The Bucksport High School and Dexter High School girls softball teams won Eastern Maine championships a year ago. Bucksport annexed the Class B crown and Dexter triumphed in Class C.
Both wound up posting impressive 17-3 records.
At least one of them will not repeat this season.
Bucksport has dropped down to Class C so the Bucks and Tigers are in the same class.
But don’t be surprised if one of them wins the regional championship since both return a host of top-shelf players off last year’s teams.
Bucksport’s Mike Carrier is beginning his 21st season guiding the fortunes of the Bucks and five exhibition victories have further fueled his belief that his team can win another Eastern Maine title “as long as we can stay focused.”
“Getting to the state game is our goal every year but I had a little chat with the girls because they were getting a little bit complacent,” said Carrier. “I told them you can’t do that. You have to play each game as if it’s a state championship game.
“We can beat anybody in the state but anyone can beat us on a given day, too,” added Carrier whose Bucks will be playing in Class C for the first time.
The big question mark for the Bucks will be who will replace standout pitcher Abby Yeo?
“Cassidy Adams,” said Carrier who is confident she can get the job done. “She was 3-0 with an 0.87 earned-run average last year.”
Adams, a junior, should have plenty of run support as Yeo is the only regular who has departed.
Second baseman Sadie Wight, who was the Penobscot Valley Conference’s Player of the Year, headlines the list of returnees.
Wight hit .613 last season with two homers, 13 doubles, a team-high 23 runs batted in and just two strikeouts. She also scored 32 runs, stole 14 bases, had a .750 on-base percentage and a .952 slugging percentage.
Shortstop Shelby Redman hit .500, scored 20 times and had a .592 on-base percentage, speedy center fielder Andie Lawford hit .436 and had an on-base percentage of .517, and catcher Mindy Pye hit .394 with three homers and 16 RBIs. She had a .526 on-base percentage and scored 22 runs.
Wight and Redman were All-PVC Class B first team picks along with Yeo while Pye and Lawford were second team selections.
Left fielder Brianna Bires hit .396, third baseman Kacie Hurd hit .370 and had 12 RBIs and 12 runs, right fielder Jen Wight hit .333 and drove in 17 runs and first baseman Bailey Blair hit .316 despite missing most of the season with a broken ankle.
Two of the returnees who will be backing up Adams in the circle will be Jen and Debbie Wight.
Freshman Sammy Goode and sophomore Shelby Emery are also promising pitchers.
Debbie Wight is a versatile player who can play a number of different positions, according to Carrier. Taylor Gauvin is a backup infielder and Alanna Davis will see outfield duty.
Debbie Wight suffered an ankle injury on Wednesday and could be lost for four to six weeks.
The Bucks are also stout defensively, having committed just one error through five exhibition games, pointed out Carrier.
Dexter returns ace pitcher Libby Kain, a second team All-PVC second-team choice, along with first-team selections Lauren Crane, the first baseman, and center fielder Maicee Gustin.
First-year coach Dave Pepin, who replaced Galen Chapman, said two of his team’s strengths are Kain and its defense.
“Libby may not be overpowering but she pounds the strike zone,” said Pepin. “She has three or four pitches and we’re trying to mix them up so she can keep hitters off balance.”
“My arm feels great,” said Kain, who is a junior. “I’m much stronger than I was last year. I worked [hard] all winter. I’ve got more pitches and that will help me against[good] teams like Bucksport and Orono.”
Pepin feels his team is exceptional defensively, and Kain concurred.
“The defense really takes the pressure off me,” said Kain.
“Our team looks good. I think we’re going to do very well this year,” observed Kain who feels this year’s team is potentially better than last year’s.
Crane and Gustin will key the offense along with third baseman Jordyn Bell.
Gustin is the only senior starter.
Joining Crane and Bell in the infield will be freshman shortstop Michaela White and sophomore second baseman Abbie Melvin, who saw some outfield duty last season.
“I really like our infield,” said Pepin.
Junior Harley Ponte returns behind the plate and freshman Peyton Watson will get the nod in right field.
The left field job is up for grabs between senior Crystal Cunningham and junior Anna Ritland.
Kain said there has been more emphasis on physical conditioning and fundamentals.
“We didn’t bunt a lot last year but we’ve been working on that and, in close games, you need to get bunts down to help score runs,” said Kain.
Kain also said they have a solid lineup offensively.
“We have a lot of real good bats, one through nine in the order,” said Kain.