Despite graduating six starters from an undefeated team that won the Class C state championship, Mountain Valley Conference coaches still view Madison as the benchmark in the league.

“That’s the bar. It starts with Madison,” said Winthrop coach Chuck Gurney. “It’s always there. Madison is where you set your sights. It’s no big secret. They just reload.”

Gurney’s Ramblers might just be the team best equipped to unseat the Bulldogs.

With Layne Audet primed for a senior season as the dominant pitcher in the conference, catcher Hanna Caprara back after leading the team in both home runs and RBIs last season, and middle infielders Moriah Hajduk and Katie Perkins both returning, Winthrop has talent and experience up and down its lineup.

The Ramblers lost to Madison in the regional semifinals last spring, but a 1-0 loss to the Bulldogs in the regular season laid the groundwork for Winthrop’s future.

That future is now.

“We’re as ready as we’ve ever been to go into a season,” Gurney said. “This is the year we’ve built for. The seniors have all been in the starting lineup since their freshman year.

“The one thing that benefits this group of seniors is they’ve been part of a field hockey state championship, a basketball team that had a really good season. They’ve been in those pressure situations before. I’d say I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Another team eager to unseat Madison is Oak Hill.

Like Winthrop, the Raiders return a big nucleus of seniors, including catcher Abby Nadeau.

“I wish I could duplicate here and put her at every position on the field,” Oak Hill coach Allyson Collins said of Nadeau, who hit .389 last season with five extra-base hits.

The offense also has pitcher Sadie Waterman, who hit .520 out of the leadoff spot a year ago and will likely move down in the order this seasons. Center fielder Mahala Smith is as fast and athletic as they come.

“Just the senior leadership in this team is something I haven’t had before — it’s such a strong core of senior leaders,” Collins said. “They all bring something different to the team. None of them are fighting for the spotlight, they share it equally and want others to succeed.”

Madison, though, won’t be so quick to give up its throne.

Despite losing key contributors all over the field, the Bulldogs still have junior lefty Lauria LeBlanc — who went 20-0 last season and pitched a two-hitter with 14 strikeouts against Narraguagus in the Class C state championship game.

They’ve also got some flexibility in their lineup, with players like Katie Worthen and Emily Edgerly capable of playing different positions to find the right mix.

“My biggest concern is if we’re going to be able to score runs,” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said. “You have to score runs to win, obviously. We’re probably going to have to give up some individual accolades to have success, and we’ll have to iron out some of the growing pains early on.”

Lisbon, Hall-Dale and even Monmouth would be happy to play the role of spoiler should any of the top teams falter.

“To me, until you knock them off, it’s Madison,” Hall-Dale coach Steve Acedo said. “That’s the way I look at it.”

But Acedo’s Bulldogs did some growing up last season, though not necessarily by choice. Injuries ravaged Hall-Dale’s year, forcing young players into the lineup a year or two ahead of schedule. That gave players like sophomore pitcher Sarah Benner a leg up on varsity success.

“I thought we had a good team last year, and I think we still have a good team,” Acedo said. “You could classify us as a sleeper, but in my mind we’re a pretty decent team. We’ll give teams some competition. Even though we’ve got a lot of young players — they’re good young players.”

Monmouth is young, too, but the Mustangs have slugger Haylee Langlois and catcher Abby Ferland to provide leadership — and offense.

“It’s always to make the playoffs, that’s always our goal,” Monmouth coach Dave Kaplan said. “We’ve got to integrate some really young players. two or three sophomores and a couple of freshmen. We’ve got to blend the veterans with the young ones.”

Carrabec will try to rebuild after losing all-conference hitter Bailey Dunphy and three-year starting pitcher Samantha LeBeau. Mt. Abram, too, was young last year and will try to take a step forward after a one-win season in 2018.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lauria LeBlanc, Madison
Junior pitcher went undefeated last season and pitched her best game in the last one, a two-hitter in the state championship game.

Layne Audet, Winthrop
Senior struck out 135 batters a year ago to go along with her 1.35 ERA, emerging as one of the MVC’s best arms.

Haylee Langlois, Monmouth
Senior outfielder is a power hitter who can provide instant offense for the Mustangs.

Abby Nadeau, Oak Hill
Batted .389 with four doubles and a triple last season, making her arguably the top returning catcher in the league this season.

Sadie Waterman, Oak Hill
Senior led the team in batting average last season at .520 out of the leadoff spot, while also going 8-3 as the team’s most-used starting pitcher.

 

GAMES TO WATCH

April 22: Hall-Dale at Madison
May 1: Winthrop at Madison
May 6: Winthrop at Monmouth
May 20: Winthrop at Lisbon
May 24: Oak Hill at Madison

 

PREDICTION:

Winthrop

 

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.