BIDDEFORD – No softball team has been hotter than Biddeford High, which won its ninth straight game on Thursday, 12-3 against Portland.
Few teams struggled more — especially compared to their preseason expectations — than the Tigers did in the first week of the season, when they went 0-3.
“It’s not like the other teams were killing us. We were doing it to ourselves,” Biddeford Coach Leon Paquin said.
Biddeford made 14 errors in those first three games. The offense scored four total runs.
In the second game, the pitchers added to the woes with nine walks.
In the third game sophomore pitcher Abbie Paquette had a 3-0 lead and was two outs from a no-hitter before a four-pitch walk started a four-run meltdown.
“Everyone was kind of bummed, like, ‘Wow. 0-3. That’s not what we expected.’ But after that we went to longer practices. We worked harder. We did more focusing especially on defense,” senior shortstop and captain Katelyn Lebreux said.
“Everyone found something they could do to better themselves. Even if it was only one or two things, we bettered ourselves and bettered the team as a whole.”
Considering Biddeford is using five freshmen and starting two or three, the slow start was explainable. After going 0-3 out of the gate in 2012 and then winning six straight, the Tigers also knew they could recover.
“I have confidence in my team that we can actually go out and win and look what we’ve done now,” said Paquette.
“I have confidence that we can do it again so I wasn’t as down about it as I was last year.”
In the winning streak, the Tigers have averaged nine runs and just one error. Their base-running has become a weapon that puts pressure on defenses.
Some wins have been blowouts. Two were nail-biters on the road (3-2 vs. Kennebunk and 5-3 over Cheverus). Last week’s commanding victories at Westbrook (7-1) and against Portland allowed Paquin to use his bench liberally.
A 10th straight win will be a tough task. Biddeford is at reigning Western A champ South Portland Monday.
Red Riots senior left-hander Erin Bogdanovich will be the toughest pitcher Biddeford has faced since the 0-3 start against Thornton Academy, Noble and Sanford.
After that, Biddeford faces solid clubs from Gorham and Bonny Eagle before finishing against one-loss Scarborough.
“Next week will be a good mental test,” Paquin said. “We’ve got to play some good ball. We’re capable but you want to see how the younger ones react.”
Paquin says his club is “not the most powerful team in the league, trust me.”
It might be the most athletic.
In Lebreux and senior captain and lead-off batter Mariah Albert the Tigers have two fast, instinctive base-runners that put pressure on defenses and set the tempo — both in the games and during conditioning-rich practices.
“We’ve got good speed, good athleticism. We work hard. We all do the weights, we run all the time and it pays off,” Albert said. “It helps our bats get around faster and our speed on the bases. It’s showing.”
Catcher Katie Plante is the third senior captain. Freshmen Erin Martin at second and Charlotte White at third are now playing above their years. Seniors Alyssa Baldino at first and Sara Scott in center bring more experience to the field.
“We have this really big trust bond on this team,” Paquette said. “Everyone’s a softball player and that’s what they should be called. They’re not a freshman.”
Paquin became the head coach in 2006 after eight years as the assistant coach. Before that he was the JV coach after coaching baseball at Thornton Academy. He appreciates that he has many multi-sport athletes and a team full of players who embrace the idea of working to improve.
“Everyone’s moving around, everyone’s happy, we go get ice cream once in awhile and keep the morale up and things are good,” Paquin said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: