For the first time in recent memory, the Cony softball team will miss the playoffs. The Rams are 3-11 in the Class A North standings entering their game Friday at Mt. Ararat.

There are a number of factors leading to the team’s struggles this season, but first-year coach and former longtime assistant Al Brochu can sum them up in one word: Errors.

Wednesday’s loss to Edward Little is a case in point. The Rams were tied at 6 in the fourth inning when they committed “four or five” errors and allowed 10 runs to score.

“That’s been our downfall,” Brochu said. “We just can’t play a complete game.”

Cony has dropped four games by a single run and another three by three runs or less.

“In the games we stay close, we’re playing a pretty clean game,” Brochu said.

The Rams also rely on their defense as pitchers Cari Hopkins and Gabby McGuire share the circle and neither is a strikeout artist.

“Once the girls time up our pitchers, we’re in trouble,” Brochu said. “We’ve been juggling (the defense) around to load up the left side.”

The Rams have hit adequately. Carly Lettre homered against EL and Jaden Bowley later added a grand slam to put them ahead 6-2 but the big hits haven’t come when needed.

The loss of catcher Allee Cloutier to injury before the season began also set into motion a number of moves, which includes bringing Alexis Couverette from third base to behind the plate and moving Brooklyn Belanger from first to third, where Brochu said she’s done a good job.

A declining enrollment — the school is down to around 650 students — has hurt and so has the popularity of lacrosse, which attracts double the 17 players in the softball program. But the Rams have weathered these problems in the past and still competed, winning a Class A state championship as recently as 2012.

The Capital Area Youth Softball Association, headquartered in Augusta, has produced some strong players but many in the league now are from surrounding towns.

“We’re not developing a whole lot of Augusta kids,” Brochu said.

The key is developing strong pitching, something the Rams have had for many years, including Monica White, Sonja Morse, Brochu’s daughter Alyssa, and Mika Wilson, among several others. Brochu knows what it takes to develop pitchers: Time and effort from both kids and parents and said he’s seeing less of it these days.

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A young Hall-Dale team has grown even younger after some late-season injuries. The Bulldogs took just 10 players to a recent game against Wiscasset and likely lost Savannah Strout for the season when she rolled her ankle prior to the game. Pitcher Kailey Roberts has also been out recently with minor injuries, prompting coach Steve Acedo to move freshman Sarah Benner from shortstop to the mound.

“She throws pretty decent,” Acedo said. “She’s keeping us in the ballgame.”

Grace Begin has moved from first to short and Jill Whynot from second to first. Freshman Savannah Millay is filling in at both second base and the outfield while Aubrey Nicols, another freshman, is seeing spot duty in the outfield.

“We’re pretty solid for the most part.” Acedo said. “They’re pretty upbeat about it.”

The Bulldogs have held their own in the tough Mountain Valley Conference and stand at 7-7 and in eighth place in the Class C South standings with games remaining against Dirigo and Lisbon.

“I think we should be OK,” Acedo said. “I think we should edge in there.”

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With just one senior on its roster and several freshmen playing in prominent positions, Maranacook is getting an education in high school varsity softball.

The Black Bears are 6-8 and in ninth spot in the Class C South tournament standings (10 teams qualify) with games remaining against Leavitt and Mount View.

“There are times when we look pretty good,” Maranacook co-coach Jeannine Paradis said. “There are other times when we think about the mistake we just made.”

Freshman Natalie Costa has taken over on the mound and kept the team in games. She recently took a hard liner off her shin during a game, got up and threw the runner out, then remained in the game despite a serious bruise.

The Black Bears have juggled their defensive lineup in hopes of shoring things up, moving freshman Evelyn St. Germain to center and Kaylee Jones to left. Freshman Brooke Stratton and juniors Natasha Lavigne and Amanda Goucher have been solid hitters.

“If we do what needs to be done, we’ll be OK,” Paradis said.

She also said there are good players coming from the feeder program and is hopeful for the coming years.

“We’ll be another year older and used to the speed of the varsity game,” she said.

• • •

Gardiner coach Don Brochu expected a little more of his team despite its relative youth this season.

“We should be playing better, but we’re hanging in there,” he said.

The Tigers are 9-5 with games remaining against Lawrence and Cony, the latter under the lights Tuesday in Augusta.

Lack of consistent hitting has been an issue for the team which Brochu expected to play a fair amount of small ball.

“Small ball dictates people get on base,” he said.

An injury to left fielder Kylie Sirois, who broke her wrist, has also shaken up the lineup, causing Brochu to move Logan Granholm to left and freshman Maddie Farnham from third to short.

“She has fast hands and fast feet,” Brochu said of Farnham. “She moves to the ball well.”

Meghan Meehan, one of the three seniors on the roster, has been a bright spot in the batting order and has recently moved into the cleanup spot.

“After we get done (playing or practicing), she really puts a lot of work into it,” Brochu said.

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