BREWER — Deer Isle-Stonington played the biggest softball game in the history of its program Wednesday night.
The Mariners experienced some nervousness against Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, but they didn’t take long to score some runs and re-establish their confidence.
Senior Erika Hutchins singled home two runs to highlight a three-run first inning that helped launch second-seeded Deer Isle-Stonington to a 9-7 victory for its first Eastern Maine championship in the Class D game at Coffin Field.
“Oh my word, it’s awesome,” Hutchins said moments after the Mariners (17-2) clinched the title. “I really can’t explain it. After that last out, I just started screaming.”
Coach Terry Siebert’s team earned the right to play Western Maine winner Richmond (15-1) for the state championship on the same field Saturday morning at 11.
“A lot of us today were really nervous,” said Hutchins, who also provided an RBI single. “We’ve never been in a tournament setting. This is the first time we’ve gotten this far.”
Deer Isle-Stonington collected 10 hits against two Southern Aroostook pitchers, building an early lead that set the tone for an offensive night.
Junior Britnie Jones hit an RBI double and two singles, while senior Goldie Garcia singled twice for the Mariners. They provided ample support for sophomore pitcher Sydney Ouzts, who spaced 11 hits and struck out nine to earn the win.
Siebert said DI-Stonington feared it would encounter another slow pitcher as it had in playoff wins over Wisdom and Limestone. Instead, the pace was good for the Mariners.
“We’re better with the in-between [speed] pitching,” said Jones, who was instrumental in all three of her team’s big offensive innings. “The fast pitching, we don’t really experience a lot of that in our division, besides GSA, so I think we’re pretty fortunate to have good bats with the slow pitching.”
Top-seeded Southern Aroostook (14-3) actually had considerable success against the hard-throwing Ouzts. The Warriors collected 11 hits, but couldn’t come up with quite enough clutch ones.
In contrast to their opponent, the Warriors knew they’d have to catch up to Ouzts.
“I knew we had to hit fast pitching and that’s what we worked on,” said SAHS coach Robert Betschner, who cranked up the pitching machine to help his girls prepare.
“I knew coming in that we couldn’t give up more runs than we could produce with that pitcher and I knew she was a good pitcher,” he added.
While demonstrating patience (they worked seven walks on the night), the Mariners wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. They scored three times in the top of the first inning against Warriors starter Evangeline Goodall.
Hannah Siebert and Abby Grindle drew leadoff walks, setting the stage for Jones’ one-out double off the third-base bag and Hutchins’ two-run single off the pitcher’s glove.
“That’s what happened to us all year,” Betschner said. “We have a bad first inning before we get a chance to settle down and settle in.”
SAHS countered with four runs in the bottom of the second. Kaitlyn Sommers got the rally started with a triple to right and Shelby Hartin followed with an RBI single to right-center.
One out later, Bre Bubar grounded a single into center field. Then, with two out, Rochelle Nadeau stroked a hard, two-run double to center, giving SAHS a 4-3 lead.
“That’s a strong middle of the lineup,” coach Siebert said. “They hit the ball better than anybody did [against Ouzts].”
DI-Stonington took the lead for good in the third. Jones singled through the left side, before Hutchins and Ouzts walked, loading the bases.
Chelsea Brown plated a run with a groundout, then Holly Brewer hit a two-run single through the left side and Goldie Garcia punched an RBI single to right, giving the Mariners a 6-4 advantage.
The Mariners tried to stay loose by dancing to the music played over the PA between half-innings.
“We’ve never been in this situation before, it’s a lot of pressure on these girls, and if they’re going to do something like that that’s going to help them relax, that’s fine with me,” coach Siebert said. “They wanted me to dance with them, but I’m not much of a dancer.”
The Mariners made it 8-4 with two runs in the fourth against reliever Rochelle Nadeau. Janelle Ciomei drew a one-out walk, Jones singled to left and both scored one out later when Ouzts grounded a single into center field.
DI-Stonington added an insurance run in the sixth when Ciomei singled, took second on an error and Hutchins hit a pop-fly single behind second.
SAHS got three runs back in the sixth with the help of two errors and an Olivia Raymond RBI single. However, stranded Raymond at second, retiring the next three batters.
Sommers added two singles and Elizabeth Goodall singled three times.