While the previous season ended in heartbreak at the hands of the University of Connecticut Huskies in the regional playoffs, the University of Maine club softball team has fought through adversity of every level to return to form this season. Navigating a year with a fairly changed roster was difficult enough, but when the Mahaney Dome collapsed under the weight of heavy snowfall earlier this winter, the team was left without a home field in the harsh climate of Orono. Rescheduling games quickly became like managing a blizzard for team managers, only complicating an already tumultuous situation. Regardless of the madness swirling in the air, the Black Bears’ performances this year have them ranked sixteenth in the nation’s most recent NCSA poll, a testament to the group’s drive and unwillingness to give up.
I had the opportunity to sit down with team president Haley Clemons, one of the longest-tenured members of the group, and discuss the club softball team’s chaotic 2022 to 23 season so far.
“[I believe] we have a strong group of upperclassmen that have a passion for the game. That energy has radiated throughout, and we’ve bonded together well. Everyone works hard individually and it shows when we come together as a team in practice and definitely in games. Our coaches have been giving us great feedback on what needs to be worked on and we as a whole make an effort to work on our weaknesses.” Clemons said.
The remainder of the teams in NCSA continued to play, and luckily for Maine, their schedule saw them away from home for the entirety of the collapse.
“Luckily this spring we had all away games anyways, but the dome collapsing has forced us to practice outside on the football field. Hard to get things done in the cold,” Clemons said.
The issue became nothing more than a minor snafu for the Black Bears however, with the team roaring as of late and pushing their record to an astonishing 13-0-0 mark overall. Leading the charge has been pitcher-turned-outfielder, third-year Danielle Hall. The arrival of first-year ace Bailey Goodell has given Hall an opportunity to shift into the field, and her all-around contributions have been largely beneficial to the team’s success.
Hall has shone in limited time off the mound, roaming the outfield with ease and finding her way on base to the tune of an .892 OPS and a team-leading six walks.
Goodell’s 33 innings pitched this year lead the group, with Hall and fourth-year hurler McKayla Leary combining for 26 innings of their own. The Mount Desert Island native boasts an insane 6-0 record, starting five of the aforementioned contests and lasting the entire seven innings through two of her appearances.
“Bailey has been a great asset to the team. She has shown great resilience on the mound and gets the job done. I can’t wait to see how she and Danielle complement each other this spring,” said Clemons.
Fourth-year shortstop Julia Pitman has been arguably the biggest offensive threat on the team this year, pacing the team in various offensive categories. Her three home runs, five doubles, 18 hits and 19 runs all lead the Black Bears, while her 37 at-bats are far and above the next closest teammate. Sixth-year outfielder Jordan Miner has been an invaluable compliment to the remainder of the group as well, belting a team-leading .600 batting average, .655 on-base percentage, .920 slugging percentage, 1.575 OPS and 11 RBIs.
“[A major shift] this season has been Julia switching to shortstop after being in the outfield for the past few years. She’s an all-around player and has really shown this season that she not only can play any position we need her to, but shine in those positions as well,” Clemons said.
First-year utility piece Emma Bunyea has been a welcome addition to the offense as of late as well, contributing two homers and a team-leading three triples to match her 1.375 OPS. Her play across the diamond has been brilliant both defensively and offensively, and her “swiss army-knifed” nature makes her a player any team would kill to have. Fourth-year outfielder Heather Munroe was a major contributor in her side’s three-game sweep at the University of New Hampshire this past weekend, belting two home runs in the opening game, one of which was good for a Grand Slam.
The caliber of Maine’s offense has been on display throughout the year, but arrived at a boiling point during a weekend series here in Orono during the Fall. In the three games that weekend Maine outscored Merrimack 59-12, which included a 16-0 drubbing to close out the set.
Considering the cast of phenomenal athletes the club softball team advertises going into the last stretch of the regular season, President Clemons and her side have never been more motivated to rewrite history, and make up for last season’s unfortunate end.
“Our loss at regionals has definitely fueled the fire for redemption this year. I’m beyond confident in this group!” Clemons said.