May 28—After a short bumpy stretch in mid-May, the Oxford Hills softball team's confidence is on the rise heading into its final regular season game and then the postseason.
"I think we've been hitting a lot better. We haven't been playing stellar defense, but we've just been able to hang on for wins," Oxford Hills coach Cindy Goddard said. "If someone scores on us, we can battle back, and that's been a big key. They don't go into panic mode, they just battle back. They have confidence in themselves."
The 13-2 Vikings wrap up their regular season on the road against another 13-2 team, Skowhegan on Tuesday. Then Oxford Hills will try to make another deep run in the Class A North tournament.
Oxford Hills has defeated some of the region's top teams this season, such as Hampden on April 30 and Bangor on May 20. In between those victories were losses to A North-leading Brunswick (14-1) and sixth-placed Edward Little (7-8).
From those setbacks, the Vikings learned the importance of being sharp as well as their ability to bounce back from deficits and miscues.
"I think they were excited to play Brunswick but I think they got nervous because it was two undefeated teams," Goddard said. "I think now that we've seen everyone it's like, all right, they're all good teams, so if you make errors the other team will capitalize. We have to make solid plays and hope the hitting comes along. We didn't play well and didn't come out with the win, but it's a game that if we play 10 times (we) would go five-and-five. It doesn't feel like a team where you don't think you'll ever beat them. It's not a team I fear."
Since those losses, the Vikings have won four straight games, putting up 31 runs in their past two games — a 17-6 win over Lewiston on Wednesday and a 14-4 win over Brewer on Friday.
A bright spot for Oxford Hills this season has been pitcher Maddy Miller, who entered this season a question mark in the circle.
"Maddy Miller was the unknown," Goddard said. "She had a lot of pitching experience coming up through the years, on our summer teams so we let her be the pitcher. She was the unknown. The pitcher is a huge part of how far you go, and she's really done a great job. She's not overpowering but is a very smart pitcher."
Another pleasant surprise has been the recent return of Bella DeVivo, who recently returned from an ACL surgery in the fall. DeVivo, a senior, has played in three games and hit home runs in two.
DeVivo's return is a nice addition to an already potent offense, with strong hitters like shortstop Trinity Bernard and outfielders Miah Gallan and Kaydence Morse
"Trinity is amazing," Goddard said. "She will take little base hits up the middle and is an all-around good player, good hitter, good wheels. Miah Gallan has been really hot at the plate and then just amazingly aggressive on the base paths. She gets on and will probably end up at third base because she has a will to want to get there. She takes advantage of everything and is ready to pounce on anything you give her. Kaydence Morse has been a key person for us at the end of games."
Edward Little (7-8) started the season slowly, sputtering to a 2-7 record over the first nine games, but have since found a winning formula that coach Elaine Derosby described as going on a journey.
"They're high school kids, and spring time is always hard," Derosby said. "They play a lot of softball, and pulling them in and working together, it's starting to come together. ... It's their journey, and I'm there to kind of help guide them, but they're steering it and I am there to support when they need to support.
"... They're starting to support each other, play together and remember that it's just a game. I can't explain any of this journey, it's just a journey."
After their seventh loss, on May 9, Edward Little (7-8) won its next five games, before falling to Mt. Blue on Wednesday.
The Red Eddies' improvement during the latter half of the season is particularly evident in their two matchups with Oxford Hills.
On April 28, Edward Little fell to Oxford Hills 24-1 at home. Fast-forward to May 18, when the Eddies beat the Vikings 9-8 in eight innings, the third of their five consecutive wins.
"It felt really good. They felt really good after," Derosby said. "They worked hard during it, they made some adjustments, made some in-game adjustments in some of our at-bats, and they embraced that that day. Leah Thibodeau had a triple that scored a run in that eighth inning. She's all over the place and she made some adjustments that day. Up and down the lineup they adjusted and they were really picking up on that. They were really excited. They want to be playing their best softball by June."
The Patriots (4-12) fell to Poland 11-1 on Friday to close out their regular season, but coach Darcey Gardiner was all smiles after the game when talking about the team's seniors.
"I have some really awesome seniors," Gardiner said. "I coach college ball, travel ball, and I've never coached the quality of leaders I have right now. And especially for them to be as self-aware and honest and as great people as they are, I am so fortunate. I have only had those seniors for two years because of COVID — it would have been three, and I wish I had more time with them. Those are the kids that you wish you had more time with them."
Gardiner wasn't done heaping praise on her senior class.
"They beat me to the field every day for practice, they're the last ones to leave," Gardiner added. "My catcher back there, Morgan Curtis, she's probably blocked more balls than any other catcher this year. She's going to Husson, my first baseman (Anna Gilbert) is going to St. Joe's. So I am just so happy for my seniors. The season hasn't gone the way we wanted it to, but we still have a good time and enjoy each other's company. It wasn't the season we wanted, but, overall, hey, anything can happen in playoffs and that's the motto we are living off of."
Mountain Valley (7-8) started the season slowly but has bounced back in a big way, winning five of its last six games. Pitcher Ali Legere has been a big reason for the recent turnaround.
"The big thing is Ali broke her leg and was out of basketball and soccer and she got screws and pins in her leg," Mountain Valley coach Garry Dollof said. "She's bounced back. She couldn't pitch at the beginning of the season in a full game. A couple of those early games we were up when she was pitching, then when she would come out — and we played hard, but it wasn't the same."
Legere's leg has gotten stronger as the season has progressed, which has allowed her to pitch six and seven innings more often. With that has come wins.
Legere's pitching isn't the only reason for Mountain Valley's strong finish.
The Falcons also have started hitting the ball better, and success at the plate has been contagious.
"I have a group of sophomores and a couple seniors and they all started basically hitting the ball at the same time," Dollof said.
Defensively, Mountain Valley has been stellar, led by outfielders Ali Mazza and Brooke Bennett.
"I would put up Brooke against anyone in center field," Dollof said. "Ali and Brooke and the defense have been fantastic. They've kept us in games and are a focal point of making the plays we're supposed to make. If we make regular plays, we'll be hard to beat."
It has taken some time, especially after the slow start, and the Falcons are young, but Dollof said they are starting to realize how good they are.
"I think once they started believing they felt like they could play with anyone," Dollof said. "I think a lot of it is, we have young players. We have six underclassmen starting. It took a lot to put it all together I think we're gonna be tough to beat."