Kayleigh Oberg remembers the jolt from last year, when she heard that the University of Maine at Farmington’s softball season went from ramping up to D.O.A. in what felt like the blink of an eye.

“We got our season taken away within a matter of days,” the Winthrop native and senior catcher said. “It was ‘You don’t have a season, you’re not going to Florida for spring training,’ and then ‘You’re going home.’ And then we just kind of lost everything.”

UMF is back in action now, and played a doubleheader with Thomas College on Tuesday afternoon, dropping the first game 12-3 before the teams played in a back-and-forth, rally-filled second game that Thomas ultimately won 11-10.

Wins and losses take on a different meaning this season, however. This year, the victory is being on the field.

“I think there was a lot more excitement getting onto the field today,” Thomas senior shortstop and Gardiner graduate Julia Nadeau said. “We’re so pumped to be playing on dirt for the first time. I haven’t been on a gravel softball field in over a year now. It was finally a game-day environment, like the season was building to be something again.”

“We could just hear the call saying ‘Hey, we’re going home,'” Thomas sophomore Madison Rock said. “We need to play every single day as if we’re going home today. Because it could be as simple as that. We’ve had that mindset.”

It happened last year, and players were left wondering what was happening as the coronavirus dashed all their plans. As startling as it seemed from the outside, from inside the world of interscholastic athletics it was just as disorienting.

“I came in last season and was all bright-eyed, bushy-tailed for the season to start,” said Rock, a Bridgton native and Lake Region graduate. “All of a sudden we get sent home. … We were so amped to go. It was two weeks or something before we went to Florida, and all of a sudden we get shut down.”

University of Maine at Farmington’s Makayla Wilson (15) waves toward teammates after she clubbed a double against Thomas College during the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday in Farmington. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“We did everything in the season except for playing games,” said Thomas center fielder Bailey Dunphy, who played at Carrabec and who went 6-for-10 with five runs in the two games Tuesday. “We had all the practice time we ever needed, and then just to get to that point and not be able to do anything with it, it’s just kind of devastating.”

UMF left fielder Makayla Wilson, a junior from Messalonskee, said she was eager to play for a team with a lot of experience coming back.

“We had a pretty good year my freshman year and we returned everyone back. So we were really looking forward to it,” she said. “And we find out we don’t have a season about two days before we go to Florida. … It was my first year not playing school ball and not being able to play summer ball. It was super hard for me. I was always down at the field playing with my dad, because I’d gone 19 years of playing every summer.”

The juniors last year watched their senior teammates not get a final season. As the months passed, they weren’t positive they’d avoid that fate.

“This fall, I was so nervous,” Oberg said. “I couldn’t fathom missing out on my junior season and my senior season.”

Even when spring college sports got the green light, that wasn’t the end of the difficulties. Players had to get back into the rhythm of playing a sport they hadn’t played competitively for two years.

University of Maine at Farmington’s Kayleigh Oberg, left, is congratulated by the first base coach after Oberg singled against Thomas College during the second game of a doubleheader Tuesday in Farmington. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“It was definitely more exciting, but more nerve-wracking at the same time,” Oberg said. “We were so excited to get in there, but knowing that we haven’t seen that live pitch, knowing that we’re not getting that same preseason that we normally get, it’s definitely nerve-wracking stepping into that batter’s box.”

At Thomas, Rock had to make her college debut, essentially, as a sophomore.

“There’s so much, not pressure, but just anxiousness to get on the field and show (my) coach what I can do, and show other teams what I can do,” she said. “It’s kind of like, OK, as soon as you step on the field you need to breathe and let all that go. Because even though you missed a year, you can show it to them now. You’re just changing the player profile from freshman to sophomore.”

If Monday was any indication, the Beavers and Terriers have adjusted to the long wait. For Thomas, Rock drove in seven runs in the two games, while Kelsey Currier had four hits. For UMF, Oberg had four hits and Callie Hammer had three. The two teams combined for 44 hits and a .404 average.

More important, however, was just being out there.

“You get an opportunity, and you kind of have to jump on it,” Dunphy said. “This is another affirmation to, (with) everything you’re doing, put in everything you’ve got.”

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