The Skowhegan High School softball team was one of the surprise teams of the 2016 season.
After a nondescript regular season during which the Indians went 9-7 and wound up sixth in the Class A Heal Points Standings, they knocked off No. 3 Bangor (6-1), second seed Oxford Hills of South Paris (8-3) and No. 4 Edward Little of Auburn 8-2 in the playoffs to claim their third regional title in four years.
But playoff runs are nothing new to the Indians.
Over the past four seasons, Skowhegan boasts an impressive 10-3 record in post-season play.
Even though this year’s Skowhegan team has had to replace four starters, two of the primary architects behind the Indians’ success a year ago are back in pitchers Ashley Alward and Sydney Ames.
“They are two quality pitchers,” said Skowhegan head coach Lee Johnson.
Alward, a junior, is off to a 2-0 start while sophomore Ames is 1-1 with her only loss being a 3-1 setback to Edward Little.
Skowhegan was 3-1 heading into a Friday game against Hampden Academy.
“You’ve got to remember, we don’t have any seniors,” said Johnson. “We’ve lost four starters so we’ve had some turnover. We’ve had to move kids around.
“We’re still trying to figure things out,” he added. “We have a lot of work to do but, hopefully, by the end of the season we’ll have it figured out.”
“Coach always says its a sprint, not a marathon,” said Alward. “We have a big group of sophomores who have filled those spots.”
“We struggled a little bit last year,” said sophomore catcher Sydney Reed, one of the returning starters. “Going 9-7 wasn’t exactly what we hoped for. But we’ve started a lot stronger this year. We’ve filled a lot of positions we needed to fill…a lot in the infield and I think we’ve done it pretty well.”
Junior shortstop Wylie Bedard is the only returning starter in the infield.
Sophomore Mariah Dunbar is the first baseman, junior Julia Steeves is the new second baseman and Lindsey Warren, another junior, is at third.
“Lindsey saw some time as the (designated player) last year but she didn’t start,” said Johnson.
Ames returns in center field when she isn’t pitching and she is one of the team’s leading hitters. Ames is the leadoff hitter.
Reed hits second, Alward bats third, Warren is in the cleanup spot and Bedard hits fifth.
Sophomores Alyssa Everett and Annie Cooke start in right and left, respectively, and freshman Emma Duffy sees duty as the designated player.
Johnson feels his team will be in the hunt to defend its title.
“I think we’re going to be all right. We’ve got to hit the ball a little better. We have the pitching. The defense is going to get better. We’ll be a team to watch a little bit,” said Johnson.