WINTHROP — The Hall-Dale softball team is hoping to be a team to beat in Class C this spring. Its first game showed why those hopes are so high.

Hall-Dale used a nine-run first inning to spring it to a 14-1, six-inning victory over Winthrop in the first game for both teams.

“I’m confident in our team that we’re going to be able to go very far this year,” said third baseman Lily Platt, who went 2-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs. “We’re a really deep team. We have girls all throughout our lineup who play in the offseason, we’re all close. … I just think the biggest thing we have going for us is the connection we have with each other.”

Madison has been the dominant force in Class C the past several seasons, but Hall-Dale has been a popular pick of coaches going into this season to challenge for the crown, two years after reaching the C South semifinals. The Bulldogs are strong in the field, at the plate and in the circle, and even with only two seniors, they’re a team made up of experienced softball players.

“We’re really working hard this year. The kids are putting extra time in. Practice is over, they’re staying an extra half-hour, 45 minutes, working on hitting, working on fielding,” coach Steve Acedo said. “The team chemistry I think is really good this year. I’ve been here 13 years, and as far as team, this one might be the best one as far as everybody supporting each other.”

The Bulldogs return their third baseman in Platt, second baseman in Emma Soule and first baseman in Sammy Thornton, and the shortstop is former pitcher Sarah Benner, one of the two seniors. But there are still question marks that Acedo was eager to see answered on Monday. The outfield of Lexi Rideout, Tanley Tibbetts and Rita Benoit is new, and so is the battery of catcher Zoe Soule and pitchers Ashlynn Donahue and Benoit.

The early results were encouraging. Donahue struck out six while allowing two hits and one run in three innings, and Benoit came on to strike out six and walk only one in three no-hit innings.

Hall-Dale’s Ashlynn Donahue gets ready to hit a pitch against Winthrop on Monday in Winthrop. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“I can start either one of them,” Acedo said. “That’s a big bonus for us this year, having the two pitchers. … They’re pretty interchangeable.”

The lineup impressed as well. Winthrop was wild out of the gate, walking the first three batters and six in the first inning, but Hall-Dale kept up the offense even after the initial surge, collecting 11 hits and leaving 11 on base in addition to the 14 who scored.

Zoe Soule, a freshman, had two hits and four runs, while Tanley Tibbetts had three hits, Sammy Thornton had two RBIs and Sarah Benner scored a pair of runs.

“I have a lot of confidence in our lower lineup and people behind me. I know if I don’t do it, someone else will,” Zoe Soule said. “All the way throughout, we have hitters. Every single one of us can hit.”

The Bulldogs are aware that it adds up to a team that — as Acedo emphasized, “on paper” — should be a tough matchup.

“Our goals are to win states, and to win MVCs,” Platt said. “I think we’re ready to take on anyone.”

Winthrop coach Chuck Gurney said he thinks Hall-Dale will be at the front of the race.

“They’re going to go a long ways,” he said. “They’re a very disciplined team. They know what they’re doing.”

The Ramblers were in a difficult spot Monday, having to take the field without any sort of formal preseason. All of Winthrop’s scheduled scrimmage opponents had to back out due to quarantine protocols, and Monday was the Ramblers’ first time with all nine starters together.

Maddie Perkins and Sage Fortin had the Rambler hits, while Lindsay LeTourneau drove in Perkins for the lone run.

“There’s plenty of work to do,” he said. “After the first inning we kind of settled down, but the damage was done. There’s work to do to get better and see where we end up.

“My assistant coach and I (said) ‘This is our preseason.’ I know these games count, but for us right now, this is still our preseason. And it’s not a lot of fun when you jump right into the fire against Hall-Dale.”

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