SOUTH PARIS – A pair of aces is always better than just one.

For years, there was no question who the pitcher was for Oxford Hills softball. Over the last decade, the Vikings replaced one golden arm with another – Jessie Becher then Jessie Dennis and then Randi Arsenault. All three were successful, durable and outstanding pitchers – and all the Vikings ever needed.

Coach Cindy Goddard has now doubled her hand the last two years and isn’t bluffing in, boasting two bonafide starters. Samantha Dolloff and Jen Jurczak have combined to hurl the Vikings to a 11-1 record and No. 2 ranking in the Eastern A.

“I guess it has its benefits,” said Goddard. “It’s a comfort knowing that if one gets hurt or one is sick, you’ve got somebody else. For years with Jessie Becher, you’d finish the games with whoever was the backup. I’ve had great pitchers. So you wouldn’t want to switch them out.”

Trying to juggle two hurlers can be a challenge when both want to pitch, but Dolloff and Jurczak make it work.

“I feel like we’re really supportive of each other,” said Jurczak. “There’s not really a rivalry there at all. When she’s on the field, I want to see her win and be successful, and I think she feels the same about me.”

After Arsenault graduated, Dolloff and Jurczak were the heir apparents. Last year, the two rotated regularly.

“They’re two interesting characters,” said Goddard. “So I wasn’t always sure how confident they were going to be on the mound. So if one wasn’t doing well, you had another one. They both pitched great in the games that they pitched. So that wasn’t a factor.”

This year, Jurczak has seen more action. Goddard felt she was a bit sharper when the season started. When Jurczak pitches, Dolloff plays centerfield.

“Last year, they really split time,” said Goddard. “They just went every other game. They switched back and forth. This year has been a little different. Coming off the offseason, Jenny was in better form than Sam. We’re defensively stronger when Sam is in the outfield. So as a team, we’re stronger when Jenny is on the mound because Sam is in the outfield. So Jenny has pitched a lot more, and Sam now has played a different role.”

Jurcazk has made the most of her opportunities. She’s gone 8-0 through the first 11 games and allowed just 10 hits and four runs in those eight wins. She’s pitched three no-hitters, two one-hitters and a pair of two-hitters. After being a bit burned out after last spring and summer, she says she’s never been more excited about pitching.

“I think I have a lot more confidence,” said Jurczak. “It’s a lot different being a senior. We have excellent team chemistry, and I definitely feel the support of the team around me.”

Dolloff has pitched in three games and has two wins. She’s allowed only five hits and two runs in those two victories. She says she doesn’t mind the change in her role.

“I’m just doing whatever I need to do for the team honestly,” said Dolloff, who is going to Lyndon State in Vermont to study graphic design. “I love centerfield, sometimes more than pitching, but I love pitching also.”

The only blemish for either was the Vikings’ lone loss, a 10-1 defeat against Brunswick. Dolloff was the starter. Jurczak came on in relief but was replaced by Dolloff after she struggled. The Dragons took advantage of five errors and eight hits.

“Both are very effective pitchers,” said Goddard. “Probably Jenny, at this point, I wouldn’t say is a little better. She’s just different. So that’s why we’ve used her a little more than Sam this year.”

Both have different styles and velocities. Both don’t mind seeing the other have a chance and are glad to do what helps the team. Jurczak patiently waits her turn while Dolloff is as great an asset in the outfield.

“I like seeing everything and being able to judge where the ball is going and being able to be vocal,” said Dolloff. “Even though the pitcher is pitching the ball, they’re not in full control. The centerfielder ultimately is.”

The Vikings had high expectations coming into the season. Teira Durgin, Tia Pratt, Diann Ramsey, Megan Gauger, Emmylou Blake, Kristi Springer, Mindy Rugg, Jen Schnor, Kaymala Eels and Deanna Emery are all returning players. Coming off a pre-season trip to Florida, the Vikings have high hopes. Pitching and defense are traditional staples in the Vikings success and Jurczak and Dolloff have been key contributors to each.

“I think the challenge is to go as far as we can,” said Jurczak, who is going to study nursing and play softball at Pine Manor in Boston. “We see ourselves being a very strong team this year. We have a lot of returning players and coming in our goal was to go as far as we can.”


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