Sam Bedore, like many softball pitchers around the state, is accustomed to the 43-foot distance between the pitching rubber and home plate.
So when the Maine Principals’ Association softball committee voted recently to move the rubber to that distance from 40 feet starting next spring, the Bangor High School senior wasn’t exactly pouting.
“I’m really excited about it, it’ll just make my ball move more,” Bedore said. “I’ve pitched at 43 [feet] the last two summers.”
The MPA softball committee voted 4-1 to make the change immediately. The National Federation of State High School Associations passed the rule change in July, switching the pitching distance from 40 feet to 43, the same distance used at the college and Amateur Softball Association (ASA) under-18 levels.
The NFSHA required the change to be enacted by the 2010-11 school year, but it was ultimately the MPA’s call on whether to wait until then or make the switch next spring.
“A lot of the committee members thought it was a no-brainer to do it [right away],” said Jim Leonard, athletic administrator at Rockland High and MPA Softball Committee Chairman.
“I think it was just to be ahead of the curve, so the schools could get this under way and the kids could be moving forward.”
The change was also implemented to put more emphasis on defense and give hitters more time to react to pitches and pitchers time to defend themselves from line drives back up the middle.
“Some of these pitchers are close to 35 feet away from the batter when the ball is hit. That’s the overriding thing is the safety issue,” Leonard said.
Bangor coach Don Stanhope agreed.
“I think it’s a good safety move,” he said. “For pitchers to get a little more reaction time, I think that’s a huge bonus.”
Bedore, one of Class A’s top pitchers, pitches a couple times a week at Frozen Ropes in Portland, a training facility owned by Lynn and Mike Coutts. She is accustomed to the distance, but acknowledged the move gives some of the state’s younger hurlers a chance to get acclimated to pitching from 43.
“I think this year is the year to do it [so] the younger pitchers can work on it now,” she said.
Stanhope thinks Bedore, along with other top pitchers in the region who attack the strike zone well and mix up pitches, will have a lot more success.
“For a few pitchers who really command a good changeup and a good dropball, it’s going to be to their advantage,” he said. “For a girl like Sam Bedore or [Brewer’s] Mel [Judkins] or [Skowhegan’s] Becca McCarty, it’s going to be a huge advantage.”
Leonard added, “the pitchers that have a lot of breaking balls will be more affective.”
Since batters will have more reaction time to fastballs, the days of 18, 19 or even 21 strikeout games — Brewer’s Judkins fanned 21 in a game against Hampden last spring — may be gone.
“It’s going to be a little more balanced between offense, defense and pitching,” Leonard said.
That isn’t exactly a bad thing for infielders and outfielders, who could very easily be lulled to sleep by high-strikeout games.
“The defense is going to have to be more on their toes this year,” said Bedore, “which is good, because you want your defense to work just as hard.”
Bedore, who will be joined at Frozen Ropes on occasion this winter by Rams’ catcher Jeri Cosgrove and outfielder Sadie Redman, said she’s going to work harder on curveballs, risers and changeups over the course of the winter.
The move was also made now so that coaches can move the rubber back on their fields before snow and frost come into play.
Bangor, Brewer shine in relays
The Bangor and Brewer cross country teams competed in the Mt. Blue Relays in Farmington last Friday, and both squads came home with fine results.
The Brewer girls, who won this meet in 2008 on their way to the Eastern Maine Class A title, finished third this year behind host Mt. Blue and Mount Ararat of Topsham.
The Witches finished with a total team time of 1 hour, 13 minutes, 21 seconds, an average of 14:40 per runner.
In this meet, each team’s runner runs a two-mile leg, and the times of the team’s five scoring runners are added up to compile team scores. Schools can have as many five-person teams as they choose.
Mt. Blue’s total team time was 1:10:43 and Mount Ararat’s was 1:10:46.
Bangor finished eighth out of 21 scoring teams on the girls’ side, recording a team time of 1:17:59.
Sara Chavarie posted the fifth-quickest time of the day to lead Brewer, clocking a 13:43 over the two-mile course.
Rachel Huber was Bangor’s fastest runner, finishing 26th in 15:06.
Maranacook of Readfield sophomore Abby Mace established a course record of 12:36 in posting the fastest time of the afternoon.
On the boys’ side, Cony of Augusta and Morse of Bath finished one second apart, with the Rams coming away with the title.
Mt. Blue’s Kelton Cullenberg set a course record, running 10:37.
Bangor turned in a fifth-place finish. Sam Nisbett paced the Rams, clocking the fifth-quickest time, traversing his two-mile leg in 11:19.