THOMASTON, Maine — The Oceanside High School softball team has had to do some extensive remodeling in its bid to avenge last year’s early end to its Class B tournament run.
Fortunately for the Mariners, they still have some key players, especially a strong, experienced pitcher in senior Rachel Frye.
“When you have someone such as Rachel who on any given day can go out there and dominate, it’s a good thing,” said 13-year head coach Rusty Worcester, who had to fill openings at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop and center field.
As the players continue to learn their positions, Frye’s importance is magnified.
“She’s going to carry us for a while until we get our feet underneath us,” said Worcester, “and we feel very confident in what she can do.”
With the pitching set, Worcester can spend more time with the defense. In addition to the new starters, the other three returnees are also playing new positions.
Junior Brooke Dugan and senior Molly Mellor were outfield starters last year, and they’ve been shifted to third base and shortstop, respectively. Senior Kennadi Grover, who was the third baseman last year, now plays first.
Freshman Ari Curtis is the catcher, junior Maggie Drinkwater plays second and senior Hannah Plourde, who played some outfield last season, is the starter in center field. Freshman Brianna Dugan, Brooke’s sister, plays right field and sophomore Caitlyn Raye is the left fielder.
“We’re just trying to fill in the gaps, and each game and each practice we get, they get more experienced at those positions,” said Worcester. “What it is is there’s a mental aspect to those positions. Some of those guys are so new to those positions, we’ve had to go back to basics and try to train ’em for it. But they’re great athletes and hopefully, they’ll catch up to the mental aspect of the game.”
That mental aspect is the harder transition, according to Worcester. Even a moment’s hesitation about what to do with the ball can be the difference between getting an out and creating a baserunner.
Worcester cited Mellor as an example.
“She has a great arm, strong arm, great for shortstop,” he said. “It’s just the intangibles, knowing split-second where you’re going to go with the throw, talking with your second baseman and whatnot.”
In the meantime, Worcester and his staff will continue to work with them.
“We want these ladies accustomed to the positions and become more comfortable so when that split-second play happens, they know where they’re going to go,” Worcester said.
Worcester feels that the offense is the least of his worries and that the Mariners will be able to score runs.
Brooke Dugan leads off, followed by Frye, the 2012 KVAC Class B player of the year. Grover, Mellor and Plourde follow. Brianna Dugan completes the first six batters, who Worcester said all have pop in their bats.
Grover’s three-run homer Wednesday in a 7-5 win over Nokomis at Newport gave Oceanside the lead for good, and the Mariners also showed some of that pop in the preseason.
“We’ve faced Cony — you know, the Sonja Morse girl [KVAC East Class A pitcher of the year last year].” said Worcester. “Little Brianna Dugan … actually had a home run and a double for her first two hits of her freshman year in preseason.
“If you can hit Sonja Morse and take her deep 20-30 feet over the fence in center field, that’s some pop in the bat. So we’re looking for that.”
Getting two hits apiece from Curtis and Raye in Wednesday’s season opener also pleased Worcester.
“Our No. 9 hitter [Raye] goes 2-for-3 and our No. 7 [Curtis] goes 2-for-4,” said Worcester. “Anything we can get out of the bottom of our lineup and then roll into the top of the lineup, that’s huge. That’s when we can do some damage.”
And that’s what he’s hoping comes together by the end of the season.
“Last year was a slight disappointment,” Worcester said of his top-seeded Mariners. “We had a great team. One through nine had pop. We were the favorite, but we ran up against a good Old Town team [in the semifinals]. … We need to learn from that and hopefully do better this year.”