With warm weather predicted for next week, high school softball fields across the state will dry out just in time for the spring sports season as the first countable games begin this Thursday.
Last spring, teams from the South region swept the four state championship games as Biddeford beat Messalonskee of Oakland 8-1 in the Class A final, Gardiner edged Winslow 10-9 in the B title game, Hall-Dale of Hallowell earned the C championship with a 5-1 victory over Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln and Searsport claimed the D crown with a 7-3 triumph over Hodgdon.
The North softball regional playoffs saw a ninth-seeded Messalonskee team that went 5-11 during the regular season ride the arm of junior pitcher Morgan Wills to a title and an eighth-seeded Winslow team that was 9-7 during the regular season earn a second-straight regional championship behind the pitching of junior Emma Michaud.
Junior Jennie Whitten pitched second seed Mattanawcook Academy to its first C North title since 2001 and two more junior pitchers, Marissa Dow and Sadie Thompson, were the catalysts behind third seed Hodgdon’s first ever regional crown.
Those juniors are now seniors and all four North titlists should be in the hunt to defend their championships.
There are a lot of contenders in all four classes. Here are five North teams to keep an eye on this spring, in alphabetical order:
Bucksport, Class B
Last season: 15-1 regular season record, No. 1 seed, lost to No. 8 Central of Corinth 8-6 in the quarterfinals
The Bucks won four state titles between 2012 and 2017 and are “very motivated” to redeem themselves after last season’s early playoff exit, veteran head coach Mike Carrier said.
“We should have done better last year,” said Carrier, who graduated just two players off his team.
Ella Hosford provides the Bucks with a top-notch pitcher, and she also will be one of their best hitters along with catcher Jetta Shook, right fielder Allie Pickering, second baseman Lily Chiavelli and shortstop Sam Cyr.
All five will be riding the momentum created by their state Class C soccer title this past fall, the school’s first in soccer.
“We seem to be much better hitters this year and we look really good defensively,” Carrier said. “Our outfield is very fast. Ella is pitching even better than last year.”
He is also excited about two freshmen outfielders, Faith Vincent and Emma Freeman.
Hermon, Class B
Last season: 8-8, 6th seed, lost to Winslow 3-0 in regional final
Steph Biberstein, who coached the Hawks to the state title in 2010 but stepped down after the 2013 season to become the school’s athletic director, returned last season and guided a youthful team to a regional championship game appearance.
She returns virtually her entire team and has the luxury of having four pitchers she feels comfortable sending out to the circle.
Katie Fowler, who was a freshman last season, and junior Lyndsee Reed were outstanding in the circle, and now freshman lefty Makelle Verrill and sophomore Braelynn Wilcox will provide quality depth.
Biberstein said she also has a lot of depth around the field with several players being able to play multiple positions.
“It’s a good problem to have. Every practice is challenging because we have a healthy competition for playing time,” Biberstein said. “That makes the team jell and be better overall.”
Reed is an outstanding shortstop when she isn’t pitching and is one of the leading hitters along with catcher Molly Simcox, center fielder Ava Dean, third baseman Olivia Johnston, outfielder Makena Nevells and first baseman Norra Idano.
Nokomis, Class B
Last season: 15-1, top seed, lost to Winslow 6-3 in quarterfinals
The Warriors have one of the state’s premier pitchers in junior Mia Coots, who averaged more than 13 strikeouts a game in 2022.
“She had a great year. She has so much movement on her pitches. She keeps hitters off-balance,” coach J.D. McLellan said. “And she lives for softball.”
Coots, the KVAC Class B North Player of the Year, pitched a 20-strikeout perfect game in a 1-0 win over Hermon.
McLellan lost just one starter off last year’s team. He is looking for more run production this season.
“We weren’t a very good offensive team last year so our goal is to score more runs this year,” McLellan said.
The Warriors have an exceptional senior tandem in the middle of the infield in shortstop Cam King and second baseman Hope Brooks. They will be among the offensive catalysts along with Coots, catcher Megan Watson and power-hitting first baseman Addy Hawthorne.
Talented freshman Raegan King, Cam’s sister, can cover a lot of ground in center field with her speed and is also a good hitter.
Skowhegan, Class A
Last season: 14-2, 2nd seed, lost to Messalonskee 10-0 in regional final
Skowhegan had won six of the previous eight A North titles prior to last season’s title game loss to Messalonskee. The team will have to replace four starters, including shortstop and Miss Maine Softball Jaycie Christopher.
But coach Lee Johnson has one of the state’s best pitchers in Sierra Carey and a capable No. 2 pitcher in junior Lilly Noyes.
“We will have good pitching and we will have a pretty good defensive team. The question mark will be how well will we do offensively,” Johnson said.
Carey also can swing the bat and was one of the RBI leaders a year ago.
“She was our second best hitter [behind Christopher],” said Johnson, who is in his 23rd season as the head coach at Skowhegan.
The return of senior first baseman Callaway LePage, who missed the field hockey and basketball seasons after having knee surgery, will give the River Hawks a big boost and twins Annabelle and Madelyn Morris are expected to be productive at the plate.
Annabelle is the center fielder and Madelyn plays second base.
Winslow, Class B
Last season: 9-7, 8th seed, won regional title, lost to Gardiner 10-9 in state final
The Black Raiders have won back-to-back regional titles by peaking during the playoffs after finishing eighth in the Heal Points standings both years.
Winslow has won eight consecutive B North playoff games.
The team lost a pair of important contributors in catcher Harly Pomerleau and third baseman Leah Knight, but they have an elite pitcher in Michaud, who one-hit Hermon 3-0 in the regional final, and a number of accomplished veterans, such as Bella Morris, Lacey Sillanppa, Nevaeh Duplessie, Kate Nichols, Amber Phillips and Alonna Carreros.
Michaud is an excellent hitter in addition to her impressive exploits in the circle.
Liz York is the Raiders’ first-year coach after she replaced Kasey Larsen, who stepped down to spend more time with her two young children after her husband’s death.