BUCKSPORT — The changeup can be an effective pitch in softball, given the short 43-foot distance between home plate and the rubber and the velocity many pitchers feature.
That turned out to be the go-to pitch for Abby Yeo Thursday, as the Bucksport senior righthander gave up only two hits and no earned runs to lead her third-ranked Golden Bucks to a 7-2 Eastern Maine Class B quarterfinal victory over No. 6 Mattanawcook of Lincoln at Wardwell Field.
Yeo (14-2) struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter in a strange game in which the teams combined for five first-inning runs, no hits and five errors before thunderstorms halted play for two hours in the fifth.
It took 3 hours, 27 minutes for the contest to be completed, and it finished in the twilight, but coach Mike Carrier’s club maintained its focus and exacted some revenge on a Lynx team that had knocked the Bucks out of the playoffs last spring.
“We all had our heads right in the game,” said Yeo.
Bucksport improves to 15-2 and will host No. 7 Winslow in Saturday’s semifinals while Mattanawcook finishes 12-5.
The Lynx took advantage of three Bucks’ errors in the first to plate two runs, and all three of those errors came before an out was recorded.
“I think they were just wound up,” Carrier said. “We played them twice and we beat them twice, they shouldn’t have been real nervous.”
Bucksport scored three times in its half of the first on a walk, two errors and wild pitch to take the lead for good, and Yeo allowed only two baserunners after the first, keeping the Lynx off-balance with a changeup that even Yeo admits isn’t her best pitch sometimes.
“I was surprised because it’s usually not that good,” she said. “But it worked.”
Brianna Bires, who was 3-for-3 for Bucksport, ignited a two-out rally in the second with a double to left, and she scored on Mindy Pye’s single.
Bires was on third base with nobody out in the fifth when play was stopped, and the game could’ve easily ended there, but the lightning held off long for the teams to resume and finish the game.
“One more lightning strike and we wouldn’t have (finished it),” said Carrier, noting that play resumed at approximately 7:36 p.m., and another lightning bolt would’ve forced the players to wait another half an hour with darkness looming.
“I wanted to beat them in a full game, I didn’t want them to say we stole it from them,” Carrier said.
When action resumed, the Bucks tacked on three insurance runs to put it away, with Andie Lawford roping a single to center and Jen Wight and Kacie Hurd subsequently laying down bunt singles.
Bailey Blair drove in one run with a sacrifice fly and Bires another with a single, while Hurd scored on MA’s fourth error of the game.
“If we hadn’t committed so many errors and put ourselves back on our heels we might have been able to play a better ballgame,” Lynx coach Dean Libbey said.
This was billed as a pitchers’ duel between Yeo and MA’s Tayla Trask, and Trask pitched a solid game while striking out seven in absorbing the loss, but the Bucks were confident they could hit the hard-throwing righty.
“My coach told us she’s given up 22 hits and 16 of them were to us, so its kind of like a confidence booster when you think about it,” said Yeo.
The Lynx were playing with heavy hearts, as coach Libbey’s father, Herb, recently died, and they had a commemorative poster hanging on their dugout.
“I’m very pleased with the fight that we had and the effort that we put out there and we still are a good team,” Libbey said, “and if we had a break or too, we would’ve been moving on I think.”
Brooke Kimball singled and scored for MA while Morgan Russell singled.