Delia Tremble of Cheverus celebrates after she drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning Tuesday night against Windham in the Class A South softball final. The Stags, seeking their first state championship, play Oxford Hills on Saturday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Cheverus softball team didn’t think it would be here, at least not when the season began.

Not coming off a .500 season, and losing seasons before that. And not given its competition, with an annually tough road through the SMAA.

The Stags were talented. They were bringing in a touted freshman to join some key returning starters. But was that enough to make then likely championship contenders?

“No way,” Coach John Eisenhart said. “I looked at our schedule, and I knew Portland High would be tough. … I wasn’t sure how we matched up against (Gorham and) Amber Bretton. I wasn’t sure how we matched up against (Kennebunk and) Julia Pike. I definitely wasn’t sure how we’d match up against Windham.

“I thought if we could get to a 13-3 record, have a good playoff run, that would be great. … I had no expectations of being in this game at all.”

Two and a half months later, Cheverus will play in its first state championship game when it takes on Oxford Hills at 1 p.m. Saturday at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.


“We wanted to get there, but at first it was a little out of reach,” junior first baseman and pitcher Ashley Connor said. “When we were, I think it was 9-0, we were like ‘We can get there. We can go all the way.'”

It’s been a different narrative for York (19-0) and North Yarmouth Academy (18-1), southern Maine’s other two teams vying for championships Saturday. York will play Nokomis in the Class B final at 12:30 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine, while NYA will play Penobscot Valley for the Class D title immediately following the York-Nokomis game.

For the Wildcats and Panthers, who won state championships in 2023, the goals and expectations were centered on getting back to the state final.

“The season started with us working in a gym, setting some lofty goals,” said York Coach Kevin Giannino, whose team is trying to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 1988-89. “We had the plaque (for) winning the regionals, and the girls were pretty excited by it. Five minutes later. it was on the front seat of the bus, and the girls were already talking about winning (the state championship). It’s a culture that they’ve created.”

NYA, which didn’t have a team two years ago, returned most of the key players from a team that beat Machias in last year’s state final. Entering the season, all Class D title talk started and ended with the Panthers.

“There’s definitely more attention this year. Everyone that plays us wants to beat us,” NYA Coach Rick Doyon said. “I think (the players) like the attention, but they don’t say a whole lot. They go into each game, ‘OK, let’s play.'”


With much of the attention in Class A South before the season focused on defending champion Windham, Cheverus wasn’t projected as the favorite. It didn’t take long, however, for the Stags to realize what they were capable of doing.

“That first pitchers and catchers day in March, the second I saw this team and how we were working, the second I saw Addison (DeRoche), I knew we were going to be something special,” senior shortstop Kelsey Cassidy said.

With DeRoche (11-1, 0.09 ERA, 191 strikeouts in 80 innings) in the circle, the Stags were transformed immediately into a Class A power. Still, there was the matter of learning how to win big games – a lesson the Stags learned when they lost the regular-season finale to Windham, 3-1, while giving up two unearned runs.

“(That game) showed us a very good perspective of the negative sides of everybody coming out, in terms of not being able to get over certain mistakes or certain errors or not hitting super well,” Cassidy said. “That loss made us aware (that) we need to move on.”

Cheverus used those lessons to improve its poise. In front of hundreds of fans Tuesday night, the Stags got 23 strikeouts from DeRoche, but also had catcher Bella Napolitano Aberle throw out a runner stealing, Connor make a pick on a low throw at first base, and Delia Tremble deliver a go-ahead two-out single in the 10th inning.

“(The loss) got us in that playoff atmosphere, and we learned how to play in tight games like that and under pressure,” Tremble said. “It really helped prepare us.”


York and NYA had already gained that experience. The Wildcats, the only remaining undefeated team in the state, have learned to navigate the pitfalls that come with playoff softball. They’ve been dominant, with 15 of their wins coming by 10 or more runs, but that was also the case two years ago before they lost to Gardiner in the South final. Last year, they had to escape multiple jams to edge Nokomis, 2-1, in the state final.

“In a big game, that’s when things really go down, and we can make or break each other,” senior pitcher McKayla Kortes said. “We all (get) nerves … but they won’t be as bad this year because we’ve had this experience and we know what it’s like to play in a big game.”

Giannino said he’s seen his team grow more comfortable in tense situations.

“We talked about it last game. We can see the difference,” he said. “They rise to the occasion. We’ve got some big-time players, and I’d be lying if I said the girls didn’t feel the pressure. It comes with the territory, if you want to be a great team and win a championship.”

Clutch performances have become routine for NYA. The Panthers walked off with a 2-1 victory over Searsport in the South final last year, then did the same thing against Buckfield this year, with Hayden Wienckowski’s single providing the dramatic winning hit.

Softball is still relatively new to the Panthers. Winning, however, is proving to come naturally.

“That’s the type of team these girls are,” Doyon said. “They may not be the most skilled, but boy, I’ll put them up against almost anybody.”

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