Postseason softball has not been nice to teams from the Penobscot Valley Conference Class B ranks over the last couple years.
Last spring, Mattanawcook Academy and Hermon finished 1-2 in the Heal points after outstanding regular seasons, only to have Medomak Valley and Erskine Academy play the role of spoiler in the playoffs.
But Hermon coach Stephanie Biberstein is confident those roles will be reversed this season — even with a roster that includes seven freshmen and just one senior.
“We had some tough scrimmages early in the year, we played Cony, Skowhegan and Winslow, and they were definitely very nervous, very timid,” Biberstein said. “As they got further into the preseason they’ve gained a lot of confidence.
Like the rest of the teams in the Class B pack, Hermon returns its top pitcher in junior lefthander Debbie Colpitts, but the Hawks have had to do some retooling on the infield, since the three starters Hermon graduated were all infielders.
Junior Ashley Thayer moved from the outfield to first base while Sami Schultz returned at second, with freshmen Kristen Wilcox (shortstop) and Gabby Bryant (third) manning the left side.
Hermon’s outfield consists of lone senior Monica Gallant in center, Jess Devou in right and Lauren McLaughlin in left.
Biberstein won’t be satisfied with another strong regular-season and quick playoff exit.
“Our goals for our team are very high, we’ve been strong in the regular season for a number of years now,” she said. “We haven’t done what we needed to do in the playoffs.”
The Hawks went in with the No. 1 seed two years ago only to lose to Medomak.
Hermon has started this season with a 2-0 record as Colpitts pitched very well in the first two games, shutting down Mattanawcook and Ellsworth, including an opening-day, two-hit shutout effort in Lincoln.
Biberstein is seeking more production from her offense, which was held somewhat in check by MA’s Tayla Trask and Tashia Daley of Ellsworth over the first two games.
“I know we need more hits to increase our run production but we’re also facing two talented pitchers,” Biberstein said. “I would look at those two games and say we didn’t do the job with the bats. We need to increase our run production.”
The PVC clubs have certainly looked strong over the first few games — Old Town has won its first four while compiling 33 runs, MA’s Trask stymied a hard-hitting Bucksport club in a 4-1 win on Tuesday, while Ellsworth’s Daley has looked strong in her first couple of outings.
“I think this year our conference is incredibly strong, you look at Bucksport, Old Town, Hermon, Lincoln, any one of us could beat any team on any given day,” Biberstein said.
And there isn’t much room for error, with only nine postseason spots up for grabs.
“Every game’s important, nobody can look by anyone, that’s the thing,” Biberstein said.
Some key games to end this week have John Bapst hosting Mattanawcook on Friday and Old Town on Saturday, Ellsworth hosting Bucksport this afternoon and Hermon traveling to Bucksport on Saturday.
Whitney Sinclair, who had an outstanding soccer career at John Bapst High School before going on to play that sport at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, is coaching the Wisdom of St. Agatha softball team this spring.
Wisdom lost in its season opener, 23-21 to Greater Houlton Christian Academy in eight innings on Wednesday.
Sinclair, a Dexter native whose father, Gary, is the current John Bapst girls soccer coach, completed her sophomore season as a member of the UMFK soccer team last fall.
She was also a softball standout in high school, earning All-Conference accolades while at John Bapst.