DEER ISLE, Maine — Sydney Ouzts used to go to softball clinics to watch her older sister Darian. She would also attend her travel team softball games.
“My parents gave me a little stuffed softball and I remember standing in the kitchen and pitching it into the living room couch,” recalled Ouzts.
She eventually became old enough to attend the clinics and play on the travel teams in her native Pittsburgh.
Ouzts enjoys pitching and Deer Isle-Stonington High School softball coach Terry Siebert is certainly glad she does.
Ouzts helped lead the 18-2 Mariners to their first state Class D softball championship a year ago.
It was the first state championship for a girls team from Deer Isle-Stonington since Sharon Siebert, Terry’s sister, led the Mariners to a Class D basketball title in 1987.
Ouzts was 17-2 with a 1.45 earned run average, struck out 205 in 135 innings, walked just 48 and surrendered 72 hits. She allowed just four runs in four playoff games, including the 7-2 win over Richmond in the state title game.
She also hit .514 and drove in 29 runs.
Ouzts moved to the area from Pittsburgh during her sophomore year.
“The kids told me ‘You’ve got to see this new girl pitch,’” said Siebert, who took the news with a grain of salt.
It didn’t take him long to see Ouzts was the real deal.
And after leading the team to an Eastern Maine Class D title two years ago, she has continued to improve.
“She’s great,” said Siebert. “She’s really strong and it’s not just her speed, it’s her accuracy. She can put the ball anywhere she wants to.”
Siebert said Ouzts has four pitches she can throw for strikes.
“She has a good fastball, a good rise and drop and a pretty good curve. She’s also working hard on a change-up,” said Siebert.
“There’s always room for improvement,” said Ouzts, who will attend Maine Maritime Academy in Castine in the fall and will pitch for the Mariners. “I still have to get that change-up down a little bit. But I practiced with my dad [Lew] all winter.”
She said one of her goals is to eclipse the 500-strikeout mark for her career.
“I’m 103 short,” said Ouzts, who also wants to help her team defend its state championship.
Ouzts will be complemented by a talented group of returnees, including six starters.
Shortstop Janelle Ciomei hit .585 a year ago with a homer and 12 runs batted in. She also had three doubles and three triples.
First baseman Chelsea Brown hit .513 and drove in a team-high 45 runs. She had seven triples and eight doubles.
Designated hitter Amber Jones hit .471 with two homers, two triples, nine doubles and 25 RBIs and second baseman Julie Hutchins hit .436 with 31 RBIs. The other returning starter is right fielder Emily Cormier, and she hit .351 and knocked in 12 runs. Left fielder Sarah Boutilier hit .322 in 30 at-bats.
Ciomei, Brown and Ouzts were first-team all-conference selections.
Jones will catch this year, replacing the departed Abby Grindle, and Cormier will move from right field to third base to replace all-conference first-teamer Holly Brewer. Junior Michala Brown (.500 in 34 at-bats) will be the new center fielder replacing the departed Heidi Brewer, another first-teamer.
Senior Moriah Nutter (.280 in 25 at-bats) will take Cormier’s spot in right field.
Senior Haley Brewer, who didn’t play last year, can play a variety of positions, and backing up Ouzts on the mound will be sophomore Abby Knowlton and freshman Morgan Shepard.
In addition to have Ouzts on the mound and the bulk of a formidable lineup back that produced 292 runs last year, Siebert also said his defense is “pretty strong as well.”
“This team is potentially as good as last year’s and, in a couple respects, it could be even better,” said Siebert.
Siebert said he expects to run a little more to put more pressure on opposing defenses.
The team has more confidence now that it has a state championship to its name, he said.
The Mariner girls confused their coach a year ago by dancing to music during pregame warm-ups.
“I was going to get after them to get serious, but I noticed that it helped them get loose and it helped their nerves,” he said. “But I told them that if they were going to play rap songs, I had to listen to the lyrics first and make sure there were no bad lyrics.”
“It was our way to get excited and pumped up for the game,” said Ouzts.
Do they dance as well as they play softball?
“Some do. I don’t,” quipped Ouzts.
The Mariners are hoping to dance to another state championship.