Rusty Worcester always believes in being prepared.

So it should come as no surprise that Worcester’s Oceanside High softball team is sitting at the top of the Eastern Class B standings in the Mariners’ first season as a team.

A year ago, Worcester was the coach at Georges Valley, a Western Class C power. Knowing his Buccaneers would be merging with Eastern Class B Rockland to form Oceanside this year (and hoping he would get the new job), Worcester actually started scouting his new opponents back then.

“I can’t lie to you,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of scouting. Last year, knowing this could happen, I went ahead, along with John (Frye, his assistant) and scouted teams that Rockland would play. We’d sneak out when we could. We’d go over to Medomak Valley when we could.

“It really helps when you see things in person.”

The Mariners finished the regular season with a 15-1 record after beating Leavitt on Wednesday. They have received great pitching from Rachel Frye and Jill Bradbury. They have powerful hitters in Kennadi Grover, Natalie Russell and Jesse Veilleux. They play exceptional defense.

It’s that defense — and attention to the little things — that could push the Mariners deep into the playoffs.

Oceanside’s practices aren’t always just about pitching and hitting.

“We know we can pitch, we know we can hit,” said Worcester. “We work on the other stuff.”

Such as base running, getting a proper jump on the pitcher, taking the extra base on a hit to the outfield.

“We also do a lot of mental preparation,” said Worcester. “We talk a lot about the infield fly rule so the kids know what it is. What do you do if you’re on base and the fielder lets it drop? Everyone’s instinct is to run. The kids know what to do.”

Hannah Hersom, a senior center fielder who played for Rockland last year, said her former schoolmates were looking forward to joining the former Georges Valley group because of the reputation of the coaching staff.

So far it’s worked out well. After beating Medomak Valley 9-0 last week in a game that determined the No.1 seeding, Hersom said, “This just showed how well we can play as a team.”

THE SMAA championships are Saturday at top-ranked Scarborough, involving the top four teams in the Western Class A standings. Semifinals will start at 1 p.m. with the championship game to follow.

The league switches up the matchups a bit, playing 1 vs. 3 and 2 vs. 4, unlike the state tournament where 1 would play 4 and 2 would play 3.

“It doesn’t make sense to match up the same way the tournament matches up,” said Red Storm Coach Tom Griffin.

While the games don’t count (officially) toward each team’s record, the coaches involved like the format. For one thing, it’s giving them playing time during a long break. Scarborough, for example, finished its regular season May 25 and won’t play again until the regional quarterfinals June 7.

Griffin said his team needs the competition.

“We wrapped up the No.1 seed two weeks ago and kind of went into a lull,” he said. “We still won but it wasn’t our standard of play.”

Western Maine Conference teams don’t hold a playoff.

AFTER JUST missing the playoffs a year ago, Gorham got back into the Western Class A tournament. The Rams likely will go in with the 11th seed and play at Sanford in the prelim. Gorham beat Sanford 3-1 in nine innings May 2.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Rams Coach Dennis Crowe. “And I’m sure they are too.”

Gorham was one out from making the playoffs last year, but a last-inning collapse in the final game dropped them out. “So it’s a nice thing for the seniors who have never been in the playoffs to get there,” said Crowe, referring to captains Rachel Webster and Taylor Hansen.

Gorham has wins over Biddeford, Sanford and Bonny Eagle — all higher-seeded teams.

“But three teams below us also beat us,” said Crowe. “It just shows that 6 through 15, anybody can beat anybody else.”

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

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH