HERMON — Sometimes it takes a while for the magnitude of postseason accomplishments to sink in.
The Hermon softball team experienced one of the highest of playoff highs Wednesday, winning the school’s first Eastern Maine Class B championship since 1994 and third in program history in dramatic fashion on sophomore Sami Schultz’s two-run, seventh-inning home run to edge Mattanawcook of Lincoln 4-3.
“We’re so excited, I think we’re all still in shock a little bit from winning [Wednesday],” junior pitcher Deb Colpitts said at Thursday’s practice, “[but] we’re ready to go and play.”
Coach Stephanie Biberstein’s club has a chance to add another chapter in its storybook season Saturday when it takes on two-time defending state champion Fryeburg Academy at Coffin Field in Brewer.
Game time is 4 p.m.
Hermon hasn’t won a state championship since 1977 when it beat Medomak Valley 5-0 in the first year the Maine Principals’ Association began sanctioning the softball tournaments.
The Hawks were experiencing a mix of emotions during Thursday’s practice as they prepared for Fryeburg.
“We’re all just so excited and we don’t really know how to handle ourselves,” said center fielder Monica Gallant, the Hawks’ lone senior. “We’re really overwhelmed at how far we’ve come. We don’t know how to take it all in at the same time.”
The Hawks showcased a never-say-die attitude in annexing the regional crown, as Gabby Bryant reached on a Mattanawcook error with two outs in the seventh before Schultz followed with her homer.
The X-factor in that inning, Biberstein said, was the fact the Hawks put the ball in play against MA righty Tayla Trask, who had been striking out Hermon batters left and right.
“Honestly, Jess [Devou] leading off that inning making the contact and then Kristen [Wilcox], Tayla Trask made a great play on that ball that Kristen hit and I think that kind of got us rolling,” Biberstein said. “We’re not going to strike out, we’re going to go down hard.”
Even though none of Hermon’s players have ever played on this stage and Fryeburg has won the last two state titles, the Raiders are a young bunch as well, having graduated six starters, including pitcher Hannah Hill.
But like the Hawks, coach Fred Apt’s Fryeburg club has been winning close games throughout the Western Maine postseason, rallying from deficits to defeat Gray-New Gloucester in the semifinals and Maranacook of Readfield in the championship game.
Hermon has been accustomed to tight games all year, with four regular-season games and playoff wins over Old Town and Mattanawcook decided by one run.
“I think that kind of goes with our league this year,” Biberstein said. “Our games against Lincoln, our games against Old Town and Bucksport have all been pretty close games, so we’ve had that experience in the regular season of close, competitive games.”
One advantage the Hawks may have is that they only have a 10-mile bus ride to Coffin Field while Fryeburg will have a 340-mile round trip.
“We can stay home and relax and sleep in. We don’t have to be on a bus for three hours,” Gallant said.
The Hawks have also backed their pitcher up with solid defense, as Colpitts usually keeps the ball low and tries to get outs via grounders.
“Strikeouts don’t really mean that much to me as long as we hit well and win the games,” Colpitts said. “I know that I can depend on my defense and have them back there for whenever I need them.”
Even if mistakes do happen, this is a team that doesn’t give up, which was on display Wednesday.
“It’s like I said [Wednesday], when we get down, we keep going,” Gallant said. “Like, if we make errors we keep going, we tell the next person to pick us up.”
Fryeburg is averaging six-plus runs per contest during postseason play.
The Raiders pushed across four unearned runs to rally past Maranacook on Wednesday evening, with Brylie Walker’s single providing the eventual winning run.