Hodgdon pitcher Marissa Dow delivers a pitch to the plate during Tuesday's Class D North softball championship at Coffin Field in Brewer. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

It’s always nice to have an ace to head up your pitching staff.

It’s even better to have two.

The Hodgdon High School girls softball team is hoping seniors Marissa Dow and Sadie Thompson can take the Hawks back to another state Class D championship game appearance after last year’s team became the first in program history to win a regional title.

Third-year head coach Mark Faulkingham has all but three starters back off last year’s Class D North title team, including Dow and Thompson.

Hogdon went 12-2 during the regular season to lock down the No. 3 seed in Class D North before beating Central Aroostook of Mars Hill 15-1, Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook 14-9, Woodland 3-2 and Machias 2-0 to win the regional title.

Searsport beat Hodgdon 7-3 in the state final for its second consecutive state championship.

Dow said getting to last year’s state title game gave the players motivation and confidence heading into this season.

“We know we can go as far as we did last year and that is pushing us to work harder,” Dow said.

“I definitely think we can go as far, as long as we play with the same fire and intensity,” Thompson said. “We lost three really good players but we have some underclassmen who can come in and fill those spots.”

The Hawks will have to replace first baseman Delaney Little, third baseman Kaelyn Lawlor and center fielder Monique Polchies.

Junior Meghan Peters will move from second base to third, while sophomore Sydney Rockwell — a valuable substitute a year ago — will play first base. Junior Sydney Harvey will move from right field to center.

Sophomore Sarah Matheson will play second and either Dow or Thompson will be the shortstop, depending upon which one is pitching.

Junior catcher Aleyah Matheson, Sarah’s sister, was an All-Aroostook County selection last season and is a gifted athlete who will be among Hodgdon’s leading hitters.

Sophomore Gracie Little will start in left field for the second straight season and sophomore Paige Fitzpatrick will be a first-time starter in right field.

Dow and Thompson were All-Aroostook County picks last season and continue to improve, according to Faulkingham. Both spent time in the offseason working with pitching guru Rick Roberts, the Husson University pitching coach.

Thompson also works with University of Maine at Presque Isle softball coach Alissa Edwards.

“They worked real hard in the offseason,” Faulkingham said. “They are dedicated.”

The two pitchers said they have definitely benefited from working with college coaches.

Dow and Thompson have contrasting styles in the circle.

“Marissa is more of a power pitcher while Sadie is more of a location-type pitcher,” Faulkingham said.

Dow tossed a three-hit gem in the shutout win over Machias in the regional championship game.

Faulkingham said that he splits up their outings in the circle, depending on which matchup best suits the team Hodgdon is playing against.

The two pitchers enjoy sharing the chores in the circle.

“We both support each other 100 percent and we rely on each other,” Thompson said.

“It’s nice being able to split doubleheaders,” Dow said. “And if one of us isn’t having a good day pitching, the other is ready to help out.”

Faulkingham also considers his team’s speed to be a strength.

His biggest concern is getting his players who are changing positions comfortable in their new positions and getting them to handle “situational stuff,” such as where to play against certain hitters and where to be on cutoffs and on bunts.

He feels his team will be able to produce runs with the likes of Peters in the lead-off spot and Aleyah Matheson in the middle of the order.

Dow and Thompson are also good hitters.

Thompson said if the Hawks can return to the state game this season, they won’t be as nervous as they were last spring because “we have been there before.”