BREWER — Even though she’s had a bout with elbow tendinitis the last couple of weeks, Emily Cox managed to deliver plenty of knockout blows for the Brewer High softball team Saturday afternoon.
The Witches’ senior lefthander featured a lethal changeup and curve, allowing no hits in six innings of work while striking out eight and to lead top-ranked Brewer into the Eastern Maine Class A final with a 2-0 semifinal win over No. 4 Skowhegan at Coffin Field.
Even though she did walk five, Cox had solid command of her pitches and didn’t allow any Indians past second base.
“We just went into the game focused and we’re really excited to get the win,” said Cox.
Coach Skip Estes’ club (17-1) will play for its second regional championship in four years Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Messalonskee of Oakland in Augusta.
Skowhegan wraps up the season 11-7.
Estes said he took Cox out of the game in favor of righthander Morgan Haradon because of Cox’s sore elbow and because the focus was on winning the game.
“I’m thinking of getting us to the next game,” he said. “A no-hitter is great, but it’s really about winning the game.”
After walking the first batter of the game, Cox retired the next nine, and despite the elbow soreness, the velocity on her fastball was strong.
“Today was probably , as much as she’s been hurting, one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,“ said Estes. “She’s got a lot of heart.”
The Witches had plenty of chances to break it open early, but stranded six runners in the first four innings, with the best chance coming with one out and runners on first and third in the bottom of the third.
Cox had singled and courtesy runner Hannah Simmons went to third on a groundout and passed ball and Sarah Babin was plunked with a pitch, and Deaven Smith placed a bunt down the third-base line. Simmons took a few steps off third, but Skowhegan third baseman Shelby Obert faked a throw across the diamond and caught Simmons too far off the bag.
“We were leaving some runners on base but we knew that we would string together some hits and get them in when it counted,” Cox said.
That would finally come to fruition with one out in the fifth, as Babin ripped a deep double to center and scored on an opposite-field base hit to right by Smith.
Babin scored and Smith wound up on third when Skowhegan catcher Anna Lorette couldn’t handle the throw from right field.
Amy Curry drove Smith in with a single through the shortstop hole.
Cox ran into some trouble in the sixth, as two walks put runners on first and second with one out, but Cox got cleanup hitter Lorette to strike out and Andrea Quirion to chop to third to preserve the lead.
Even Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson was impressed with Cox’s outing.
“I think she changed speeds well today,” he said. “Last time we saw her I don’t remember her changing speeds quite that well. Today she threw hard, she changed speeds she located it well, I thought she did a good job pitching.”
Haradon came on to close in the seventh, and Kady Esty broke up the Witches’ no-hit bid with a one-out single to right just over the glove of Babin, and Mikayla Fitzmaurice reached on an error.
But Haradon showed her toughness, striking out the final two batters to give the Witches a rematch with Messalonskee, which dealt them their only loss.
“Morgan did a great job going in and closing in the seventh,” said Brewer catcher Jordan Nickerson. “She kept her composure and she had confidence in the rest of our team to do what we needed to do.”
For the second game in a row, the Witches hit the ball hard, but the Indians’ fielders made some strong defensive plays, including a basket catch by Adrienne Davis in center on a sinking liner by Nickerson to end the fifth.
“We did a good job of keeping the game close and giving ourselves an opportunity,“ Johnson said. “Sometimes you don’t get those hits, but you’ve got to give them credit. They made the plays and they pitched well and they hit the ball well.”
Haradon had the game’s only other extra-base hit with a second-inning double.