Cape Elizabeth pitcher Anna Cornell has 36 strikeouts in 15 innings, allowing only five hits and two walks – and she is hitting .733 with one home run and nine RBI. The 5-0 Capers have outscored their opponents 75-2. Mike Lowe photo

Kristen Duross and Lindsay Tibbetts were hired to coach the softball teams at Cape Elizabeth High and Sanford High, respectively, before the 2020 spring season.

The coronavirus pandemic, of course, shut down the 2020 softball season. Now teams are back in the dugouts, and Cape Elizabeth and Sanford are off to fast starts. Both the Capers, in Class B South, and the Spartans, in Class A South, are off to 5-0 starts, each team using a potent hitting attack and quality pitching.

Cape Elizabeth’s first-year softball coach, Kristen Duross, played at Thornton Academy and the University of Southern Maine. Mike Lowe photo

After the Capers defeated Mt. Ararat 12-0 in five innings on Tuesday, Duross said, “My girls are making it easy.”

That they are. Cape Elizabeth is outscoring its opponents 75-2, with a team batting average of .503. Kathryne Clay leads the way, batting .867 with two home runs and 13 RBI. Anna Cornell is hitting .733 with one home run and nine RBI (five on Tuesday), Dana Schwartz is hitting .588, and Julia Torre is batting .474 with 11 RBI and 13 runs.

That’s more than enough for a pitching staff that allows very few base runners. Cornell has 36 strikeouts in 15 innings, allowing only five hits and two walks. In addition, the Capers have made just three errors.

Torre said the team started bonding last year after the high school season was canceled.

“A lot of us have been playing over the summer and in the spring even though it was canceled,” she said. “And we did a lot of team bonding in the spring when we weren’t playing and that kept us together and motivated for this season.”

Cornell said the hitting certainly takes pressure off her as a pitcher. “The team is always there for me hitting and fielding,” she said. “They always have your back. And when you have extra runs, you can enjoy pitching and not have that pressure of a close game.”

Both Torre and Cornell said Duross has made an impact on this year’s success.

“She’s very supportive of everything we do and wants the best for us and asks only that we do the best we can,” said Torre.

Cornell added that Duross runs a very efficient practice. “She puts a lot into our practices, we get a million reps before a game,” she said.

Duross, who played at Thornton Academy and the University of Southern Maine, had been the head coach at Wheelock College in Boston before taking the position at Cape Elizabeth. Last spring was the first time in five years she hadn’t coached a team. And, she said, “The pandemic made me question if I wanted to coach. And then this season happens and it’s great and I can’t believe I questioned myself.

“We just have great chemistry and everyone is on the same page.”

IN SANFORD, the Spartans are having their best season since 2016 – the last time they qualified for the playoffs.

“We’re having fun,” said Tibbetts, who coached Sanford’s junior varsity team for two years. “It’s good to see the kids laughing.”

And, said Tibbetts, “we’re just crushing the ball, absolutely hammering it. It’s fun to watch that and send them home. I hope it continues.”

Sanford is outscoring its opponents 56-13, with a team batting average of .358. Pitcher Madi Sheppard is hitting .500 with two home runs and eight RBI, followed by Maddy Romano (.450, 10 runs), Tori Lawrence (.421), Ruby LaChance (.412, 10 RBI) and Hannah Mueller (.368, nine runs). Sheppard is proficient in the circle, with 40 strikeouts.

“The kids have put a lot of work in,” said Tibbetts. “I teach at the elementary school and we don’t practice till 4. My JV coach will throw batting practice early and it’s awesome to see, when I pull up, that most of them are there putting in the work hitting.”

Tibbetts said the season-opening 10-9 win over Noble was pivotal, Romano winning it with a walk-off home run in the eighth.

“When we won that, it felt like we won a championship,” said Tibbetts. “The kids ran out and were hugging each other. We hadn’t seen that for a couple of years. That win set the energy level for this team.”

YARMOUTH’S FIRST-YEAR coach, Chris Whitney, is finding out how COVID-19 can affect your lineup. He’s had three players in quarantine and, along with two others who are injured, has had to play some very young players in the Clippers’ first three games, all losses.

“Everyone is going to learn,” said Whitney. “We’ll get there, day by day.”

Whitney, who is the golf coach at St. Dominic Academy, knows what it’s like to build a program, which is what he sees happening at Yarmouth. His assistant is also familiar with that. It’s his father-in-law, Mike Andreasen, the boys’ soccer coach at Greely High and the girls’ basketball coach at Gray-New Gloucester.

“We know what it takes,” he said. “We’ll slowly build it up.”

Andreasen said he doesn’t mind wearing the Yarmouth colors – even posing for a photo with Yarmouth boys’ soccer coach Mike Hagerty – or simply being an assistant.

“It’s a little weird, but I’m helping him out,” he said. “You do it for family, so here we are. It’s a different role, stepping back, but I think we play off each other pretty well.”

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