FARMINGTON — The Mt. Blue softball team has been down this road before.

Mt. Blue’s Macey Phillips (8) is greeted at the plate after hitting a first-inning home run against Mt. Ararat in Topsham on Thursday, April 18. Phillips also doubled in Mt. Blue’s 7-4 victory. The Cougars are 2-0. Time Record photo by Bob Conn

A season ago, the Cougars got off to a good start, only to falter down the stretch and miss the playoffs.

But this Mt. Blue team has traveled together for years, even before the players entered high school and joined the varsity squad. They are hoping their journey leads them to the postseason for the first time in their careers.

“We bring most of our team back from last year. We only lost a couple of kids. And for four or five kids on the team, they’ll be four-year starters,” Cougars coach Ron Smith said. “They’re seniors this year, and they really — we want to make the playoffs, and they really, really want to do that.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a successful program, and they want to be the ones to kind of turn that corner. So there’s just that little extra emphasis from some of our veteran players, and I think that makes all the difference in the world.”

Mt. Blue starting pitcher Maddy Smith prepares to fire a pitch against Mt. Ararat on Thursday, April 18 in Topsham. Times Record photo by Bob Conn

Mt. Blue catcher Rylee Briggs, left, appeals to the umpire on a close play at the plate on Thursday, April 18. Mt. Ararat baserunner Jaden Lohr was out on the play, and Briggs and the Cougars captured a 7-4 victory in Topsham. Times Record photo by Bob Conn

This is Smith’s fourth season at the helm of the program, but he has been coaching many of the players on the team for more than half their lives, since they played on a U-10 travel team together.

“We still recall memories of when they were U-10 players running around at tournaments and stuff like that. They still draw on that. They remained good friends,” Smith said. “You know, we don’t have a lot of drama on our team, and I think it’s because their relationship isn’t a year or two, their relationship’s been the last 10 years playing together. So it’s kind of neat to watch them mature, as ball players and as young women, and it’s special to be able to have that bond for that long with players.”

The Cougars added another bonding experience earlier this spring when they went down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for spring training. They went 6-2 on top of all the other memories they made during the trip.

Smith said they kept that momentum from the trip going in their first two games of the regular season — a 2-0 win over Camden Hills and a 7-4 victory at Mt. Ararat.

Mt. Blue baserunner Angela Guppy, left, dives toward the plate while Mt. Ararat catcher Emily Wormwood waits for a throw during an April 18 KVAC softball game at Topsham. Guppy was safe and the Cougars won 7-4. Times Record photo by Bob Conn

The most recent game, against the Eagles, was another example to Smith that this year’s team is more mature than last year’s group.

A biting cold and freezing precipitation — all after a long bus ride — could have made for an easy excuse for the team to quit, but the Cougars took the lead early, then held off a Mt. Ararat rally to keep their early record perfect.

But keeping that pace won’t be easy, nor is the road through what Smith calls an “incredibly tough” Class A North.

“You don’t have days off. You can’t look and say, ‘Oh, well this is an easy win, so I can give starters a break.’ That’s not how it works in the North,” Smith said. “So I think they’re better prepared this year, having gone through it the last couple of years. And having the limited success, I think that they’ve looked through it now, I think they have an idea of what it’s going to take.”

Smith highlighted Macey Phillips, Aislynn Provencher, Rylee Briggs and Ashley Wiles as “seniors that are playing well right now and providing a lot to the team.” He also said the pitching tandem of junior Maddy Smith (the coach’s daughter) and sophomore Makayla Gross have both been throwing well.

Smith said seeing his daughter prosper along with the team has been “great, from a coach and a parent perspective.”

“Softball’s her thing, and the work over the years is starting to pay off, and I like that,” Smith said.

He’s also been able to see many of the other players grow for close to a decade now, and to them he’s “Coach Ron.”

This will be the last season for them all to be together, and they’re hoping to make it last a little longer by getting Mt. Blue to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

“I think more than anything else, I think we just need to stay positive and we need to play the game that we’re capable of playing. And I think if we do that we’ll be fine,” Smith said. “When you stay positive, and don’t get down on yourselves … when you can keep your mind focused on, ‘Hey, this is what we did well, this is what we learned from it, let’s move,’ I think that will make a world of difference in the end.”

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