The Medomak Valley softball team had a terrific run on the diamond this season, finishing the regular season 15-1 and winning the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship.

While the top-seeded Panthers’ season came to an end at the hands of eighth-seeded upstart Caribou in the Eastern Class B quarterfinal playoffs, the team’s success is not measured on the merits of just one game. Or one person.

While there were many contributors this season, the core of the Panther team were the Benner cousins, Desiree and Kasey, who worked together almost exclusively every day — and nearly every pitch — this season.

Desiree, a sophomore pitcher, and Kasey, the senior backstop, were largely responsible for many of the team’s successes. Desiree twirled a no-hitter against Belfast in Medomak Valley’s final regular-season contest, while Kasey was named first-team all-conference by the KVAC.

“I’ve been pitching since I was nine years old,” said Desiree. “I’ve been pitching like every game for the past four years.”

Not only four straight years, but four different teams. She pitched for the now defunct A.D. Gray softball team as a seventh-grader, for Medomak Middle School as an eighth-grader and the Medomak Valley jayvee team last season. Teammate Maria Ennamorati caught Desiree for most of the last three years prior to this season and likely will be the Panthers’ catcher next year.

Now Desiree shines in the center of the diamond for the Panthers, often sporting a rather youthful pair of sunglasses with zebra stripes in the pitching circle. Kasey also is often seen wearing a pair of bright green sunglasses in the Medomak Valley dugout.

“I need sunglasses because I get headaches with the sun and stuff,” said Desiree. “It just kind of helps me focus more. I’ve always worn them.”

“I wear those glasses quite a bit,” said Kasey. “We have a fun time with them. I was with her when [Desiree] bought those ones and she always seems to have a pair of ‘diva’ glasses.”

Both admit, while cousins, they feel much closer than that both on the field and off.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Kasey. “It’s my senior year and I get to share that with my cousin. We’re really tight all the time anyway, we’re kind of like sisters, so it’s really cool to be able to share it.”

While not siblings, that closeness can also bring a budding rivalry between the two.

“We can read each other pretty well,” said Kasey following the team’s 6-5 win over Camden Hills in the KVAC Class B championship game. “I can tick her off and she ticks me off, but we just get over it. Because, look what happens?”

“When I get frustrated she plays little games with me and I get over it,” Desiree said. “It just makes me a better pitcher knowing the confidence that I have behind the plate.”

“Desiree works really hard,” said Medomak Valley coach Richard Vannah. “She’s one of my hardest workers in practice. She pitches probably 75-80 pitches in a practice then I give her a day off. Kasey gives her a calm and cool behind the plate. [Desiree] grew up playing with Maria [Ennamorati], but with Kasey behind the plate, it gives her a little difference.”

With Benner continuing to pitch well on junior varsity last season and the senior pitcher Kayla Santheson about to graduate, both Benners were well aware of the prospects of this season.

“Last year, I kind of obviously knew I was going to be up,” said Desiree, who pitched in a couple of varsity games last season as the backup to Santheson. “I was just really excited to get to this year. I’ve wanted Kasey to catch me for the longest time. It’s really cool.”

“We’ve always kind of thought about it I think,” Kasey said of the prospect of catching for her cousin. “We can kind of tell who’s going to be the pitcher [for the next year]. You know who’s coming up and everything on jayvees, especially because we’re really in touch. You just kind of know it, and I was excited.”

While this is Desiree’s first full year on the varsity team, Kasey is a four-year varsity player and was a member of the regional champion Medomak Valley teams as both a freshman and sophomore.

“Kasey’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached, and Desiree is a great kid also,” said coach Vannah. “They’re very easy to coach.”

While the season came to a bit of a premature end in the quarterfinals, Desiree likely will continue to be a mainstay in the middle of the Panther diamond over the next two seasons — hoping to lead the Panther to a regional title of her own.

“It’s going to be tough next year without the seniors, especially Kasey,” said Desiree. “She’s been right there with me side-by-side all year. But Maria’s ready. She’s really confident and she’s a wicked good catcher. Hopefully next year we’ll give it to ’em.”

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.