BREWER — Trailing by a run and down to its last out against one of the state’s top pitchers, Hermon’s No. 9 hitter Gabby Bryant stepped to the plate.
She put the ball in play and reached on an infield error, bringing up leadoff hitter Sami Schultz.
Schultz took advantage of her opportunity Wednesday afternoon, smacking a 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence to give top-ranked Hermon a 4-3 victory over No. 2 Mattanawcook Academy in the Eastern Maine Class B softball final at Coffin Field in Brewer.
Schultz’s blast sends coach Stephanie Biberstein’s 17-2 Hawks to its first state championship game since 1994 while Mattanawcook of Lincoln finishes its season 15-4.
Hermon will return to Brewer for Saturday’s 4 p.m. state final against two-time defending state champion Fryeburg Academy.
Schultz, a sophomore infielder, got her arms extended on a fastball middle-in from Lynx ace Tayla Trask, and even though the blast cleared the fence with ease, she didn’t think it had enough to get over.
“I just ran as fast as I could around the bases and watched coach,” said Schultz, who had two hits on the afternoon while scoring two runs.
Trask had gotten the Hawks’ first two batters in the seventh to ground out to the circle, then Bryant hit a first-pitch grounder to short which was bobbled slightly, allowing the speedy Bryant, who had two stolen bases on the day, to reach.
Schultz supplied the rest.
“And there we go, we win the Eastern Maine championship, that’s all I wanted,” she said. “I was just thinking confidence, just get a hit, just make contact, put it in play, and that’s what happened.”
The Hawks never lost their confidence in a game in which they had to rally from behind on two occasions.
Mattanawcook took a 1-0 lead in the first on three infield singles, the last coming off Trask’s bat, but Hermon answered in the bottom half on a walk, passed ball, stolen base and sacrifice fly to right by Deb Colpitts.
Hermon did take its first lead on Colpitts’ RBI double in the fifth, but the Lynx responded with two more in the top of the sixth on Brooke Hanscom’s opposite-field double to right.
Going into the last inning against the hard-throwing Trask, who struck out 11 and allowed just four hits, the Hawks never lost hope.
“We were just like make contact, make contact, that’s all we need,” said Hermon center fielder Monica Gallant, the Hawks’ lone senior. “We just need one more run to tie it and keep going.”
How does two sound?
“It feels so amazing,” Gallant said. “I’ve been here like four years and every single year we always lose the first game. It’s so amazing to just go further.”
The Hawks had lost in the first round of the playoffs each of the last three seasons.
Mattanawcook didn’t capitalize on some scoring opportunities against Colpitts, as coach Dean Libbey’s Lynx stranded nine baserunners, while leaving the bases loaded in the third.
“That hurt, it would’ve been nice to get one more run that inning,” Libbey said. “We left runners on third two other times and we left runners on third and second one other time. In big games, you can’t leave runners on base.”
Colpitts, however, showcased a bulldog mentality in getting out of those jams.
“That’s one thing with Deb, Deb’s got a great head on her shoulders, she’s got great composure, that’s something that you can’t teach,” Biberstein said. “I’ve seen her in games where she’s given up a home run, turned around and said let’s go. The team really feeds off her with her composure.”