Caribou and Limestone-MSSM softball teams ready for playoffs

12 years ago

By Kevin Sjoberg
Sports Reporter

The playoffs have arrived for high school softball and baseball teams. The region has two strong contenders for championships, as the Caribou and Limestone/MSSM softball teams are among the top four in their respective classes.

SP-ARsoftJMS-dcx1-ar-23Contributed photo/jMavor Photography
First baseman Rebecca McDougal hugs Emily Staples during last Wednesday’s home game against Presque Isle. Staples had just recorded the 500th strikeout of her career. Caribou won, 15-0, and played the Wildcats again in an Eastern Maine Class B preliminary playoff game Tuesday.

A few local teams needed to get through the preliminary round, which was scheduled yesterday.

In softball, Presque Isle, with a 7-9 record, claimed the 13th and final position in the Eastern Maine Class B rankings and had to travel to Caribou for the third meeting between the two squads. Fourth-ranked Caribou (14-2) won the two regular season matchups by scores of 24-0 and 15-0. The winner takes on either No. 5 Old Town or No. 12 Waterville in the quarterfinals Thursday.

Fort Fairfield (10th place, 4-9) and Ashland (seventh, 6-7) also are familiar opponents and lined up for a prelim contest in Class D. The two teams split their games, with Ashland winning at home May 11, 23-10, and Fort Fairfield getting revenge on its home field May 22, 22-5. The winner will stay in Aroostook County for its nex game, drawing No. 2 Limestone-MSSM (13-2) Thursday.

In baseball, Tuesday’s Class D prelim pitting No. 8 Limestone-MSSM (10-6) and No. 9 Fort Fairfield (7-8) was an intriguing one. Despite being the lower seed, the Tigers swept the Eagles on the season, winning at home on May 16 by an 18-10 margin and then again in Limestone May 24, 8-4. The winner will make the short trip to Mars Hill to take on No. 1 Central Aroostook (12-2-1) Thursday in the quarters.

Washburn, with a 6-7-1 record, came in 11th place and met No. 6 Woodland (9-7) Tuesday in Baileyville. The winner plays Southern Aroostook in Dyer Brook Thursday.

The semifinal round is scheduled for Saturday, with the Eastern Maine finals set for next Wednesday, June 13. Brewer High School will host the softball championship, while the baseball title game will be held at Mansfield Complex in Bangor.

The regular season ended last week, with Caribou earning the 15-0 triumph over PI in softball. Emily Staples recorded her 500th career strikeout in the Wednesday victory. The Viking baseball team lost that same day to the Wildcats, 6-4, in a game that needed 13 innings before being decided.

At Mars Hill that same afternoon, the CA softball team edged Fort Fairfield, 10-9, while the Panther baseball team recorded a 14-1 victory.

A closer look at the Caribou and Limestone-MSSM softball team follows:

Caribou Vikings softball

Last year, Caribou was the eighth seed in the division and after a home prelim victory over Belfast knocked off No. 1 Medomak Valley and No. 4 Old Town on the road before losing a close game to Bucksport in the championship.

This season, nobody is overlooking the Vikes, whose only losses came to Hermon and Ellsworth. Caribou has one of the best pitchers in Eastern Maine in senior Emily Staples, who throws a number of different pitches for strikes. Her statistics are eye popping: 96 innings, 147 strikeouts, 23 walks, 17 runs allowed and 11 shutouts. She registered a perfect game against Houlton.

“She has really worked hard to get where she is,” said seventh-year coach Ryan Deprey, “and she has a great rapport with her catcher (Kristin Plante) and they really trust each other.”

The other Viking starters are Rebecca McDougal at first base, Kelsie Espling at second, Anesha Hershey at shortstop, Jordyn Doucette at third, Victoria Bouchard in left field, Jamie Martin in center and Courtney Burby in right. Deprey raves about the team’s defense, which has played with consistency all year long.

“We’ve been lucky to be in some tough games, and have come from behind a couple of times,” Deprey said. “As long as we put seven strong innings together, I feel we can play with anyone.”

Limestone-MSSM

Eagles softball

The Eagles are once again one of the best teams in the Class D ranks. Under fourth-year coach Ryan O’Neal, Limestone-MSSM proved it owns one of the top offenses around by scoring 19 or more runs on eight occasions during the regular season. However, O’Neal realizes the key in the post-season will be the other two facets of the game – pitching and defense.

“We are at our best when Amanda (Allen) throws strikes and we are seeing groundballs,” the coach said. “We also have been quite resilient in bad situations as we have five comeback wins, including an eight-run bottom of the seventh against Madawaska and a four-run bottom of the seventh against Wisdom.

“We have a refuse-to-lose attitude.”

The offense includes five different players who have laced over-the-fence home runs and five players with batting averages of at least .400.

First baseman Melissa Cantafio (.492, 27 runs, 24 RBI) and Allen (.478, 28 runs, 19 RBI) lead the way, while shortstop Daniele Pelkey (.424, 30 runs), catcher Kelsee Albert (.421) and center fielder Stephanie Leighton (.406, 26 runs, 24 RBI) are the other top hitters. Second baseman Michaela Garrett, third baseman Ellyzabeth Bencivenga, left fielder Jordyn Hopkins and right fielder Karen Page round out the starting lineup.

Allen had a rough game in the semifinals a year ago, with control problems leading to a home loss to Ashland in the semifinals. O’Neal said the senior has grown from the experience.

“She has figured out her mechanics and has become mentally tough,” he said. “She doesn’t strike out many, but she rarely gives up good contact as she has a lot of movement on her ball.”

O’Neal said his team is motivated after last year’s early exit from the playoffs.

“We played our worst game of the season in that loss to Ashland and we do not plan on that happening again,” he said. “We don’t want to take any part of the game for granted, so we are focusing on one pitch at a time.”