Field conditions and poor weather have dominated conversation at virtually every school in the state over the last two weeks, but no one is feeling the pinch more than the Winthrop softball team.

The Ramblers have yet to play a single game, while some area teams — like Messalonskee (3-2), Erskine (3-2) and Gardiner (3-1) have played at least four games. Winthrop didn’t get the benefit of good weather to sneak in any preseason games — everything scheduled fell on rainy days.

“We’re a quarter of a season behind,” Winthrop coach Chuck Gurney said. “We were talking about it (Friday) — of course we were in the gym again — that we couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. I’ve run just about every indoor drill I’ve learned in 20 years as a coach, and they’ve gone through all of them and done their best at it. They’re chomping at the bit to play some games.”

Already, Winthrop will play five games in a six-day stretch from May 20-25. Friday’s game at Telstar was called off, and Monday’s scheduled home game against Wiscasset could also be in jeopardy with rain forecast for Saturday.

“(Thursday) was the first day we set foot on our infield, and even then it was only half of the infield because the other half was too wet,” Gurney said. “It’s not going to take much rain this weekend to put that off.”

Gurney added he’s fortunate to have a veteran group that’s been through some of this, albeit on a lesser scale. Winthrop’s softball field is a notoriously late bloomer each spring.

“I can’t tip my hat enough to the kids,” he said. “They understand that the games are going to come, and when they do they need to be ready. They’ve stayed on task, had great attitudes, but they’re a little frustrated. They want to play.”

While Cony has played three games, it’s had had just one outside practice. Their first two games were played on turf fields, making Thursday’s game against Gardiner at Brann Field the team’s first on a “real” field.

“We need to get on our field,” Cony coach Angela McKenna said. “We haven’t been on one a whole lot this season. We just haven’t had enough exposure to fields yet, and we made some errors (against Gardiner) based on the fact we’ve been in a gym for several weeks now.”

• • •

There was a substantial amount of turnover for Skowhegan following last year’s run to the Class A North regional final, forcing coach Lee Johnson to redefine how his team would find success this spring.

So far, so good.

In running out to a perfect 4-0 start to the season, Skowhegan has scored 47 runs. It’s a new-look lineup for the squad, but one that is already producing runs at an alarming rate.

“We have potential to be deeper, but we still have a lot of things to work on,” Johnson said after Skowhegan opened its home slate with a 10-0 win over Lewiston last week. “We know we still have a lot of work to do, but if we’re able to bring things together at the end I think we can be a team you want to watch out for.”

Senior first baseman Mariah Dunbar said this year’s lineup might be better from top to bottom compared to the potent one it enjoyed last spring. Sophomore Mariah Whittemore and freshman Jaycie Christopher have produced in the heart of the lineup.

“We’re hitting really well for the beginning of the season. I think it will just get better from here,” Dunbar said. “I think we have a deeper hitting consistency. I think we’ve been more confident in ourselves this year than last year.”

One thing that hasn’t changed for Skowhegan: The team’s pitching remains dominant.

In four starts this season, senior Sydney Ames has allowed only a one run.

• • •

There is no “I” in team, the saying goes, and it’s something Hall-Dale pitcher Sarah Benner has taken to heart.

A converted infielder, Benner is in the early stages of her first full season as the Bulldogs’ go-to name in the pitching circle. Against defending Class C state champion Madison this week, Benner might have been touched up for an 8-1 loss in which she walked seven batters — but Hall-Dale head coach Steve Acedo was hardly concerned. Benner, after all, is still in the infancy stages of her career as a pitcher.

“She came from shortstop last year to the mound,” Acedo said of the sophomore. “She’s still got some growing to do. She’s one person I’m not worried about. She stays focused.”

When injuries besieged the Bulldogs in the midst of a promising season a year ago, Benner volunteered to fill the void at pitcher. It’s not her first love, but it’s where she is trying to help a young team win games now in a wide-open Mountain Valley Conference.

“She’s just one of those kids, you’d take nine of them on the field if you could,” Acedo said. “She stepped into the role last year for us, and it’s not where she wants to be. I know that. She’s a great defensive player and can play anywhere. But she’s a team-first player, and she’s there because she knows we need her. She gives a 100 percent every game.”

• • •

When it comes to teams that have suffered turnover, Madison might have the most difficult task of any.

The Bulldogs won their second Class C state championship in a three-year span last spring, only to graduate seven of the nine starters from that team. Expectations are always high in Madison, and the team is used to wearing a target on its back. That’s why performances from sophomore Jersey Tewksbury and senior Emily Blauvelt in a season-opening win over Hall-Dale on Tuesday were such welcome sights.

Tewksbury, a third baseman, delivered a three-run double in a five-run sixth inning against Hall-Dale that broke the game wide open.

“When we got here, I knew Landyn Landry was my No. 1 hitter, but other than that I didn’t know who would be there,” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said after the Hall-Dale win. “That No. 2 spot in the order, you’re replacing a Whitney Bess — a four-year starter that could do it all. She could bunt, she could hit. We’ve got two or three people that we’re looking at there.”

Bess is playing at Husson University, where she was named the North Atlantic Conference’s player of the week.


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