CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou High School softball coach Ryan Deprey said when she isn’t playing softball, senior righthander Emily Staples is “probably one of the nicest kids you’ll ever find.”
But when she steps inside the circle, a transformation takes place.
“She’s an absolute animal. She’s more competitive than I ever thought she would be,” Deprey said.
Staples showcased that competitive fire a year ago when she led her eighth-seeded Vikings to upset wins over top seed and once-beaten Medomak Valley of Waldoboro 1-0 in the Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinals and No. 4 Old Town, 4-2, in nine innings in the semifinals.
She struck out 16 against Medomak Valley and 14 against Old Town.
She only allowed four hits in a 2-1 loss to Bucksport in the Eastern Maine Class B final.
She has picked up where she left off.
Staples and the Vikings are 8-2 after splitting a doubleheader against previously undefeated Hermon on Saturday and thumping archrival Presque Isle 24-0 on Tuesday.
She shut out Hermon 2-0 after losing a 1-0 heartbreaker in the opener.
She has struck out 90 and walked just 14 in her 10 outings. Her earned run average hovers around 1.00.
“She’s locked in,” Deprey said. “She puts an incredible amount of work in. She can throw seven pitches.”
“She’s very consistent and very steady,” said John Bapst coach Shannon Whiting. “She keeps the ball right around the plate.”
By her own admission, Staples is a “softball girl.”
She played JV basketball as a freshman before deciding to stick full time to softball.
She pitches for a New Brunswick softball team during the summer and has pitched in major tournaments, including one in Montreal.
It was her exposure to Canadian softball in seventh grade that fueled her interest in the sport.
“I had played slow-pitch [as a youngster], but it was fast-pitch in Canada [and she liked it better]. I became more serious about it,” Staples said.
She throws a drop, a rise, a changeup, a curve, a screwball and she also said she has a pitch that “I don’t have a name for. It goes everywhere.”
Knuckleballs are pitches that have a tendency to go everywhere, but she said, “It’s faster than a knuckleball.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt that she stands an imposing 5 feet, 9 inches and has long arms. She can be an intimidating figure in the circle and the ball explodes out of her right hand and gets to the plate in a hurry.
“She’s very tall so she really strides out and that helps her with her velocity. She has that leg drive that all good pitchers have. She is sneaky fast. Hitters don’t anticipate her speed,” said Hermon coach Steph Biberstein. “She has a natural rise on her ball and it causes a lot of hitters to get underneath it and pop it up or miss it. She does a very good job.”
Staples has improved every year from her freshman year in which she “could throw hard but had no idea where it was going,” according to Deprey.
“Now she has good location. If she misses with a pitch, it’s for the purpose of setting another pitch up,” Deprey said.
Staples acknowledged that she has improved.
“I just try to work hard. I put my time in during the winter, too. I hope to get better and better every season,” she said.
She has been pleased with the season to date and credits catcher Kristin Plante for a lot of her success.
“She calls all the pitches,” said Staples, who also noted that Plante assesses each hitter and calls the appropriate pitches in the right locations.
“I have 120 percent confidence in her. She’s an amazing catcher. She works so hard at it. We work on it in the offseason.”
Staples said the defense behind her has been “amazing” and their hitting is “coming along.”
She is hoping the Vikings can go at least a step farther this season and play for a state championship.
She will attend Husson University in Bangor in the fall.
“I’m pretty excited about it, but I’ll miss Caribou,” she said.
In addition to her pitching, Staples is hitting over .350 on a team that has scored 11 or more runs in six of their 10 games.
Center fielder Jamie Martin, the only other senior on the team, has paced the attack. She is hitting over .600. She is also an outstanding defensive player, according to Deprey.
Third baseman Jordyn Doucette is hitting over .500 and Anesha Hersey, the shortstop, has been a catalyst from the leadoff spot as she is hitting well over .400.
Plante has been a .500 hitter.
First baseman Rebecca McDougal is the cleanup hitter.
Kelsie Espling is the second baseman, Victoria Bouchard is in left field and Courtney Burby is the right fielder. Delaney Williams sees time as the designated hitter.