FARMINGDALE — Steve Acedo just couldn’t get away.

A day after the Hall-Dale softball team won the Class C state championship last year — its third consecutive title — Acedo, the team’s longtime head coach, was in a car, moving to Texas to start a new chapter in his life.

The problem was, there was one piece of his old life that he couldn’t leave behind. And his players refused to let him move on.

With the blessing of his wife, Carol, Acedo is back at Hall-Dale to coach the Bulldogs for at least one more title run. With nearly all of its lineup returning, Hall-Dale is an immediate favorite to capture its fourth straight title, which would make it the first Class C program to do so since Madison did it from 1994-1997. The Bulldogs also carry a 56-game win streak heading into the season.

“I knew the whole time (he was coming back),” laughed senior catcher Zoe Soule. “There’s no way he was leaving (after states) and wasn’t coming back. I knew for sure in the beginning of February. I would text him and go, ‘So, are you coming back?’ And he’d reply, ‘Oh, you know me.’ So I was, ‘Yeah, you’re coming back.’ I could tell at the end of the year, I felt the vibe that he was coming back. I was so excited (after finding out).”

“You can’t really walk away from a team like this,” added senior pitcher Ashlynn Donahue. “Carol was like, ‘He can come back if he wants.’ That’s when I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s coming back this year.’ I would always text him, ‘Hey, you book your flight yet?’ He’d be like, ‘Leave me alone.'”


It remains to be seen if Acedo — who is self-employed and will return to Texas immediately following the season — will continue coaching after this year, but he is all in for 2024.

“I’m glad I came back,” Acedo said. “It’s a long drive but the kids (were a motivator), asking if I was coming back, non-stop, all year. ‘You coming back? You coming back? You know you’re coming back.’ I couldn’t tell them anything, because I wanted to be 100 percent sure that it was going to happen. It came together and worked out. I’m pretty happy and super excited to be back. It’s a great group of kids to coach.

“When I was driving to Texas, I was already thinking about next season. I always do it,” Acedo continued. “Going through my head, ‘Who’s coming back? Who’s not coming back? Who’s going to take this spot?’ I stayed on the assumption in my own head that I was going to do whatever I had to do to come back… I’m not saying it’s going to happen (for another season), but we put it together for this year. We’ll take it one year at a time and see what happens.”

Aside from his connection to the team, there’s much to look forward to for Acedo. The batting order is littered with sluggers. Soule, entering her fourth year as a starter behind the plate, hit .585 last season, with 32 RBIs. Donahue — who will be counted on as the team’s ace in the circle — hit .667. Jade Graham smacked five home runs and had 31 RBIs, to go along with a .553 average.

Hall-Dale pitcher Ashlynn Donahue throws during softball practice Thursday in Hall-Dale High School’s Penny Gym in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Junior Lucy Gray, who has worked on her pitching during the offseason, is also available to pitch.

“We lost Rita (Benoit), which is big, she hadn’t lost a game in three years,” Acedo said. “But we’ve got Ashlynn, and she hasn’t lost a game in three years, either. That was not as big a worry, because we had that 1-2 punch that we could mix up on different teams… We’re solid with starting pitching. We’ve got Zoe back as our catcher, and she’s a four-year starter back there. We have Lucy Gray now (as a pitcher). Last year, she threw pretty good. Some of the younger teams had a hard time hitting her last year.”


For the players, the comfortability of Acedo’s leadership — along with assistants Jen Conrad, Craig Donahue and Tim Soule — is paramount to keeping the team focused and at ease.

“Acedo, as a coach, brought back my love for the sport,” Zoe Soule said. “He’s just a lot different than other coaches. I’ve had coaches that scream at me, that were hard on me. Acedo doesn’t get like that, but he gets hard (enough) on you to the point where you want to get better. It’s positive reinforcement as opposed to negative. And our team chemistry, we’ve always been close and we like to have fun together, and he lets us have fun, which is a really big thing for me.”

“He believes in us more than we do on some days,” Ashlynn Donahue said. “That’s very helpful to me when I’m having a rough day on the mound. He just looks at me and goes, ‘Just throw strikes.’ He’s not going to scream at you. It’s really helpful (out on the field).”

Though Acedo is walking back into a comfortable environment, the season is no cake walk for the Bulldogs. Aside from their normal Mountain Valley Conference schedule, the Bulldogs will face Nokomis, the defending Class B North champion, during the regular season.

“The Nokomis game, I think, should be a really, really good game,” Acedo said. “It’ll see what positions we need to improve at, adjustments in the lineup, anything like that. Win or lose that game, we’re going to get a lot out of that, and it’ll be beneficial to play a team of that caliber.

“The winning streak is good for the program, good for the school, but I’m not one who focuses too much on that,” Acedo continued. “I told them last year, ‘If you lose, you just start another (streak). That’s where we’re at. I told them I’d much rather lose a game in the regular season than in the playoffs.”

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