Two years ago, Gardiner seemed poised for a deep postseason run but instead suffered a quick exit from the playoffs. Last year, the Tigers started slowly with most of the same pieces in their lineup and encountered another playoff demise.

This time around, Gardiner coach Don Brochu hopes chemistry and experience will let his team write a different ending to its postseason script.

I’m hoping we jell together and get going again,” Brochu said. “I think we’re not going to be bad. I’m hoping for some good here at the end of the season.”

Jillian Bisson, a fixture in the circle for Gardiner throughout her career, is the type of crafty senior pitcher the Tigers can rely on. Should Maggie Bell, Jazmin Clary, Maddie Farnham, among others, produce enough run support, Gardiner could enjoy a deep playoff run it craves.

It’s hardly the only Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B team balancing talent and desire with a few question marks. Where Brewer and Oceanside are getting attention from area coaches, they could hardly be penciled in as “consensus picks.”

Four Class A schools are on Lawrence’s schedule: Skowhegan, Messalonskee, Lewiston and Mt. Blue. Coach Joey Marcoux hopes that tough competition can make his Bulldogs a tough out come Class B North tournament time.

“It looks like we’re going to be a team that people can’t take us lightly,” Marcoux said.

Gretta Knowlton is the lone returning senior at Lawrence. She’ll play right field, catcher and second base. Sarah Poli and Paige Reynolds will pitch.

“The strength of our team is our athleticism. We have some quickness and versatility,” Marcoux said.

Like Lawrence, Nokomis plays a tough schedule. The Warriors have two games against Foxcroft Academy, a 13-win team last season, and two games against defending state champion Brewer. Senior captains Maci Leali (third base) and Alexis Allard (catcher) provide leadership. Center fielder/pitcher Alyssa Ellis will hit leadoff for the Warriors.

“They seem to be bonding pretty well,” coach JD McLellan said of his team. “I think that will make a difference when we get in a tight situation.”

Winslow has a new head coach in Kasey Larsen. The Black Raiders are rebuilding, with senior pitcher Paige Trask the lone returning starter.

“Our goal for this year is to play consistent, fundamentally sound softball. We will keep practicing good mechanics until they become second nature and hopefully be rewarded with some wins,” Larsen said.

Waterville coach Tom Toner expects his team to be sound defensively. Senior Hannah LeClair is the top returner after leading the Purple Panthers in a number of offensive categories last season, including RBIs and average. Senior Molly Wasilewski will handle the pitching and also is an offensive threat.

“She’s got good speed, and she throws multiple pitches she can throw for strikes,” Toner said of Wasilewski. “She’s very good at hitting her spots.”

Erskine hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016, but Holly Tripp’s team is approaching this season with a bit of a chip on its collective shoulder. The Eagles have a number of multi-year starters in the lineup, and they’re out to prove something.

“I have a crew of people I call my ‘old ladies.’ It’s been fun to watch some of these players grow up,” Erskine coach Holly Tripp said. “Up until two years ago, we had never missed the playoffs. These girls haven’t been the last two years, and I think that has burned their buns a little bit.”

Maranacook is always an interesting case study in the KVAC, given that it plays largely a Class B schedule despite being a Class C school. Don Beckwith’s team features infielders Amanda Goucher and Brooke Stratton, a pair of sluggers who are both still underclassmen.

“I think we could be pretty good,” Beckwith said. “I think we might surprise some people.”

Mount View looks to improve on a one-win season with a core group of veterans. Senior Alex Fountain, juniors Taylor Hodgdon and Leah Bradstreet, and sophomore Emma Fonger could emerge as offensive threats for the Mustangs.

“We’re looking for steady improvement. We played more competitively toward the end of (last) season,” coach Mark Bennett said. “The kids were competitive last summer and I’ve seen that carry over.”

MCI also looks to improve. Coming off a 3-13 season, the Huskies are young, with 11 of its 23 players freshmen.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jillian Bisson, Gardiner
A four-year starting pitcher for the Tigers will try and finally elevate the team to regional contender after a couple of near miss.

Paige Trask, Winslow
The lone returning starter for the Black Raiders, Trask turned into a reliable and steady pitcher who limited opposing lineups.

Hannah LeClair, Waterville
On a team poised to finally break through into the playoffs, LeClair was the Purple Panthers’ offensive leader last season.

Amanda Goucher, Maranacook
Junior shortstop is solid on two fronts, able to hit consistently with some pop while also being among the best defensive infielders in the region.

Kayla Hodgkins, Erskine
Senior pitcher for Eagles has been multi-year starter and will try and end Erskine’s two-year playoff drought.

 

GAMES TO WATCH

April 16: Brewer at Gardiner
April 17: Winslow at Waterville
April 22: Nokomis at Lawrence
May 8: Winslow at Gardiner
May 17: St. Dom’s at Maranacook (DH)

 

PREDICTION:

Brewer

 


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