ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine softball team is going to have to overcome some adversity if it is going to defend its America East championship at Binghamton University in Vestal, New York.
The tournament begins Wednesday but UMaine received a first-round bye because it is the second seed and won’t play until Thursday.
The Black Bears not only lost their last five regular-season games, including three at Binghamton that enabled the Bearcats to gain a foothold on the top seed, but now UMaine has lost the services of all-conference catcher Rachel Harvey and relief pitcher Annie Kennedy.
Harvey and Kennedy were suspended by the school for their roles in an altercation at the Orono House of Pizza on Saturday night. Harvey and her father, William Harvey, both were charged by Orono police with assault and disorderly conduct.
“We’ve been through a lot this year,” said sophomore third baseman Alyssa Derrick. “But we’re all fighters and we want to prove everybody wrong. We want to show that we can go through tough times and still be good.”
“We just have to go out and do what needs to be done … just like any other day,” said junior center fielder Rachel Carlson.
Earlier this season, UMaine was without starting shortstop Felicia Lennon for over a month (broken finger) and now starting second baseman Laurine German is out with a broken hand. One of Harvey’s potential replacements, Ashley Tinsman, is sidelined with a rotator cuff injury.
But head coach Mike Coutts and his Black Bears aren’t aren’t dwelling on the adversity. They believe they can defend their championship.
UMaine plays the winner of Wednesday’s Stony Brook-Hartford game in Thursday’s 1:30 p.m. contest.
“Everyone on this team works hard. This will just make us even closer as a team. We’ll come together and play our hardest,” said senior pitcher Erin Bogdanovich.
Coutts noted that in addition to the injuries and suspensions, UMaine’s indoor facility, the Mahaney Dome, collapsed in December. And because of inclement weather, the Bears have had only six days of practice on Kessock Field and have been forced to travel extensively.
“We’ve been through a lot of junk this year. We didn’t have any adversity last year,” said Coutts.
“This weekend is more than just trying to win softball games. It’s about a group of people trying to overcome adversity,” said the second-year head coach. “Sports has taught us that with the right frame of mind and battling the right way, you can overcome a lot and succeed.”
There are three candidates to replace Harvey behind the plate: Sophomores Maddie Decker and Meghan Royle, and senior Maddie Moore.
“They have caught in high school but not at this level,” said Coutts.
“A lot of it will come down to the pitchers having confidence in them.”
UMaine’s two pitchers, Bogdanovich and junior Molly Flowers, aren’t worried about it.
“We’re confident,” said Flowers.
“We just need someone to catch the ball and throw the ball,” said Bogdanovich.
Coutts and the players said the tournament is wide open. There isn’t a clear-cut favorite.
“It’s going to come down to which team outworks the others and which team is more committed and can handle adversity the best,” Coutts said.
“And you know it comes down to pitching and the ability to play defense,” Coutts added. “We haven’t exactly played great defense this year … but we’ll get the opportunity to do that this weekend.”
Bogdanovich, the 2016 America East Pitcher of the Year, and Flowers, an all-conference second-teamer, have had their share of ups and downs this season. Bogdanovich is 5-10 with a 4.44 earned run average and Flowers is 6-9 with a 4.65 ERA.
But both are confident.
“We’re going to compete. We aren’t going to give up. We’ve just got to do what we know how to do,” said Bogdanovich.