BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island softball team has been waiting for this chance at a breakthrough.
For the past three years now, MDI’s seasons have all ended in eerily similar fashions. The Trojans went 9-7 in regular season play in 2018, 2019 and 2021 before falling to narrow prelim defeats to come up one game short of the regional quarterfinals on all three occasions.
MDI, though, enters 2022 with one of its strongest rosters in recent memory. The Trojans have the bats, the arms and the speed to win, and with no roster losses from a year ago, they’ve also got the experience to end a drought of eight years without a playoff win.
“I think we’re all really excited about this team,” said MDI senior Olivia Gray. “All of us are really motivated. I think we’re going to make big things happen this year.”
Although the lost pandemic season put every team at a disadvantage entering 2021, MDI was in a particularly tough position as softball returned a year ago. With no seniors on the team, the Trojans had a crop of juniors who had played just one varsity season as freshmen and freshman and sophomore classes that had yet to experience high school softball.
Despite those challenges, MDI still put together a winning season in an always-competitive Class B North. With last season under their belts and the same unit returning in its entirety, the Trojans feel they’re in a good place as the regular season nears.
“I think it’s easier because we have the same group of girls,” said MDI head coach Jamey Lewis. “We do have a couple of new freshmen on the team, but other than that, it’s everybody back. To have a group that knows what to expect from you and vice-versa, that’s a big help.”
Gray, who batted .475 with 19 hits a year ago, is one of those returnees for the Trojans. MDI also has three additional players who batted .400 better last year: Addy Boyce (.543 with 25 hits, both team highs), Lily James (.512 with 21 hits and team-high 24 stolen bases) and Grace Horner (.400 with 18 hits and 13 RBIs).
MDI has another pair of power hitters in Leah Carroll and Mollie Gray. Those players clubbed two home runs each in 2021 with Carroll (.306) knocking in a team-best 14 runs and Gray (.316) going for extra bases on six of her 12 hits on the season.
In the circle, the Trojans got an outstanding sophomore season from Boyce, who went 7-4 with 82 strikeouts and just 20 walks allowed. The All-Penobscot Valley Conference first-teamer had a memorable debut as she threw a no-hitter in the team’s season opener against Presque Isle. Bailey Goodell, who started two games last year, is back as the Trojans’ No. 2 pitcher.
“Addy is one of the best pitchers, and Bailey’s curveball is nasty,” said Olivia Gray, who catches for both pitchers as MDI’s top option behind the plate. “It’s great for our team that we have two good pitchers. I love catching for both of them.”
MDI put its credentials on display in Monday’s preseason opener as it claimed a 10-1 victory over reigning Class D champion Searsport in Bar Harbor. The Trojans got solid outings from both pitchers and exhibited patience at the plate and aggression on the basepaths in an effort that pleased their head coach.
“I’m really comfortable with this group of girls, and I think you have to be really pleased with how it turned out today,” Lewis said. “We obviously have a lot we need to work on, but I think you have to look at the positive side of things, especially in the first preseason game.”
MDI was scheduled to play on the road Wednesday against Hampden Academy, will close out preseason play with a home doubleheader against Presque Isle at 1 p.m. Monday, April 18. The Trojans will then open the regular season with a home doubleheader against Caribou at that time next Saturday, April 23.
The remaining preseason slate will be a great opportunity for MDI to get into form before the games start counting. Although the Trojans’ first scrimmage was a good start, Gray saw a few areas where the team can improve.
“We need to get the bats going a little bit quicker,” the senior said. “[We also want to fix] our fielding errors and maybe run the bases a little bit better. If we can do that, we’re going to be really good.”