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Softball: Teams to watch in southern Maine

Apr. 10—1. Windham: After winning the first Class A title in school history, the Eagles are well-stocked to try to make it two in a row. Start with the pitching, which is led by Varsity Maine Player of the Year Brooke Gerry (12-0, 0.17 ERA, 177 strikeouts in 85 innings), who has the state's most dominant mix of velocity and movement, and also features a power thrower in Kennedy Kimball (6-2, 1.59). The Eagles also return eight of the 10 players from their state final lineup, including the players who occupied the top six spots. Windham is experienced and talented at crucial positions — pitcher, catcher with Varsity Maine All-State pick Stella Jarvais, and shortstop with sophomore Addie Caiazzo. The Eagles aren't a championship lock, but they're a clear favorite.

2. Gorham: Jason Dubail takes over as coach of a team that, along with Windham, is as experienced as any in the SMAA. Amber Bretton, who earned a Varsity Maine All-State selection after batting .500 with a .952 slugging percentage and three homers, returns in the circle, and the Rams bring back eight of their nine starters. That list includes shortstop Andi Cloutier (.442 average), outfielders Luci Dubail (.433) and Kyleah Mack (.407), first baseman Winnie Dubail (.405) and catcher Sophia DiPhilippo (.388). The Rams will hit with any team they play; being a championship team will likely depend on whether Bretton, a hard-throwing UConn commit who fanned 102 in 68 innings, can improve upon the 3.93 ERA she posted last season.

3. Cheverus: A team that was on the rise last season, adds a player already generating buzz around the state. Freshman pitcher Addison DeRoche has garnered attention by her performance in travel tournaments, drawing interest from power conference NCAA Division I schools, and is ready to bring a combination of velocity, command and a middle-of-the-order bat to SMAA competition. She joins a team that already had an abundance of returning talent, led by center fielder/pitcher Hailey Lamontagne (.460 average), shortstop Kelsey Cassidy (.364, .553 on-base percentage) and Ashley Connor, who had a 3.38 ERA last year and will share the pitching load. This was going to be a good team with the foundation of returning players; with DeRoche in the mix, this could be a great one.

4. York: The defending Class B champion lost some central pieces from last year's team but returns more than enough firepower to remain a regional favorite. McKayla Kortes, the best player in B South and the Western Maine Conference, will anchor the lineup after batting .530 with seven home runs and a 1.030 slugging percentage, and she'll return to the circle after going 13-1 with a 0.82 ERA. The Wildcats' lineup also features first baseman Maddie Fitzgerald (.386, .511 on-base percentage), center fielder Emily Estes, third baseman Ella Hickey, left fielder Nya Avery and second baseman Ava Brent. Shortstop would be a question mark after Maddy Raymond graduated, but Maren Robinson, the former Noble ace, transferred in and will play there while sharing pitching duties with Kortes.

5. Poland: So who could challenge York? Start with the Knights, who have gone 28-4 the past two regular seasons and are looking to get over the hump after being ousted in the B South semifinals both times. The centerpiece is Gretchyn Paradis, a pitcher who was 13-3 last season and was named first-team all-conference in the WMC. The Knights return another WMC first-teamer in senior shortstop Khloe O'Leary, who batted .460. Eight starters are back, including WMC second-team picks Olivia Rioux (.450) and Nicole Rioux (.310) at catcher and outfield. Freshman utility player Phoebe Paradis should contribute in her first varsity season.

6. Kennebunk: The Rams aren't paired with Sanford anymore, as the Spartans are fielding their own team, so Kennebunk lost a chunk of its lineup. But softball still starts with the pitcher, and the Rams have one of the best around in University of Albany commit Julia Pike, who was a Varsity Maine All-State choice for the second straight year after going 12-3 with a 1.36 ERA and 183 strikeouts, while batting .492 with 23 RBI. If returners Melody Rousselle at third base, Talia Kellum at shortstop and Skylar Holder at first base take steps forward, this can be a top-four team in the SMAA. One hurdle for the Rams is absorbing the graduation of Emily Hutchins, the conference's Defensive Player of the Year at catcher. Gabby Tadlock and Maggie Canniff are in line to take over that job.

7. Scarborough: The Red Storm were bit by the injury bug in the offseason, as top pitcher and leadoff hitter Natalie Moynihan suffered a torn ACL in volleyball that will keep her out for the year. Still, this should be a strong team. Scarborough returns a quartet of seniors in catcher Alana Sawyer, up-the-middle combination Jamie Kemper at second base and Samantha Cote at shortstop, and Meghan Robinson, who will take on most of the pitching after going 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA. Junior Gabby Pelletier can play anywhere and also share pitching responsibilities, and Taylor Swalla, who can play infield and outfield, is a breakout candidate in her sophomore year. Expect some bumps early, but the Red Storm should round into form as the season goes on.

8. South Portland: The Red Riots are on their own after co-oping with Westbrook last year, but this will still be a tough foe. Varsity Maine All-State left fielder Ella Nickerson (.579 batting average, 33 hits, 29 runs) is back as one of the top bats in the SMAA, and third baseman/pitcher Andrea DiMauro (.458, 26 RBI) returns after earning all-conference honors. Chloe Whitten (.344), Rachel DiMauro (.400) and Phoebe Dodge (.333) are also back in the lineup, and Baylie Littlefield (five wins) should again share pitching responsibilities with Andrea DiMauro (seven wins). This is a team with plenty of punch at the plate, and more speed. If the pitching can further develop, the Red Riots should be a contender.

9. Wells: The Warriors took a step forward last season, raising their regular season win total from six to 10. They could be on the rise again. Savannah Tardiff, one of the state's best all-around catchers, returns after batting .393 with 15 extra-base hits, and pitcher Delani Brown is back after going 8-5 with 117 strikeouts and hitting .527 with 33 RBI. Second baseman Kylie Corbett and Payton Fazzina, shifting from center field to shortstop, should give Wells a good middle infield combo, and Jayden Pelletier and Jada Pullen also are back in the lineup. For the Warriors to reach their ceiling, the position shifts — Pelletier is going from right field to third base, and Pullen from left to first — will have to work out smoothly, and Brown will need to improve her command after walking 74 batters last year.

10. North Yarmouth Academy: The Panthers, who in the course of a season went from the new team on the block to state champions, will be a favorite to win hardware in Class D again. Western Maine Conference Class D Player of the Year Lily Rawnsley will be the ace again after going 17-1 with a 1.19 ERA and 105 strikeouts against only five walks, and she'll also be a fixture in the lineup after hitting .500 with 33 RBI. NYA returns the second through seventh hitters in its lineup in outfielder Kailyn McIntyre (.415, 18 stolen bases), Rawnsley, shortstop Jordan Nash (.483), second baseman Hayden Wienckowski (.534), catcher Cami Casserly and first baseman Sadie Morgan. If the Panthers field as well as they did in 2023, they'll be tough to knock off.