Bucksport High School softball coach Mike Carrier would rather be playing in Class B but, because the baseball team dropped to Class C two years ago, softball also had to drop down a class.
There are an awful lot of Eastern Maine Class C softball coaches who also wish the Golden Bucks were in Class B.
That’s because the Bucks have yet to lose in Class C.
They go into this season with 40 consecutive wins and two straight state C titles dating back to their 5-2 loss to Fryeburg Academy in the state Class B championship game in 2011.
And the Bucks appear poised to make a run at another state title this season.
They did graduate three quality players in pitcher Cassidy Adams, right fielder Andie Lawford and third baseman Kacie Hurd.
Adams, according to Carrier, never lost a game beginning in junior high school and extending through her JV and varsity careers. The fleet-footed Lawford was their exceptional leadoff hitter and Hurd was a middle-of-the-order run producer.
But everybody else is back, and they have regained the services of senior outfielder Justine Walsh, who has returned to Bucksport after spending the last two seasons playing for Orono High School.
“I think we’ll be better offensively. We have a very strong hitting team. And we should be just as good defensively (as a year ago),” said Carrier, who also has confidence in junior Samantha Goode, who will replace Adams as their ace pitcher.
“Samantha has looked very good,” said Carrier. “She has a rise, a drop, a changeup and a curve, and she’s working on a screwball.”
He added that it wouldn’t surprise him if Goode emerges as the best pitcher in Class C.
Senior center fielder Bri Bires also feels completely confident that Goode can fill Adams’ shoes.
“She’s going to do a great job. She pitched for [pitching guru] Bob Mercer all winter long. She’s fully capable” of filling the void left by Adams’ departure, said Bires. “She moves the ball around and she throws a little harder than Cassidy.”
Carrier is in his 23rd year coaching Bucksport, and he has guided the program to three state titles and five Eastern Maine championships in the past 11 years. They won a Class B state championship in 2006.
Senior Alanna Davis returns behind the plate and three of the four infielders are back in junior first baseman Kim Nason, senior second baseman Jenny Pye and senior shortstop Deb Wight.
Third base is up for grabs, according to Carrier.
Bires will anchor the outfield in with sophomore Eliza Hosford back in left field. Walsh is one of the candidates for the right field job.
“We’re very happy to have Justine back,” said Wight. “She will be a big addition to our team. She’s a very good hitter.”
Sophomores Kaylee Grindle and Tyler Dupont saw some playing time a year ago and could get more this season. The versatile Grindle is the fifth infielder and can play a number of positions and Dupont is a first baseman.
Senior Jade Darragh, who was the JV shortstop a year ago and can also play the outfield, is another prime candidate for playing time. She came out for the team for the first time last year and did a “great job” said Carrier.
Carrier also said he has some promising newcomers including exchange student Aino Sihvo, who had never played before but is an exceptional athlete.
Bires and Hosford are slap hitters with lots of speed who consistently get on base. They can also hit for power. Wight, Pye, Nason, Davis and Walsh can hit for power and high average. Wight was among the leaders in runs batted in last season.
Goode is also a capable hitter, said Carrier.
“We have a good mix of slap hitters and power hitters,” said Wight.
The players know there will be a lot of pressure on them to three-peat but they are looking forward to the challenge.
“We know teams are out to get us but that’s exciting. That’s why we never let up,” said Bires.
“We’re used to having a big target on our backs. We adapted well to it last year,” said Wight. “We’re just going to take things game by game.”
“We’re looking for another state championship,” said Bires. “It would be quite something to go three years without losing a game.”
Bucksport opens the season April 21 at 4:30 p.m. when it hosts Washington Academy of East Machias.