The Bangor High School softball team found itself in an uncharacteristic position last season.
For the first time in five years, the Rams didn’t finish among the top four in the Heal Points standings in Class A North.
Bangor went 7-9 during the regular season and wound up eighth before being dispatched in the Class A North quarterfinals by top seed Skowhegan, 10-0.
It was just the second time in five years that the Rams didn’t win at least one playoff game.
Bangor was 12-6 in 2017 and reached the semifinals.
But 15th-year head coach Don Stanhope and his Rams have turned the page and they got off to a good start with a season-opening 9-1 victory over a Lewiston team that was the No. 3 seed a year ago.
Bangor played a late Friday afternoon game against Brunswick.
“We had a series of injuries (and illnesses) last year that forced kids to play unfamiliar positions,” explained Stanhope. “And we had a few unlucky breaks. But the girls kept pushing and they played better at the end of the season than they did at the beginning and that springboarded them into summer ball.”
Following a productive summer season, Stanhope likes what he has seen from his Rams.
“These girls have played together a lot,” said Stanhope. “They play in a high school league in the summer and travel around to places like Massachusetts to play in tournaments.
“This team will compete every inning, every day,” said Stanhope. “It is a really fun team to coach. They get along really well. They’re cohesive.”
Senior Madi Drake, who is considered by Stanhope to be one of the best outfielders he has ever coached, will return to center field this season after having to play shortstop last season.
The emergence of sophomore shortstop Jenna Smith, who is also a pitcher, enabled Stanhope to move Drake back to center field.
Smith was called up from the JV team at the end of last season to play third base in place of Gabby Gonzales, who was sidelined with a serious illness, and Smith “did a great job” according to Stanhope.
Senior Gonzales is healthy and is back at third base.
Junior Rowan Andrews, who played shortstop and left field a year ago, is the second baseman and sophomore Lydia Chase is the new first baseman replacing the graduated Lindy Bezgembluk.
Junior Cambria Prophete returns as the starter in left field and seniors Olivia Hoovler and Makenzie Thompson and freshman Lane Barron are the right field candidates.
“Cambria has made great gains She has come a long way,” said Stanhope.
Rae Barron, the twin sister of Lane, will be sharing the catching duties with junior Morgan-Carter Moulton, who is also the ace of the pitching staff.
The Barrons are the daughters of University of Maine men’s basketball coach Richard Barron and his wife, Maureen.
“Rae is very talented and has a very high softball IQ,” said Stanhope who called Moulton an exceptional catcher.
Moulton and the departed Lexi Cunnigham, who is now playing for Husson University in Bangor, shared the vast majority of the pitching chores last year.
Gonzales, Smith, Lane Barron and Thompson are also dependable pitchers according to Stanhope, who likes the luxury of having depth in the circle.
Moulton, Drake, Gonzales, Smith and Andrews will be the offensive catalysts and Stanhope feels his team has the potential to be solid defensively, especially now that he is able to keep his players in their natural positions.
Stanhope feels Class A North will be a “little more balanced this year” with defending regional champ Oxford Hills of South Paris and Class A North runner-up Skowhegan to again be the teams to beat.