Theresa Hendrix walked into the gymnasium at Cheverus High Monday afternoon and had to do a double take.

Inside, awaiting her arrival for practice, were 17 players: 6 catchers and 11 pitchers.

“I put it out there that anyone who can throw, or wanted to try pitching, could come,” said Hendrix, in her fifth season as the Stags’ softball coach. “When I walked into the gym and saw all these girls, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a softball season.

“It’s like, how much these girls are excited and want to be here and step outside their comfort zone.”

Monday was the first day of high school spring conditioning practices for pitchers and catchers in baseball and softball. They’ll be joined next Monday by the rest of their teammates, and all athletes in other spring sports. The regular season for all spring sports begins April 14.

At South Portland, the baseball players were greeted in Beal Gymnasium with a new banner that listed the Riots’ 2021 Class A baseball championship, their first in 69 years.


Coach Mike Owens returns six starters from that team as well as three pitchers who started games for the Riots.

“There are definitely some holes to fill, but we do have a lot of talent back and we’re excited,” said Owens. “I think the message (to the team) is to take what we learned last year – how to win and how to win close games – but to kind of turn the page too. We’ve had a whole year to enjoy it and it was great and now we want to turn the page and see if we can put a new number on that banner.”

The baseball state champions banner at South Portland High has a new addition to honor the 2021 team. Mike Lowe photo

Monday’s practices across the state were heavy on conditioning, fundamentals and mechanics. Players ran, squatted, stretched, twisted and threw as they began limbering up for another season.

“All our drills are designed to include conditioning in the drills,” said Owens. “There’s a lot of attention to detail on Day One, so the kids understand how the rest of the week is going to go.”

It is also the start of developing the team chemistry and bond that can carry a team to a title. Olivia Bradford, a senior catcher for Cheverus softball team, said it is important to work with the younger players so they can know what to expect.

“And it’s really where we, as catchers, start to bond with our pitchers,” said Bradford, who was a semifinalist for the Becky Schaffer award, given annually to the state’s top senior girls’ hockey player. “That’s really important come game time. We get to know each other, their pitches and game style.”


South Portland junior pitcher Nolan Hobbs, who started the state championship game last year, said, “The first day is all about setting the tempo for the rest of the year, so you can grind out the hard practices later in the year.”

South Portland maintains championship hopes this year. As junior pitcher Andrew Heffernan, the winning pitcher in relief in last year’s title game, said, “We’re not satisfied. We want to keep pushing and getting better. We want to do it again.”

Pitchers and catchers take part in a short toss during a baseball workout Monday at South Portland High. Mike Lowe photo

Hobbs, Heffernan and senior righty Kenny Carlisle, combined to go 9-4 last year with 106 strikeouts in 90 innings. They give the Riots a great starting rotation. Other pivotal returning starters include juniors John Poole, at shortstop, and Richard Gilboy, at first, although he may also catch.

But Owens noted that Thornton Academy, Scarborough and Falmouth are among the other teams that will be tough. “This league is just so good year in and year out,” he said.

Hendrix was coach of the Cheverus field hockey team that went 18-0 last fall to win the Class A state title, the school’s first. In basketball, she was an assistant coach on the basketball team that won the Class AA state title, also the school’s first.

She’d love to add the Stags’ first softball state title this spring, but is simply glad to see the program moving forward.

“Ever since I’ve been here, every year is just about getting better and building the program,” she said. “This is the most girls we’ve ever had come out for the program. There’s an atmosphere around Cheverus this year that’s really exciting.”

Senior center fielder Hayley Jordan, who played on the basketball team, said it’s important to play competitively.

“I think we’re just looking to go out there and try our best,” she said. “We’ve got a new pitcher (freshman Ashley Connor) and we’re excited about that. Today’s turnout was huge, so that’s very exciting.”

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