they already have 11 wins (with only eight losses).

The 2018 Bobcats are loaded with underclassmen — 10 of the 14 players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores — so the future is bright. And in the middle of everything is Pelletier.

She got the season off to a flawless start, throwing a no-hitter (11 strikeouts, two walks) against North Central University (Minn.) in the first of Bates’ 12 games in six days in Clermont, Florida, in early March.

“That was awesome,” Pelletier said. “It showed that my hard work this winter paid off. I just have to keep working for NESCAC wins.”

Bates went 9-3 on the Florida trip, which was the program’s best start since 1994.

Things have been a bit tougher since the Bobcats returned to the New England cold. They’ve gone 2-5 since their season resumed in late March. Three of those five losses were by one run, including a 1-0 setback in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Tufts.

Pelletier allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out three.

Tufts coach Cheryl Milligan, obviously, wanted more offense from the Jumbos, but added that Pelletier was at least partially to blame.

“Our kids said that she moves the ball around a lot,” Milligan said. “She never really throws the ball to the same spot twice in an at-bat, so you’re kind of always left guessing, and she’s got some decent velocity to her, and I think it’s hard to defend against that screwball and defend against something that’s going away from you on the outside at the same time. And then the change-up doesn’t hurt, either.”

Barnes recognizes Pelletier’s various pitches and ability to hit her spots, but what she likes most is Pelletier’s confidence and calm when she’s in the circle.

“Her location, she can spot the ball,” Barnes said. “But, also, she thinks that her best can beat your best. And I think it can, it truly can when she’s at her best.”

Pelletier also plays well outside the circle. When she was relieved in the fourth inning of Saturday’s second game, she went straight to right field for the remainder of the game. She also showed speed on the basepaths after she reached base with a pair of hits in the first game.

“She has been working her tail off (on) hitting,” Barnes said. “I mean, absolutely working her tail off, which is really fun for us to watch. She just wants to succeed in every phase of the game, and she’s hungry for success. She’s never satisfied, and that’s a really good recipe to build a really competitive, successful player.”

Last season, Pelletier had 12 hits and batted .160 in 75 at-bats. So far this year, she is 7-for-26 (.269).

“After last season,” Pelletier said, “that’s something that I really wanted to add to the team was I wanted to hit, too. And I think, after a tough Florida, I think I’m coming into it and hopefully I’ll stay there.”

Pelletier also is improving in the circle. She has already matched last year’s win total of six (6-10 in 2017, 6-5 so far this year), and her ERA is down from 2.55 to 1.43. She has 63 strikeouts so far in 73.2 innings pitched.

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