WALES — Allyson Collins makes no bones about her eight years at the helm of the Oak Hill softball program.

“She was absolutely one of the best players I’ve ever had, or ever will have,” Collins said of her senior catcher, Abby Nadeau.

Chosen as the Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year, Nadeau’s senior season for the Raiders was truly fantastic, one in which she led a 13-win team in six different offensive categories. For her efforts, Nadeau has been selected as the Kennebec Journal Softball Player of the Year.

Hall-Dale’s Sarah Benner and Gardiner’s Maddie Farnham were also considered.

“She looks like a softball player. Every movement, everything she does,” Collins said of Nadeau. “But then she comes in and in everything she does, she wants to get better every single day. Nothing’s good enough for her.”

Nadeau batted .509 this spring for the best season of her career, clocking in with a .745 slugging percentage, a .578 on-base percentage, 23 runs batted in and 28 hits, including 10 of those for extra bases. In her 55 at-bats this season, she struck out only twice.

Even she admitted to being surprised when she first heard all the numbers she’d produced.

“It caught me completely off-guard,” Nadeau said. “I mean, I knew I had a good year but I didn’t think I would get an achievement like this. All my other competitors, growing up and playing against them, I know what the competition is out there. Every girl that I played against, they all had amazing seasons.”

It’s Nadeau’s concern for others that Collins loved the most about coaching her.

As a senior captain, Nadeau wasn’t content to lead only be example. She spent the vast majority of practice time acting as almost another assistant coach — helping younger players on the Oak Hill roster fine-tune their skills and blossom into key contributors on a team with plenty of high-end softball talent in its junior and senior classes.

“It’s not so much conscious thing to (take that role), but I enjoy seeing my teammates and other people around me get better,” said Nadeau, who grew up in a baseball and softball obsessed household. “I literally find enjoyment from it. I think I’m a very patient person and have a way of explaining things more thoroughly having played the sport for so long and knowing how the game goes.”

Opposing coaches know how the game goes, too. Even worse from an opponents’ perspective, when they see Nadeau at the plate with runners on base and know exactly how it could go.

In Oak Hill’s win at Madison in May — the lone loss for the Bulldogs this season en route to the Class C state title — Nadeau doubled off the fence in her first at-bat of the afternoon. Madison coach Chris LeBlanc opted to intentionally walk Nadeau twice after that.

“That game was the first time I’d ever been intentionally walked. I didn’t even know what to do,” said Nadeau, who expects to play both softball and basketball at Central Maine Community College next season. “I looked at my coach, and she said, ‘You go to first.’

“Coach Collins is the greatest coach, and she got me to where I’ve been. But (LeBlanc) has taught our team so much with his demeanor and how his team plays the game. After the game he kind of pulled me aside and said, ‘I did it out of respect. You should know that you have that much power and you should have the confidence to make other teams afraid of you.’ That was such a huge confidence-booster for me.”

Confidence can be tricky enough to find for high school athletes. It’s trickier still in a game like baseball or softball, where failures are part of the daily routine.

“Not so much tricking myself, but reminding myself of what I’m capable of,” said Nadeau, who admitted she was worried about her offensive performance coming into the 2019 season. “My coaches and my team having confidence in me, that was the best thing.

“At some point it’s about letting go (of the anxiety) and remembering that you want to have fun. Softball is something that you do because you love it. You need to have fun at it.”

“I told her all along whenever her confidence faltered, I’d tell her, ‘Abby, I would pick you on my team first every time. Every time,’” Collins said. “She always had it in her.

“The biggest thing for me, in general, was her presence on the field and her overall leadership for us — always being there for the younger players and always being positive, she never had any negative words to say to anyone ever. She was always positive to every single teammate. You never saw her down, because she was always that positive person.”

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