June 23, 2018
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Defense provides base for Calais softball success

By Dave Barber, BDN Staff

CALAIS, Maine — While an undefeated softball team is likely to be good at all phases of the sport, Calais High School coach Greg Smith sees one aspect of his team’s play as the foundation of the Blue Devils this season.

“I think our success is going to depend more on our defense, relying on the defense to do the little things,” said coach Greg Smith. “I’ve told these girls, if they make the fundamental plays, if they make the plays you’re supposed to, you’re going to be in most ball games.”

His goal is for the Blue Devils to make two or fewer errors a game.

“If you have any more than that, it can compound the problem,” he said.

He understands that seeking perfection is a difficult task.

“Kids are going to make mistakes, but you hope that they learn from it and when the ball is hit to them the next time, they’re ready to make the play,” Smith said.

At the same time, he stresses that his hitters keep the ball down and force the other team to make the plays, too.

“That’s what I tell the kids,” he said. “Put the ball in play. If you can get it on the ground or a line drive, that’s what we want. Those fly balls are easy outs most of the time.”

According to Smith, the Blue Devils are getting the message.

“The one thing I’ve been impressed with is their hitting,” he said. “I guess that’s the main thing I’ve seen an improvement on. We’ve been able to get the ball in play and hit it hard.”

Smith can even see positives in striking out as long as the Blue Devils go down swinging.

“If they get the pitcher to throw 8-10 pitches, they’ve done their job. Hopefully, at the end we’re going to be able to wear [opposing pitchers] out a bit.”

Senior Meaghan Cavanaugh, the center fielder, bats leadoff and is a lefthanded slap hitter.

“She’s our speedster. We need to get her on base, and when she gets on base, she usually scores,” said Smith.

Catcher Maddy McVicar bats second and is hitting the ball hard, including slamming a triple in Monday’s 7-0 win over Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln. First baseman Paige Gillespie is the cleanup hitter and second baseman Miranda Moffett, pitcher Olivia Smith (the coach’s daughter who had two hits against MA), shortstop Kaylee Johnson, third baseman Jasmine Ross, left fielder Malorie Black and right fielder Kate Cundiff have also drawn praise for putting the ball in play.

“If it’s around the plate, they’re going after it,” said Greg Smith. “If they don’t swing, they can’t put it in play. That’s our motto, I guess.”

In her pitching role, Olivia Smith’s job is to keep opponents off the bases.

“She isn’t overpowering,” said coach Smith. “She tries to keep hitters off balance and make them hit her pitches and rely on her defense more rather than striking out a lot of kids. And that’s been very successful for her last year and the beginning of this year.”

He is trying to expand the repertoire of the sophomore hurler.

“We’ve started to work a little bit on more spins, curve and screwball and the drop, and she can mix it up. She’s got a nice little changeup,” he said.

Gillespie, a hard thrower, and an improving Ross back up Smith.

Greg Smith took 10 of the players, basically his starters, to a couple of softball tournaments in the summer to help them get used to each other and, in some cases, new roles as full-time starters.

The players are now using their experience to help younger team members.

“They’ve been a big help to me,” said Greg Smith, “and the challenge is to get these nine players, keep them improving, and then bring these young players up and keep them improving. It’s worked out well so far.”

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