The Stearns High School softball team may be one of the youngest in the state playing for a regional title this week.
Eight of the 10 regulars are sophomores, and the other two are juniors Lauren Jamo and Jessica Girsa.
Several of them started as freshmen a year ago for the Millinocket school.
The Minutemen’s 13-6 record is misleading because five of the losses were to teams ranked in the top seven in Eastern Maine Class C and the other was to Western Maine D finalist Searsport.
But coach Nick Cullen’s Minutemen entered this season with a sense of confidence and purpose after being ousted in the first round of the playoffs by Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics.
“We had some big goals this year, and one of them was to avenge that loss,” said Cullen.
“I have a lot of confidence in my team,” said Girsa. “We’ve played together since middle school. We’ve shown the mentality we have and the confidence the coach has given us.”
Girsa has pitched all but three innings.
“She isn’t overpowering, but she throws strikes, and we rely on our defense,” said Cullen.
The infield features three-year starter Jamo at first, second-year starters Audrey Dunstan at shortstop and Cassidy McLeod at second, and sophomore Madeline Morrison at third. Morrison saw some duty last year.
The all-sophomore outfield consists of left fielder Abby Russell, the center fielder in 2014, center fielder Hannah Brooker and right fielder Grace Farrington.
Sophomore speedster Emma Alley is the designated player.
The top hitters, average-wise, have been Farrington and McLeod, while the leading power threats are Jamo, McLeod and Dunstan, according to Cullen. Leadoff hitter Girsa and Russell, who bats fifth, also have been productive at the plate.
Coach Don Boyington’s baseball team has benefited from the luxury of having three quality pitchers in seniors Nick Dumas and Marc Morneault and junior Zachary Bouchard.
“They’re all interchangeable,” said Boyington.
Bradford and Dumas have been handling the starting chores with the versatile Morneault emerging as the reliever.
The defense has been solid and has been anchored by senior center fielder Mitchell Bradford and third baseman Bouchard.
Boyington focused on team defense as an assistant last year, but when the team struggled to hit in the playoffs, he decided to focus more on hitting this year.
“It has worked out quite well,” he said.
Bouchard leads the team in hitting at .583 and is the RBI leader. When they aren’t pitching, Dumas catches and Morneault plays left field. They, along with Bradford and freshman second baseman Seth Garvin, also are batting over .400.
Senior Jordan Cullen is the first baseman, senior Kacey McVey is the shortstop, junior Devin Whitney is the right fielder, and senior Gary Malcolm plays right field or third base depending upon who is pitching.