There haven’t been a lot of surprises this high school softball season, with many preseason favorites sitting atop the Heal point standings with just a few weeks of regular-season play remaining.
But there has been quite a resurgence in Dexter, where the Tigers have roared to a 9-0 start and the top of the Eastern Maine Class C standings, a place many softball pundits wouldn’t have placed coach Galen Chapman’s club in March.
“I just think that we’re really clicking together, we’re playing as a team (and) everybody’s just supporting each other,” Chapman said. “I’m just stressing the team value.”
Dexter has been fueled by a potent offensive attack, as the Tigers have scored at least 10 runs in six of their nine victories and possess a robust .571 team batting average.
“This is the best-hitting team I’ve seen,” said Chapman. “Last year, we broke the (team) record for hitting, and this year we’re breaking that record.”
It also helps that a healthy portion of the Tigers’ roster is made up of the similar cast that has won championships in field hockey, including seniors Kirstie Mower, Shelbee Lancaster and Devyn Bell and sophomore pitcher Libby Kain, who transferred from Piscataquis Community in Guilford.
While the Tigers’ offense has been consistent, Kain gives Dexter the stability in the circle it will need for a deep playoff push.
“With that combination of having a good pitcher and being able to put a lot of runs on the board, that has really helped us this year,” Chapman said. “That’s a big factor.”
With the exception of the four seniors — Eva Wing is the other — the Tigers are fairly young, with four sophomores and three juniors making up the other seven starting spots. Bell is the designated hitter, but depth and offensive consistency have allowed Chapman to mix his order a bit.
“The bottom of the order can hit, that’s why we’re scoring a lot of runs,” Chapman said. “I’ve played everybody the last three games.”
As strong as the Tigers have started, they are heading into the meat of their schedule with their next two games against second-place Orono, on the road on Friday and at home Monday.
“I think I’ve been talking to them every two days about being humble,” Chapman said. “There’s no time to celebrate now. There will be time to celebrate at the end if we keep doing what we’re doing.”
Those lessons are certainly valuable, as anything can happen come playoff time, as Class C fans learned last year with Woodland advancing to the Eastern Maine final out of the No. 8 seed before falling to George Stevens Academy.
Should the Tigers hold their place in the top two, they’ll have the luxury of playing at home for the first two rounds of the playoffs, which hasn’t happened often in Chapman’s nine-year tenure as head coach.
“The good thing about being in the top of the standings is they can come to us,” he said. “I’ve been to Calais before, I’ve been to Madawaska. It’s always nice to have them come to you.”
River City Rivals meet Saturday
Two of the state’s top high school rivalries will clash in the second annual “River City Rivals” track and field meet Saturday, as Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston and Edward Little of Auburn will go at it in a four-way competition at Cameron Stadium.
The meet will start at 10 a.m.
The rivals meet is among five featuring Penobscot Valley Conference teams this weekend, as the league heads into the last of its regular-season action with conference championships set next weekend.
The small-school championships are May 27 at Foxcroft Academy and the big-school meet a day later at Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor.
As for the River City Rivals meet, it provides a rare chance for both Bangor and Brewer to compete in a meet featuring solely Class A foes. The Witches and Rams are the lone Class A teams in the PVC.
Edward Little is one of the power teams in the state, with its boys pegged a preseason favorite not only in the KVAC, but in Class A statewide, while the EL girls were state champions in 2009.
It’ll also be a homecoming of sorts for Lewiston head coach Jamerson Crowley, who ran for Brewer in the mid-1990s and coached at his alma mater from 2005-09.
Saturday will mark Bangor’s first meet in two weeks, as the Rams’ scheduled competition in Caribou on Saturday was rained out, while the Witches swept a meet at Dover-Foxcroft on Friday.