STANDISH, Maine — Julia Nicholas has had her share of championship success at Woodland High School, helping lead the Dragons to three Class D state titles in basketball.
All that had been missing, however, was a similar feat on the softball diamond.
Those dreams finally came to fruition for Nicholas and her teammates Saturday as Woodland unleashed an eight-run, 13-hit attack for the Dragons’ first state title with an 8-2 victory over two-time reigning state champion Buckfield at Saint Joseph’s College.
Nicholas, the lone senior on coach Rick Pullen’s team, was happy for her school.
“It means a whole lot, the first time any softball or baseball team has come this far in our school,” said Nicholas. “We’re just proud to make an accomplishment like this.”
Woodland, which received a solid pitching performance from junior righthander Shelby Bassett, was focused right out of the gate, scoring three first-inning runs.
Molly White started it with a double while Nicholas slapped an RBI single up the middle. After Bassett reached on an error, which scored Nicholas, Taylor Cochran smacked a double to deep left-center to give Bassett a 3-0 cushion before she even threw a pitch.
“That really helped us a lot,” said Bassett. “Our team has come really through with hitting, we’ve really progressed with that.”
Bassett did get off to a bit of a shaky start, as the Bucks crept back within 3-2 in the second, taking advantage of two walks, a wild pitch and a double-steal.
They had a chance for more in the third, as Katie Corson worked a leadoff walk, stole second and went to third on a passed ball.
But Bassett buckled down with a strikeout and induced a double-play ground ball to get out of the inning unscathed.
“I was kind of shaky at the beginning but then I calmed down and figured it was just a game. I was really nervous at the beginning,” said Bassett.
Woodland’s bats caught fire in the top of the fourth. Bassett knocked in two runs with a single to contribute to the Dragons’ three-run uprising which made it a 6-2 game and gave Bassett, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, some breathing room.
“Once she settled in, we got some runs,” said Pullen, whose club finishes 17-4. “That always relaxes any pitcher.”
Even though she walked five, Bassett allowed just two hits and one earned run while striking out 10.
Woodland scored single runs in the fifth and seventh, with Ashley Laking driving in a run with a fifth-inning double to left and Christine Boomer singling and scoring on an error in the seventh.
The Dragons struggled at the plate against Limestone in the Eastern Maine final, but not on Saturday.
“I said girls, we want to bring our hitting shoes today, we’re going to hit the ball,” said Pullen.
Even though the Dragons left the bases loaded in the third, they weren’t about to waste any more opportunities.
“I guess when it first started we got a little shaky but in the end, everything came together,” said Nicholas.
Woodland’s program has come a long way since Pullen took the job six years ago, when the team hadn’t won a game in two seasons.
After taking baby steps over the last few years, including getting to the semifinals in 2008, the Dragons entered this season with confidence that they’d be lifting the state championship trophy.
“That’s big for those girls. We’ve talked about it. [Assistant coach] Jimmy [Holmes] and I have talked about it, too. If we play like I think we’re capable of playing, we can win it all.”
They were certainly happy after the final out was made, posing for a team photo and singing along to “We Are the Champions,” which was playing over the PA system.
“This is great, especially being the first team to make it here. It’s great,” said Bassett.
Wiley broke up Bassett’s no-hit bid with a bunt single in the sixth and Abby Bragg doubled in the seventh for Buckfield, which wraps up 14-4.