BUCKSPORT — Kaylee Morey’s game-day attire this spring has featured a major contrast in colors.
Behind the plate, Morey, a senior at Deer Isle-Stonington High School, can be seen sporting her traditional blue catcher’s gear. Wearing those colors has long been the norm for the Stonington native, who has spent the past four years representing the Mariners across three sports.
The rest of Morey’s senior year softball experience, though, is different. Instead of playing her games in a blue Deer Isle-Stonington uniform across the street from the high school on Route 15, Morey is doing so in Bucksport’s purple, gold and white nearly an hour from home.
It’s far from how Morey, who wears the pride of the Deer Isle-Stonington community on her sleeve, envisioned her last sporting opportunity as a high school athlete unfolding. Yet after her school’s inability to field a team put her senior season in jeopardy, Morey is happy — and relieved — to have found a home at Bucksport.
“I thought for a long time that I wasn’t going to have a team, so it feels great,” Morey said. “I got my softball start in Bucksport playing with a lot of these girls, so it’s cool that I get to finish where I started.”
Morey’s last season of varsity softball came two years ago as a Deer Isle-Stonington sophomore. The catcher established herself as one of the top players in Class D as she was selected to the All-Penobscot Valley Conference team and led the Mariners to a 14-5 season and an appearance in the regional semifinals.
After the pandemic washed away the spring sports season a year ago, Morey was especially looking forward to the chance to wear the Deer Isle-Stonington colors one last time as a senior. She would get that opportunity in soccer and basketball, but as March approached, it was clear that a numbers issue stood to prevent her from doing the same on the softball field.
“We knew pretty early on that it was going to be pretty hard,” said Deer Isle-Stonington Athletic Director Betsy Woodward. “Shortly after basketball season ended, I knew we didn’t have enough kids; we had seven girls, and that was with all the begging and pleading and trying to get as many kids together to play as possible.”
After officially informing players and coaches in early March that the school would be unable to field a team, Woodward began exploring cooperative options for Morey and other prospective players. To do so, she reached out to three fellow Hancock County schools: Ellsworth, Bucksport and George Stevens Academy.
There were, unfortunately, a few complications that initially prevented any cooperative arrangement from being reached. Ellsworth, Bucksport and GSA already had large roster sizes, and a cooperative partnership also stood a chance to bump those schools up a classification level.
Yet after Bucksport Athletic Director Aaron Ward crunched the numbers and determined that the Golden Bucks would remain in Class C under a cooperative partnership, things took a turn in the right direction. Through hours of paperwork and phone calls, the superintendents and school board members from both districts hammered out an arrangement that would allow Morey to play.
“Everyone at all three of those other schools wanted to do what they could to make it work,” Woodward said. “If Bucksport had fallen through, [GSA Athletic Director Larry Gray] was ready to go back to his headmaster and say, ‘Hey, it’s just one player; can we make this work?’ [Ellsworth Athletic Director Josh Frost] did a lot to try and make it happen, too.”
At Bucksport, Morey has joined a program that has been one of the state’s most consistent winners for decades. The Golden Bucks have won the state title four times since 2012 and have either appeared in a state or regional final or claimed the No. 1 seed in Eastern or Northern Maine nine seasons in a row.
Few head coaches, then, have produced strong players so consistently as Bucksport’s Mike Carrier. Although Morey has only been a Golden Buck for a few weeks, Carrier believes the senior already ranks among the best to have played under his watch.
“She’s definitely the best catcher I’ve ever had on the team, and that’s a fact,” Carrier said. “It worked out perfectly because I lost my other catcher right before I found out I was getting her. … We’re a young team, so it’s big to have a player with her leadership.”
Morey entered 2021 with plans to continue her softball career at the collegiate level next year. On Jan. 19, she made those plans official when she signed her National Letter of Intent to play at Saint Michael’s College, a Division II school in Colchester, Vt.
“With me going to college to play softball, I think that made struggling to find a team kind of more upsetting,” Morey said. “I didn’t tell [the school about all of this] because I was hoping for the best news. I would have told them afterward, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.”
Morey and the Golden Bucks concluded preseason play with road games last Thursday against Ellsworth and Monday against Brewer. The team is scheduled to open the regular season on the road against Orono at 3 p.m. tomorrow, April 21.
Those are all contests in which it didn’t appear Morey would be participating as recently as several weeks ago. It might not be for her hometown team, but the senior is no less enthusiastic to be back behind the plate after a missed season last year and the prospect of yet another this spring.
“I’m so glad everybody did everything they could and that the schools reconsidered,” Morey said. “I’m just happy I can play.”