It should come as no surprise that the Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics and Cony High of Augusta are legitimate Eastern Maine softball championship threats.
The Eagles and Rams haven’t concluded a regular season lower than third in the final points since the 2007 season when they both were sixth.
Limestone/MSSM finished the regular season at 13-2 and is the second seed in Class D while Cony is 16-0 and the top seed in Eastern A.
On Thursday, Limestone/MSSM will entertain the winner of Tuesday’s prelim game between No. 10 Fort Fairfield (4-9) and No. 7 Ashland (6-7) in a quarterfinal. Cony will take on the survivor of the Tuesday prelim between No. 9 Mount Ararat of Topsham (7-9) and Hampden Academy (8-8), the eighth seed.
Limestone coach Ryan O’Neal said senior pitcher Amanda Allen has played an important role in the team’s success.
“She has thrown the ball well. She doesn’t walk people,” said O’Neal. “She doesn’t have blazing speed but she has good movement on her ball and she throws hard enough to keep people guessing.”
Allen has been complemented by teammates who have played “pretty good defense” behind her, according to O’Neal.
Anchoring the defense is junior shortstop Danielle Pelkey and senior center fielder Stephanie Leighton.
“Danielle is an awesome shortstop,” said O’Neal. “She makes up for a lot of mistakes. Stephanie is a four-year starter in center field and makes tough plays look routine.”
Sophomore catcher Kelsee Albert has improved dramatically and has been a “calming influence.”
Pelkey is joined in the infield by sophomore first baseman Melissa Cantafio, junior second baseman Micheala Garrett and freshman third baseman Ellyzabeth Bencivenga.
Surrounding Leighton in the outfield are sophomore left fielder Jordyn Hopkins and senior right fielder Karen Page.
Hopkins is the leadoff hitter and is “real fast,” according to O’Neal.
Pelkey, Cantafio, Leighton and Allen are among the offensive catalysts and Page has “really stepped it up with the bat lately,” according to O’Neal.
Limestone/MSSM has scored 10 or more runs in a game 12 times and 19 or more eight times.
They have averaged 15.9 runs per game.
The Eagles have good team speed and also can play small ball when necessary, said O’Neal.
“We’ve had a solid campaign. But this is what we expect from our program,” said O’Neal, who succeeded his father, Brent, as the Eagles’ head coach four years ago.
Coach Rocky Gaslin’s Cony Rams also have been prolific run producers.
They have averaged 11.8 runs per game. And they have given up a grand total of just 11 behind the arms of junior Sonja Morse and freshman Arika Brochu.
Morse is a power pitcher with a dominant fastball while Brochu is more of a finesse pitcher although she has a live arm, too.
Morse transferred to Cony from KVAC rival Erskine Academy of South China this past fall.
“I just needed a change. It was a personal decision,” said Morse. “It didn’t have anything to do with softball. It has been a good thing.”
Her older brother Steven transferred from Erskine Academy to Cony a year and a half ago. He is a senior.
“We’re a strong hitting team,” said senior catcher Nicole Rugan, who hits third in the lineup right in front of Morse.
Morse plays first when she’s not pitching.
“One through nine in our lineup can hit,” said Gaslin. “We’re also strong defensively.”
Arika Brochu, who plays center field when she isn’t pitching, is the leadoff hitter and has been an effective table-setter.
Sophomore shortstop Alyssa Dennett hits in the two spot before Rugan and Morse. Right fielder Maggie Russell, a sophomore, is the No. 5 hitter and has also had a solid campaign.
Alyssa Brochu, Arika’s senior sister, is the second baseman and Molly Russell, Maggie’s junior sister, plays left and she also can play first.
The third baseman is sophomore Olivia Deeves and Cecilia Fuller, a senior, plays center when Arika Brochu is pitching.
Cony will be shooting for its first state championship since 1983.
Bapst-Central playing benefit game
The John Bapst and Central High School softball teams will play their fourth annual benefit exhibition Pink Game for cancer awareness at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Union Street Field in Bangor.
Orono High pitcher Andi Foster, who recently underwent surgery for thyroid cancer, has been invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Pink Bapst-Striking Out Cancer T-shirts will be sold by team members for $12.
The teams will share the proceeds with Bapst donating its share to the Lafayette Cancer Center in Brewer and Central sending its share to the Kristie Dawn Collins Breast Cancer Research Endowment Fund.
Collins, who was a strong advocate for breast cancer research and a former Central player, died in a car accident this past winter. Proceeds from a fundraiser earlier this year will also go to the endowment fund in her name, according to Central coach Durice Washburn.