Skowhegan High School is known for its remarkable field hockey program, which has won 12 state Class A championships in 13 years and is riding a 75-game winning streak.
But the Indians have also had one of the state’s best softball programs, with three Eastern Maine A titles in seven years including 2013.
And the Indians appear to be one of the front-runners for another regional crown and possibly a state championship.
Although the Indians suffered a 12-9, 11-inning loss to Cony of Augusta on Monday night, they are 2-1 and have scored 44 runs and hit six home runs in their three games.
They previously had beaten Oxford Hills of South Paris 21-2 and Edward Little of Auburn 14-0.
“We have hit the ball extremely well through the first three games,” said Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson. “We have a pretty good offensive team. We can be a better offensive team than we were last year. But we’re still trying to figure things out defensively. We’ve had to move some kids around. They’re learning new positions.”
Skowhegan graduated three starters off last year’s 14-6 team which lost to Scarborough 9-3 in the state final. Scarborough also beat the Indians in the 2009 and 2007 state championship games.
The three departed starters were Miss Maine Softball finalist and Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Player of the Year Shelby Obert, the third baseman, along with center fielder Lyndsi Merrill and shortstop Renee Libby.
Senior Emma Fitzgerald, the starting second baseman a year ago, has moved over to shortstop; sophomore Eliza Bedard has replaced Fitzgerald at second after playing left field last season; sophomore Bonnie-Jane Aiken has taken Obert’s place at third after being a first baseman-designated player in 2013 and senior Mikayla Toth has slid over to center field from right with sophomore Mattea Power taking over in right.
Senior Taylor Johnson, the coach’s daughter, returns at first base and is a four-year starter and one of the offensive catalysts. She was an All-KVAC first team selection a year ago.
Seniors Morgan Buker and Andrea Quirion are the starting left fielder and catcher, respectively, and Kaitlyn Therriault, another senior, has returned to the pitching circle.
Therriault, an All-KVAC second-team choice, was immense in the Eastern Maine playoffs last season, shutting out Edward Little of Auburn (1-0) and Bangor (2-0) and beating top seed Brewer 5-2.
She lost a no-hitter with two outs in the seventh inning of the EM title-game victory over Bangor.
“She has pitched well for us this season,” said the Skowhegan coach. “She throws hard enough but she’s not a power pitcher. She’s a finesse pitcher. She has a variety of pitches, she changes speeds and she locates her pitches well.”
“(Therriault) has stepped it up,” said Taylor Johnson, one of the captains. “She did the things she needed to do in the offseason to help her during the season.”
Senior Heather Lupo is a valuable utility player, junior Renee Wright is the capable backup catcher and sophomore Tara Bernard provides depth at third base.
One of the things hampering Skowhegan’s defensive development is the fact they have had only two practices on their field because of the weather and the number of games they had had, preseason and regular season.
“They’re still learning their defensive responsibilities and how to communicate out there without looking at each other,” said Lee Johnson. “We haven’t had a chance to spend a lot of time on it yet.”
“We still need to work on things. But we’ll keep working on them and (the first-year starters and players learning a new position) will get more comfortable at their positions. They’re getting better and better,” said Taylor Johnson.
She added that because they have spent a lot of time practicing inside, they have devoted a considerable amount of time to hitting and that has “helped us out a lot and carried over into the season.”
“Making that run (to the Eastern Maine championship) last year has given us confidence,” added Johnson, who will join sister Amanda and play basketball at Husson University in Bangor next fall.
With Toth, Taylor Johnson, Quirion and Therriault at the top of the order, the Indians have an imposing lineup. Quirion has already homered twice.
“We’re a very dangerous offensive team,” said Lee Johnson. “But we have to become a better defensive team.”