Not surprisingly, the Bucksport Under-16 softball team was jubilant when it won the U16 New England Championships in Brewer over the weekend and qualified for the national championships in Sterling, Va.
Now, the 11-player squad has to overcome just one more hurdle to attend the Aug. 5-9 tournament, raising $7,500 in transportation fees.
But with the passion that the players on coach Alan Hurd’s club have for the game — most of them played key roles on the Bucksport High team, which reached the Eastern Maine Class B semifinals this spring — that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
“It’s just a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The girls said maybe we won’t win it, but it will be fun meeting girls from other states,” said Hurd. “The experience alone is worth it.”
In addition to the $7,500 the team must come up with to pay for motorcoach expenses, they’ll also have to pay their own way for things such as meals and hotel rooms.
But they plan on participating in several fundraising activities such as holding a bake sale, going around to local businesses and accepting donations. The team will also have a booth set up at the Bucksport Bay Festival this week.
“We’ve got to work hard to come up with this somehow,” said Hurd.
Hurd’s roster is made up of Bucksport High players Bailey Blair, Abby Yeo, Rochelle Pelletier and Sarah Sutherland, along with Taylor Gauvin, Kennedy Gilmore, Kacie Hurd, Hayley Braley, Andi Lawford and Cassidy Adams.
The team’s ages range from 13 to 16. Hurd is assisted by Barry Adams and Jim Shaver.
In the New England tourney, which took place at Coffin Field, Bucksport posted a 4-1 record and was undefeated heading into the championship round against a team from Rhode Island.
However, Rhode Island beat Bucksport 4-2 to force a deciding game, and Bucksport brought its offense in that contest, outslugging Rhode Island 10-7 to take the title.
“With this team, they go in thinking that they can win every game,” said Hurd. “Even if we’re down by 7-8 runs, they’re expecting to come back and win it.”
That’s especially true with some of the experience they possess, particularly in Yeo, one of the region’s top pitchers who had a fine spring season for Bucksport.
She shares the pitching duties with Adams and Sutherland on a squad where older players such as Yeo have really set high examples.
“The younger girls look up to the older girls. They always help each other,” Hurd said. “It’s a real fun team to coach. I’ve never seen a bunch of girls get along so well as these girls do.”
Bucksport has participated in three tournaments this summer, including the New Englands.
Bucksport earned a runner-up finish in the state tournament in Waterville and finished third in the Brewer Invitational earlier this summer.