Oceanside High School annexed the school’s first state championship in its two-year existence last spring. It came in softball.
Oceanside, which became a reality two years ago when Georges Valley High School of Thomaston and Rockland High School merged, beat Greely of Cumberland Center 8-1 to capture the state Class B title and cap a 19-1 season.
There are plenty of holes to fill this season after the departure of a talented senior class led by All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference pitcher Rachel Frye and first baseman Kennadi Grover.
But Rusty Worcester, 14-year head coach, feels his Mariners can contend for another state title.
“Some people are scared to talk about the prospects of winning a state title, but we embrace it,” said Worcester, a native of Columbia Falls. “We like to talk about it. We always have expectations of being there. Last year’s team proved that if you play together, understand your role and contribute, the sky is the limit.”
At the end of every practice, Worcester has his girls emulate the end of a state championship game through a simulated game sequence.
For the first time in eight years, Worcester won’t be handing the ball to a Frye in the pitching circle.
Danielle Frye pitched Georges Valley to a pair of state Class C championships in 2007 and 2008 before sister Rachel provided the honors the next three years, culminating in last year’s title.
Rachel Frye was 13-1 with a 1.23 earned run average and 134 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings. She allowed just 45 hits and 30 walks.
Junior Paige Tyler will inherit the starting pitcher role
“She started one game for us last year, and she pitched a pretty good game,” said Worcester. “She’s throwing real well. She will surprise some people. She has good quickness [on her fastball] and a nice changeup. And she’s working on a curve and a rise.”
Tyler threw 12 2/3 innings and was 2-0 with a 4.42 earned run average. She struck out 15, walked 16 and allowed just three hits.
Team captain Brooke Dugan, a senior third baseman, said Tyler “will do a great job.”
Senior Haley Richardson and junior Alexis Davis are other pitching options.
Dugan is the only returning infield starter and is coming off a terrific year in which she hit .524 and led the team in runs scored (36), hits (33), slugging percentage (.857), RBIs (25), doubles (6), triples (3) and homers (3). She also stole 17 bases and was a second team All-KVAC selection.
Junior Caitlyn Raye, who went 7-for-19 (.368) last season, will start at shortstop after playing left field a year ago. Senior Maggie Drinkwater (.256) will be at second base, and sophomore Brianna Dugan, Brooke Dugan’s sister, will be at first base.
Worcester said impressive freshman Alexis Mazurek could also get some playing time at shortstop as she is a quality defender and hitter.
Ari Curtis was the starting catcher as a freshman and will return in that role.
“She came through with some big hits for us,” said Worcester.
Davis (2-for-7) saw limited duty as a sophomore and will patrol center field with speedy senior Trittany Penn, who was on the junior varsity team, in left field and sophomore Kaylyn Grover in right. Grover, Kennadi’s sister, played on the JV team and has a big upside according to Worcester.
Freshman third baseman/catcher Madelyn Young could earn some playing time.
Brooke Dugan will be the offensive catalyst, but Worcester expects Penn to be a productive table-setter at the top of the order with her quickness. He noted that Tyler, Curtis, Davis and Grover will be other key components in the offense.
“I think we’re going to be a pretty strong hitting team,” said Dugan.
The Mariners will also put a lot of pressure on defenses with an aggressive running game.
Worcester expects Gardiner, Hermon and Old Town to be among the team’s primary challengers. He said Erskine Academy of South China, which has dropped down from Class A, and Washington Academy of East Machias also will be among the contenders.
The Mariners open the season against visiting Camden Hills at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 23.