MONMOUTH — After a preseason full of working on fundamentals inside the gym, and a spring trip to Florida to get some innings under the belt, the best thing for the Monmouth Academy softball team might have been a season-opening loss to Oak Hill.

The Mustangs had high expectations coming into the season after not losing any players to graduation, but the season opened with a 5-4 loss to the Raiders.

“(It taught us) that we’re not as good as maybe we thought we were,” Monmouth co-coach Dave Kaplan said. “There are teams out there that can beat us. We got some serious teams coming up. We got Madison coming, and Carrabec’s good, and Telstar. We got our work cut out for us. That was a nice wake-up call, actually. It wasn’t a bad thing that we lost it. I would prefer to win it, but it wasn’t a terrible thing. It woke us up.”

That loss woke a sleeping giant, in the form of the Mustangs’ offense.

In four straight wins since that loss, Monmouth has scored double-digit runs in each, including three 10-run-rule victories.

First came a 21-0 rout of Boothbay, a team that could finish the season near the bottom of the Mountain Valley Conference, but a confidence-builder nonetheless. Then came a 12-0 win at Mountain Valley — a place Kaplan said he rarely wins at — against a Class B conference rival. Another road win followed, an 18-0 decision over Dirigo.

The latest victory for the Mustangs was the closest. Monmouth actually had to rally from a quick 1-0 deficit at home against Lisbon, but bounced back for a 10-3 win.

Kaplan called the early deficit against the Greyhounds a wake-up call.

“Hey, they came to play. We better play,” Kaplan said. “I like it because we’ve been beating teams 21-0. When you start playing teams, you really got to gear up your mental focus really hard.”

That mental focus was tested in the second game of the season against the Seahawks. The Mustangs drew more walks than collected hits, but showed a patient approach at the plate to finish off Boothbay in five innings.

“That’s what we talk about, staying back, staying back, and if they’re swinging properly they’re keeping hands back anyway and ready to attack at the last second,” Kaplan said after that game. “We’ve been working on that hard in the gym.”

With the winter snow taking its time to thaw, the Mustangs, like every other team around the state, was forced into their school’s gym for the preseason.

“A lot of boring practice in the gym is starting to pay off,” Kaplan said. “All that tee work we did, and all that cage work when we couldn’t be (outside).”

To cure the winter blues, Monmouth took a spring trip to Florida to play some preseason games, and the lessons learned from those exhibition contests are still being used with the season underway.

“What helped us is when we took our spring trip to Florida, there was a lot of fast pitching,” Monmouth sophomore Haylee Langlois said.

The Mustangs have seen all different speeds of pitching in their four-game win streak, and they’ve been able to hit all the pitches.

“You’ll see us typically the second time through the order now starting to really tune in on what the pitcher is throwing, picking up the spin off the hip,” Kaplan said. “We’ve been working on real hard on picking up spins off the hip, and unfocusing on all the motion stuff.”

Langlois said the first inning of games have often been rough for the offense, but then the bats get going. And going.

And it’s not just the runs Monmouth has scored, but the hits to get them. Every game has seen its share of hard-hit balls from Mustang bats.

Langlois had a triple and a double against Mountain Valley, and another double against Lisbon. Emily Chasse has multiple extra-base hits, and seemingly everyone in the lineup has at least one.

The Mustangs have made sure to share the wealth on offense.

“I think one through nine we’re as solid as anybody in the league this year,” Kaplan said. “The bottom of the order is hitting too now.”

They’re only a third of the way through the season, but the Mustangs are starting to look like the team they thought they could be.

“We came into the season knowing that we were having a good, strong team because we all have that sportsmanship, and we’re all together,” Langlois said. “We figured that we were going to do good this season.”

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Emily Chasse of Monmouth Academy talks with her coach Dave Kaplan while at bat during a game against Boothbay on April 28. 

Haylee Langlois of Monmouth Academy smacks a RBI single against Boothbay in Monmouth on April 28th.

Emily Kaplan of Monmouth Academy smacks a single against Boothbay in Monmouth on April 28th.


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