YORK — When people from the outside look at York High’s softball success, they focus on one thing: senior pitcher Stephanie Rundlett.

Rundlett is, after all, one of the state’s most dominant pitchers with more than 600 career strikeouts and a scholarship to Division I Fordham.

But to those close to the Wildcats, being the top-ranked team in Class B South is the result of more than just a well-placed, hard-to-see fastball.

“We have great chemistry,” said Rundlett, who is 13-0 this year with two saves and 239 strikeouts in 90 innings. “We all get along very well. There’s no drama. We’re all friends.

“In practice, whenever someone makes a mistake, we don’t criticize them. We try to boost them up because we know the coaches will tell them the right way to do it. We try to always instill a positive attitude.”

And Rundlett is leading the way.

“It helps to have great leaders,” said Mona Blais, in her third year as York’s coach. “As good as Stephanie is, which is amazing to see what she’s doing, when one of her teammates makes a good play in the field, she’s the first one off the mound to give a high-five.”

The Maine Principals’ Association softball playoffs start Monday with preliminary-round games, then will continue through the state finals June 18.

York, which has won 15 consecutive games since an opening loss to Traip Academy, is among the favorites in Class B South along with defending state champ Yarmouth, which is ranked second at 13-3. York beat Yarmouth 1-0 on May 13, when Rundlett struck out 18.

“As coaches, we try to figure out the routine of the pitcher, what pitches she throws in certain situations,” said Yarmouth Coach Amy Ashley. “But she really mixed it up. She made us guess at what she was throwing.

“She’s the full package. She has the velocity, mental approach, and she mixes her pitches.”

Rundlett struck out 246 in 117 innings last year. This year, with the Wildcats playing better defense, she doesn’t feel she has to carry the team.

“I don’t have to worry about the fielding part, just the pitching,” said Rundlett. “If they hit it, it’s no big deal because I know my fielders will be there to get it.”

Second baseman Olivia Coughlin, who has been on the same team as Rundlett since Little League, admits it’s not always easy to play defense behind a strikeout pitcher. Your focus can wander as she sets batter after batter down.

“It’s important to keep our heads in the game should a ball actually be hit,” she said. “A big part of it is communication. I make sure, between every play, that every girl is yelling where the ball is supposed to go.”

Coughlin said the win over Yarmouth showed how far the Wildcats have come. Three times Yarmouth got a runner to third without scoring.

“A couple of years ago,’ said Coughlin, “if we had a runner on third and it was a stressful situation where we were only up by one run and we had to protect that run, a couple of years ago that run would have scored.”

Rundlett didn’t start to pitch until the seventh grade when Blais, then the seventh-grade coach, asked her to try it. “I was a little nervous because I was shy back then and I didn’t really like the feeling of pitching because everybody looks at you,” said Rundlett.

She made the varsity as a freshman and for the next two seasons split pitching duties with playing third. After her sophomore season, she said she became more serious about pitching because “I knew I was going to college in two years.”

She watched a lot of softball on television, took pitching lessons, and refined her delivery so it’s now compact and smooth.

She also started playing ASA softball for the Virginia Legends in Virginia Beach. Yes, she and her family would drive to Virginia for tournaments in the fall and summer. “Good thing I like traveling,” she said.

It was at one such tournament that the Fordham coaching staff noticed Rundlett, which was fortunate because she had visited the campus and loved the school. “But I didn’t think they needed pitchers so I never contacted the coach,” she said.

The staff watched her pitch on a Sunday, then invited her to a camp the next day. They offered her a scholarship – she told a New Hampshire reporter earlier it was a “near-full scholarship” – and she immediately accepted.

Fordham, located in the Bronx borough of New York, went 39-21 this spring and advanced to the NCAA regionals.

Rundlett is more than just a pitcher. She hit .632 in the regular season with four home runs, 21 RBI and 12 runs. As a team York hit .373 with sophomore shortstop Kiley Blondin hitting .474 and senior catcher Maeve Campbell .395.

York also went 15-1 in the regular season last year to earn the No. 2 seed but was upset by No. 7 Fryeburg Academy in the quarterfinals. This year, said Rundlett, “we want to make it a lot farther.”

If they do, Rundlett will have a lot to say about it.

“Players like her are very special,” said Blais. “You don’t get them very often at this level, or even see them at this level.”

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