Meagan Gosselin is a catcher for the Lewiston High School softball team. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

It’s hard to miss a softball player clad in full pads. 

And that player — the catcher — is in many cases the most important player on the field. Yet Winthrop High School coach Chuck Gurney calls catcher”the often forgotten position.”

When one of Gurney’s players asks how good an opponent’s pitcher is, he immediately counters with, “How good is their catcher?”

“It doesn’t matter how good your pitcher is without having a good catcher working with them,” Gurney explained.

Gurney knows firsthand the importance of a good catcher. Last year, Layne Audet helped pitch the Ramblers to their first regional final, but a lot of that had to do with senior catcher Kayleigh Oberg, who was an All-MVC player.

“Kayleigh was huge in the growth of my confidence when I came into high school,” Audet said. “She was a great teammate and leader who always encouraged me, and a player that I always looked up to.”

Lewiston senior catcher Meagan Gosselin went nautical in her assessment: “You’re just like the anchor,” she said.

Gosselin has been backstopping the Blue Devils going on her fourth year now, and is now in her third year with head coach Mike Child.

“You can’t have a more important player on your team than Goss,” Child said. “She’s like having another coach on the field.”

While Gosselin has always had confidence in herself and her abilities — though she admitted being a little nervous as a freshman playing with more experienced players — she had to gain Child’s trust when she was a sophomore in his first season. It didn’t take long.

“He tells me almost every practice how much he trusts me. He’s like, ‘Meg, you have the game in your hands pretty much,'” Gosselin said. “To me, that means a lot, coming from him, because he knows that I can do it as well as I do.”

Child said he gave Gosselin more responsibility last year, and now it’s to the point that he has so much trust in his catcher that “it takes a lot of pressure off me.”

“I’m not saying I can relax, but to a point I can because I know I can put my trust in her back there, and I can concentrate on the rest of the game that’s going on,” Child said.

Gurney said Oberg’s leadership was “invaluable” for the Ramblers.

“Whenever things went bad she was always there to settle her teammates down,” Gurney said.

Now that responsibility falls on junior Hanna Caprara.

“As a catcher I can’t get down on myself when things go bad because it will bring my team down,” Caprara said. “The catcher is a leader of the team.

“Getting to watch and learn from such an amazing catcher (like Oberg) was something not many people get a chance to do.”

Oak Hill is in a similar situation. Pitcher Sadie Waterman was stellar as a sophomore last year, but now she’ll be without her catcher, Emma Hlister.

“The loss of Emma, a four-year starter, year-round player, and player who lived and breathed the game is extremely difficult to replace,” Raiders coach Allyson Collins said. “As far as Sadie goes, she was very fortunate to have such a seasoned player behind the plate for her first full season on the mound. I think Emma taught her a great deal about the game and gave her confidence knowing that Emma would be there to back her up no matter what.”

Not only does the catcher have to deal with what’s in front of her, but also what’s behind her — which every coach hopes is nothing.

Child said Gosselin is “like a vacuum back there.”

“You just have to know that that can affect the whole game,” Gosselin said. “Like a passed ball, that’s not going to help anyone on the field.”

The Ramblers have been working on on that with Caprara, as well as throwing against attempted steals.

Gurney said he scouts “how strong and accurate a catcher is, and that has a big bearing on how much we will try to run on any given team.”

Child said he doesn’t worry about steals with Gosselin, and his catcher has looked as good as ever during the preseason.

One of Oak Hill’s replacements for Hlister, junior Abby Nadeau, has “an incredible arm,” according to Collins. Another option, junior Mahala Smith, also has a strong arm, though with less experience. Nadeau filled in for Hlister early last year when the latter was out with an injury.

Collins said Nadeau already has chemistry with Waterman, which should help that transition. That relationship is just another part of the job for a catcher.

“I think communication and knowing who you’re with is just so important,” Gosselin said.

The Blue Devils have two pitchers to choose from — Meg Theriault and Dani Cyr — which means two different styles and two sets of pitches that Gosselin has to remember and prepare for.

“She gets together with them before the game, ‘What are you going to throw? What’s your best pitch? What are you feeling like?'” Child said. “And you know, the thing is, I can get go out there and ask the same thing, but I can just go to Goss and say ‘Goss, how’s she throwing? What’s her best pitch?'”

“Just having a good relationship with both of them is really important because you can tell when they’re off or you can tell when they’re on,” Gosselin said.

Therapist — Just add to that to the number of responsibilities that a catcher is tasked with. Gosselin said playing catcher is “definitely difficult.” Gurney called the position the hardest-working one on the team.

And above all that, Caprara said the toughest part of playing catcher is the mental part for the player herself.

“I know just one mistake can cost my team a game,” Caprara said.

“The mental game is really important,” Gosselin said.

Pitchers often get much of the credit for a team’s success, especially in lower-scoring games and when strikeouts totals are high. Gurney said the catcher deserves the credit “every bit as much.”

“Yes, pitching is the thing,” Child said, “but that girl behind that plate runs everything.”

Thankfully for Child he has a solid veteran catcher to lean on. Other local teams in similar situations are Gray-New Gloucester (junior Alexa Thayer) and Monmouth (junior Abby Ferland). Then, there are teams like Winthrop and Oak Hill, which will be trying to fill the void of departed veteran catchers by placing all that responsibility on someone new.

“It is easier said then done to fill (that) role,” Collins said.

[email protected]

Meagan Gosselin is a catcher for the Lewiston High School softball team. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Kennebunk’s Allie Gregoire slides safely into home under the tag of Gray-New Gloucester catcher Alexa Thayer during a game in Gray in 2017.Monmouth Academy pitcher Emily Chasse, left, and catcher Abby Ferland talk on the mound during the sixth inning of a game against Lisbon in 2017.Winthrop catcher Kayleigh Oberg catches a pitch thrown by Layne Audett to Telstar’s Aneah Bartlett during a game in 2017.Oak Hill catcher Emma Hlister tags out Telstar’s Taylor Mason at home while Telstar teammate Julia Cherkis and the home plate umpire look on during the Raiders’ 15-0 victory in Wales during a game in 2017.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.