When Mt. Abram lost a tight game to Jay to open the season and then dropped a one-run heartbreaker to Madison, it was a sign of things to come for the Roadrunners.
Since then, Mt. Abram has continued to see close ballgames but have finally turned them in their favor. The Roadrunners have won three straight one-run games, beating Mountain Valley 8-7, then Jay 5-6 and Madison 5-4. Those came after another nailbiter to beat Carrabec, 6-5.
“I’m tickled pink to be in this situation,” said Mt. Abram coach Jeff Pillsbury. “I knew we easily could be the opposite. We’re 6-3 and could easily be 3-6.”
The Roadrunners returned five regulars from last year. They include senior infielders Kylie Rolbiecki, Jillian Withee, Emma Twitchell and junior catcher Dani Smith and pitcher Molly McCafferty. After winning 11 games last year and losing in the Western C quarterfinals, the Roadrunners expected to be a competitive club but with a schedule featuring a solid core of MVC North teams, games weren’t going to come easy.
“I said to the girls at the beginning of the year that I felt we’d be in a lot of really good games,” said Pillsbury. “Part of playing in these games is trying to stay poised and trying to stay out of the big innings. We talked a lot about that.”
Though the Roadrunners lost a pair of tight games to open the year, Mt. Abram has won six of seven since, four of those wins were by one run. They’re currently ranked fourth in Western C.
“We’ve had some luck but defensively we’ve come up with some timely plays,” said Pillsbury. “Against Madison, we had a couple plays at the plate and took away the go-ahead runs. So they’d done well in that regard. Some games it’s been a timely hit. Against Jay, we got some things going with two outs.”
Pillsbury says his team has maintained a level of consistency and have held tough in the close games, despite the fact that the core of his team is relatively young. Learning to win this tight game can only bode well for the Roadrunners down the stretch.
“We’ve had some luck, and we’ve made some of our luck,” said Pillsbury, whose team lost the game to Madison in the last inning when a ball landed just fair but was aided by a similar chalk hugger in the rally against Jay. “It’s a game of inches. I think good teams find a way to win. We’ve been able to find a way to hold on, dig and scratch and stick around and stay close and give ourselves a chance to win.”
A year ago, Kimber Morse was pitching every other day and getting an introduction to the varsity level as a sophomore. This year, Morse is the go-to girl on the mound for Lisbon and has shown great promise as her Greyhounds have put themselves in the Western B playoff hunt.
“Kimber has done a really nice job this year,” said Lisbon coach Mike Fortier. “The goal for her is to stay ahead in the count. She can’t get behind because that’s when batters can be aggressive. That’s when bad things can happen. She does a real good job of doing that. When she has gotten into trouble, it is because she gets behind in the count, but she’s done a great job of battling her way out if that happens.”
Morse has had the luxury of a team that has scored 126 runs this season and posted a 9-2 record. That’s after winning just three games a year ago.
“Last year that was part of our problem,” said Morse. “We weren’t hitting.”
Seven of the nine regulars last year were new to the varsity level, including Morse. This year, Lisbon has taken that to the next level, and Morse and doing her part. She’s gaining more comfort on the mound and developing a great confidence in the team around her.
“I think I’ve just gotten more accurate and more mentally tough,” she said.
It took her a little time to get used to the full-time status, but as her team as settled in and thrived this year, so has its young pitcher.
“As she’s pitched this year, you can see the confidence she’s gained and she’s feeling good about herself,” said Fortier. “She’s relying a lot more on the defense behind her. She’s getting confidence in that and knowing she doesn’t have to strike everybody out. She knows she doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Rachel Bernier was pleased to have a few extra athletes to utilize this year after having had little depth a year ago. The drawback to that for Monmouth this season is that the Mustangs have been moving players all around because of injuries.
“We’ve been the walking wounded,” said Bernier. “I lost my catcher (Kelsie Hilton) and was without her all last week. (Monday) was her first game back.”
Among the injured is sophomore starter Reen Kahl, who was injured early in the season. She’s been out of the lineup since with a leg injury.
“We don’t know what happened,” said Bernier. “She didn’t complain about any injury during the game or after the game. The next thing I know is she’s unable to play on Monday.”
The Mustangs have Colby Wilson and Bri Hicks, and both have done well on the mound. With seven players on the squad either freshmen or sophomores, it has meant a lot of young players being moved into various positions to fill in.
“The kids are doing a good job,” said Bernier. “I’ve been using all of them. It’s just a matter of getting the experience and getting some confidence.”