The SMAA will have three new softball coaches this spring, but they won’t necessarily need any introductions.

Dennis Crowe, a long-time softball umpire in the state, will take over at Gorham High. Melanie Craig, the former coach and athletic director at Gray-New Gloucester, will head the program at Westbrook and Caterina Riitano, the field hockey coach at Bonny Eagle, will add softball to her head coaching duties.

Gorham and Bonny Eagle have been two of the league’s most consistent programs in recent years, while Westbrook has struggled for several years.

Craig realizes this, and is ready to put the work in to turn the program at Westbrook around.

“The program is in need of a complete revamp,” she said. “I had some success at Gray and I look to take that same skill set to Westbrook. They’ve got some younger girls coming up who have performed well in Little League. Now it’s time to give them a high school program that will allow them to succeed.

“It’s a new foundation for the future, and we’re at step one. It’s back to basics.”

Craig took last year off after resigning as athletic director at Gray-NG to spend time with her family. She hasn’t coached in two years and, she said, “I could not be more ecstatic to be back.”

Crowe has been a familiar face at Gorham for several years. His daughter, Kelsey, was a star pitcher for the Rams and is now playing at Thomas College. He also coached a summer travel team that competed nationally.

“Obviously Dennis has background in the sport as an official and all the work he’s done in the community involving Gorham kids for many years in the summer programs,” said Gerry Durgin, the athletic director at Gorham. “He knows just about all of the kids and probably coached them at one time or another.”

Crowe, the technology director for Gorham’s schools and town, had been an umpire for 34 years and the state rules interpreter for over 20. But after coaching summer teams, he wanted to do something more. He liked having the daily contact with the players and the game strategy.

“It wasn’t a tough decision,” he said. “I enjoy the coaching a lot. I do know a lot of the kids. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.

“This seemed like a good time (to switch). Besides, I can umpire when I retire.”

He said 40 girls signed up to play and hopes to keep the success started by Pete Walker going.

“We’ve got some decent players, some dedicated kids,” he said.

At Bonny Eagle, Athletic Director David Minzy said Riitano’s familiarity with the students will be a plus for the program. She has coached field hockey at the school for the last two falls.

Riitano has been an assistant softball coach at the University of Southern Maine the last three years and follows long-time coach Jan Corliss, who coached the Scots for 27 years.

“I think we have some of the same background and philosophy for coaching,” said Riitano. “Obviously she had 27 years under her. But I hope to keep the program on the same path.”

Riitano said her philosophy is going to be simple: “We’re just going to try to go out, play hard and win some games.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]