Monmouth third baseman Hannah Anderson throws to pitcher Emily Chasse (2) while trying to catch Madison’s Aishah Malloy in a rundown after a pickoff attempt at third base in the third inning. Malloy was eventually tagged out by Chasse.

The alphabet always starts with A, but in Class C South softball the power rankings always start with M — for Madison.

The Bulldogs have been the No. 1 team in the standings after each of the last six regular seasons, and many opposing coaches don’t expect that to change this season.

“My thoughts on the team to beat are the words of the legendary wrestler Ric Flair: ‘to be the man, you gotta beat the man,’ and that is still Madison,” Winthrop coach Chuck Gurney said.

Gurney’s Ramblers finished second in C South last year, and reached the program’s first-ever regional final, where they faced the Bulldogs. Winthrop could be there again this season, with a returning core that includes starting pitcher Layne Audet and an all-conference double-play pairing in shortstop Kate Perkins and Moriah Hajduk.

Monmouth co-coach Mike Langlois said Winthrop’s team chemistry is one of its biggest strengths and a reason the Ramblers can stay near the top.

Madison’s chemistry shouldn’t change much either, with the Bulldogs bringing most everybody back. Pitcher Madeline Wood is among the players they’ll have to replace, however. A “very solid lineup,” according to Gurney, should help ease that loss.

Dirigo coach Scott Underhill said a mix of coaching and athletes in the program’s present and future allows perennially contending teams like Madison to keep thriving.

Monmouth is another one of those teams, according to Underhill, but the Mustangs (last year’s No. 3 seed) will have to replace a couple key players. Langlois said his team still has “a solid core,” as well as “some hungry young players,” and should stay in the mix this year.

All three coaches mentioned Carrabec as a potential contender lurking in the shadows. The Cobras have a new coach in Heath Cowans, but they return starting pitcher Sam LeBeau and reigning MVC player of the year Bailey Dunphy.

Farther out on the fringe are teams like Lisbon and Telstar — programs who seem to always be in the playoff mix. The Rebels didn’t lose much on the field, but do replace longtime coach Jim Lunney in the dugout with co-coaches Krystle Gould and Tasha Howard.

Langlois pointed out that WMC teams are always an unknown to the MVC-heavy C South region. Sacopee Valley played Monmouth tough in last year’s playoffs, but the Hawks were the lone WMC team in the regional quarterfinals.

Other WMC teams in St. Dominic Academy and Old Orchard Beach have new coaches trying to get their programs into the playoff pitcure. They’ll have to battle MVC members Dirigo, Mt. Abram and Hall-Dale, as well as potentially Class C newcomer Maranacook from the KVAC, for the final berths. The Black Bears might be the biggest unknown of all, as the lone KVAC team in the region.


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