Penobscot Valley High School softball coach Thom Coyle already knew how good Kayla Dube is. But when umpires starting raving to him about the movement on Dube’s pitches, Coyle decided to check it out from their perspective.
“I’ve stood back there behind the umpire,” Coyle said. “I’ve never seen a ball actually spin upwards. A lot of girls, they can start it low and it goes up, but hers actually has movement on it.”
Dube is from Enfield, a town of about 1,600 people around Cold Stream Pond, and Penobscot Valley, a Class D school, has only about 175 students. Dube’s high school accomplishments belie her small-town roots. She has over 600 strikeouts in her career, and led the Howlers (PVHS is located in Howland) to the Class D state title last year. In the state championship game, facing a Richmond team that was averaging 11.7 runs per game, Dube threw a four-hitter with 14 strikeouts in a 4-2 victory.
This season, the Howlers are undefeated, and Dube has already thrown six no-hitters. She’s also batting around .300 with one home run, doing so despite a bad leg.
“I strained a muscle behind my knee,” Dube said. “It’s my landing foot, so it really has a bad effect on my knee.”
Dube said the strain could become a tear, and it is painful not only when she pitches, but sometimes when she’s just sitting down. Still, it’s her senior year, and there’s a state title to defend.
“They’d have to pull me off the field,” she said.
Dube has shown that kind of dedication for a long time. Every school year, from September to June, she travels to Bucksport every Sunday to work with pitching coach Bob Mercer. The ride is about three hours round-trip for a two-hour session with Mercer.
“She’s one of the hardest workers you’ll ever see,” Coyle said. “Whenever she does anything, she puts her head right into it, and goes all the way. She rises to the next level when she gets into trouble. She’s really one of a kind.”
With any Class D athlete in any sport in Maine, people always wonder how a star would do playing against teams from larger schools. In softball, Class D schools are all under 200 students. PVHS, which also faces some Class C schools, outscored its opponents 208-23 last season and 187-10 through its first 13 games this spring, making it clear the Howlers are too strong for most of their competition.
But Dube has faced teams from Class B in preseason. This spring, she faced Maine Central Institute, which won seven of its first 12 regular season games in Class B this year. Although it was her first time pitching outside this season, Dube struck out 21 batters in nine innings, and she said she’s always motivated when facing a bigger school.
“I want to prove that [even though] we’re in Class D, we can beat any team,” Dube said. “I think our team is good enough to compete with just about anybody.”
There’s also the question of how Dube will fare in college. Coyle says she’s been clocked at consistently between 55 and 61 miles per hour, and he thinks that can go up when she gets to college and starts lifting weights regularly.
“She’s definitely Division I or II,” Coyle said. “She can handle it. If she wanted to go to the University of Maine, there would be no problem there, because she’s already better the pitcher the University of Maine has.”
Dube is looking at Husson University, a Division III school, but says she has offers from other schools as well and has not made a final decision.
“I really want to play softball,” she said. “So a school with a good softball team that wants me would be great, but it also has to be a nursing school, because I’m going to be a nurse.”
CONY HIRES NEW BASKETBALL COACHES
Cony High School lost both of its basketball coaches within a few weeks of the end of the season. Tim Bonsant resigned from the boys’ job, while Karen Magnusson stepped down after leading the Cony girls to the Eastern A title game.
Cony recently hired its two replacements. Coincidentally, they’re both resigning from head coaching positions at Thomas College in Waterville to take the Cony jobs.
The new boys coach is T.J. Maines, a teacher in the Augusta school system who coached the Thomas men for the last seven seasons, compiling a record of 89-88. Maines led the Terriers to a winning record in each of the last five seasons.
Ted Rioux, the former Thomas women’s coach, takes over for Magnusson on the girls’ side. Rioux coached five years at Belfast Area High School, then won three consecutive Class B state championships at Waterville. His last two teams at Waterville went 11-8 and 4-14, and did not win a tournament game. He then took over the Thomas program and was in the process of building that team. Rioux’s record at Thomas was 12-38 over two seasons.
Oddly enough, the new girls coach at Skowhegan Area High School (another Eastern A school) was also a head coach at the college level last season. Bob Witts comes to Skowhegan after spending one season coaching the Unity College women. Witts led the NAIA in scoring with Hawthorne College in New Hampshire when he averaged 35.4 points per game during the 1980-81 season.
MESSALONSKEE’S VEILLEUX ON MEND
Courtney Veilleux’s coaches were hoping she’d be back by May. After all, Veilleux had surgery in February to remove one of her kidneys.
“I had an appointment in Lewiston with an urologist,” Veilleux told the Morning Sentinel. “He told me that when my mom was pregnant with me, my kidney didn’t fully develop, and it just filled up with fluid. So it was just a really thin layer of kidney material and the rest was all fluid that was just sitting there, getting bigger and bigger.”
While the average kidney is about the size of a fist, one of Veilleux’s kidneys was approximately the size of a football. After being unable to take mour than four or five swings in batting practice during the early days of preseason, Veilleux has played every game in center field for the Eagles, and is hitting over .400. She plans to play at Thomas College next spring.