FALMOUTH — For the last two years, students who wanted to play softball for Falmouth High – and, truthfully, there weren’t many – had to drive to Portland for practices and games with students from Maine Girls’ Academy as a co-op team.

This year, however, all they have to do is walk across their own parking lot to their field. And they are thrilled.

“It’s more fun, we’re happier,” said Liz Fortier, a junior center fielder. “There’s a lot less travel. We just enjoy it more at home.”

Falmouth High senior Liberty Ladd, left, gives hitting advice to freshman Mackenzie Nichols during practice earlier this week. Falmouth has 10 freshmen on its roster. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

For the first time in three years, Falmouth will have its own softball team. The sudden closure of Maine Girls’ Academy last July spurred the decision by Falmouth to field its own team, but school officials were looking to do so even before MGA closed.

“Our intention was to come back here,” said James Coffey, the Falmouth athletic director who is also doubling up as softball coach. “Certainly the MGA thing forced our hand, but we were hoping to come back here.”

The Yachtsmen have a roster of 17 players, including 10 freshmen. When Falmouth joined MGA as a co-op team in 2017, only 10 players had signed up to play softball and half had never played the sport before.

The co-op team with MGA, which featured six Falmouth players last year, won 10 games in two years and made the playoffs in 2017. The Falmouth students enjoyed their new teammates and coaches. They just didn’t like having to drive to practice and games.

“Once we got to know the (MGA) girls, it was fun,” said Fortier, who was the only freshman in 2017 to stick with softball. “I’m going to miss them. It was the transportation that was miserable. We’d arrive late, have a short practice and then drive home right after.”

Now?

“Having our own field again is exciting,” said Liberty Ladd, a senior catcher. “It’s also important because we’re here, we’re in Falmouth, and the younger girls can come watch us play, come watch what they’re going to be doing in a few years.”

Having a home field right on the school’s campus helps in other ways. “We’re friends on and off the field,” said Ladd. “We’re able to do more team bonding, which is really great, because we have the luxury of all living in Falmouth. We’re able to make ourselves closer as a team and improve our chemistry.”

The players see this as a chance to set the foundation for future success. “With all the freshmen, we’re going to be good in the future,” said Fortier. “But right now we just need to build a team.”

Finding the right coach to revitalize the program was not an easy task. The school posted the position for 30 days but did not get any candidates. “Just me,” said Coffey, who in the past had been an assistant coach in football and baseball in Winthrop, Massachusetts, but never a head coach.

Sophomore Maddie MacDowell returned to the Falmouth softball program after taking last year off to concentrate on gymnastics. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

He had worked hard the last two years in trying to get the program back on track, walking through the halls and cafeteria and talking to students about joining the softball program, working with the middle school program to get the numbers up there. “We’ve had nothing but constant support from him,” said Ladd.

Coffey wanted to be part of the revitalization. “I’m not doing this just to do it,” he said. “I’m serious about rebuilding this program. I want to do it.”

Coffey will rely on Fortier and Ladd to set the tone for the new program. Already in practices, Ladd can be seen taking freshman players aside to show them the correct way to throw the ball, the correct batting stance.

“I want to do the best I can for the team but it’s equal parts on the field and off the field, whatever it may be,” said Ladd, who hit .596 last year. “I just want to be there for them, in a mentor role maybe, but mostly just to be their friend.”

Sophomore Maddie MacDowell returned to the sport after taking last year off to concentrate on gymnastics. Baseball is in her family bloodline: brother Matt played at Dartmouth College, brother Connor is a senior at Oberlin College and major leaguer Ryan Flaherty is a cousin. So she wanted to be part of the new program.

“To be able to set the foundation for the program is way cool,” she said. “This is our school we’re representing, not a combined team. We get to show what Falmouth is.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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