Last season the softball team at BFA-Fairfax won its first state championship in over thirty years.
This year, the Bullets are off to a 10-0 start, signaling a new power has officially emerged in Division II.
Leading the way for Fairfax has been a sort-of youth movement, with four sophomores and two freshmen on the varsity squad with five of those players starting for the Bullets.
“They are used to competing at higher levels,” said BFA coach Mary Gagne. “They definitely have a mindset to be successful when they come in, it’s wonderful. They are going into every game to compete.”
At the top of the list of key underclassmen is pitcher Kayla Mathieu, a sophomore pitcher. Mathieu was in the circle in last year’s state title win and remains the ace of deep staff.
“Her strongest asset is her composure,” Gagne said. “The pitching position is supposed to be so mentally strong and she definitely brings that every time she’s out there.”
Behind the plate is another underclassman, sophomore Kayla Nester, while Kailyn Hackbart and Sarah Rainville also take the field each day as sophomores. Kaitlyn Barnack and Giana Trono are the team’s two freshmen.
“I can’t say enough good words about them, they come in and they get the job done,” Gagne said. “If they (show nerves), I haven’t seen it.”
The key to the success of this team isn’t the play of the talented underclassmen though, said Gagne. It is the leadership of its senior class.
“The seniors, the mix of them, have made the energy so balanced,” Gagne said. “The leadership of the seniors is what makes us so strong.”
Seniors Brooke Naylor, Danielle Russin, Marin Varney and Amanda Perry all returned from last year’s state championship winning team and have assumed leadership roles on and off the field for the Bullets. Josie Thibault joined the squad this year.
“We want to build confidence in the younger players,” Naylor said. “We work really hard to make sure everyone on the team feels that confidence.”
“I will bawl my eyes out when I lose this group of seniors,” Gagne said. “They are the backbone of this team.”
The leadership of the seniors has been very important to the development of the younger players, said Barnack, who turns to the upperclassmen for advice on the field.
“I know I can always communicate with them,” Barnack said. “We always talk through plays in the infield. We all have a good relationship, so it’s easy to go out there and play. When we are on the field, we come together as one. We’re really blended well.”
The youth movement doesn’t just stop this season, the junior varsity program is full of talented players and next season there is a very large class of eighth graders ready to make the step to the high school level, making the future of the program bright.
Coach Gagne points to the development in the youth league around the area and assistant coaches Marlene and Quintin Karr, who have been involved at the JV level for years, developing the current crop of players.
“I think that we were taught very young and very well,” said Naylor. “I think a big factor is our passion for the sport. I could not name a girl who does not have a passion for softball.”
While it might be a little early for the word dynasty to get whispered around, with a sophomore on the mound and a large crop of talent coming up, there is no reason to think this team can’t develop into a program that has success annually.
“When I took this position, I wanted to build a program that prided itself on fundamentals of the game, loving the game,” Gagne said.
Part of building a successful program is continuing to win, something that senior class is aware of and are keen to make part of their legacy.
“I definitely think a lot of the youth in the program looks up to us and thinks ‘this is the team that I will be a part of in future years,'” said Naylor. “We are the people that started it and we have to finish our end of the spectrum, letting those kids know that it’s definitely a possibility for them.”