Before every softball season, Georges Valley head coach Rusty Worcester sits down with his team and asks them to go over their aspirations for the upcoming season.
Expectations are the same each year at the Thomaston school, but this one is extra special for a variety of reasons.
“We always talk about the state title,” Worcester said. “That’s one of the things we discuss. Of course with this year being extra special it’s on everybody’s mind.”
The “extra special” incentive is that this season will mark the last time his Buccaneers don the familiar green and white as Georges Valley and nearby Rockland will combine to form Oceanside High starting in the fall.
Georges Valley has enjoyed a remarkable run of success in Class C over the last few years, with back-to-back state championships in 2007-08, and the Bucs are sailing toward that plateau again this spring, sporting a 14-0 record heading into postseason play.
The Bucs will enter the Western Maine Class C playoffs as the No. 2 seed, with a quarterfinal matchup against St. Dominic of Auburn on tap for Thursday.
Playoff action around the state in high school baseball and softball gets under way Tuesday with preliminary-round games, while the quarterfinals are Thursday and the semifinals Saturday.
One thing that Worcester will miss next season is the longstanding rivalry his team has had with Telstar of Bethel, the defending Class C state champion, which owns the No. 1 seed in the west.
The Bucs feature two talented pitchers in sophomore righthander Rachel Frye and junior lefthander Jill Bradbury as well as four seniors in Katelyn Rich (shortstop), Kelsey Thompson (left field), Kristin Sawyer (center field) and utility player Chelsea Glidden.
The Bucs also have some talented underclassmen, including sophomore right fielder Kennadi Grover, who has become their top hitter with a .516 batting average, two home runs and 28 RBIs.
“It’s a good talented mix, it’s a lot of fun, they’re a great bunch of girls,” Worcester said.
Frye, the sister of two-time state championship-winning pitcher Danielle Frye, has improved steadily throughout the year, Worcester said, while she and Bradbury are a tough 1-2 punch.
“Some coaches don’t have the opportunity to have two quality pitchers, so it’s kind of a relaxing thing for me,” said Worcester, who will coach the Oceanside club next spring.
No matter what happens this postseason, Worcester, a Columbia Falls native who played baseball for coach John Sawyer at Narraguagus in Harrington, has enjoyed his 11 years at Georges Valley.
“There’s some terrific athletes and they have no personal goals,” he said. “They just are so excited to play together as a team and bring together that team award of a gold ball.”
But the fact that this is the final year of Buccaneer softball has given Worcester’s players tons of incentive.
“If you write the script of the final sport of the final year right down to the final game and to be able to bring home a state title, that would be a storybook ending,” he said. “We’ll give it everything we have.”
Loss motivates Witches
Losing is never fun for any softball team, but a home setback to Messalonskee of Oakland late in the regular season has top-ranked Brewer focused heading into the Class A playoffs.
“We need to clean some things up but we’re really excited to kind of flip the (switch),” said senior catcher Jordan Nickerson. “We had a great (regular) season, but we’re ready to put it behind us and start fresh.”
Coach Skip Estes’ Witches will entertain eighth-ranked Edward Little of Auburn on Thursday at Coffin Field in a quarterfinal matchup.
“We’re just trying to come into our practices really focused and trying not to make the errors that we’re making,” senior pitcher Emily Cox said. “We know it’s a clean slate for everyone, so what’s happened in the past 16 games doesn’t matter anymore.”
Brewer posted a 15-1 regular-season mark, and fans may recall that the last time the Witches compiled that record, they won the state championship in 2008.
But this Class A field is a deep one, and the Red Eddies will also be looking to avenge a 4-0 loss to Brewer on May 11.
“We basically just need to play within ourselves, be confident and play like we have been playing,” said Nickerson. “We need to re-focus as a group and I think we’re going to do fine.”
Elsewhere in Class A, fifth-ranked Bangor faces a familiar postseason foe in No. 4 Skowhegan.
The Rams and Indians have met in the playoffs the last two years, with coach Don Stanehope’s club winning that matchup in the Eastern Maine final last spring.
The two teams split their regular-season meetings, with Bangor winning 2-0 on April 27 and Skowhegan 5-0 on May 20.
Four preliminary matchups are on tap in Eastern Maine on Tuesday, with No. 8 Caribou hosting No. 9 Belfast and No. 7 Winslow hosting No. 10 Ellsworth in Class B.
In Class C, No. 10 Stearns of Millinocket takes on No. 7 Penobscot Valley in Howland and No. 9 Piscataquis of Guilford travels to No. 8 Lee Academy.