Chantel Ouellette said she and her fellow seniors on the Edward Little softball team have been looking forward to this season for a long time.

“And we wanted it to come as soon as possible,” Ouellette said. 

Edward Little pitcher Chantel Ouellette delivers a pitch against a Messalonskee during a 2019 Class A North quarterfinal in Auburn. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

At this point, less than a week away from when pitchers, including Ouellette, and catchers were originally scheduled to start their preseason practices, talking is one of the few things the Red Eddies and every other spring athlete in Maine can do. 

Currently, the preseason isn’t scheduled to begin until April 27, and with the way things change daily due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 high school spring sports season is up in the air like a high fly ball on a gusty day. 

Senior athletes, most of all, aren’t sure whether their final season will be gone with the wind or just abbreviated. 

“I believe that there could be a season,” Ouellette said. “It was really heartbreaking to hear it would be cut short, but I have hope that it’ll come, even if it isn’t for long.” 

Ouellette and classmate Caroline Hammond have especially been looking forward to the softball season, after experiencing, according to Hammond, “mentally challenging” fall soccer and winter basketball seasons. 

“But it was a learning opportunity,” she added. “I will be appreciative of any type of season I get this spring.” 

The Edward Little girls soccer team finished with a 2-9-3 record and out of the playoffs for the second year in a row, while the girls basketball team went 5-13 with a first-round playoff exit, two years after the Red Eddies won a state championship. 

Ouellette said those seasons were “not exactly what I had hoped for, but it allowed me to grow and to see that everything isn’t about winning, but building relationships with your teammates and enjoying it, no matter what.” 

Edward Little softball coach Elaine Derosby said that Ouellette got a taste of that last summer when she was, at times, the Red Eddies’ only upperclassmen during tournaments. 

“I asked a lot of her those weekends — to be a leader, to fight through frustration, to be away from her own friends, and to give the underclassmen the best of her,” Derosby said. “We had to process after each game. However, during the games, she was a model of what we want our Red Eddie softball players to be.” 

Hammond has also been positioned as a role model for the rest of the Red Eddies during her softball career. 

Edward Little’s Caroline Hammond, left, and Abby Russell converge on a grounder during a 2019 game against Cony. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“(Caroline) sacrificed much of her own wants over the last three seasons,” Derosby said. “She was willing to think outside of her box when we asked her to switch to the left side of the plate. She practiced pitching everyday, knowing that her moments in the circle may never come, however, it is what we needed as a program to always be prepared. She has moved around the field knowing that she was filling the needs of our team in the moment.” 

Derosby said Hammond and Ouellette are part of a group of six seniors (also Jordan Cummings, Anna LeBlanc, Alexis Downs and Cassady Bussiere) who went through playoff disappointment last year, and then committed themselves in some way during the offseason “to give our program the opportunity to be at our best during their senior season.”

“I believe this year’s team has so much potential,” Ouellette said. “We are returning a lot of our players from last year, and I know that my teammates have been working really hard in the offseason as well.” 

The Red Eddies thought all their work would be for a normal 16-game schedule. 

At a preseason meeting last Wednesday, “we as a program talked about how we take what we are given and do our best with it, no matter what,” Derosby said. “I think in the back of my mind, I knew that that was going to mean more than just a bad bounce in the field or a rainy-day cancellation.” 

Two days later Derosby got the word from athletic director Todd Sampson about the pushed-back start date for the season. 

“My heart broke for this group of seniors,” said Derosby, who was able to meet with her seniors after hearing the news. “The look on their faces was heartbreaking.” 

“I reminded them that we said we would take what we were given and do our best with it no matter what, and that a smaller number of moments was going to be better than none,” said Derosby, who told the group that what was happening was “bigger than us and out of our control.”

Edward Little pitcher Chantel Ouellette (12) and first baseman Alexis Downs, left, celebrate with Jordan Cummings, right, after the Red Eddies defeated Lewiston in Auburn in May 2019. Ouellette, Downs and Cummings were supposed to begin their senior seasons this month, but that has been put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover) Buy this Photo

What the players can control is what they do to prepare for the season in the meantime. 

“I have been doing conditioning on my own, so I am both physically and mentally prepared for any sort of season,” Hammond said. “A lot of the team plans on doing work on our own, as well as some of the team leaders are working on organizing small skill sessions outside. I think overall it is important we are supporting and encouraging any type of preparation.” 

Ouellette, who plans on playing softball and possibly basketball at Thomas College, said she has been working inside and will be trying to get outside to practice as much as possible. 

She said this year is “the biggest season of my life, and I was really working for it.”

It might also be her shortest season. 

Or there’s the real possibility of no season, and Ouellette and Hammond both said they would be “devastated.” 

“But let’s not think about that yet,” said Hammond, who will be attending University of Maine, where she plans to explore opportunities to play the club level. 

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