Windham pitcher Brooke Gerry celebrates after striking out a batter to end the Class A South championship game against Biddeford. Gerry allowed two hits and struck out 13. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Darcey Gardiner got a few words into her answer when the emotions came on, sudden and strong.

The Windham High softball coach was asked what it would mean to bring the Eagles to their first state championship in nearly 30 years, and Gardiner, who graduated from the school in 2006, spoke with a voice that began to break.

“When I think back to when I was 19 and even playing for (former coach) Bob (Blanchard), and being in this position now to go get another state championship for this program that means so much to me, there are no words,” she said. “People from the outside see how talented we are, how many travel girls are on this team. What people don’t see on the outside is the hard work they put in.”

That work has Windham in the Class A championship game, and one win over Oxford Hills away from its first Class A title, and first in any class since winning Class B in 1995.

History will be made if any of the southern Maine teams win titles on Tuesday. York, in Class B, would win its first championship since 1989 if it defeats Nokomis, and North Yarmouth Academy in Class D would win its first softball title at any level with a victory over Machias.

York Coach Kevin Giannino demonstrates a drill during a preseason practice in March. He says of heading to the Class B state championship game: “It’s been unbelievable, the attention the girls have gotten and how much they’ve been appreciated.” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“It’s a lot of fun,” said York Coach Kevin Giannino. “I had a chance to speak to Kim Orso recently, from the ’88-89 team. … She’s telling me there’s all kinds of support behind us to try to get this win, a lot of support in the community. It’s been unbelievable, the attention the girls have gotten and how much they’ve been appreciated.”


At Windham, junior pitcher Brooke Gerry wasn’t aware of the school’s championship drought. That doesn’t affect her eagerness to end it.

“It makes it feel pretty special,” said Gerry, who pitched a two-hitter against Biddeford in the regional final. “We had so many people texting us (after the game), Facebook messaging us, just telling us how great we are and how their kids look up to us. … It’s kind of surreal, definitely (an opportunity) that a little girl can dream of, and now that it’s kind of coming true, it makes it a little more special for all of us.”

Addie Caiazzo, the team’s freshman shortstop, said she saw a determination from the upperclassmen to make it this far after tough losses in previous years.

“They talk about how bad they want it, so it makes the underclassmen push as hard as them,” she said. “It’s amazing to see the upperclassmen and how they play, and how we all work so well together.”

York came close to ending its drought with championship game losses in 2016 and ’19, and Giannino said the itch to win it all has only grown even as the program has racked up wins.

“No matter how we try to tell the girls those are great accomplishments, unless you’re holding that trophy at the end of the season, that’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “And that’s the mindset these girls have had from Day 1.”


York junior McKayla Kortes says winning a state championship “would definitely be a big thing for the town.” Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Junior pitcher and third baseman McKayla Kortes knows what ending the drought would mean for the community.

“It’s definitely a big emphasis on why we want to win more,” she said. “It’s something that would be talked about a lot, and would definitely be a big thing for the town.”

York fell in the regional final to Gardiner last year, 3-2, as a top seed. The Wildcats blitzed through the South tournament this time, winning three games by a combined score of 30-9.

“The team’s been talented every year,” said senior outfielder Ella Moon. “This year, we’re really putting everything into it. We know this is the year it’s going to pay off. … We’ve been a lot more confident and sure of ourselves coming into games.”

Championships for years weren’t even on the radar at NYA, which from 2012-19 contributed players as a co-op with Cheverus. The Panthers had their own team in 2021, didn’t compete last year, and this year have gone 17-1 en route to the program’s first championship game.

As the year progressed, the Panthers realized they were championship contenders. A come-from-behind 2-1 victory over defending champion Searsport in the regional final proved it.

“They believe in themselves now,” Coach Rick Doyon said. “They’re not overconfident, but they go in there like ‘We can do this. We can actually do this.'”

Four of NYA’s players – Elizabeth Madden, Hayden Wienckowski, Lily Rawnsley and Jordan Nash – are batting over .500, and the team has found a top pitcher in Rawnsley. One year after there weren’t enough players for a team, NYA might have the right mix for a title.

“I want them to win it all,” Doyon said. “It’s right there, in front of it. Now you’ve got to go get it.”

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