This article originally appeared in American Chronicle
Their Valuable Contributions Helped Put Maine on the Map
May 06, 2009
By Mike Lowe
Based on what happened with her softball team this spring, Martha Deusser, the first-year head coach at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., just might spend more time recruiting in Maine.
The Gators finished third in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, mainly on the power of the bats of three Mainers.
Junior first baseman/catcher Courtney Wallace of Steep Falls (Bonny Eagle) led the team with a .405 batting average while hitting five home runs, driving in 27 runs and scoring 31. Freshman outfielder Kayla Ferrara of South Portland hit .328 with a team- high eight home runs and 31 RBI while scoring 30 runs. And freshman catcher/third baseman Kayla Nielsen of Saco (Thornton Academy) hit .313 with three home runs, 24 RBI and 23 runs.
"They were just unbelievable," said Deusser. "Their success definitely opened our eyes to see the talent (in Maine). I never realized how intense it was up there."
Wallace, a first-team all-conference selection, said she was one of just three Mainers on the entire campus her freshman year. Her presence helped Nielsen and Ferrara adjust not only to college life and softball, but to life in the big city.
"I remember our first ride on the T (Boston's public transportation system) was really different," said Nielsen. "It was just a big advantage to having Courtney there."
With just 11 players on the roster, the three really carried the Gators for a while. They batted in the middle of the lineup and Wallace was usually the igniter.
"She was the clutch hitter, the kid who, with two outs and runners on base, you knew she was going to get it done," said Deusser.
They were dubbed "The Maine Special," by their teammates. Nielsen, batting third, "was the appetizer," said Ferrara. "Courtney (fourth in the lineup) was the main course. I was the cherry on top."
Nielsen, who earned the team's sportsmanship award voted by her teammates, showed great versatility, even playing shortstop. Ferrara improved greatly on defensive, making some clutch catches in the playoffs.
"Finishing third was tough, but better than we expected," said Wallace. "We were bruised and we were tired, but it showed a lot about our character."
While they helped each other on the field - Nielsen said Wallace was invaluable in helping her set up batters as a catcher - their off-field connections were equally important.
"It was just nice having that piece of home," said Wallace.
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Wed, May 6, 2009