BANGOR — In a memorable scene from the movie “Varsity Blues,” Jonathon “Mox” Moxon delivers an inspirational halftime speech in which he tells his team, “We can’t be afraid to lose. There’s no room for fear in this game.”
The Bangor softball team has been living by that adage throughout the spring, and the Rams have been subsequently rewarded with the program’s first Eastern Maine Class A championship.
“I think we’ve transitioned from last year where we’re not afraid to lose now, playing the way we know how to,” said senior first baseman Eliza Estabrook, one of seven seniors on coach Don Stanhope’s club.
Bangor will attempt to write the final chapter in what has been a storybook season today at St. Joseph’s College in Standish when the Rams take on Western Maine champion South Portland for the Class A state championship at 4 p.m.
That contest will follow the Class C game between George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill and Telstar of Bethel at 11 a.m.
Meanwhile, at Coffin Field in Brewer, Deer Isle-Stonington will be gunning for its first state crown when the Mariners battle Richmond in the Class D game at 11 a.m. while Hermon will aim for its first championship since 1977 when the Hawks clash with Fryeburg Academy, the two-time reigning state champion, at 4.
Bangor’s confidence was on full display in the Eastern Maine final against Skowhegan on Tuesday, particularly after the Indians staged a two-out rally to send the game to extra innings. However, as it has all season, Bangor responded quickly, scoring twice in its half of the eighth while Sam Bedore struck out the side to produce history.
“To be honest, any other team before this year, I don’t think we would’ve been able to come back from that. It shows a lot how we’ve grown as a team,” said Bedore.
Bedore and her six classmates have grown up playing together since Little League while they competed in an ASA national tournament in Georgia as seventh-graders.
But getting to battle the Red Riots on this grand a stage and having a shot at the ultimate prize tops just about everything this group has accomplished.
“We’re playing with no fear right now, we’re just in it to win it really,” second baseman Meagan Doucette said. “We’re really just playing our game, just having fun with it. As long as we stay focused and keep our eye on the prize, I think we’ll be all set.”
Bangor and South Portland both had to overcome nemeses of sorts in Skowhegan and Scarborough, as the Rams had fallen to the Indians in last year’s postseason while the Red Riots had lost 12 of their previous 13 meetings with the Red Storm entering Tuesday’s regional championship game.
But the Rams had unshakable confidence against Skowhegan, and Kate Freudenberger mirrored what Kevin Millar did for the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, working a leadoff walk and eventually coming around to score a crucial run in extra innings.
“It shows that the whole order [is strong],” catcher Jeri Cosgrove said. “Kate worked that count to her advantage.”
Bangor’s offense has produced robust numbers during the playoffs, led by junior outfielder Sadie Redman, who has five hits, including a home run in the regional final, and six runs scored, while designated hitter Hannah Lust has two doubles.
Bedore has also been swinging a hot bat with seven playoff hits and three RBIs. Lust has driven in a team-high seven runs this postseason.
“Our batting order is just solid all the way through, there’s no weak spots in our batting order,” said Doucette.
That offense will be challenged by South Portland righthander Alexis Bogdanovich, who held a solid-hitting Scarborough squad to just one run while escaping a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning of the Western Maine final. Katlin Norton gave the Red Riots the lead for good with a three-run home run.
South Portland is making its second appearance in a state final, losing to Messalonskee of Oakland in 2005.
The Rams, meanwhile, have experienced a state-title drought in schoolgirl sports, with the last such accomplishment coming in 1986 in outdoor track and field, while the girls’ basketball team last won in 1982.
But Gatorade Player of the Year Bedore and her teammates are fired up to reverse those fortunes.
“This is our last game in our high school careers. Me personally, I’m pumped. I want to go out there and kill it,” Bedore said.
For a group of athletes that has experienced the joy of playoff success this spring and demoralizing defeats in the past, a state title would be memorable.
When the Rams’ seniors were sophomores, they lost 2-1 to rival Brewer in the EM final, and that Witches’ team went on to win the state championship.
“I think it adds a lot to it that it’s our senior year and we’ve worked hard for this for three, four years,” Cosgrove said. “It’s finally paying off.”
“We’ve grown up together and we’ve always worked really hard toward this and its awesome that its our senior year, we’re finally getting this chance,” Estabrook added.