BATHIt is difficult for those around the Morse High School softball team to not have high expectations this season.  

A year after a surprising run to the Class B South regional final, the Shipbuilders opened their 2019 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference slate against shorthanded Maine Central Institute on Wednesday.

Morse seemed comfortable with its surroundings, rolling to a 13-3 victory and solid start to the campaign. 

“Yesterday we practiced, and it was windy and cold, and today we had some warm weather. It was nice to get out here,” said Morse coach Will Laffely. “I have new players at second, short and third, and some changes in the outfield. I just wasn’t sure what we would have out here.”

For MCI, missing starting pitcher and clean-up hitter Emily Linkletter hurt. Head coach Tony Stewart turned to freshmen Bailey Valente and Mia Braley. 

“Our starting pitcher is in Florida and that makes a big difference,” Stewart said. “I was impressed. We have four freshmen who start, and we are building a team. Both our pitchers battled. I think we will have a very good team and go a long way in the playoffs.”

The visitors started well, as leadoff hitter Gracie Moore singled, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. With one out, Jillian Frost beat out a slow roller for an RBI infield single for a 1-0 Huskies lead. Morse committed two more errors in the frame, with Frost scoring her team’s second run. 

Morse quickly loaded the bases in its first swings, with Brooke Kulis, Paige Faulkingham and Dory Kulis walking to open the frame. But, Valente escaped, retiring the Shipbuilders from there to keep her team ahead by two. 

MCI pitcher Bailey Valente is about to uncork a pitch against Morse on Wednesday in Bath. Times Record photo by Bob Conn

Valente was not as fortunate in the second. Walks to Kali Pierce and Hailie Johnson were followed by three wild pitches, tying the game. Brooke Kulis and Faulkingham each walked , and Dory Kulis singled to plate the go-ahead run. A sacrifice fly by Abigail Carpenter and a wild pitch gave the Shipbuilders a 5-2 lead. 

Morse tacked on a run in both the third and fourth frames for a 7-2 lead. Anastasia Alaboudi, who was 3-for-4 at the plate, singled in the seventh Shipbuilder run. The sophomore worked on her game on the jayvee squad last year, with Laffely hoping her power can bolster the middle of his lineup.  

“The biggest thing I worry about is the hitting,” said Laffely. “We had to replace Sierra Wallace, Mikaila Albertson, Marissa Parks, and that was my concern. Anastasia Alaboudi played jayvee last year, and I knew she was going to have to put in the work to be here this season. She stuck it out and she is here. And, she has that power.”

MCI rode the hitting of Moore. The freshman leadoff hitter reached base in all four of her at-bats. 

“She is very fast, so basically she hits a single that turns into a double nearly every time,” Stewart said of Moore, who was 4-for-4 with three stolen bases and two runs scored. 

Dory Kulis kept things going, striking out the side twice and picking up at least two punch-outs in each frame. The Huskies finished with seven hits.

Valente went two innings for MCI (five runs, two earned, two hits, one strikeout, seven walks), while Braley finished up (eight runs, six earned, nine hits). 

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