Two years ago, the Old Town High School softball team captured the Class B state championship. One of the teams the fifth-seeded Coyotes knocked off along the way was top seed Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston in the semifinals.
Last year, Oceanside returned the favor in the semifinals by ousting the higher-seeded Coyotes en route to the state title.
Old Town has gone 33-6 the last two seasons and one of the primary reasons was the dominating right arm of Kendra Hayward.
Hayward has graduated and this year’s Old Town team has only one senior, but coach Jenn Plourde and her players believe they can make yet another run at the state title despite losing five starters.
“I think we’re going to have a real good team,” said junior Rachel Martin, who has inherited Hayward’s spot as the No. 1 pitcher with sophomores Caitlyn King and Kayla Hayward, Kendra’s sister, also very much in the picture.
“We’re kind of young but we’re really stepping it up,” added Martin.
“We may have lost five starters but we have a good crew of young players,” said third baseman Meaghan Leighton, the lone senior.
She noted that several of the players who will be replacing the departed starters received valuable playing time a year ago.
“And we get along really well,” said junior center fielder Brittany Cousins. “A lot of us have played together for a while so we’re used to each other and we know what each other is capable of.”
Cousins said a lot of them devote extra time to softball during the summer and “outside of just practice.”
“At first, I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year because we had so many players graduate,” said third-year coach Plourde. “But we’ve got a good group returning and the juniors have really stepped it up; even the sophomores have. They worked hard last summer and during the winter. They did an excellent job and that has made it easy for me to see who deserves to be in the lineup.”
Replacing a star pitcher is never easy but Plourde and her players feel the trio can get the job done.
“They all have decent speed and movement on their pitches,” said Plourde.
“Our pitching is going to be pretty good. They all throw strikes and we have the fielders to back them up,” said Leighton.
“We’re pretty confident in all of them,” said Cousins. “It doesn’t matter who’s out there. They’ll do well. They keep their cool.”
“We’ve all been working on (ball) movement and our offspeed stuff,” said Martin.
Rachel Martin and Hayward will share the first base job, depending upon who is pitching.
Junior Kayla Madden will be the full-time second baseman after sharing the position with the graduated Kelsey Gifford a year ago.
Sophomore Mikayla Richards, who had knee surgery last year, will be the shortstop and Leighton will be at third, replacing the graduated Susie Outman.
Junior Lauren Martin, who suffered a knee injury last year, will be in left field with Cousins in center and junior Karah Hussey in right. Hussey replaces the departed Sami Milton.
The Martins are twins.
Junior Michaela Milton takes over the catching chores from departed Kelsey Hesseltine.
King could see some duty in the infield, junior Grace Braley provides outfield depth and freshman Lauren Gasaway is the backup catcher.
Plourde expects the team to be reliable defensively, especially in the outfield where there is a lot of speed.
“They’re all extremely fast and they know how to play the game,” said Martin. “It’s nice to know, as a pitcher, you’ve got them behind you.”
Plourde said she has been impressed with the way her players have swung the bats.
“I don’t think we’ll have much trouble scoring runs,” said Leighton.
“We’ve been crushing the ball,” said Martin.
Cousins will be the catalyst at the top of the order with Leighton, Madden, Hayward, Martin, Milton and Hussey also exhibiting good offensive capabilities according to Plourde.
Old Town opened its season with a 15-1 victory over Orono on Tuesday.