The Auburn Invaders are in the middle of their fifth year this summer and keep growing. 

“It’s so fun to see the organization grow,” coach Kirsten Pelletier said. “We started with two teams. Now, we have a 10U team, a 12U, 14U and a 16/18U team. It’s been so awesome to see it grow and see girls come that have never played travel softball.”

Kirsten Pelletier pitches the Bates Bobcats to a shutout win over Colby in April 2019. Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College photo

The Invaders are made up of players from Auburn and surrounding areas, and are part of the Amateur Softball Association. Pelletier said they play four to five tournaments a summer — some in state, at locations like Waterville and Portland, and, depending on the team, some out of state.

Pelletier was a standout pitcher at Bates College from 2017 until early 2020 when her senior season was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite not playing a full four seasons, she is the Bobcats’ all-time leader in shutouts (13), strikeouts (384), appearances (74), starts (64) and innings pitched (415).

College athletes were given an extra year of eligibility, and she used hers to play at the University of Southern Maine in 2021, and helped the Huskies reach the NCAA Division III tournament for the first time since 1999.

This is her third summer coaching the Invaders, and she says there is a lot she likes about helping younger players learn the game.


“Outside of pitching and athletics and the mechanics, I try to bring the growth of the game,” Pelletier, who graduated from Messalonskee High School, said. “I try to keep reminding them that a good hitter fails over half the time. I think this group of girls really struggles with being able to fail. I think the sense of community among all the teams is so important. Celebrating women in sports and celebrating each other every chance we get.”

Auburn Invaders travel softball coach Hannah Shields throws pitches Thursday night into the dirt to help catcher Amelia Hill of Buckfield practice stopping during a practice in Auburn. Shields, a Buckfield graduate who plays at the University of Southern Maine, is in her second season coaching the Invaders. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Pelletier added her former USM teammate and Buckfield graduate Hannah Shields as an assistant coach last year.

Shields, now in her second season of coaching the Invaders’ 10U and the 16/18U teams with Pelletier, finished her junior season with USM in May. She started all 40 games for the Huskies and led the team in home runs (two) and ranked third in doubles (six).

Shields grew up playing travel softball for the Turner-based Hornets when she was 14, then for the Maine Pride, which was based in the Oxford Hills area.

“We work on everything, from skills to attitudes to everything else,” Shields said. “With the 10s, it’s the fundamentals of softball, having fun and having a good time. Then, with the U18 girls, they bring that higher level of competition.

“For the 16-18s, we have a younger group. They’re playing at a higher level of competition. Maybe in high school they did see that faster pitcher, but some haven’t seen the faster pitcher and what to do with fundamentals and everything else.”


Pelletier and Shields have been working on boosting the confidence of the players and letting them know that they’re doing good things even when it might not seem like it. 

“They’ll go up to the plate and they’ll hit a deep fly ball that scores a runner from third base, and they’ll be like, ‘I got out,’” Pelletier said. “But, I’ll say, ‘But you scored a runner. You did a job.’ I am trying to explain that part of the game to them.”

 Shields said she learned a lot about softball when she played for travel teams, but perhaps more important are the friendships she made with people she normally wouldn’t have met at Buckfield.

Auburn Invaders travel softball coach Hannah Shields gathers softballs Thursday night during a practice in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I think. when I was younger. I loved softball so much, playing travel gave me more experience on the softball field, but it helps you become more social and more connected,” Shields said. “It gives you friends that you will have forever, and you get to know girls that maybe you don’t go to school with. You can play softball with kids that aren’t on your school teams.

“Coming from Buckfield, a small school, we played with the same girls year after year. When we went to travel, I played with a whole new group of girls. I played with a couple Buckfield girls, but I got to meet so many other girls that some go to USM now. You make connections and you learn to get along with kids you may not have at high school or wherever.”

Kirsten Pelletier, Bates College’s all-time leader in shutouts and strikeouts, played at the University of Southern Maine as a graduate student in 2021. Cullen McIntyre photo

Pelletier said the Invaders are part of a growing travel softball scene in Maine.

“I think it’s grown since I was little,” Pelletier said. “There are a lot more competitive organizations around. It’s just so cool. The amount of girls that have come out to play has grown a lot, and they put on a lot of great tournaments in Waterville. I also think the girls like a little hour commute to a tournament because it makes it feel exciting and new.”

Tryouts for the 2023 Invaders team start Aug. 9 at Tribou Field and Pettengill Park in Auburn.

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