Grace McGouldrick loved playing field hockey. And she got a thrill out of running track. But when it came to softball, well, that was different.

“Ever since I played T-ball, I’ve had a love for the sport,” she said. “It’s the sport I was driven to do well in, the sport I had a knack for, and the sport I always enjoyed, not just in the season but out of season, too.

“You didn’t have to ask me to do it. I wanted to do it.”

And she became quite good at it. With her speed, athleticism and versatility, McGouldrick became one of the top two-way players in the state for Gorham, leading the Rams to three consecutive Class A South quarterfinal appearances. This year, as a senior, she batted an astounding .688 with five home runs, seven triples, eight doubles, 30 runs, 20 RBI and 12 stolen bases. As a pitcher she was 10-5 with a 1.75 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 92 innings.

Her efforts earned her honors as the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Softball Player of the Year.

“What she did for that team was something,” said Thornton Academy Coach John Provost. “She took on a huge role the last two years, pitching out of necessity and dominating at the plate. It was hard to pitch around her. We tried but she always found a way to get the ball in play.”

McGouldrick, who played shortstop when not pitching, will play softball at the University of Maine. She won’t pitch, she said, but is looking forward to helping in any way she can.

“I really do like to pitch,” said McGouldrick, “but I’m looking forward to college and trying something new. I’ll play wherever they want, except maybe first base because I’m too short.”

Gorham Coach Renee Whipkey said McGouldrick’s versatility was what set her apart.

“Hitting, bunting, slapping at the plate and, of course, her speed,” said Whipkey, who coached McGouldrick for three years. “And she’s always been a leader. I think this year, in particular, knowing that she had to pitch for us, she really stepped it up and worked hard on her pitching in the offseason. And then she has the incredible love for the game. I’ve never coached anyone who loves softball so much.”

Whipkey said McGouldrick’s leadership this year was pivotal.

“She had a willingness to work with her teammates,” Whipkey said. “She would stay after practice and do whatever was needed to do with anyone else in order to help them.

“She was our rock. Her skills and leadership really brought our program to a place it hadn’t been for a while. She’s done a lot for us.”

McGouldrick, who was also named the Gatorade Maine player of the year, said she put a lot of preparation into her senior season during the winter, with much of it focused on hitting. Her batting average increased each of the last three years, from .466 as a sophomore to .609 as a junior and .688 this year.

“I wanted to focus on my softball skills in the winter,” she said.

“I knew I was going to Maine and if I worked on my skill set, it would help me find a place in the program early on.”

She said she finished her high school career with her best season.

“I’m going to remember all the good times I had with my friends,” she said. “We had our ups and downs, but this year we had our best year, on and off the field.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH