The last two years, Medomak Valley has surged from the eighth seed in Eastern Class B to the state championship game, where it lost to Hannah Hill and Fryeburg Academy.

This year, Medomak shouldn’t find itself in such dramatic shape for the playoffs.

The Panthers are off to a 4-1 start and look ready to be a force again even though first-year coach Richard Vannah said “the hard part of our schedule is just coming up.”

“I’m a little surprised that some of our young players are stepping up so early, but not really because they’re all athletes,” said Vannah, who was the assistant coach the last three years.

“It’s a confidence level, that’s what it is. With Kayla doing her job, it’s about getting kids in right spots and keeping them there.”

Kayla is Kayla Santheson, the senior who has stepped in as a dominating strikeout pitcher. She’s averaging double figures in strikeouts in a season in when strikeout numbers are down. Santheson pitched in about seven games last year as the No. 2 pitcher to Kayla Vannah.

“She’s pitching very well,” said Richard Vannah. “She’s hitting her spots well. She worked really hard with my daughter (Kayla) the last three years. She’ll hold her own against anyone.”

Vannah credits Santheson and catcher Kasey Benner, a junior, with providing much of the leadership needed for a young team. But the Panthers are getting great efforts from a lot of players.

First baseman Lindsay Ranquist has been one of the top hitters.

“She has a sweet swing,” said Vannah. “Like any kid, when she’s on she can hit any pitch you throw at her.”

A couple of first-year players also have exceeded expectations. Freshman Heidi Obuchon and sophomore Alanna Vose have displayed the ability to play several positions.

Vannah knows his team will be tested and hopes the Panthers can continue to improve.

“If I stay on them and keep positive, and keep them focused,” he said. “That’s a big thing, no matter where you coach, keeping them focused.

“We’ll try to sneak in the tournament and see what we can do. We’ve had some success in the playoffs, we keep focused, play one inning at a time and see how it works.” 

SOUTH PORTLAND players are wearing a circular patch on their uniforms with the letters “JK,” in memory of Jerry Kill, a strong supporter of the softball program who passed away last August.

Kill’s daughter, Kristin, played for the Riots and is now in her senior year at Niagara University.

“It’s about what Jerry Kill meant to softball at South Portland,” said Coach Ralph Aceto. “And it really wasn’t just softball, but his support of all sports at South Portland.”

The school will dedicate an electronic scoreboard to Kill later this season. 

BIG CLASS A game today in Saco at 4 p.m. between Thornton Academy and visiting Scarborough, both 5-0.

“How big is it for my kids?” asked John Provost, the coach at Thornton. “A lot of my juniors have never beaten Scarborough. It will be a great test. The next couple of games are important to us.”

The Trojans will play rival Biddeford Monday.

“Right now we’re getting great defense, the kids are hitting, things are clicking,” said Provost. 

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

[email protected]