SKOWHEGAN —  Sydney Ames spent two years playing in the shadows. When she was finally handed the spotlight, she delivered a show-stealing performance.

Ames was at the center of Skowhegan’s undefeated run to the regional championship last month, a pitching ace and a lead-off hitter extraordinaire which earned her accolades as the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year. Her 19-game winning streak to begin the season, plus her team-high batting average at the plate, were more than enough to also earn her the nod as the Morning Sentinel Softball Player of the Year.

Her Skowhegan teammate Mariah Dunbar and Madison’s Lauria LeBlanc were also considered.

“Whenever we were playing against a top opponent, she would just rise to the occasion,” Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson said of Ames. “Her numbers were good — but I still don’t think they showed how important she was to our team, both offensively and from a pitching standpoint.”

Skowhegan’s Sydney Ames delivers a pitch during a game against Messalonskee this past season in Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans

Ames had always been a key cog atop the Skowhegan lineup as an outfielder in her first three years with the varsity. But her best position — pitcher — was otherwise occupied by a two-time KVAC player of the year in Ashley Alward.

Though Ames would get roughly half the starts in her first three seasons, splitting time with Alward during the regular season, her arm was shut down when the ball was handed to the upperclassman each spring at tournament time.

“It was hard going through it, but that’s why I had the competition part of it in the back of mind all the time,” Ames said. “Coach kept telling me I was useful in a lot of other different ways, too, and mixing it up with Ashley and having her as a competitor really did push me to get better.”

Ames posted a 0.63 earned run average this season, allowing just 10 earned runs in 19 games through the end of the Class A North tournament. She struck out 126 batters for an average of almost seven per start.

In the playoffs she was even better, going 3-0 in the regionals without allowing a single earned run.

At the plate, in addition to her .439 batting average, she collected 13 doubles and scored 33 runs — almost 20 percent of the team’s run total for the season.

“To me, it just showed that all the hard work throughout my younger days paid off,” said Ames, who will continue her softball career at Husson University. “I look at it now, and what I’m doing now feels ‘easy’ — but at one point it was hard. I did a lot of stuff to prepare for high school.”

“The last two years, she would have been the No. 1 go-to pitcher for anybody else in the league,” Johnson said. “She prepared extremely well, her and (catcher) Sydney Reed both, in the offseason. She was preparing herself for that role. I think she was a little disappointed the last two years, and this year it was her opportunity.

“She did everything she could do with it.”

Ames was not a cheerleader or a vocal leader for Skowhegan. In fact, there’s an aloofness about her and an ability to appear completely unfazed by what’s taking place around her. A bad inning would be followed by a completely dominant one; a bad at-bat would be replaced the next time around by capping a big inning with an even bigger hit.

Her lack of visible emotion, she said, should never be confused with a lack of fire.

“I would say I’m extremely competitive,” Ames said. “It could be anything. Literally, I could be walking with some friends and see a sign and want to beat them all to it. I’m the type of person to not care what people think about me or anything else, but if something bad happens (on the field), I’ll look at it and figure out how I can get better.”

Nobody knows that better than Skowhegan, where she left her mark as a three-sport standout in softball, basketball and soccer.

“Sad that it ended the way it did (with a loss to Scarborough in the Class A state championship),” Ames said. “But 19-0 in our league, that sounds pretty good. I’m already looking back at it now, looking at the team we played (in the state championship) and it was one that has 50 wins and no losses. We competed against them, and I’m proud of that.”


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