Kennebunk’s Julia Pike batted .408 with four home runs as a freshman, but she gained attention primarily as a pitcher. Pike compiled a 12-1 record and had a 1.32 ERA with 169 strikeouts. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Darcey Gardiner saw college pitchers as an assistant softball coach at Bates, followed by head coaching stints at Gray-New Gloucester High and now Windham.

And when she looks at her new team, and the others around Class A South, it feels like she’s gone back in time.

“It’s like a college lineup of pitchers,” the Eagles’ new coach said. “It feels like I’m back coaching college again, with these types of pitchers. … It’s just so, so awesome to see.”

Pitching in A South has been strong in the past, but coaches and players can’t recall it being this strong. Ace pitchers dot the landscape, and many of the hurlers who dominated in the circle last spring are back to pick up where they left off.

“It’s definitely good competition,” said Windham junior pitcher Brooke Gerry. “It’s what we want to see in Maine softball. It’s very rare that we have so many great pitchers here. And the next couple of years, we’re going to have so many competitive games that could go either way.”

Transition is a constant theme in high school sports, but in the SMAA, the rise of young stars last year has led to a situation where the list of top pitchers in 2023 will look very familiar. Gerry is back at Windham. Charlotte Donovan is back at Biddeford. So are Julia Pike at Kennebunk, Natalie Moynihan at Scarborough, Amber Bretton at Gorham and Sadie Armstrong at Portland.


“In this league, it’s day in and day out,” Thornton Academy Coach Tony Miner said. “You’re going to face good pitching almost in every game.”

And hitters have to be ready.

“(The key is) coming into it almost with a feeling of relaxation, knowing that I have the confidence and I’ve hit off them before,” Kennebunk senior catcher Emily Hutchins said. “You know the pitchers are going to throw you good pitchers. You have to be ready to jump on them.”

Seven pitchers were named SMAA first- or second-team all-stars last year. Five of those – Gerry, Donovan, Pike, Moynihan and Armstrong – are back in the circle this season. Three have already committed to NCAA Division I programs – Gerry to the University of Rhode Island, Armstrong to Longwood University in Virginia, and Bretton to UConn.

“It’s a pitcher’s league this year. There are some absolute studs,” said Gorham Coach Phil McGouldrick. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch this year. A ton of parity, I think.”

Biddeford’s Charlotte Donovan has pitched the past two years in the Class A state championship game. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Liz Winslow, who took over for Tom Griffin at Scarborough after 12 years as an assistant, said this kind of pitching depth is unusual.


“I’m not sure I can remember the last time the depth (like this), this number of just solid, top-level pitchers,” she said.

Gerry dazzled last year, earning Maine Gatorade Player of the Year recognition while going 16-3 with 225 strikeouts in 111 innings and a 0.82 ERA.

“Being a lefty, that is something special, and all the spin and talent and experience she has with her on the mound,” Gardiner said.

Windham is loaded, with Stella Jarvais back after a strong freshman season and Kennedy Kimball, Hannah Heanssler, Reilly Russell and Addie Leger returning as potential impact players for the Class A South finalist. The Eagles lost a pair of .400 hitters in Ella Wilcox and Jaydn Kimball, but with Gerry (also a .551 hitter) in the circle, they should be formidable again.

“That kid is pretty special,” Winslow said. “She’s the type of kid that can carry a team on her back and say ‘Watch me play.'”

Windham’s Brooke Gerry went 16-3 last year with 225 strikeouts in 111 innings and a 0.82 ERA. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Gerry said she doesn’t feel the burden of higher expectations after her sophomore year.


“Not at all,” she said. “It looks like a pressure situation, but for me, I handle pressure really well. It drives me to work harder.”

Gerry and the Eagles, however, haven’t been able to get past Charlotte Donovan and Biddeford, and the Tigers have their ace back for her senior season after she guided them to the championship with a 12-1 record, 1.09 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 77 innings.

“With Charlotte on the mound, she’s going to keep us in almost every game,” said Biddeford Coach Mike Fecteau.

Biddeford lost key players in catcher Chantelle Bouchard, second baseman Hannah Gosselin and third baseman Lexi Libby, but bringing back slugging first baseman Baylor Wilkinson, hard-hitting outfielder Laura Perreault and smooth-fielding shortstop Hannah Lappin will keep the Tigers’ lineup potent.

“We know everybody wants to beat us,” Fecteau said. “You always want to go after the state champ. Other teams will say ‘They beat us last year. It’s our turn.'”

Kennebunk’s Julia Pike became one of the state’s best pitchers as a freshman and is back leading the Rams after going 12-1 with a 1.32 ERA and 169 strikeouts. Hopes are high at Kennebunk, which made the regional semifinals as a young team. The program is now a co-op with Sanford and is receiving a coaching boost with the addition of Scarborough’s Griffin as an assistant on Eddie Pike’s staff.


Julia Pike’s return alone is reason for confidence.

“It’s definitely a little nerve-wracking this year, because you have a lot more eyes on you,” the sophomore said. “I lean on my team, they help me get through it.”

Pike said she’s working on adding a new pitch, expanding the strike zone and pitching to lefties as she prepares to duel with some of the top pitchers in the state.

“I’m really excited to see how the matchup last year is going to change this year,” she said. “I’m really excited to see how I go against Brooke and Charlotte. … I want to match them.”

Pitching has fueled a parity not always seen in the SMAA. Gorham, with Bretton leading the way, will be a good hitting team. Scarborough, with Moynihan, first baseman Angelina Pizzella and the middle infield combination of Samantha Cote and Jamie Kemper, will, in Winslow’s words, be a “sleeper.”

Thornton Academy had two freshman pitchers last year in Lauren Tracy and Sophia Bogardus, and with both back and maybe the conference’s best left side of the infield in shortstop Izzy Miner and third baseman Jessica Dow, the Golden Trojans will be tough. Ditto the new South Portland/Westbrook co-op, with Ella Nickerson and Grace Wallace returning as all-conference players.

And it wouldn’t be wise to count out Portland with Armstrong and Hannah Hawkes, Noble with Kiersten Davis and Maren Robinson, and Massabesic, which in a break from the conference-wide trend will need to replace its pitching, but which has some good starting pieces in shortstop Candice Daigle and outfielder Ella Donovan.

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