Even though his Brewer softball team will likely be inside for the first few days of practice, coach Skip Estes has a feeling his Witches will be doing drills on the Coffin Field diamond soon thanks to this spring’s mild temperatures.
“It’s beautiful, the field itself,” he said. “I worked on it all fall, so when the snow went away we could’ve gone out. I’ve talked to coaches that have coached high school ball in this area for 17 years [who have] never [been out] this early.”
Estes had six pitchers and four catchers working out last week, and the rest of the Witches joined them Monday as full preseason practices for spring sports got under way. First countable games, meets and matches will kick off April 15.
“I really think the team will be competitive. We’ll probably be an extremely young program, but the young kids that I have are very good athletes,” said Estes, who had 45 players, including 21 freshmen, in tryouts.
The unusually mild March weather has kept snow off many fields throughout the state, but with rain in the forecast for the first part of the week, there’s a good chance Brewer and other teams will be inside for just a few days.
“As soon as it gets to 50 degrees, I’ll be out,” he said.
Even though the Witches will be young in terms of age, they have plenty of experience with the returnees including Amy Curry, Jordan Nickerson, Coralie Dapice, Amy Adams, Emily Cox, Kelcey Simpson, and Amanda Ryan.
Ryan had a solid junior campaign in the pitching circle and, since she features some tough offspeed pitches, should benefit from pitching from 43 feet as opposed to 40.
“I expect a lot out of her this year,” Estes said. “She’s worked a lot on her game. When it comes to pitching she’s a student of pitching. She’s a kid that can throw more than just a few pitches.”
Cox, a lefthanded infielder, could spell Ryan in the circle while Curry, who played in the outfield last year, will probably move to the infield this season.
When asked to dissect Eastern Maine Class A, Estes quickly pointed to two teams.
“Bangor and Skowhegan are clearly the favorites, they have so many seniors coming back and they’ve got very good pitching,” he said.
Brewer’s Ryan, Bangor’s Sam Bedore and Skowhegan’s Becca McCarty may be among the top pitchers not just in Eastern Maine but statewide.
“Amanda, McCarty and Bedore pitched at 43 feet all summer and they performed real well,” Estes said. “Going back to 43 feet made those pitchers a little better.”
The days of 20-strikeout games and emphasis on having just a fastball could be gone, with more pitchers likely focusing on keeping the ball at the knees.
“Speed isn’t everything and if these girls can keep that ball down, my defense will take care of all the rest,” Estes said.
Brewer will see where it stands early in the season with a tough schedule, including road games at Bangor and Skowhegan and a home contest with an improved Messalonskee of Oakland team. Estes said he’s hoping to emerge from that with at least three wins.
Stephanie Crane, who coached the Bangor cheerleading team for the last 10 years, has decided to step down.
“After 10 years, I just really want to be a fan. I really want to sit in the stands and watch it from a different perspective,” said Crane, who may also pursue judging at competitions.
Crane also worked in a dental office in Bangor from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. prior to attending practices, which became tiring.
“I had really long days. It’ll be nice to get a little bit of my life back, I guess,” she said.
Crane, who coached both the football and competition (basketball) squads, ended her 10-year tenure on a resounding note as the Rams won the Eastern Maine Class A competition this winter and placed third in states, earning the team a trip to the New England championships.
She said the decision to resign was not an easy one.
“I get along with everyone at the school, I had a great relationship with [athletic director] Steve Vanidestine,” Crane said.
She added the support she received from parents of kids on the team was tremendous.
“The parents were so helpful, they did so much for me behind the scenes and made it easy just to go to a competition and do my job,” she said. “[The kids] were just amazing, such a great group of kids.”
Crane said there were a few tears from her squad when she met them to notify them of her resignation, but they were understanding.
Competing in New Englands was a great way to cap Crane’s coaching career. The Rams cheered in Providence the same weekend the NCAA men’s basketball championships were in town.
Bangor stayed at the same hotel as the University of Tennessee men’s team.
“We saw tons of teams everywhere. The place was just packed,” she said.
Crane isn’t completely closing the book on her coaching career.
“If something came up and [the] Bangor [job] re-opens again in a few years, I might [come back],” she said.
Crane would also like to get involved with the city’s middle school programs.
The Central girls basketball team emerged victorious in the first MBR Undergrad girls basketball tournament, held at Thomas College in Waterville earlier this month.
The Red Devils from Corinth won all three of their games by an average of 18 points, defeating Lawrence of Fairfield 41-16 in the first contest, Dirigo of Dixfield 59-48 in their second game and Jay 40-22 in the championship game.
Junior center Bekah Campbell, who stands 6-foot-4, paced Central in the title game with 21 points while classmate Hannah Pray netted double figures in the team’s other two games.
Central reached the Eastern Maine Class C semifinals this winter before losing to eventual state champion Calais.