Robbie Ferrante wasn’t sure what to expect when he came out of a one-year retirement to coach the McAuley High softball team. The Lions had won only four games a year ago and were very young.

Two games into the season, they are an SMAA surprise.

McAuley is 2-0, scoring nine runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Cheverus 13-12, then beating perennial contender Bonny Eagle 5-0 in Standish behind freshman pitcher Gabby Townsend.

“The kids feel good,” said Ferrante, who coached at McAuley from 1978-90, then coached seven years at Portland before retiring in 2008. “But they’re still learning. And we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

The win over Cheverus, expected to contend for the league title with Scarborough and South Portland, was stunning and could carry the Lions a long way in the Heal point standings.

Ferrante hoped his young team — he starts four freshmen — simply could play a good game. “I felt even if we lost, if we came away with some positive things, it would be good,” said Ferrante.

Then came the seventh. Trailing 12-4, the Lions got a couple of hits, a couple of walks, another couple of hits, and suddenly it was 12-8.

“Even then,” said Ferrante, “I felt if it ended that way, it would be good. Then we got a couple more on and I said, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve got something going here.’ “

Winning pitcher Jenn Field, who scored twice in that remarkable comeback, tied it and was on second with Kayla Daigle up. Daigle blooped a hit down the left-field line, fair by about a foot, and Field scooted in with the winning run.

“I’ve never been in a game like that,” said Ferrante. “I’ve been in games where we’ve needed one or two runs and came back, but nine? Something else.”

Ferrante was more pleased with the win at Bonny Eagle, where the Lions played good defense and got clutch hits.

“I asked the girls what their goal was this year,” he said. “They want to win at least one more game than last year. We’ll see what happens.”

 

CHEVERUS, MEANWHILE, bounced back well, beating Sanford 11-3 in its next game.

“And we got down 2-0 before we came back,” said Coach Amy McMullin. “The kids didn’t back down, and that’s good for the coach to see.”

The McAuley loss, said McMullin, was a lesson. The Lions were better than anticipated, especially at the plate. And when they really started hitting the ball in the seventh, the Stags couldn’t recover.

“We cracked, we had mental errors that killed us,” said McMullin. “We lost our focus.”

McMullin said the new pitching distance, now 43 feet instead of 40 — has been a factor. Her pitcher, Theresa Hendrix, is getting hit harder this year than either of the previous two.

“I didn’t think (it) was going to make much of a difference,” said McMullin. “But it is.”

UNLIKE SOME teams that traveled to Florida during April vacation, Fryeburg Academy drove only to Connecticut.

“We had an awesome time,” said Coach Fred Apt. “We practiced, played seven games in three days. It helped us a lot.”

Two games were against South Windsor, Conn., with 2,200 students. The Raiders split.

 

IN ADDITION to Ferrante, there are several new coaches.

Among them: Bruce Norton, Massabesic; Mark Tucker, Windham; Marty Messer, Camden Hills; Dave Getchell, Gray-New Gloucester; Katie Mainville-Nicholls, Lincoln Academy; Kristy Sargent, Poland; Lauren Harkins, Boothbay Region; and Trevor Hopwood, Traip Academy.

Mainville-Nicholls was a dominating All-State pitcher at Erskine Academy who also played for USM. This is her first head coaching job. “I’m a little nervous, but more excited that I’m going to be calling the shots,” she said.

Getchell is the father of Laura Getchell, Gray-NG’s All-State pitcher. He’s coached previously in Little League and ASA, and knows many of the Patriots.

Most of the new coaches have assisted in some form.

“To stand back and complain doesn’t do anything unless you’re willing to step into this role,” said Massabesic’s Norton.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com