Brewer High School softball coach Skip Estes talks to the players during practice in Brewer in 2013. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Skip Estes hadn’t planned to return for his 16th season as the Brewer High School girls softball coach last spring.

Estes was experiencing intensified work demands at Gilman Electric Supply in Newport caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But Brewer High athletic director David Utterback convinced him to return because he felt it was in the best interest of the players.

Estes is glad he did.

“It was the most fun group I have ever coached,” Estes said. “We may have had a losing season but these kids never stopped working. They were a great bunch of kids.”

It was a youthful team including two pitchers who were making their varsity debuts and the seventh-seeded Witches wound up 6-10 during the regular season before being ambushed by No. 10 Edward Little of Auburn 10-1 in the preliminary round.

It was Estes’ first losing season at Brewer. During his tenure, he has guided Brewer to a 177-69 regular season record for a winning percentage of .720, including a Class A state championship in 2008.

Estes is expecting better things this season now that his players have gained a valuable year of experience.

“We have taken a step forward from last year,” Estes said. “But our schedule is tougher so I don’t know if our record is going to be better.”

Junior Morgan Downs and sophomore Laura Stewart handled the pitching chores last season. Since there was no season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both were seeing their first duty in the circle.

Both have been working with pitching guru Amanda Ryan.

Estes returns four starters in junior catcher Heather Reed, senior first baseman Josie Pece, senior third baseman Jaiden Williams and junior shortstop Jordan Doak. Junior outfielder Asianna West also played a lot, especially at the end of the season.

Williams played second base last season but will move over to third or play in the outfield this year.

Doak was an All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A North selection.

The second base job will go to either senior transfer Hope Cluff, who came to Brewer from Vinalhaven, or sophomore C.J. Atherton.

Atherton will also contend for the third base job as will junior Dani Fenlason when Williams is in the outfield.

Freshman Jordin Williams, Jaiden’s sister, and Reed will alternate behind the plate and in the outfield, with both being in the starting lineup.

There are a number of players who could join West in the outfield including the Williams sisters, Reed, sophomore Lexi Stratton or freshman Hannah Snowdeal.

Junior Lilly Enman could get playing time at first. Snowdeal is also a possibility.

Estes feels he will have a solid lineup and his team should hit better than it did a year ago.

He considers Doak one of the best leadoff hitters he has coached and he has a number of power hitters like Pece, Reed and the Williams sisters.

“We will also be faster,” Estes said. “And we should also be better, defensively, too.”

Defense will be important because Downes and Stewart are ground ball pitchers rather than power pitchers, according to Estes.

Brewer won back-to-back state championships in its two seasons in Class B, going 38-2, but the Witches have also had a lot of success in Class A.

They were the top seed in Class A North five times between 2004-13.

His assistants are his daughter Sarah Estes Clark, Butch Grindle, Meg Davis, Nancy Snowdeal and junior varsity coach Jordan Goodrich.