GRAY — Whether the weather wants to allow it or not, the spring high school sports season has begun.

In the Gray-New Gloucester High School gym, that meant the softball team’s pitchers and catchers reacquainting themselves with their gloves and balls regardless of the ground not being the right color for play.

“I’m excited. I mean, it’s been a long winter,” senior pitcher Alie Martell said. “I’m glad to get back out with the girls. We have a good group of girls, so I’m excited.”

Junior catcher Alexa Thayer said it feels like winter is almost over, “but the amount of snow on the ground is not okay. But I’m glad that we have a space inside that we can get going and get started on pitching and catching.”

It’s head coach Amanda Harmon’s job on the first day of pitchers and catchers practice (and until the snow is gone for good) to “be creative” with making a hardwood gym floor feel as much like a dirt diamond and grass outfield as possible. It’s Martell, Thayer and the rest of the Patriots’ jobs to just go with it, and get ready for the real thing.

“You really just have to block out your surroundings and just act like you’re outside,” Martell said. “It’s no different, you’re pitching inside or you’re pitching outside.”

Thayer said she makes the best of it by getting to focus more on her position.

The battery is going on its third year together, and the two veterans are hoping to make the same jump from last year that Thayer said they made from their first to second years together. They didn’t talk much softball during the offseason, so Monday meant getting that connection going again.

“I feel like we definitely have a good connection already,” Thayer said. “I can tell if something’s wrong with her, and she can tell if I’m frustrated or something. So we always try to take time out and talk about it and fix it.”

“It’s definitely two positions that we don’t necessarily have to, say, worry about,” Harmon said. “However, every position matters, and it’s the flow of the team and putting everybody together. We can’t just rely on them. It’s going to matter where the ball’s hit. Those two will have a lot of control, and it helps because they can keep the rest of the girls down and ready, and ready to make those plays. So it’s a little less worrisome, for sure, knowing that we have them and they’ve been working together and just growing over the years.”

Martell and Thayer hit the gym floor running Monday, getting their arms loose, getting their legs going, and just getting in that softball mindset — though Martell, who plays for the Maine Thunder travel team out of Portland out of season, never really leaves that mindset. That gave the other Patriots at the practice a precedent to follow.

“I like to lead by example,” Martell said. “I’m not one who’s very good with words. So I like to set the example for the other girls, who are younger, who may not have as much experience.

“I remember coming in freshman year and I was a little terrified.”

“They’ve had the experience and the exposure to this kind of preseason week, or the start-up of it all. And their leadership will show through of getting these girls excited, keeping them focused and determined for the long goal with everything,” Harmon said. “They kind of come into it knowing what to expect. That mixture of getting your arm loose, throwing the ball, moving around, getting in that catching position, and then also the mixture of the conditioning.”

The Patriots are slated to start their regular season a month from Tuesday, at home against Wells. There’s a lot to be done before then, including making sure there’s a dry field to play on.

“I think it’s scary. I think it feels far away, and feel like it’s going to be here quickly,” Harmon said. “With that being against Wells, it’s very concerning with our outside situation. But at the same time, it’s just our first goal to look forward to, our first thing to be focused to work towards.”

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Gray New-Gloucester freshman Amelia Cobb tosses the ball around the gym with teammates during Monday afternoon’s first practice of the season. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Gray New-Gloucester’s returning starters Alexa Thayer, left and Alie Martell will play a pivotal role in the success of this year’s softball team. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Gray New-Gloucester’s returning starters Alexa Thayer, left and Alie Martell are framed by Thayer’s mit at the high school before Monday’s first practice of the season. They both will play a pivotal role in the success of this year’s softball team. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Softball ball isolated on white background

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