With two quality pitchers, the Jay High School softball team had all kinds of options to pick from this spring, but that changed before the season even started.
Senior pitcher Alexii Smith suffered a leg injury while running in the preseason. She has struggled to pitch since.
“It seems like every time she tries to throw, it bothers her,” said Jay assistant coach Clint Brooks.
Smith has been relegated to outfield duty. She’s only a pitched a few innings the entire season, and it looks doubtful that she’ll be returning to the mound, where she has been an all-star and Jay’s top hurler the last three years.
“She’s only thrown three innings,” said Jay coach Robin Roberts. “What we wanted was that we’d get four innings out of Lexii because she throws hard. Last year, we noticed she’d get tired after five. So we thought we could put Paula (Despres) in for a few innings.”
Instead, Despres, a sophomore, has stepped into the starting role and done well. She dueled Telstar’s Kayla Merrill nicely in a 1-0 loss Wednesday.
Smith started one game but had to be relieved. Despres has been the starter ever since.
“Lexii pitched the first three innings, and it was too much for her,” said Roberts. “We put Paula in for the last four, and they never scored a run.”
Smith can still play. She just doesn’t have the leg strength on the mound when she pitches. With the season nearly half over, there isn’t a whole lot of time to provide for healing completely.
“We just don’t have the luxury of being able to sit somebody down,” said Brooks.
Jay is currently 3-2 and faces a tough schedule in the MVC North. With most of last year’s team back, the Tigers are expected to be a tourney contender. Losing a starter like Smith might derail most, but Despres has proven she’s up to the task. Meanwhile, Smith has taken up a new position in left.
“She can play any position in the field,” said Roberts. “She’s been wanting to do that all her life anyway. She always wanted to play other positions. She can play them all, but we need her in the outfield.”
The Lewiston softball team might need a bucket truck to take to their softball games this season. That’s because the Blue Devils have all decorated various buckets and turned them into personalized seats in the dugout. They’re brightly colored and monogrammed with player’s names in various creative ways. One of the buckets comes with a toilet seat on the top and a newspaper inside.
“The girls picked that up from watching the college games,” said Lewiston coach Fred Royer, whose team decorated their respective buckets at a team dinner prior to the season opener. “It’s a good team bonding thing. We’ll bring them to every game.”
Edward Little’s Miranda Martin has been groomed for the position she’s in this season. The Red Eddies pitcher has seen starting action as a freshman and sophomore while sharing the pitching duties with Alyssa Levesque. Now that Levesque has graduated, that has put the pitching responsibility on Martin’s shoulders.
“She had pitched enough varsity games for two years to give her enough confidence to do this,” said EL coach Elaine Derosby. “Alyssa was a huge asset for us. Miranda was one step away as a sophomore. Now Miranda is in about the place that Alyssa was. We gave her enough big games last year that she could come in this year and feel like its’ not big deal.”
Martin has helped pitch EL to a 4-1 start. EL has posted two shutouts. With the exception of the 12-0 loss to Oxford Hills, the fifth-ranked Red Eddies have allowed just four runs in four wins. Martin has also found a comfort level in a new catcher. With Becca Witten also graduated, EL looked at four different catchers over the summer. Kirsten Prue, making a return to softball after playing lacrosse the last few years, filled that bill nicely.
“She has a really good relationship with Kirsten,” said Derosby. “We tried four different catchers and she came to me and said that she felt comfortable with Kirsten behind the plate.”