It’s too bad there isn’t a Frequent Rider Program for softball players who log a ton of miles on yellow school buses because the Deer Isle-Stonington High School Mariners would be racking up the points.
The Mariners traveled 802 miles while winning three Eastern Maine Class D playoff games, so Wednesday’s 52-mile trip (one way) to Brewer for the EM Class D final against Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics seemed like a short excursion.
Limestone ended the Mariners’ season with a 9-2 victory.
The Mariners traveled 88 miles one way to beat Machias 12-9 in their preliminary game; 88 more miles to Howland for their 5-1 quarterfinal victory over Penobscot Valley High School and 225 miles one way for their 10-7 semifinal win over Washburn.
“We’re used to it,” said softball coach Terry Siebert. “These girls always seem to travel two hours or more to get somewhere in basketball and soccer as well as softball.
“Living on the coast, you get used to traveling long distances to get places. It doesn’t bother them a bit,” said Siebert.
“I like all of the long bus trips,” said senior pitcher and tri-captain Abby Knowlton. “It give us more time to relax and get ready for the game.”
Junior shortstop Morgan Shepard said some of the bus trips can be “pretty long and tiring, especially when you get home around 11:30. But when we go on the long trips, sometimes the bus will leave at 8 (a.m.) so we get out of school and spend all day relaxing on the bus, preparing ourselves and our minds for the game.”
The Mariners have a routine and it begins at the Eggemoggin Country Store in nearby Sedgwick.
“We get everything we need there,” said Shepard. “We get something to eat and drink.”
Knowlton said for the long bus trips, they will often take a quick nap early but once they wake up, the singing begins.
One of the players brings a boom box and they take turns plugging their iPhones or iPods into it and playing their favorite songs while participating in a singalong.
“We’re all over the place with our music,” said Shepard. “It’s a pretty crazy list. We’ll listen to a country song, then a rap song and then a song from the ’80s.
“The music really helps us get pumped up and excited for the game,” added Shepard.
The Mariners will engage in some cheers but they also spend a lot of time talking.
“One of the best things about being such a small school is that we’re all really good friends. We’re very close. We like to hang out,” said Shepard.
Knowlton added that the trips have given all of them a better opportunity to get to know the freshmen.
The bus will stop occasionally for bathroom breaks and to allow the girls to stretch their legs.
“We know the best places to stop. We like to break up the trip,” said Siebert.
An Irving Mainway station in Brewer is one of their favorites.
“We stopped at a little picnic place on our way to Washburn. We went to the bathroom and stretched our legs,” said Knowlton.
Siebert said the trips can actually be less stressful than playing at home.
“At home, they’re in school all day and they have to worry about class and then they get out and have to get going [to the game] right away,” said Siebert. “On the road trips, they get to focus on the game more.”
Knowlton noted that there is more pressure playing at home because there are more fans and the expectations are higher.
Siebert will discuss the opponents and their tendencies and what they need to do to be successful during the bus trip.
“And when we get within an hour or 45 minutes of the site, the captains will tell the girls it’s time to get going and everyone will put their cleats on so they’re ready to go right when we get there,” said Siebert.
The team always has the same bus driver.
“His name is Scott. We don’t know his last name. He watches the games and he’ll celebrate with us if we win,” said Knowlton.
The Mariners had a much shorter trip to Brewer than their Limestone counterparts, who had to drive 174 miles one way compared to the Mariners’ 52-mile junket.