BUCKSPORT, Maine — Coach Mike Carrier doesn’t hold back when talking about his expectations for his Bucksport High School softball team.
“I expect us to go 20-0,” he said Monday, then paused slightly.
“But then again, I expect to do that every year,” he added with a laugh.
His Golden Bucks did just that last year, capping a perfect season with a 2-0 victory over Dirigo of Dixfield in the Class C state championship game.
“It’s always exciting this time of year. I look for the team to do well every year. We have that expectation at Bucksport. We usually do come through — to a point, of course,” he said with a chuckle.
The Bucks have earned five state titles in eight tries, but last season’s was the first in Class C after previously being a Class B school.
Monday was the first day of full-squad tryouts for softball and baseball as well as the first day of tryouts and practices for the other spring sports — outdoor track and field, lacrosse and tennis. Pitchers and catchers for both baseball and softball started March 18.
Carrier had five starters graduate after last year’s 20-0 season, including three who accounted for 10 home runs.
He sees this team being strong as well, just differently.
“I have six returning varsity players who are going to step right into six roles,” Carrier said, “and I’m going to have to find three people tonight and tomorrow night for starters and some good subs.”
The list of key returnees starts with senior pitcher Cassidy Adams, who tossed a two-hitter against the Cougars in the state final.
“She walked, I believe, in the regular season like eight people and then had 160 or 170 strikeouts,” said Carrier.
“I hate walking people,” Adams stated emphatically. “That’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I’d rather they get a hit off me.”
She dabbled with the screwball a couple of years ago and worked on it more starting last fall.
“ Bob [Mercer, a private pitching coach] and Mike are doing what they can [to help her master it],” she said.
Adams still doesn’t feel comfortable yet throwing the pitch.
“There’s too much to think about while I’m throwing it,” she admitted.
Despite Adams’ misgivings, Carrier knows she will continue to be a dominating pitcher.
“She’s going to be huge,” Carrier said. “As far as I’m concerned, she’s one of the best pitchers in the state. … Cassidy is going to keep us in every game.”
Because she limited teams to only a couple of runs and Carrier expects more of the same this year, the Bucks will have time at the start of the season to find the direction of their offense.
“We’re real quick this year, but we do have a couple of people that can knock it out of the park this year. We’ve got a good combination of both,” said Carrier.
He points to juniors Debbie Wight and Alanna Davis and senior Kacie Hurd as his power sources.
“Debbie Wight hits the ball really hard. Alanna Davis hit two home runs last year,” he said. “Kacie Hurd has the potential. She’s a line-drive hitter. All she’s got to do is lift one and it’s going over the fence.”
Fortunately for Carrier, Hurd is just about healed from gallbladder surgery in February.
“I’m getting better at the right time,” she said.
Hurd doesn’t expect any lingering effects.
“No super-heavy lifting,” she said. “I’ve been throwing and swinging the bat [with no trouble].”
The Bucks will have their table-setters, too, with outfielders Bri Beers, a senior, and Andie Lawford, a junior who missed most of last season, at the top of the order. Beers hit better than .500 last year and Lawford did the same two years ago.
Carrier thinks Lawford will be a terror at the plate.
“Andie’s a lefty, a slap hitter, and I think she’s going to put one over the fence this year slapping, she’s got that much power,” he said. “And if she gets it on the ground, I don’t care where, nobody’s throwing her out. She is so fast, it’s unbelievable.”
And Beers is almost as fast, he added.
“We’re going to have to do what we can to get on base,” said Hurd.
“And I’ve got good kids behind them that can bunt, move ’em around and do all kinds of good stuff,” Carrier said.
Because of the positions the graduated Bucks played, defense is drawing most of Carrier’s attention.
“There’s some question marks. We’ll have to deal with that as it comes,” he said. “I don’t worry about the athleticism of these kids, it’s just working together.”
Hurd is more optimistic.
“I think we have the right girls for the right spots,” she said.
The field openings are mostly in the infield at catcher, shortstop and first and second bases.
“Kacie Hurd is the only returner, at third base,” Carrier said.
“Debbie [Wight], I’m looking at her at shortstop. She’ll play a key role there,” he added, and Davis is expected to catch. “She’s been right behind [Miss Maine Softball finalist] Mindy Pye for the last two years, and I think she’s going to do a great job behind the plate. She’s a great athlete.”
As for newcomers, he said with a little laugh, “I’ll find that out today and tomorrow.”
Carrier expects them to be eager, though.
“They know we’ve got open positions all over the place and there’s going to be big competition to fill ’em,” he said.
But he doesn’t plan on rushing into any decisions.
“I probably won’t pick my entire team until after all the preseason games. Give everybody a chance,” he said.