THOMASTON, Maine — There aren’t many teams that can match the success of the Georges Valley High School softball program.
Over the previous five seasons, Western Maine Class C powerhouse Georges Valley posted a remarkable regular season record of 70-2 and went on to win two state Class C championships.
Georges Valley went 16-1 last season, suffering its only loss to Telstar of Bethel (5-4) in the Western Maine Class C title game.
Georges Valley no longer exists as the school has merged with Rockland High School to form Oceanside High.
And Oceanside High is playing in Eastern Maine Class B.
But the goal is the same.
“Our goal is always to win the gold ball,” said ace junior righthander Rachel Frye. “That’s what we say every practice. That’s what we’re aiming to do and I think we have the team to do it, too.”
Rusty Worcester, who had been the head coach at Georges Valley for 11 years and has continued on as the head coach at Oceanside, said he had been excited about this challenge for quite a while.
“The girls bonded together really well in soccer and basketball and have just picked it up and gone with it into softball,” said Worcester. “They get along great.
“It’s exciting to be seeing some new fields and some new coaches and players,” added Worcester. “We’re embracing it.”
Worcester feels his team has the talent to compete for a gold ball in Class B.
“If we can stay healthy and get some breaks, we could contend for it,” he said.
The team is primarily comprised of players from Georges Valley but there are five players who played at Rockland High School last spring.
Rockland had gone 14-50 the past four seasons in Eastern B.
“We struggled last year. We had a really young team,” said senior Hannah Hersom from Rockland, the Mariners’ starting center fielder. “It’s really fun to come here. I really like it. The coaches are experienced and the Georges Valley girls are really talented.
“We have gotten to know each other well through other sports and we work really well together as a team. I think we’re going to do real well,” Hersom added.
“We’ve come together way better than I thought we would. It’s a lot of fun,” said junior third baseman Kennadi Grover, who played at Georges Valley.
Senior catcher Jessica Veilleux, another Georges Valley product, said “it’s a lot different from previous years but I like it a lot. We’ve got some new girls, a new atmosphere and I like the competition in Class B. It’s a lot more aggressive.”
The Mariners have jumped out to a 2-0 start and also got to play several of the top Eastern Maine Class B teams during the preseason.
“The pitching is a lot faster in Class B. But I like it better,” said Grover.
Worcester has a host of returning All-Mountain Valley Conference players led by Frye, Grover, Veilleux, first baseman Jill Bradbury and shortstop Natalie Russell. Russell and Bradbury are seniors.
Bradbury, Grover, Russell, Veilleux and Frye hit in the top five spots in the order, respectively.
They can all hit for high average and for power, according to Worcester.
Leadoff hitter Bradbury, who also pitches, and Hersom give the Mariners running threats at the top and bottom of the order.
Surrounding the speedy Hersom in the outfield are sophomore left fielder Brooke Dugan of Rockland and junior right fielder Molly Mellor, a Thomaston girl who played for Rockland last season.
Senior Tamra Wallace is the second baseman but Rockland junior Emma Davis will also get some playing time there.
Rockland junior Hannah Plourde is a quality reserve outfielder and freshmen Emily Gould, Alexis Davis and Paige Tyler supply the Mariners with solid and versatile depth and a promising nucleus for the future.
Worcester’s Mariners are very aggressive on the basepaths and they put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses.
Frye will take the mound most of the time and she struck out 28 in the team’s first two victories.
“The ball explodes out of her hand pretty well and she also has a curve and a changeup. If she hits her spots, she can be overpowering,” said Worcester.
He feels his team is “very good” defensively.
“We work real hard on defense,” said Worcester.
The Mariners, who have opened with wins over Medomak Valley of Waldoboro (6-1) and Lincoln Academy of Newcastle (10-5), will travel to face 1-1 Camden Hills at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday.