The University of Maine Black Bears softball team has a short but well-rounded pitching staff this season. Black Bears Head Coach Mike Coutts features just a three-player rotation that consists of second-year pitchers Molly Flowers and Annie Kennedy, along with third-year pitcher Erin Bogdanovich. Each of these three pitchers throw a lot of innings on the mound and embrace their roles on the team.
“This year, they all know they are going to pitch a lot. All of them have gone in and done a good job at different times. We haven’t relied on one person to carry us, they’ve all had a role in what we are doing here,” Coutts said.
Of the three-featured starting pitchers, it is Flowers who receives the most work. Flowers has already hurled in 18 games this season, 15 of those appearances being starts for 73.2 total innings pitched in total thus far for the Black Bears. She credits her sports performance Coach Jon Lynch for her level of stamina and consistent productivity this season.
“Coach Lynch has conditioned us to the point where throwing as many innings as I have is easy. We have also worked on mental toughness a lot this year, focusing on one pitch at a time, and doing that has prepared me for everything that has been thrown at me,” Flowers said.
Flowers hasn’t only pitched a lot, she has been absolutely phenomenal for Coutts and her teammates. Flowers has thrown two no-hitters already this year. She is leading the America East in both strikeouts and opponents batting average. In the strikeouts department, she is leading by a landslide with 100 strikeouts, and opposing batting averages against her are a dismal .176.
Her record on the season is 8-8 with a 2.95 ERA. Though she has been great this year, she is very quick to admit that her fellow pitching staff members and teammates play a huge role in the success.
“We are a staff, and each of us being very different has allowed for the success of the team. I’ve used the strength of my offense and defense to be able to pitch that amount with the success I’ve had. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to pitch so many innings,” Flowers said.
Bogdanovich has also been extremely effective this year for the Black Bears. She is second behind Flowers on the team in innings pitched with 62.1 total innings in 17 appearances and 10 starts. Bogdanovich carries a 4-4 record with a 4.16 ERA and 29 strikeouts. Bogdanovich feels that it is the overall chemistry and togetherness of the team and pitching staff that drives her to get better everyday.
“This year, I have enjoyed the team chemistry the most. It’s awesome going to practice everyday and loving the people around you. Everyone has each others back on and off the field. We have great chemistry as a whole team. Our pitching staff is very close, we are all extremely supportive of each other and always pushing one another to be better,” Bogdanovich said.
Finally, Kennedy has appeared in 16 games this year and started six of them. She has the best ERA on the staff at 2.63 and the only one with a winning record. In 53.1 innings pitched this year, Kennedy is 4-3 with 29 strikeouts and just eight walks. She also has the lone Black Bears save this season. Kennedy believes the success of the pitching staff as of late is from hard work in the offseason and learning how to battle through adversity.
“Our teams pitching success has come from having a positive mindset. We have worked so hard in the offseason, lifting weights and working on mechanics. Now, when we step onto the field we trust our training and have confidence that we will be successful. We also have learned to work through adversity. We know people are going to get hits sometimes, but by not getting down on ourselves and working through innings where we have runners on base, we keep our team in the game,” Kennedy said.
The Black Bears have a great thing going with their pitching staff and it will only get better in years to come. With all of this season’s staff returning next year, the Black Bears will be a dangerous team next season. However, do not be surprised if this talented bunch propels them to a deep playoff run.