Copyright 2014 Bangor Daily News
Penquis Valley High School of Milo will not field a softball team this spring due to low numbers.
Penquis athletic director Tony Hamlin said that just eight players showed up for practice on Monday and that prompted him and Penquis principal Matt Hackett to pull the plug on the program on Tuesday.
Hamlin said that under Maine Principals' Association guidelines, if a team starts a season but can't finish it due to a lack of players, it can't offer that sport for the next two years.
But by canceling the softball season on Tuesday, Penquis can re-institute it next spring.
Hamlin said 11 players showed up for a meeting last Friday when he informed them that the next three days would determine the team's status.
After just eight attended Monday's practice, Hamlin contacted the MPA, along with schools on the Penquis schedule, to inform them of their decision.
"You really need at least 11 or 12 players," said Hamlin. "We had 10 last year and we struggled to keep it alive. Having 10 on a softball team is like having six on a basketball team."
Penquis went 0-14 a year ago.
"Tony was pretty clear when he met with them on Friday that we needed at least 11 players," said coach Erin [Weston] Allen, who was going to make her debut as the head coach at her alma mater. "We weren't going to start the season with eight or nine girls. That wasn't going to work out."
Hamlin said Penquis offers outdoor track and that hurt the softball program. He said several of their softball opponents don't have outdoor track programs.
"I think we have 15 girls who run track and four or five of them would normally play softball [if we didn't offer track]," said Hamlin.
Penquis also offers boys and girls tennis, he noted.
Hamlin pointed out that if a school can't offer a sport for two years, "the incoming [freshmen] wouldn't have a chance to play until their junior years so they would probably get involved in track or tennis [as freshmen and sophomores]."
Under MPA rules, a team has to have nine players to start a softball game but it can finish with eight. And if a team forfeits one game because it doesn't have enough players, its season is over and the two-year ban goes into place.
The Penquis enrollment is down to 200, Hamlin said, but the future looks bright for enrollment and for softball.
"We have a small senior class but we have big eighth- and seventh-grade classes coming in over the next two years so our enrollment should go back up to 240 or 250," he said.
He and Allen understand that they will gain four or five softball players out of the freshman class next spring. And they said none of the eight girls who showed up on Monday were seniors.
Hamlin said they had held several meetings to address the softball dilemma and the players tried to recruit other girls.
"But if you're begging people to play, that's a bad combination," he said.
Hamlin said the Penquis softball situation is "endemic of what is happening to small schools moving into the future. Numbers are down in most sports. Kids don't want to participate for some reason or another."
He said he is confident that if the numbers go up, Allen will be able to "revive the program."
"Hopefully, we'll start rebuilding it next year," said Allen, who played shortstop on some highly competitive Penquis teams in the late 1990s. "I've heard there's a huge group of seventh graders so we can get it back on track."