Skowhegan pitcher Sydney Ames, left, and catcher Sydney Reed share a laugh in the school’s gymnasium during a preseason practice. Morning Sentinel photo by Dave Leaming

 

SKOWHEGAN — Ron Shelton’s 1988 film “Bull Durham” begins, essentially, with a scene outside a nightclub, where the main characters are introduced via Crash Davis’ right hook to the cheek of Ebby Calvin Laloosh.

“I’m Crash Davis,” the grizzled veteran says after decking the promising young rookie. “I’m your new catcher, and you just got lesson No. 1: Don’t think. It can only hurt the ballclub.”

Sydney Ames subscribes to Davis’ theory of how to pitch.

“I try to just go out and not think about it too much,” Ames said Monday before a scrimmage in Westbrook, the Skowhegan senior’s final preseason tuneup before Wednesday’s season opener against Mt. Ararat. “My tinkering comes in practice, trying things over and over. I feel like if I put in the time in practice, that I’ll just go out and it will work out, basically.”

For a Skowhegan softball team coming off its third straight appearance in the Class A North championship game, having won regional titles in both 2016 and 2017, Ames represents something new.

For the first time in her career, Ames will be Skowhegan’s primary worker in the pitching circle. She replaces two-time Morning Sentinel Player of the Year Ashley Alward, who is now pitching at the University of Southern Maine. Alward went 9-0 in the regular season for Skowhegan last spring, posting a 0.42 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 10-to-1. Ames may not be expected to be Alward, but she will be expected to be a frontline starter in a relatively deep Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference.

It’s a big ask, and Ames knows it.

“It feels pretty good,” Ames said of her new role. “It’s also nerve-wracking to know that I have a lot of people counting on me. It’s stressful, but it’s exciting at the same time.”

It’s important to point out that this is not a case of a brand new pitcher coming to a perennial powerhouse program. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Ames has made more than a dozen starts over the last two seasons, and as a freshman she was Skowhegan’s lone playoff pitcher — going 3-1 that postseason and leading the team to the 2016 A North title.

That’s the pitcher that Sydney Reed, a four-year starting catcher, believes the rest of the league will be reacquainted with this season.

“Sydney and Ashley pitch a lot of the same pitches, but they kind of specialize in different things,” Reed said. “I think they both have different things they could bring to the table. (Sydney) is super-determined. She doesn’t get shaken up easily. That’s a good quality to have in a pitcher.”

Ames was a perfect 7-0 last season and 11-2 over the last two seasons combined. To suggest she’d have been a bonafide ace on 90 percent of other teams in the area isn’t a stretch, at least not to those who know her best.

“I think that’s fair to say,” Reed said.

“To a lot of people, you would think losing Ashley and four seniors is a pretty good-sized turnover for us,” Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson said. “But I really like our makeup. We have a good mix of older kids and some inexperienced kids.”

Ames, for one, likes the new faces dotting the diamond behind her this spring. They may be young, but their athleticism is something she thinks benefits the group — and her pitching — as a whole.

Ames also subscribes to another baseball theory, one not invented by Crash Davis: Pitching and defense wins championships.

“They may be young but they have a lot of talent that stands out,” Ames said. “That kind of defense behind me makes me more confident. I know that if I don’t get it done, they’ll get it done behind me. I’ve been watching them during the preseason, and I’m confident in what they can do.”

In the meantime, Ames will try not to think too much about the pressure that might exist from the outside.

“My mom’s always told me that practice makes perfect,” Ames said. “Practicing my pitching a lot over the last few years has given me the confidence I have today. I know I can do this.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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