LEWISTON — When McKell Barnes saw the job listing, she thought it just might be the right opportunity for her.

“My career goal growing up and playing softball was that I always knew that I wanted to be a college head coach,” Barnes said. “Before that, I was a high school math teacher, and I would periodically look online and see what was open, just out of curiosity. Back in September, I saw this job posted. I said ‘Why not? It’ll get the ball rolling a little bit and get my name out there and start things in that direction.'”

As it turned out, Barnes was hired for the job. She now isn’t just looking for a new opportunity for herself but for the Bobcat’s program. She’s just the fifth coach in Bates softball history.

“Any time there’s a shift or a change new energy is innately there, but I think one of my greater strengths is that my passion and my drive and having that energy, that spark, can ignite a new level of energy and competition,” Barnes said. “I’m confident that we’ll get there and be much more competitive in the near future.”

Barnes was the 2009 North Atlantic Conference Player of the Year at the University of Maine at Farmington. She was also UMF’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2011. The Brunswick native also served as an assistant coach at Bowdoin and has coached the Maine Thunder travel softball program.

Between her experience and her energy, Barnes hopes it can be a positive change for Bates softball.


“I think it’s a combination that change does spark new blood and new energy by itself, but that’s what I bring to the program,” Barnes said. “I’m young. I’m passionate. I have a great sense of drive and determination. I’m extremely competitive myself. So I have very high expectations for this program.”

Barnes succeeds Gwen Lexow, who had coached the program for 15 years. Lexow, the associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator, relinquished her coaching duties to focus completely on full-time administrative support for the department.

“Gwen did a great job establishing some great traditions here for the Bates softball program,” Barnes said. “I look forward to maintaining some of those traditions but also creating and building new ones and really taking the program to that next step. The NESCAC is an extremely competitive conference, and I think Bates softball is that dark horse. I’m excited to compete at a much higher level.”

Bates went 9-17 a year ago and only has one senior returning. The program went 18-12 in 2012 and reached the four-team NESCAC championship in 2009. Barnes hopes to continue that kind of success and make it an expectation every year.

“It’s extremely important that the team understands that we have expectations,” Barnes said. “By no means will we lower our expectations. That would be a major disservice to them. Certainly establishing that self-accountability, that positive energy and the motivating mentality and understand that partnership between mental and physical condition is going to propel us in that right direction.”

Barnes hopes to set that tone with this year’s team. Alayna Garbarino is the team’s lone senior while juniors like Kelsey Freedman, Brenna Callahan and Molly Brown are all veterans that should play roles in establishing a foundation for future teams to build from.


“We have a perfect identity where I think we have the team united front and have that team chemistry but we also have that strong leadership from our upperclassmen,” Barnes said. “They’re setting that precedent of ‘This is what we want to do and this is what we want to accomplish.'”

The roster also includes locals like sophomore Melissa Paione, an Edward Little graduate, and freshmen Abby and Jenney Abbott, both from Rangeley. Jenney Abbott will miss this season to an injury.

The team has started the year 2-4 while playing in Florida. They’re scheduled to play at Trinity this weekend.

“In Florida, we had some great opportunities to identify what we need to work on,” said Barnes, whose team was outscored 33-23 in six games, including being shutout twice. “We got to see live pitching and touch dirt and be outside in the great weather but it was also a great opportunity for us to identify and fine tune a lot of the key mental factors that play into it and translate that into productivity and physical play.”

Barnes says her focus is to have the team concentrate on doing the things it can control — like attitude, effort and perspective — and do the little things that move them forward.

“We kind of have that mentality going into a practice and focus on the small things that do make a difference,” Barnes said.


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