Winthrop has started the season 2-0 with two impressive wins. The Ramblers opened the year at Mountain Valley and beat the Falcons 11-3. Then Winthrop rallied to beat Telstar Friday with an exciting 3-2 win. It came on a three-run homer by Cat Ouellette in the bottom of the seventh with two outs.

“We did well,” said Winthrop coach Bob Ouellette, whose team returns most of last year’s club that finished 10-7 and reached the Western C semifinals. “We had no preseason games, no scrimmages. We went up (to Rumford) and hit fairly well.”

The Falcons are a team expected to be competitive in Western C with most of its team back. The Rebels have been a traditional power and one of the favorites this season. Not only did Ouellette impress with her three hits and three RBI against Telstar, but pitcher Krissy Doughty struck out 15 and allowed just two hits.

It’s been quite some time since Winthrop was a factor in Western C, but the Ramblers are already showing signs of a team to be reckoned with.

“It’s so exciting, especially after we hadn’t done so well the first couple of years I was here,” said Cat Ouellette, a senior infielder. “Now that last couple of years,, we really picked it up.”

Homecoming for Kaplan

When Monmouth’s new softball coach Dave Kaplan took the job this spring, it returned him to his roots of sorts. Kaplan had been out of coaching after a long tenure at Hall-Dale. He replaced longtime coach Rachel Bernier, who retired after last season.

“Actually, it’s my alma mater,” Kaplan said. “After 10 years at Hall Dale and a couple of years out of it, it’s nice to be back. I realized how much I missed it.”

Though the Mustangs are young, with just four seniors, Kaplan steps into a program that was well-groomed by Berrnier. Monmouth softball has a great tradition and history of being competitive club in the MVC.

Monmouth went 7-8 last spring and lost in the Western C prelims. The Mustangs should be in the hunt for a playoff berth once again.

“It’s a wonderful bunch of kids,” Kaplan said. “It’s really a nice town. It’s really a nice bunch of kids.”

Vikings stick with it

The numbers so far this boys’ lacrosse season show what Oxford Hills is up against in its quest to build a program.

Oxford Hills has lost its first three games to Cony, Lewiston and Edward Little — all playoff contenders in Class A East — by a combined score of 47-4.

“We just got tired,” coach Matt Brunsen said. “We’ve got three kids who are maybe varsity level throughout the midfield. Offensively we couldn’t string any passes together.”

The Vikings are strongest on defense, where seniors Andrew Hatch and Sam O’Connor and sophomore Ty Wyman lead the way.

In a trip to Lewiston this past Wednesday, the Vikings held the Blue Devils scoreless for nearly the entire first period and kept the deficit at a manageable 3-0 at halftime before the hosts pulled away to a 14-1 win.

“It’s just a matter of having the abilities to catch and throw, and our kids just aren’t there yet,” Brunsen said. “They’re not necessarily new to the game, but they don’t execute like a Lewiston or a Brunswick, which is tough.”

Brunsen is now in his fifth season, and Oxford Hills has been around as a program since the sport was introduced as a Maine Principals Association-sanctioned activity almost 20 years ago.

Even keeping up with relative newcomers to the game — Lewiston and EL were not charter members of the league, for example — has been a chore.

“Essentially it all boils down to not having a feeder program,” Brunsen said. “We do have a middle school program, but not a lot of kids play because Oxford Hills is predominantly baseball and track and field.”

The Vikings won a game in 2013 and remain optimistic that they can improve upon that mark this spring. Upcoming games with Noble, Mountain Valley, St. Dom’s and Mt. Blue will give Oxford Hills a chance to compete against programs at the same place in their growth cycle.

“The kids have a lot to improve on, but we’ll get better,” Brunsen said. “We just have to stay positive and optimistic.”

Cougars on the rise

It’s a slippery slope to begin reading too much into the team scores from regular season track meets. Coaches often shuffle the deck from week to week, in an effort to give athletes a chance to qualify in any different events for the later championship showcases.

That said, here’s a score from a five-team meet at Leavitt Area High School that merits raised eyebrows: Edward Little boys 200, Mt. Blue 187.

For the Red Eddies, who have won 10 consecutive KVAC championships and have known streaks of 100-plus meet triumphs in the past, it’s another handful of W’s. As for the Cougars, the close call represents a quantum leap for their program.

Mt. Blue finished eighth out of 10 teams in the 2013 KVAC meet. Mostly on the strength of their distance runners, the Cougars placed 11th at Class A states.

Then the size of the team more than doubled.

“We have more boys this year than we did boys and girls combined last year,” Mt. Blue coach Kelley Cullenberg said. “I’m sure having a new facility was attractive to some of them.”

The Cougars have a brand new track to go with the other athletic and structural upgrades at their refurbished high school. Thanks to the late-arriving spring, Mt. Blue wasn’t able to get on it during the preseason, as moving the snow by artificial means would have violated the warranty had any damages occurred.

That didn’t stop competitors old and new from getting off to a soaring start. Steven Minns (110-meter hurdles), Isaac Seigle (300 hurdles), J.T. Williams (shot put), Nate Pratt-Holt (high jump, triple jump), Colin Richards (discus), Josh Horne (3,200) and the 4×800 relay of Horne, Dan Lesko, Will Frederic and Aaron Willingham all won their events in Turner.

Pratt-Holt is a transfer from Spruce Mountain, where he was one of the top athletes on the team as a freshman a year ago. William, Frederic and Willingham are new to track.

“Most of them we knew were good athletes from other sports, and some of them have run cross country,” said Cullenberg, who also coaches that team in the fall.

The Cougars enjoyed one similar gain on the girls’ side — state Nordic ski champion and cross country star Sarah Wade, who has gravitated to track as a senior. Wade won the 3,200 and was part of the victorious 4×800 relay in Friday’s meet.

An Eddiefication in lacrosse

Edward Little girls’ lacrosse coach Jessica Somers knew she would be starting from scratch in her sixth year leading the Red Eddies.

“At least half the team hasn’t played before,” Somers said. “We have one returning varsity starter and three returning varsity subs from last year.”

The Eddies expect a lot of growing pains this year. Senior goalkeeper Julia Langevin is the only starter back. Senior defender Caitlyn Williams, junior midfielder Danielle Gagne and junior defender Delia Demers are the only other players with varsity experience.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t some promising young talent to build around. Sophomore midfielder Fran Haines has a team-high eight goals through the first two games. Fellow sophomores Rachael Abel and Elizabeth Castro and freshmen Tyme Finnerty and Kaylee Jipson cracked the starting lineup.

With so little experience, Somers is expecting some inconsistency, especially early. The Red Eddies played well in spurts in their season-opening 17-8 loss at Oxford Hills, then took a step back in the 21-2 defeat at Lewiston that followed.

Somers’ first objective is to get the new additions versed in the game.

“We’re focusing on basic skills,” Somers said. “Some of them have only had a stick for four weeks, so we’re learning how to work together as a team and continuing to improve on the basics.”

EL plays its first two home games of the season this week, against Messalonskee on Tuesday and Brunswick on Thursday.

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