It wasn’t exactly a welcome change.
When the Telstar softball team needed a new catcher in a hurry, the Rebels did the unthinkable. Standout shortstop Lyndsay Merrill was moved behind the plate to catch her sister.
“We knew Lyndsay had to step up,” said Telstar coach Jim Lunney, whose team is currently on top of Western Class C at 8-0. “She wasn’t happy about it. She’d rather be at shortstop, but she’s a trooper.”
Merrill has taken on the role behind the plate and done a nice job catching her sister, Kayla. Meanwhile, sophomore Autumn Berry has stepped into the shortstop role and done remarkably well.
“I wasn’t excited about it because shortstop is my favorite position,” said Merrill. “I’m happy that Autumn Berry took over because she’s done a good job.”
The changes were needed for the Class C state champions after veteran catcher Sam Largess graduated. The plan to fill that void was to start sophomore Rachael Wheeler, but an attack of appendicitis in the preseason put her out of action.
That forced Lunney to move people around.
“He said, ‘You’re going to have to catch the first six regular season games and we’ll go from there,'” said Merrill. “Then I just ended up staying there.”
It was a challenge for Merrill, who missed her freshman year to a knee injury but returned to play stellar shortstop last year.
“I caught my eighth grade year, but I haven’t caught ever since then,” said Merrill. “I’d catch her on and off because she needs someone to catch at home, but I’d never actually had to catch in a game.”
It was an adjustment at first, but Merrill has quickly taken to the job. After she first practiced behind the plate, she was determined to go home and work on it.
“Her mother texted me that they were outside and that Kayla was throwing and she was catching and framing,” said Lunney. “She’s a competitor, and she’s doing a good job.”
Lunney says he’d rather have her at short, but the way Berry has played, it has made the change seamless.
“She’s done a nice job,” said Lunney of Berry. “She’s learning the position, and she’s doing well.”
He expects Wheeler to be ready to play at some point this season. When that happens, Merrill will likely be returned to short, while Berry will get opportunity elsewhere.
Right now, having the two Merrill sisters working together as part of the battery has worked well for the unbeaten Rebels.
“I think with Kayla and I, we understand each other a lot more because we’re sisters,” said Merrill. “I just know Kayla better, and I know what she calls and what is working well that day.”
Battle of unbeatens
There’s only two remaining unbeaten teams left in Western C — 8-0 Telstar and 6-0 Georges Valley.
Don’t expect those two rivals to meet up soon. For the second straight year, the two most likely contenders for the Western C title aren’t scheduled to meet in the regular season.
The Bucs and Rebels won’t meet until the postseason, either in the Mountain Valley Conference championship game or in the Western C tourney, or both.
Last year they didn’t play until the MVC Championship game, won by the Bucs. Telstar avenged that with a win over Georges Valley in the Western C final.
Telstar and Georges Valley have dominated Western C in recent years. The last six regional titles have gone to the Bucs or Rebels, but this will be the last year of the rivalry. Georges Valley joins Rockland next year to form Oceanside High School.
Home sweet home
After spending much of the first month on the road, the Oxford Hills softball and baseball teams will have the comforts of home for a few weeks.
Because of unplayable conditions on their home field, the Vikings played many of their games on the road over the last month.
Now Oxford Hills has six straight home games. They’ll host Morse Friday and then have Edward Little, Lewiston, Brunswick, Cony and Mt. Ararat coming to South Paris.
Oxford Hills softball is currently fourth and battling to secure some home playoff dates and a high seeding in Eastern A. The Vikings next road game won’t be until the final game of the regular season, at Skowhegan May 31.