STANDISH, Maine — The final chapter of Hannah Hill’s storybook high school softball career had a dramatic conclusion.
Fryeburg Academy’s Hill, arguably the state’s top pitcher, was standing 60 feet away from her team’s second straight Class B state title, with the bases full of Raiders and junior second baseman Ariel McConkey facing an 0-2 count.
McConkey blasted the 0-2 pitch from Medomak Valley’s Kayla Vannah into right-center field, Hill sprinted home, smiled and waited for exuberant teammates to pour out of the third-base dugout at Saint Joseph’s College, as the Raiders earned a 2-1, eight-inning victory Saturday over the tough Panthers from Waldoboro.
“There’s no way I would’ve rather ended my softball career,” said Hill, who fashioned a three-hitter while allowing just one run, walking one and striking out 15.
“I love every single one of these girls,” Hill continued. “Being able to win a second state championship was amazing.”
It was Hill who started the game-winning rally with a one-out single to left field. Brylie Walker then reached on an infield single as Medomak shortstop Kasey Benner looked toward second, but had to go to first since nobody was covering the bag, and the throw was too late.
After a walk to Heather Tripp, the stage was set for McConkey, who didn’t envision herself in that situation when she hit the batting cage at 7 a.m.
“No, not at all. In extra innings and up with the bases loaded, that was just so nerve-wracking but it was such an amazing feeling,” said McConkey. “It’s like the best situation you can be in.”
It can also be an agonizing one.
“My legs were really shaking in the box. I was really nervous but I just needed to make contact and get it out of the infield,” McConkey said.
Hill set the tone for what would be a classic pitchers’ duel between her and Vannah, as she struck out the first five Panthers and retired the first eight while Vannah also set down the first eight in a row.
The Raiders finally broke through against Vannah in the fourth as Walker led off with a single. Two outs later, Tanya Randall smacked a double to left-center field to score Walker.
But just as they had done throughout the Eastern Maine postseason, the Panthers were quick to respond. Rachel Keefe led off the top of the fifth with a double and took third on Kayla Santheson’s single.
Kasey Benner then bunted down the first-base line, and was credited with an RBI single when Fryeburg first baseman Desiree Ramsay missed the tag, allowing Keefe to score.
Benner eventually stole second, placing runners on second and third with nobody out, but Hill buckled down, getting two strikeouts and a popup to short to escape further damage.
Medomak gave the favored Raiders all they could handle, showing that getting to the state final two years in a row out of the eighth seed in the bracket is no fluke.
“They say eight seed, but man, that’s a good team,” said Fryeburg coach Fred Apt, whose club finished 19-1. “Both years, great opponents for us.”
Fryeburg beat Medomak 6-2 in the 2008 state final.
Coach Glenn Barbour’s Panthers wrap up a great season at 16-5.
“These girls have a lot of heart, they’ve done a great job this year,” Barbour said. “I said to the girls on the way down here, to go in there with no fear. You’ve got to pour your heart into it and they did.”
Hill didn’t allow any baserunners after the fifth.
“If anything I got a little tougher mentally,” she said. “That’s when a team really wants to start scoring runs, especially with two runners in scoring position and no outs. We knew if we got out of that we could kind of take the wind out of their sails.”
Hill knows this state championship didn’t come easy.
“I give credit to their team because they could’ve beaten us,” said Hill. “They made us work, it was a good game overall.”
Vannah, who was backed by errorless defense, gave up two runs on eight hits while striking out four and walking two.