BANGOR, Maine — Two aces are better than one.
If there’s anything Brewer softball coach Skip Estes is discovering as the regular season winds down, it’s that he has not one, but two pitchers who can dominate.
It turns out both of them were on their game Friday, as Amanda Ryan and Mel Judkins combined on a four-hitter to lead the Witches to a pointworthy 3-0 Class A victory over archrival Bangor.
Estes decided about 45 minutes before the first pitch that Ryan, a junior righthander, would get the start. The move paid dividends, as she gave up only two hits in four innings of work to pick up the win and improve to 5-1 on the spring.
“I pretty much just had the confidence when I stepped onto the [circle] and had confidence in the team that I had behind me,” said Ryan, who struck out three and walked one.
Ryan was staked to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second, thanks to an RBI single from Judkins, while Allie DeFilipp walked and later scored on an error after stealing third base.
The Witches’ hit parade continued in the third, with freshmen delivering the key hits.
Shortstop Katie McLaughlin led off with a single and, after stealing two bases, classmate Amy Curry drove her in with a single to left field.
“We definitely wanted to jump on [Bangor ace Sam Bedore] early. She’s a great pitcher and we really wanted to get her a little frustrated if we could,” Brewer senior catcher Leah Jackson said.
The Witches, who were fifth in the latest Heal point rankings, greatly enhanced their chances of hosting a playoff game by knocking off the top-ranked Rams.
“They’re one of the top teams in the state. This puts us back in the hunt again,” said Estes, whose club improves to 9-4 and has won six of seven after a 3-3 start.
Bangor saw its 11-game win streak end and is now 11-2.
After Ryan did her job Judkins, coming off a 21-strikeout performance against Hampden on Wednesday, came in and took care of the rest. She allowed only two hits in three innings of work while striking out four and walking one.
Their joint performance epitomizes the Witches’ team-first mentality.
“I asked [Judkins before the game], ‘I think I’m going to bring you in for relief today.’ She says, ‘I’ll do anything you want coach,’” Estes said.
“The girls now have confidence in both their pitchers. We’re ready to rock and roll.”
Bangor had some chances of its own, but the Rams left runners on first and second in the first and runners on third in the third and fifth innings, mainly thanks to some great Brewer defensive plays.
McLaughlin and Curry made two of them, with McLaughlin snaring Kim Jordan’s liner in the fifth and left fielder Curry making a basket catch on a sinking fly ball in foul ground off Bedore’s bat in the sixth.
Bedore pitched extremely well in absorbing the tough-luck loss for Bangor, compiling 15 strikeouts. Coach Don Stanhope noted Ryan and Judkins grew sharper once they got a lead.
“With any of these teams at the top of the KVAC, if you give them a couple runs, the pitchers pitch better,” he said. “To Brewer’s credit, they were playing up tonight. They were emotional, they came here to take care of some business.”
They Witches did that, playing one of their best all-around games of the spring and furthermore establishing they won’t surrender their state championship without a fight.
“So far this year, definitely the best [game],” Jackson said. “Amanda did great, she set the tempo for the game.”
Nicole Stairs, Bedore, Erin Dean and Jordan singled for Bangor.