The 2010 season featured many memorable moments in the Eastern Maine Class B softball ranks, but Hermon’s Sami Schultz produced arguably the most dramatic.
Schultz’s game-winning home run in the regional championship game against Mattanawcook Academy was a monumental moment in the Hawks’ run to their first state championship since 1977.
Hermon and Mattanawcook could be Class B title contenders again, with the Hawks returning eight starters and the Lynx from Lincoln featuring one of the state’s top pitchers in senior righthander Tayla Trask.
Hermon had plenty of reason to be excited Monday afternoon, as coach Stephanie Biberstein’s Hawks got the opportunity to practice somewhere besides a gym for the first time all spring.
“This is actually going to be our first day outside so they’re pretty excited tonight to get outside,” said Biberstein.
Even though the run to the state championship brought a lot of memories for the Hawks, they were quick to put that in the past and focus on the present.
“We talked about last year and it’s something that the girls will have with them for the rest of their lives, but it is a new year, we’ve put 2010 behind us,” Biberstein said. “It’s going to be a tougher year, I think our conference is even stronger this year than it was last year.”
Hermon only graduated one senior from last year’s squad, and the returning nucleus includes senior lefthander Deb Colpitts, while sophomores Gabby Bryant, Kristen Wilcox and Shannon Graves will be looking to stretch their strong 2010 finishes into this season.
“We’d like to see them carry that over a little bit,” Biberstein said.
It was actually Bryant who set up Schultz’s homer in last year’s regional final as she beat out an infield grounder with two outs.
While Hermon does have the luxury of having a talented returning cast, Biberstein is hoping that a few of her underclassmen can provide depth when called upon.
“We’ve got some really good young talent coming in, freshmen and sophomores that will step in and help us out,” she said. “We do have some talent, some experience, that’s kind of nice to see them come back at the plate and also in the field.”
The Lynx, who will open their season at home against Hermon on April 23, certainly took a significant step last spring in reaching the regional championship game with a young squad, and coach Dean Libbey is hoping that can be a springboard to more success.
“Just the experience factor itself was huge,” he said. “I think that’ll pay big dividends for us this year.”
Having a pitcher with the caliber of Trask is certainly a good start, and she has looked stronger the first few weeks of preseason.
“We went to Hampden on Saturday and I thought she pitched very well,” Libbey said. “She throws a little bit harder than she did last year and she locates her pitches a little bit better. She seems to have real good command of her pitches.”
Trask, who will play at Division II Saint Anselm College next season, has been working on a lot of her breaking pitches, mainly her dropball, riseball and changeup.
She is one of four MA seniors, including batterymate Amanda Gulesian, outfielder Rianne Gardner and shortstop Brooke Kimball.
The Lynx also feature an influx of sophomores in Morgan Russell, Ashley Crosby, Taylor Blood, Ashley Libby, Tia Hardy and Mikaila Bisson whom Libbey hopes will make strong contributions, along with juniors Taylor Hawkins and Becca Smith.
“We basically have a young group, most of them played quite well last year,” Libbey said.
Hermon has a tough slate to open the season, with an April 21 doubleheader in Caribou kicking off the schedule, followed by road contests at Mattanawcook and Ellsworth before playing its home opener against Bucksport.
“Caribou beat us last year, so it’s definitely going to be a tough start of the season for us,” Biberstein said.
The Hawks and Lynx will be facing some talented Class B teams..
“I don’t think we can count out John Bapst with their pitching and Bucksport with their complete team,” Libbey said.
John Bapst and Bucksport are both returning solid pitching in Laura Jordan and Abby Yeo, respectively, while Old Town and Medomak Valley of Waldoboro should be contenders as well.
Biberstein has been impressed with how Jordan has improved throughout the winter, and believes that will make Bapst a very tough team.
“Laura Jordan’s done a phenomenal job in the offseason, she’s pitching very well,” she said. “Bucksport and Old Town are also going to be very strong in our conference.”
Biberstein doesn’t expect anybody in Class B to run the table.
“There’s definitely not going to be a team that’s going to be undefeated,” she said. “I’d be shocked.”
Mattanawcook has yet to practice on its field, as it still has some snow in the outfield, so the Lynx were happy to play some exhibition games on Hampden’s artificial turf field over the weekend.
“It was very nice especially for the outfielders to get out there and see the distances and get used to the field,” Libbey said.
Bucksport and Old Town will be the first Class B teams to open the season as the Golden Bucks will host Mount Desert Island on April 19 while Old Town meets rival Orono on that same date.
Rapolla’s stats corrected
The wrong stats were put in Saturday’s story for Gorham High School senior Mia Rapolla, who was named to the second team of the BDN’s 35th All-Maine girls basketball team. She averaged 22.7 points per game, 8.7 rebounds and 4.3 steals over her senior season. She also finished with 454 points in her senior season, led the SMAA in steals for the second straight season, and was one of two players, with Deering’s Kayla Burchill, to be unanimously named to the SMAA first team.