May 25, 2018
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Merrill guides Rebels to title


    STANDISH, Maine — If the first three pitches were an omen, George Stevens Academy’s offense was in trouble.

Telstar junior Kayla Merrill struck out the Eagles’ first batter of Saturday’s Class C softball championship game on three fastballs, and the Eastern Maine champs from Blue Hill couldn’t do much against the Rebels’ righthander as coach Jim Lunney’s club cruised to a 5-1 win at Saint Joseph’s College.

The Rebels of Bethel capped  an unbeaten season at 18-0 and won their first title since 2006 while GSA of Blue Hill finished at 14-6.

Merrill, who struck out nine and allowed just two hits, aided her own cause with a two-run single in the third and a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

“We just needed to score early,” Merrill said. “We didn’t score as early as we wanted to, but we still scored. It was most important to get runs.”

The Rebels struggled with timing early against GSA righty Lydia Clapp, but a one-out error sparked a three-run Telstar uprising in the top of the third.

Lyndsay Merrill looped a fly ball to center that glanced off the glove of Eagles’ center fielder Lydia Clapp, and after Lindsay Jones singled on a bunt and stole second, Kayla Merrill drove in both runners with a shot up the middle.

Hannah Morin drove in the other run with a single, while T.J. Cowin doubled and scored on an error in the fifth.

Mistakes spelled doom for coach Betsy Stevens’ Eagles, who committed three errors.

“I don’t know if it’s the fact that we’re playing in a state game and the nerves took over, but they’re solid outfielders and that’s unusual for them,” said Stevens, whose offense also failed to produce any rallies against Merrill.

“It wasn’t our best hitting game,” Stevens said. “We just were underneath the ball, pop-ping it up. We just didn’t come through with the bats today the way we usually do.”

George Stevens’ lone run came in the sixth courtesy of Stevie Theoharidis, who sin-gled, went to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a throwing error.

Lunney’s Rebels earned redemption of sorts after losing 8-6 to Calais in the 2009 state championship game.

“The kids were looking forward to this, they were,” he said. “We lost last year in a tough game and stuff. We didn’t feel we played our best game.”

An admittedly supersti-tious guy, Lunney donned a white Seattle SuperSonics T-shirt all through the postsea-son, which he doesn’t plan on burying in his closet anytime soon.

“It’s a comfortable shirt, I’ll probably wear it more next year,” he said. “I am supersti-tious. We all are.”

Lunney had no reason to be, given the way Merrill was pitching, as she constantly had the Eagles swinging at rise-balls.

“The high pitch was defi-nitely working and once I got ahead in the counts I could throw the high pitch,” Merrill said.

With the Telstar offense struggling for hits early in the game, Lunney kept instructing his players to shorten their swings and hit line drives up the middle.

“We needed to get our bats out and we needed to start swinging early and once we started doing that we started getting comfortable at the plate. Then it worked out better for us.” Merrill said.

George Stevens, which made it to the state final for the first time since 1999, when it was in Class B, was pleased with their season.

“We talked the last couple days that they need to be proud of what they accomplish this season no matter what hap-pened [Saturday],” Stevens said. “It’s a great group of girls, they have deserved every win that they’ve gotten and they deserved to be out there.”

Lydia Clapp’s second inning single was GSA’s only other hit.

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