Despite starting just one senior, the Foxcroft Academy softball team is off to its best start in years and has already provided a season’s worth of drama, walking off with an 8-7 win over visiting Dexter on Thursday and outlasting class B powerhouse Mount Desert Island 13-10 in 11 innings and 8-7 in 9 innings in a doubleheader that was played in Bar Harbor on Saturday.
“It is a great feeling to start the season this way,” said second-year head coach Scott Anderson, who last year guided the Ponies to a 6-10 record and their first playoff appearance since 2010. “We had a good first season last year, but our goal for this year was to go to the next level, and to do that you have to beat very good teams. The players, coaches, parents, and fans can clearly see the difference and the results. There is a lot of season left, but our goal is to get better each game and take them one at a time. If everyone does their job all the time we will be hard to beat.”
Sophomore Abbi Bourget got things rolling when she came on as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning against Dexter and delivered a dramatic game-winning single. Then in a wild opener at MDI on Saturday that featured 23 runs, 38 hits, and 10 errors, the Ponies pulled away with three runs in the top of the 11th inning after MDI had battled back to tie the game at 10 with four runs in the bottom of the ninth. The Ponies completed the sweep when sophomore shortstop Grace Bickford led off the top of the ninth in game two with a double, advanced to third on a passed ball, and scored on another ball that got away from the catcher. Bickford then sealed the 8-7 victory by starting a nifty 6-4-3 double play in the bottom of the frame.
“This team is full of heart and has a never-say-die attitude,” said Anderson. “Those sayings are so overused, but not in this case. I feel that the players believe in our system, and they know I believe in them 100 percent. That’s a winning formula. I expect 100 percent effort and attitude from all players and they know they will get that from me.”
Bickford and junior catcher Avery Carroll–who caught all 20 innings on Saturday and is, in Anderson’s estimation, the best defensive catcher in the league–are absolutely raking the ball through three games. Bickford is 9-15 with three doubles, a home run, five stolen bases, four RBI, and seven runs scored while Carroll is 6-11 with four walks, two doubles, seven steals, four RBI, and four runs. Senior Liz Richard (.438, triple, three stolen bases) and sophomores Abbi (4-8 with a run) and Alli Bourget (.438, three steals, three runs) have also been standouts for the Pony offense while juniors Gabie Johnson (.333) and Desirae Brawn (.308), and freshmen Kiara Prescott (.385) and Jenna Clukey (.333) round out a lineup that is hitting .414 and has produced 29 runs through the opening three contests.
Clukey (14 strikeout in 15 innings) and junior Brittany Adkins (just four walks in 12 innings) have split duties on the mound for the Ponies, who on Tuesday at 4:30 will battle an undefeated Old Town team that won its first 17 games in 2014 before falling to Hermon in the Eastern Maine semifinals.
“I expect to compete at the highest level possible in all phases of the game on Tuesday,” said Anderson. “Old Town is a great team with well-coached and tough players. If you don’t bring your best game, they will beat you. We lost by one last year at home. We are going to battle as hard as we can, and we know we are a better team than last year. I know this team believes that we can play with anyone and win and I absolutely do also.”
Meanwhile the senior-laden Foxcroft baseball team also stands at 3-0 after an 11-1 win over Dexter Thursday, a 9-5 win in the opener at MDI on Saturday, and an 8-2 win to complete the sweep of the twin bill.
Coach Mark Chevalier’s Ponies, who went 10-6 in 2014 before falling to Eastern Maine champion Caribou 4-3 in the postseason, have either trailed or been tied as late as the fourth inning in each contest. They’ve gotten it done with excellent pitching and a deep lineup that has produced one big inning in each game: six runs in the bottom of the fourth against Dexter, six in the top of the sixth in game one at MDI, and six more in the top of the fifth in game two on Saturday.
Sophomore Chandler Rockwell has been an on-base machine at the top of the Pony lineup, going 4-7 with five walks to post an OBP of .750 through three games. The fleet-footed center fielder also paces the team with seven stolen bases and six runs. Seniors Clay Carroll (.400, three RBI), Talon Strout (.400, three RBI), Eli Olson (.375, two doubles, five RBI), Nick Decker (two doubles, three RBI), and Brooks Law (.300, two RBI) have led a much-improved Foxcroft offense that has also received major contributions from juniors Abe Simpson (four RBI, three SB) and Nate Church (three runs, two steals).
Junior Tanner Strout has pitched five scoreless innings coming out of the bullpen, earning two of the team’s three victories while striking out eight hitters and yielding just two hits. Simpson limited the Trojans to one earned run over six innings of work to pick up the win in game one on Saturday while Decker (six strikeouts, two hits, one run, and no walks in four innings), Law (four strikeouts and one earned run in three innings), and Church (four strikeouts and no walks in two scoreless frames) have also been terrific for a deep pitching staff that has struck out 23 hitters and walked just five while compiling a team ERA of 1.35.
Law has been incredible behind the plate for the Ponies, throwing out all four attempted base stealers, picking a runner off first, and recording no passed balls through the first three contests.
The Ponies are now set to host a very good and very experienced Old Town team that is off to a 3-0 start on the heels of a trip to the Class B Eastern Maine title game in 2014. First pitch will be at 4:30 on Tuesday.
Softball team photo taken by Jen Bickford. Baseball photo (Chandler Rockwell) taken by Daniil Grishko ’16. Click here to see more of Daniil’s photos from the Dexter games.