Oxford Hills catcher Kaydence Morse catches a foul ball to make the first out of the seventh inning with the bases loaded during a Class A North semifinal against Brunswick at the Gouin Athletic Complex in South Paris on June 10. Brewster Burns photo

Maddy Miller offered quite a testimonial when she designated Kaydence Morse as the hub of the state finalist Oxford Hills softball team. 

That kind of dedication and leadership has earned Morse the Sun Journal All-Region Softball Player of the Year award for the second consecutive year. 

Miller said the camaraderie Morse fostered created a sisterhood as the Vikings raced to the Class A state championship game, in which they fell to Windham 3-1.

“She is a really great teammate,” Miller, a junior infielder and pitcher, said. “She is really passionate about the game and keeps everyone around her uplifted, which is one of the reasons why we were successful, I think. She was just like the heart of the team.”

Miller added that Morse, a senior catcher, will be missed next season.

“I would like to thank Maddy Miller for being nice. I am going to miss that team, too,” Morse, who has been a three-year starter for Oxford Hills, said. “I think we did really well. We fought a good battle.”

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Morse became the Vikings’ catcher last year, but she has played a variety of positions during her several years of softball. 

“I can play anywhere besides pitcher,” she said. “I can play anywhere. I am good at what I do. Put me somewhere and I am determined to get through it and do my best.” 

Morse has more than proven herself behind the plate — and in front of it, as a hitter. She launched 12 career home runs, more than any other player in the history of the Oxford Hills softball program. This season, she hammered out 19 singles, four doubles, two triples and three home runs and finished with a .438 batting average and .500 on-base percentage. She was named the KVAC Class A Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Miss Maine Softball award.

“She was a key element in the team’s success,” Oxford Hills coach Cindy Goddard said in an email. “She personally has a great arm, hits with power and, most importantly, helps guide the pitcher (and) calls a great game.”

The Vikings finished the season 18-2 and won the program’s first regional championship since 2018. Their run to the A North title included freshman pitcher Cameron Mayhan relieving freshman ace Kyeria Morse, Kaydence’s sister, in the semifinals against Brunswick with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the seventh, with Oxford Hills leading 2-0.

Mayhan was injured early in the spring and only made a few pitching appearances this season. She admitted to feeling nervous about taking over in the circle in a difficult situation and the season on the line. But she also had confidence from her teammates and from “trusting Kaydence catching for me.”

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Kaydence Morse caught a pop-up in foul territory for the first out, and Mayhan retired the next two batters to secure the win.

Mayhan also relieved Kyeria Morse in the top of the seventh in the A North final after Skowhegan tied the score. Mayhan got the third out, and Miller hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to send Oxford Hills to the state final.

Morse said the Vikings’ appearance in the states was not a surprise. 

“Not really, because the connection we had with the team, it was fantastic, and I knew that we could go all the way,” she said. “We put all of our heart and soul into it.” 

The Vikings were talented but young this season. They started four freshmen and two sophomores in many games. So Kaydence Morse’s veteran presence was important, particularly to the pitching staff, which consisted of Miller (who went 5-0) and two freshmen, Mayhan (1-0) and Kyeria Morse (12-2), who pitched 73% of the team’s innings. Kyeria’s rise to staff ace allowed Miller to spend most of the season playing on the left side of the infield.

Kaydence and Kyeria Morse are close, and they enjoyed working together as Oxford Hills’ primary battery tandem.

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“When Kyeria got mad, she knew she could pitch it harder because I’d catch it, and that I would always be there (for her) no matter what,” Kaydence said. 

Kyeria said Kaydence’s leadership was helpful to her and the entire team.

“She definitely brought the team together,” Kyeria said. “That’s for sure. Her and Goddard were pretty close. Everybody was closer there.” 

Equally important to the Vikings’ success this season, Kyeria said, was Kaydence’s talent.

“She is really good at it and worked her butt off for it,” Kyeria said.

Kaydence had at least one hit in 15 of the Vikings’ 20 games this season, and scored or drove in a run in 16 of their games.

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She also came up big in the playoffs. She had an RBI in the regional final and drove in Oxford Hills’ lone run with a perfectly placed bunt single in the Class A championship game.

Kaydence Morse’s graduation leaves a hole that will be difficult to fill — more difficult, possibly, than the Vikings even realize.

“I think her hard work goes unnoticed sometimes,” Miller said. “She is just the most passionate player on our team, and softball is her life. You can really see that and you see that shine through on the field and off the field.”

Kaydence is planning to attend Central Maine Community College, where she will study building construction and play softball for the Mustangs.

“I think I will miss her drive for everyone to be successful,” Miller said. “When someone else has a great hit, she is the first one to give them a high-five — and then, obviously, her talent is just something we are going to miss.”

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