Davis optimistic despite slow start by UMPI softball

Posted April 01, 2010, at 12:58 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 27, 2011, at 8:57 a.m.

University of Maine-Presque Isle softball coach Joy Davis has plenty of reasons to be pessimistic 14 games into the 2010 season.

Still, in spite of a 3-11 record, the loss of last season’s conference rookie of the year, and the graduation departures of three key senior starters, Davis feels good about her team’s chances to take another run at a conference championship.

“We’ve come back from a Virginia trip with one win in 10 games, but three or four of them very easily could have been wins as well,” said the second-year coach. “Oh yeah, for sure. We have enough talent to make another run at a title.

“We feel like we’ve done better than what our record indicates.”

Since the spring trip to Virginia and Washington, the Owls have gone 2-2 in weekend road trips to Pennsylvania and Vermont.

“This team is really maturing quickly and believing in themselves early on,” said Davis. “I think when I really realized it was this past Friday when we played Catholic University in Washington D.C.”

Catholic University swept UMPI 9-1 and 14-3 March 24, but the trip may have been more productive off the field as team members appeared to bond and become closer as a unit. With two freshmen, six sophomores, two juniors and just one senior on the squad, chemistry may be the biggest determining factor for the Owls this season.

“We may not have the maturity and experience, but we basically have what we had in terms of talent last year when we won the Sunrise Conference and went to an NAIA Regional qualifier,” said Davis.

Even with the loss of three starters, the Owls appeared to be in great shape to defend their conference regular-season and tournament titles, especially with sophomore pitcher Emily Moore, the 2009 Sunrise Rookie of the Year returning. But Moore opted not to come out for the team this spring, preferring to concentrate more on her studies and basketball.

That left senior Nicole Russell (8-5, 6.09 ERA in 2009) of Newcastle and freshman Lainey Herring of Houlton to slide up in the rotation.

“I think they both can take over a game occasionally, but I think them putting the ball in play and letting their defense work is when they’re better,” Davis said.

Herring is one of two freshmen who have made an immediate impact in lineup and batting order vacancies created by the graduated seniors. Herring plays second when not pitching while Kellie Peers of Caswell has become the starting center fielder.

Another new starter performing well is Emily O’Neal, a sophomore from Limestone, who’s in right field. Classmate Carolyn Tuck started last year, but switched from first base to left field to complete the revamping of the outfield.

“Putting Herring at second moved Cassie Green to first and Tuck to left,” Davis explained. “And she’s been making sliding catches and highlight plays out there.”

That leaves sophomore Desiree Smith (.337, 1 homer, 16 RBIs) of Rockland at third, junior Brittany Humphrey (.500, 3, 36) at shortstop, and twin sister Danielle Humphrey (.33, 0, 8) catching.

Brittany Humphrey, who can switch positions with Smith, is leading the team with a .417 average. Sophomore Kathleen Higgins (.357, 1, 24) is easing into a utility role after being out two weeks with an injury.

“I like to move players around to make them more comfortable in more than one position, which is something we have to have with a small team,” Davis said. “I believe if we can put the ball in play, our defense is strong and talented enough to back up our pitchers.”

Fund-raising game set April 9

The University of Maine women’s ice hockey team will take on 3rd Watch Hockey in their third annual charity broomball game April 9 at 7 p.m. in Alfond Arena. Tickets are $5 for adults, with children under 12 getting in free, and can be purchased online at www.thirdwatchhockey.com or at the door.

All proceeds will go toward the Empty Arms Support group.

3rd Watch Hockey is a group of local emergency personnel that enjoy helping out local and national charities through the game of hockey. The 2009-2010 season marks their 10th season. The 3rd Watch Hockey team plays in a men’s league in Brewer and also has a travel team for fund-raising events.

Empty Arms, in affiliation with Eastern Maine Medical Center and Share, provides support for individuals whose lives are touched by the death of a pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or in the first few months of life.

Those seeking more information may visit www.thirdwatchhockey.com/broomball3.html or contact Cathy Vandolman at 207-991-1750.

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