BREWER, Maine — The Brewer High School softball program has been a model of consistency.
Since the 2000 season, the Witches have gone 157-39 during the regular season, averaging 13 wins per year.
Skip Estes, beginning his seventh season at the helm, considers his 2012 team a work in progress after losing a dynamic one-two pitching punch of righty Morgan Haradon and lefty Emily Cox. Cox was an All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference North first team choice and Haradon was a second-teamer.
Brewer went 17-2 last season, earned the top seed and reached the Eastern Maine title game a year ago, losing to Messalonskee of Oakland 6-0.
Despite the loss of his top two pitchers, Estes feels his Witches are “very athletic” and are “going to get better.”
“It’s not how you start, it’s how to finish,” added Estes, who is 77-23 at Brewer — including 2-2 this season — and led the Witches to their first state Class A championship in 2008.
He has confidence in his pitching staff even though it is inexperienced.
Senior Kelly Hatt and junior Alexa Grindle will split time on the mound and both have done a “very good job,” according to Estes.
“Neither one is a fireballer, but they both do well spotting the ball,” said Estes. “They’re different types of pitchers. They complement each other very well.”
Senior Shelby Colburn and hard-throwing junior Chelsea King also are capable of giving Estes some quality innings.
Another key loss was catcher Jordan Nickerson, but Estes has moved senior second baseman Sarah Babin behind the plate.
“She hasn’t caught since middle school, but she’s doing a fantastic job,” said Estes, who has used Babin behind the plate during summer softball.
Junior Morgan Small returns at first and Babin’s second base job has been assumed by either Hatt or Grindle, depending on who is pitching.
“They are both excellent second basemen,” said Estes.
Junior Lindsay Houp returns at shortstop and was an All-KVAC North second team pick a year ago.
Junior Cassie Harvey is a first-year starter at third, replacing Amy Curry. Curry left to pursue hockey at a prep school, according to Estes.
Seniors Carly Seymour and Deaven Smith return in left and right field, respectively, and sophomore Maddy Bailey is a first-year starter in center. Smith was an All-KVAC North second teamer in 2011.
Junior Gabby Cyr is the backup catcher, and juniors Haley Bickford and Molly Chapman are reserve outfielders.
“I think we’ll be above-average defensively,” said Estes. “We’re working on it. We have a bunch of kids playing new positions.”
Smith, Houp and Babin will be the offensive catalysts.
Estes said Smith and Houp hit over .400 a year ago and Babin hit over .300.
Houp is the leadoff hitter, Hatt hits second, Smith is in the third slot and Babin is the cleanup hitter.
Estes has been encouraged by the rest of the lineup.
“We’re more of a contact team than anything else and our five-through-nine hitters have been making great contact,” said Estes, whose daughter Sarah will serve as one of his assistants this season.
Sarah Estes played softball at Waterville’s Thomas College and graduated last spring.
“I think we’re going to do pretty well,” said Babin. “We’re pretty deep as far as position players go and our pitchers worked hard in the off-season.”
“Both of our pitchers are pretty good. Alexa has a mean drop ball. And we’ve got a good defense,” said Houp. “We’ve got some key hitters back. We’ve just got to make it all come together.”
Brewer’s 11-0 win over Mt. Blue of Farmington on Wednesday followed a season-opening loss to Messalonskee (3-2 in eight innings), a 7-0 setback to Cony of Augusta and a 12-3 win over Hampden Academy.
“Cony is clearly the team to beat,” said Estes. “They remind me of some of the teams I’ve had in the past. They have a fireball thrower and they play phenomenal defense.”
He thinks his team will finish in the “middle of the pack,” but said if it continues to improve steadily, the team will be able to play with anybody in the playoffs.