There are only 11 players on the softball roster at Penobscot Valley High School of Howland this spring, which leaves first-year head coach Pat Leonard crossing his fingers at times, hoping nobody gets hurt or sick.
“But I try not to think about it,” said Leonard.
Quality has certainly outweighed quantity because his Howlers took an 8-0 record into a Tuesday game against Searsport.
One of the primary reasons for PVHS’s success has been freshman pitcher Leine McKechnie, who has the benefit of throwing to her sister, junior catcher Kortney McKechnie.
“Leine has a good repertoire of pitches: Curve, fastball, changeup, rise and drop. She keeps the hitters guessing. And she has a lot of movement on her pitches,” said Leonard, who added that she gets instruction from well-respected pitching coaches Bob Mercer in Bucksport and Rick Roberts in Ellsworth.
She has been with Mercer for three years and just recently joined up with Roberts as well.
He also said Kortney is, “very analytical. She understands the game very well. She’s doing a good job.”
Leine McKechnie has been involved in five shutouts so far and she also owns a 7-1 victory over defending regional champ Stearns of Millinocket.
She beat Katahdin High of Stacyville 11-5 in her debut and Katahdin was the team that knocked PVHS out of the Class D North quarterfinals last season.
The Howlers have also supported her with a hitting attack that has averaged 15 runs per game.
The McKechnie sisters have been two of the team’s offensive catalysts along with first baseman Lexi Ireland, third baseman Elizabeth McKinnon and center fielder Miranda Brown.
McKinnon and Brown are the team’s only seniors while Ireland and Leine McKechnie are two of four freshman starters along with right fielder Morgan Banks and left fielder Lyndsay McKechnie, who is Leine and Kortney’s cousin.
Junior Ryley Buck is the shortstop and sophomore Erynn Williams starts at second.
Sisters Paige Thibodeau and Gabrielle Thibodeau are outfielders. Paige is a junior and Gabrielle is a freshman.
Leonard said the team is “pretty solid defensively.”
“I’m happy where the team is right now,” said Leonard, who admitted that he was a “little surprised” that his team won its first eight games.
He added that one thing that gives him peace of mind about his small roster is the fact his players are well-conditioned because most of them play other sports and are athletic.
“That helps out a lot,” he said.