BANGOR, Maine — Don Stanhope knows he has a work in progress as coach of a young Bangor High School softball team, but he likes their progress.
“We use the analogy of, in archery, a quiver on your back that holds all your arrows,” said Stanhope, in his eighth year as the Rams’ coach. “As young athletes they come in with only a few arrows. Every day in practice, as we focus on the process, we put another arrow in that quiver. Soon, we’ve got plenty of those to choose from [in a given game situation].”
One senior and three juniors started in the field against Brewer on Wednesday. The rest, as well as the designated player, were sophomores.
Stanhope was quick to point out that they’re not inexperienced.
“We’ve had these kids in summer leagues and they played with us in three out-of-state tournaments last year, so we’ve been able to build a lot of trust [in each other], which is the real key to what we do,” said Stanhope.
He and his staff still work the players hard on the fundamentals and developing skills.
“We’ve done that each year, but this group, a lot of the kids are playing positions they’ve never played before,” said Stanhope.
Some days that work shows in their play, he said, and some days — like Wednesday — it doesn’t. What he likes is that their errors are primarily of commission rather than omission. They made mistakes because they tried to do something rather than freezing because they couldn’t decide what to do.
“They’re going to make mistakes aggressively and that’s all we can ask,” Stanhope said.
He points to the athleticism of the players as a key factor in the team’s play.
“This group is one of the more athletic groups we’ve had in the last few years,” he said.
That has allowed him to have players switch positions, including junior Anna Morris from catcher to left field and sophomore Sydni Cosgrove from catcher to shortstop.
“We’ve moved [Morris] out to left field because she makes us better there, where I’m sure, at the beginning of the season, [neither] she nor I ever thought we were going to find her,” said Stanhope.
He moved Cosgrove to third initially before switching her to shortstop.
“She just blew us away with her instincts to the ball and very solid throwing arm,” Stanhope said. “I think she’s going to be a very good shortstop in our league. She’s leading the team with a .647 on-base percentage and a .600 batting average as a sophomore newly into a position. She’s really doing a fantastic job.”
Sophomores Lilli Wiseman and Eve George are the other two outfielders, in right and center, respectively.
“[Wiseman] is just so athletic. She gets to balls in the outfield that we haven’t had a sophomore get to, ever,” said Stanhope. “She’s picked off some balls in the outfield that, when they’re hit, we’re screaming for when they hit the ground to throw to which base and she pulls it out of the air.”
George was expected to be a middle infielder, but Stanhope saw something and put her in the outfield instead.
“She has beautiful [footwork],” he said. “We had one of the best outfielders graduate last year, one of the best in the state, and Eve is at her level as a sophomore. I think she’s that talented.”
Junior Alexis Stanhope, Don’s daughter, was expected to be a starting pitcher, but she re-injured a knee that she originally injured during soccer season and is still getting into playing shape.
Skyler Cassum, Emily Reilly and Cordelia Stewart are the primary pitchers now. Stewart posted a five-inning no-hitter at Brunswick on Friday.
A tendency to give up leadoff walks is one of coach Stanhope’s biggest concerns.
“Leadoff walks always come back to haunt you, and it puts you in defensive situations that experientially we’re not quite ready for,” he said.
Hitting has been a strong suit for Bangor with Reilly, senior first baseman Carly Cosgrove, Cassum, sophomore catcher Kylie Cunningham and Wiseman having pop in their bats, said Stanhope.
Reilly, the designated player Wednesday before coming in as the relief pitcher, blasted a solo homer and a double against Brewer.
The Rams’ loss to the Witches dropped their record to 2-2, but Stanhope isn’t concerned yet.
“We’re not panicking in the least,” he said. “We’re competing every at-bat, we’re competing every play.
“I’m not sure I’d want to see us coming at the end of the season,” he added.