POLAND — To say that the Poland softball players were excited for the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers for Maine’s high school baseball and softball teams might be an understatement.

“It’s nice to be back in that atmosphere,” Knights coach Kat Meader, formerly Kat Seeley, said. “The girls want to be here. They love softball. It’s what they talk about all the time and look forward to.

“They have a countdown and let me know how many days till it starts.”

Many of the players at Monday’s practice play softball on travel teams throughout the year, so Monday wasn’t a return to the sport but a return to Poland softball.

“I’m just excited, really,” junior Gretchyn Paradis said. “It’s a lot of emotions and stuff like that just gets me really excited, because I really do like playing school (softball).”

The Knights are coming off the best season in program history. Last year, they went 17-2 and reached the Class B South semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Gardiner.


Paradis was one of Poland’s top players last year, but her role this year will be more pivotal. She takes over as the Knights’ ace, tasked with replacing Atlantis Martin, who graduated.

Paradis also pitched in 2022. She usually finished the games after Martin pitched the bulk of the innings.

“I pitched quite a bit, but I had my senior, she was like my big sister, and I had her to kind of save me if I ever needed it,” Paradis said.

Along with throwing 37 1/3 innings as a sophomore, pitcher also is Paradis’ primary position with her travel team. She said that being the Knights’ top pitcher is a mix of “nerve-wracking” — because she doesn’t have the security of Martin stepping in to help out, when needed — and “happy that I have the trust in my coaches and my team that I can start.”

Helping ease Paradis into her increased responsibility will be sophomore catcher Olivia Rioux, who had a terrific freshman season.

“Gretchyn, I think she hits her spot super well, has really good speed, really good pitches,” Rioux said, “and I think that she’s going to be able to like fill that spot pretty well.”


Meader said that one of the Knights’ strengths this season will be that they “have one of the better pitchers in the league.”

“Gretchyn consistently throws strikes — and fast strikes,” Meader said. “Some people have a hard time when she throws her change-up. They can’t really adjust to that. So she’s worked really hard on that.”

Behind Paradis is another junior, Khloe O’Leary. Since O’Leary also is the Knights’ starting shortstop, she won’t be used in the circle as often as Paradis was last year.

“If and when I’m needed, I’ll be there, and I’m ready to work,” O’Leary said.

“Khloe is another one who can consistently throw strikes and the defense does their job behind her, which is very nice to have,” Meader said. “I want Khloe to be ready at any time. She also warms up very fast. So, if I need her, like, the next inning, she’s ready to go.”

Martin and fellow 2022 graduates Emma Bunyea, Emma Gagne and Gabbie Bolduc started last year at pitcher, second base, third base and center field.


Last year’s seniors batted fourth, fifth and sixth hitters in last year’s lineup. But the Knights were loaded with offense last season, so many of the top hitters return.

Rioux, as a freshman, had the team’s best batting average, .531, and on-base percentage, .623. She ranked second in hits (26) and RBIs (18). O’Leary (.473 average) scored a team-best 27 runs, and Paradis (.323) was second with 25.

“We just need to fill those gaps,” O’Leary said. “But other than that, I think that we’re coming in strong and we’re ready to work again.”

The Knights have several players whose favorite sport is softball, and who have been playing together for several years. Meader said that there are many similar players coming up through Poland’s pipeline.

Meader said that many of the returning players can play multiple positions, so the question isn’t so much, “Can the open positions be filled?” but more, “Who will fill the openings?”

Meader, a Poland Regional High School graduate, said it will be important for the players to adjust to their positions, and adjust to having teammates filling different positions.

She said another key, as the Knights look to equal or surpass last season’s success, will be not getting frustrated when things don’t go perfectly.

“A Major League player isn’t going to go perfect every single game all the time,” Meader said. “We look for them to go 80, 90 percent, and really focusing if they do make an error to be able to move on and know that it’s not the end of the game, and there’s going to be another ball hit to you.

“So I think the mental, like, the psychology piece, is going to be really huge on these girls just because they’re so versatile and they can play anywhere.”

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