Carla Tripp: Player of the Year

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Oftentimes, a player will have a defining moment when she joins the elite of her sport.

For Fryeburg Academy’s Carla Tripp, it might be hard to name just one moment.

In a season, which saw the junior catcher from Lovell battle through sore shoulders — one may require surgery in the offseason — Tripp led the Raiders in hitting with a .356 average. While she collected 21 hits and scored 24 runs in the regular season, maybe her most memorable at bat will be a 21-pitch marathon against Greely’s ace Danielle Cimino in the Class B West Finals. After being down 0-2 in the count, Tripp fouled off a variety of pitches to earn a walk.

Over her first two seasons, Tripp was best known around the league for her bunting prowess and speed. As a freshman, she had 21 hits, of which 19 were bunt singles. This spring, Tripp had third basemen guessing and ducking for their lives. She evolved into a multiple threat hitter, capable of lacing inside fastballs down the third base line for extra base hits or dropping well-placed bunts for singles.

Or, maybe another pivotal moment was when she reached base late in the game against Gray-New Gloucester and ultimately tied the game with a headfirst dive into home plate. It was, however, her huge “heart” as a player that left most around the park speechless. After reaching first on a bunt single, Tripp fell to a knee and vomited. Dehydrated, she consumed some water, stayed in the game and went on to steal second and third. When she started her dive toward home plate, she was a good several feet away from the dish. Yet, her athleticism carried her across the plate as she reached with her right hand to touch the backside of the dish before the Patriots’ catcher could make a tag.

Maybe it was her arm that impressed opposing coaches as few teams dared to steal against Tripp.

Or, maybe it was the number of times Tripp bailed out the Raider defense by picking runners caught leaning off their bases.

Whatever the defining moment was, coaches around Class B West agreed that Carla Tripp was their overwhelming selection for “Player of the Year.”

“When I found out I was ‘Player of the Year,’ I was shocked. I just love playing the game,” said Tripp. “No award can ever replace the feeling I get when I’m out there on the diamond with my team.”

Fryeburg Academy Coach Fred Apt expected his junior catcher to be in the mix for the prestigious honor.

“Carla brought so much to the team. She became a leader both by example and by verbal communication. She really came through as one of the team leaders when we needed it most,” Coach Apt said. “She is one of those athletes who will sacrifice her body to be successful on the field, yet she understands not everyone plays that style and just asks that her teammates give what they have and  enjoy the game.”

Coach Apt sees Tripp as a complete player.

“It is just so impressive to watch someone who is willing to do whatever the team needs from her,” he said. “She went from someone who used to bunt her way on to someone who can hit for power, bunt, slap and still steal bases.”

As the Raiders’ lead-off hitter, Tripp felt she made a major jump in terms of being an offensive threat this season.

“I’d have to say my biggest improvement was patience. Coach Apt showed me you can’t play sports, especially softball, without being patient with your team and yourself,” Tripp said. “I’d also have to say my batting improved a lot.”

Because of her aggressive play, Tripp suffered a number of bumps and bruises along the way, as well as nursing a sore shoulder, which hurt her accuracy at times. Yet, she never missed a start or failed to complete a game.

“My team kept me going. I didn’t want to let them down. They all worked so hard this year to get to where they are now and I’m glad I got to be a part of it,” she said.

Like many teams, the Raiders had some holes to fill this spring after seeing five starters from the 20-0 state championship team graduate. While younger players rose to the challenge and faired well in their first varsity season, Coach Apt’s biggest concern was who would step forward to assume the leadership role.

Tripp was one of three players to step to the plate and lead the young Raiders.

“I realized I needed to be more vocal when we got down on ourselves in tight situations. It was more like we got tense or made a few more errors than we normally do. I told them (teammates) to relax and have fun because it is still just a high school sport to some players,” she said. “Like my coach always says, ‘You can’t control every ground ball or the umpire’s calls. You can only control yourself and what you do.’ I try to lead with an open mind because each player is different. Different things upset different people. They all have their own way of getting over it. I also like to try and lead with enthusiasm, but also being relaxed.”

Tripp has a never quit attitude in everything she does on the softball field. She always runs at full tilt. She will dive or leap past a player to avoid being tagged out. She refused to let players get down when Gray-New Gloucester seemed on the verge of upsetting the Raiders in the Class B West semi-finals. Her enthusiasm provided a spark that propelled the Raiders to their fifth straight Class B West championship appearance.

While other teammates donned dejected looks on their faces after losing the state championship game to Old Town, Tripp and teammate Maggie McConkey broke out into huge smiles as they raised the runner-up plaque for Raider fans to see.

Win or lose, Carla Tripp simply loves the game of softball.

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