June 21, 2018
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Panthers score two in eighth to topple Bucksport

Bangor Daily News | BDN
Bangor Daily News | BDN

BUCKSPORT, Maine — The way the Eastern Maine Class B softball playoffs have shaped up the last two years, one thing that has proven crystal clear is that a team can’t be judged just by its tournament seeding.

Just ask Medomak Valley of Waldoboro, which won the regional championship as the No. 8 seed last spring.

Now, the Panthers are one win away from doing that again. Medomak Valley took advantage of several Bucksport miscues and got a solid pitching performance from senior righthander Kayla Vannah on Saturday in a 6-4, eight-inning semifinal win over the No. 4 Golden Bucks at Wardwell Field.

“We’re the sneak attack [team]. We like to be the lower seed then come up on the big dogs then just knock them over, I guess,” said Vannah.

The Panthers (16-4) take on No. 7 Erskine Academy of South China in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. regional final in Brewer while Bucksport finishes up 13-6.

Coach Glenn Barbour’s Panthers led 3-0 after three innings, as they scored three unearned runs — two in the second and another in the third — on three Bucksport errors.

But the Golden Bucks kept battling, and Emily Lenor’s two-out, three-run triple off the left-field fence made it 3-3 in the last of the fifth.

The Panthers, however, are accustomed to marathon games this postseason, primarily due to an 11-inning quarterfinal triumph over top-seeded Mattanawcook Academy.

“We were like, she got the three-run triple, now we have to come back, it’s tied now,” said senior infielder Tessa Dodge. “I was like, we played 11 innings last game, [if] we have to go 12, we’re going 12.”

Turns out Medomak only needed eight this time around. Mallory Conary singled with one out in the inning and stole second. After a strikeout, Vannah reached on a throwing error to score Conary, which gave Medomak a 4-3 lead.

Then up came Dodge, who normally bats in the cleanup spot. Barbour moved her to No. 3 Saturday so she could hopefully get some pitches to hit.

Dodge lined a first-pitch fastball into the right-center field gap to score Vannah and give the Panthers what proved to be a vital insurance run.

“I was kind of surprised. I was like, oh they’re not going to give me anything, but when I saw that first pitch come right down the middle I was like, ‘it’s mine,’” said Dodge, who also singled in the sixth.

Dodge came around when Kayla Santheson reached on an error — the sixth committed by Bucksport on the day.

“Mistakes happen in games, you just got to keep your head up like we did,” Bucksport coach Mike Carrier said. “We had the potential to still win the game, and we fought right until the end.”

The Bucks showed that fight in their half of the eighth as Mindy Pye ripped a solo homer to left-center with two out, but Vannah struck out the next batter to end it.

Vannah, who gave up four runs on seven hits while not walking a batter and striking out seven — six of those in the final three innings — had a feeling that eventually Bucksport would strike, even after shutting them out the first 4 innings.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be a 3-0 game. They’re here just like we are, they worked their [butts] off to get here, and they’re not just going to roll over and let us have it,” Vannah said.

Rachel Keefe was the Panthers’ other offensive leader with three singles and a run scored. Sarah Sutherland was Bucksport’s lone repeat hitter with two singles. Bailey Blair and Meagen Harriman singled and scored in the fifth.

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