Softball has always been a pitcher’s sport. Their ability to dominate batters has covered up any defensive or offensive deficiencies a team might possess.

That may be changing. This year hitters seem to be striking back. In full force.

Thornton Academy, led by sophomore first baseman Abby Miner and her eight home runs, is averaging 13.3 runs a game. Windham, led by junior catcher Chloe Wilcox and her nine home runs, is averaging 9.4 runs a game.

York’s junior pitcher Abby Orso has seven home runs and has been walked intentionally 12 times – once with the bases loaded (by Freeport) and eight times in two games by Cape Elizabeth.

“I’ve never seen home runs hit like this season,” said Fred Apt, the longtime coach at Fryeburg Academy. “It’s crazy stuff.”

Even Apt’s Raiders (8-2) have hit 12 home runs this year, five by junior first baseman Maddie Darling. “I’ve never had a team hit 12 in a season,” said Apt, whose team has six games remaining.

As a team, Windham (8-4) has hit 19 home runs this year. Wilcox, whose nine home runs is a school record (with four games remaining in the regular season), now holds the school career record with 16 home runs.

Cheverus (7-4) has 18 home runs as a team, led by Alex Hammond with seven and Madisyn Durgin with five.

“Back when I played if you got a couple that was considered a lot,” said Cheverus Coach Theresa Hendrix.”This is a conversation I’ve had a lot lately with other coaches and with the fans.”

Why the outbreak? Nick Caiazzo, the director of baseball and softball operations at the Edge Academy said, “You’ve got to look at the pitching.”

It’s true that many of the state’s most dominating pitchers from the last few years are now in college. But pitching aside, Caiazzo said, hitters are putting in more work in the offseason. They’re playing for travel teams in the summer and working in batting cages in the winter.

“Over the years I think there are a lot more kids paying attention to their hitting,” said Thornton Academy Coach John Provost, whose team has at least 13 home runs this year. “You can’t just pick up a bat in March and expect to be a good hitter. It’s about repetition, hand speed, bat speed, mechanics. Kids are putting a lot of time into hitting now.”

“Kids are getting trained up,” said Windham Coach Fred Wilcox. “They’re playing year-round and there’s a lot of good swing coaches in the area.”

Travis Demmons formerly coached softball at Windham. He’s now the softball director for the Southern Maine River Rats and coaches its under-18 showcase team. Among the players on that team are Chloe Wilcox, Miner and her Thornton Academy teammates, Hannah Collins and Olivia Paradis, and Lydia Howarth of Kennebunk.

“My opinion,” he said, “is that the girls are now playing nine months or more out of the year. They’re hitting. But I think you can also attribute some of it to technology. These bats they’re swinging these days, they’re rolling out of the packages smoking hot.”

And launch angle, the talk of major league baseball, is apparently big too. “That’s something everyone is teaching,” said Demmons. “And here’s what makes this more impressive. Usually you don’t see home runs until the weather gets warmer.”

THE GAME EVERYONE has been waiting for arrives Monday when Scarborough, the two-time defending state champion, plays at Thornton Academy. The Trojans are 14-0 and top-ranked in Class A South. Scarborough brings a 51-game winning streak and an 11-0 record into Saturday’s game with Westbrook.

The winner likely will earn the No. 1 seed entering the tournament.

“It’s going to be a great game,” said Provost. “I told (Athletic Director Gary Stevens) that he might need to add another set of bleachers to go with the one row he has.”

Thornton’s high-powered batting order will be tested by Scarborough pitcher Bella Dickinson, who will bring a 6-0 record into the game. She has a 0.97 ERA and has struck out 75 batters in 43 innings.

Following that game, Scarborough will end its regular season with games against No. 5 Biddeford, No. 6 Windham and No. 4 Massabesic.

“That’s no easy road,” said Scarborough Coach Tom Griffin. “We’re hoping that to be to our advantage.”

Griffin bemoaned the lack of practice time this spring because of the nearly constant rain. “We’ve had such a lack of quality outdoor practices,” he said. “There are so many things to work on and I feel we’re way behind on things, especially defensively. It’s been a struggle.”

Scarborough, by the way, has given up only three home runs this year.

IN ITS FIRST year back as a varsity program, Falmouth is 0-12 but Coach James Coffey likes what he’s seen.

“We’re starting five to six freshmen each game,” he said. “And we’ve steadily improved. We’ve definitely established that this program is back on track. The wins will come in the future but we’re pretty happy with how we’ve done.”







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