SANFORD – Samantha Adams used her right arm and strong bat to slay the giants of Western Class A softball in the regular season.
Now, she and her Sanford High teammates will see if they can do it again in the playoffs.
The third-seeded Spartans (11-5) will host either No. 6 Bonny Eagle or No. 11 Gorham in a Western Class A quarterfinal Thursday.
“I don’t think there’s any kid out there who wants it more than she does,” Sanford Coach Kristi Cochin said. “That’s her number one priority now. Softball.”
One thing is certain: Adams will be focused whether her team is winning or losing, and whether she is striking out hitters at her current pace of 1.4 per inning or giving up an extra-base hit.
“I just take it one batter at a time, one pitch at a time,” Adams said after beating Marshwood in one of her least-effective outings. “Every pitch counts because you never know if they’re going to hit or what’s going to happen, so you just have to focus.”
The senior right-hander’s intensity has been at its sharpest against the best teams.
Sanford is the only team to beat both defending Western Maine champ South Portland and 2007, 2009 and 2011 state champ Scarborough, who went a combined 29-3 in the regular season.
Adams struck out 14 and allowed five singles in an early-season 8-1 win over South Portland. She twice fanned Danica Gleason, who is hitting .667. Adams also had a three-run homer and a two-run single.
A week later, Adams struck out 12 and hit an eighth-inning homer for a 3-2 win at Scarborough.
“There’s a calmness about her. She doesn’t show any panic at all,” Scarborough Coach Tom Griffin said.
Adams is 11-3 with a 1.04 ERA. In 107 innings, she has struck out 148.
In one season, Adams has gone from an ordinary pitcher who shared mound duties for a slightly above average team to a legitimate Pitcher of the Year candidate in the SMAA.
“She’s had a lot more starts this year,” Cochin said. “Her strength has always been speed. She’s building more pitches in. She really is still developing her pitching game.”
Adams will play next season at Emmanuel College in Boston.
“Her coming out and being as dominant as she has been, I don’t want to say it’s been a surprise, but it’s been better than expected. It really has,” Cochin said.
While the game didn’t count statistically, Adams showed she was ready for the playoffs in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Scarborough in the SMAA semifinals.
Adams has been effective at working the upper part of the zone and getting batters to chase. Her unorthodox throwing motion includes an exaggerated lift of her straight right arm. As she releases the ball, her right arm comes across her body, while the left arm seems to fly toward first base.
“The ball gets hidden a little bit,” Griffin said after his team’s second meeting with Sanford. “She throws fairly hard and puts great movement on the ball. She’s up in the zone a lot and she has good control. She works all four corners, and she’s also able to throw strikes when she needs to.”
Adams also helps her cause as a solid fielder and above-average hitter. She and fellow senior Kellie Tovey have been a formidable 3-4 combination in the order. Adams is hitting .490 with four homers and a team-leading 20 RBI. Tovey leads the team with a .510 average, two homers and 16 RBI.
“She’s just confident in what she can do. She’s confident in what she throws,” Tovey said of Adams. “If she misses a pitch, she knows she can make it up in the field. And she can make it up hitting.”
With the playoffs looming, Adams said she’ll continue with her same focused approach.
“You just need to worry about what you’re doing, what’s your job, and hope that your teammates back you up,” Adams said.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at firstname.lastname@example.org