BUCKFIELD – Back in grade school when Alyssa Henderson and Kasey Farrington established a bond as friends, little did they know it would be a lasting one on the softball field.

“We’ve been best friends since like second grade,” said Henderson. “I’ve always caught for Kasey, even in middle school, or if I was pitching, she was catching.”

When the Buckfield softball team needed to replace its battery after graduating hurler Desiree Brackett and backstop Tiffany Dunn, Farrington and Henderson were a logical tandem. Farrington pitched sparingly during her first two seasons for the Bucks, and Henderson had always been her catcher.

“She’s always warmed her up and caught her when she pitched,” said Buckfield coach Ken Farrington, Kasey’s father.

The Bucks play in Saturday’s 4 p.m. Class D state championship game at Ward Field at St. Joseph’s College. Buckfield meets Lee Academy, the same team that edged the Bucks 1-0 last year.

The Bucks only graduated three starters from that team, but two of them were the battery.

“It was a big role,” said Kasey Farrington. “Our pitcher last year was a great pitcher. I knew my team needed me. They rely on me, and I rely right back on them. Being a junior and my dad being the coach, I knew a lot was expected. So I just tried to do the best I can.”

The change in battery has been the epitome of the Buck’s season. Farrington and Henderson weren’t the only ones in new positions. It was a year of adjustment.

“It effected everyone, but at the beginning of the year we said, ‘We’ve got a chance at this,'” said Ken Farrington, who graduates three starters this year, too. “So I moved a lot of people around. The team all said, ‘We can do this,’ and they’ve supported one another and done very well.”

Shayna Shackford was the third senior, leaving a hole to fill at first. Farrington vacated third base while Henderson played centerfield last year. Freshman Ashlee Hamann took over at first. Danielle Labbe moved to third from the outfield and Leann Abbott became the centerfielder. Freshman Brittany Wiley joined the infield at second while Amy Reuter filled the spot in the outfield.

The only players in the same position in the last two regional championship wins over Richmond are shortstop Lindsey Neal and left fielder Kayla Jordan.

“We’re all in new positions,” said Henderson. “So if one of us is not doing so good, it’s not a big deal.”

The fact that Farrington and Henderson, both juniors, have been paired together for years has helped their transition. They work well together and trust one another.

“I’ve always wanted her to be my catcher, no matter what,” said Kasey Farrington. “I know I can always count on her. I feel comfortable with her behind the plate because I know she can stop anything.”

Both knew they’d be stepping into larger roles and shouldering a great deal more responsibility. It was a pretty daunting task at first.

“We just didn’t know what to expect,” said Henderson. “We didn’t know how we were going to do, and everybody was going to be watching us.”

Becoming the full-time pitcher or the full-time catcher took adjustments for both. It has been more demanding physically but as the season progresses, both found a comfort level.

“I have tendentious in my shoulder,” said Farrington. “At the beginning of the season, my shoulder would kill so bad, but thank God it got used to my pitching. I hadn’t pitched a lot of games before this year. It has gotten good, and I think its used to the motion of it.”

Handling the emotions of such crucial jobs has also been a challenge. That’s where being able to work together and lean on each other has benefited both.

“It’s totally a mental game,” said Kasey Farrington. “If you get down on yourself, the whole game can be gone. I just try to take deep breaths and say, ‘Kasey, you can do this. You’ve done it before.’ I know she can always come out when I’m having a rough time and make me smile and say, ‘Kasey, you can push through this.'”

That is just what Farrington and the Bucks did against Richmond. After falling behind 5-3 after a disastrous third inning, the Bucks regrouped and battled back, tying the game in the seventh and winning it in the eighth. Farrington allowed just three hits and struck out 12. After allowing three hits in the five-run third, she didn’t allow another hit through the final five innings.

“They’ve stepped up and done well,” said Ken Farrington. “I can’t say they haven’t struggled, but the team has supported them.”

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