Brian Hink’s preseason synopsis of his Sacopee Valley High softball team was succinct: “We should be competitive.”

Turns out the Hawks a little better than that. They’re 12-1 and ranked second in Class C South, just 0.4219 Heal points behind top-ranked Madison.

“We’re really playing well,” said Hink. “The chemistry is really good. The girls are executing their plays. We knew if we played well, we would have a shot to be at the top of our conference.”

In the last eight days, Sacopee Valley has defeated three of the top teams in Class B South – Greely (8-1), Fryeburg Academy (7-1) and Poland (12-3) – plus Richmond, the No. 1 team in Class D South. The 2-0 win at Richmond on Monday snapped a 74-game home winning streak for the Bobcats.

“Those games really showed the girls what they’d made of, that they can compete with the better teams,” Hink said. “Before that stretch, I told the girls that these were playoff-type games and how they handled themselves would determine how they would be in the playoffs. Clearly, they sent a message about what type of team they want to be.”

Sacopee Valley is led by the senior combo of pitcher Brynn Hink (the coach’s daughter) and catcher Grace Sanborn. “They’ve pitched and caught together since they played U-10 ball,” said Brian Hink. “They do their homework on the opponent’s offense, they know what their weaknesses are and what their strengths are.”

Hink was also the team’s leading hitter at .533 with three home runs going into Wednesday’s win against Poland. She was followed by her freshman sister, Lakyn, who plays second and was hitting .489 from the No. 1 spot in the lineup. Sophomore shortstop Allie Black was hitting .467, freshman center fielder Gabby Martin was hitting .438, Sanborn was batting .410, and junior third baseman Brenna Humphrey was at .357.

But as good as the offense is, Brian Hink said the defense is the key to success. “They’re all making the plays behind Brynn,” he said. “A couple of years ago, we had trouble catching fly balls. Now we don’t. The girls went to work, and now it’s a fun game.”

DEFENSE ALSO comes first at Scarborough. That was clearly evident in last a 3-1 win last Thursday against Thornton Academy, when senior first baseman Felicia O’Reilly put on a clinic on how to scoop low throws out of the dirt. She saved at least four throws.

Of course, Scarborough prepares for errant throws with a defensive drill called “bomb the first baseman.” That’s when players line up at shortstop with all the balls they can find and deliberately make bad throws to first. They run the drill at least once a week.

“They make the worst throws they possibly can,” said O’Reilly. “And honestly, I don’t know if a lot of other teams do things like that, but it really prepares you for games like this.”

“She’s been doing it all year,” said Coach Tom Griffin. “That’s senior experience. She knows how to handle herself in those situations. It’s nice to have a kid like that who can pull you out of holes.”

Griffin was pleased to see that type of performance because, he said, the Red Storm had a bad defensive game earlier in the week. “We were awful, went through a really bad inning,” he said. “We had to refocus, regroup, and we emphasized, ‘If you’re going to win a state championship, your defense is going to take you there.’ “

A BIG FRIDAY is coming up. In Class A South, Windham heads to Saco to play Thornton Academy at 7 p.m. at Saco Middle School, and Gorham travels to Massabesic. In Class B South, Cape Elizabeth, looking to hold on to the last playoff spot, is home to Greely.

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