BREWER — Tears of sorrow were at least temporarily replaced by tears of joy Wednesday night as the Dexter High School softball team gave its grieving town something to cheer about.
“We had to decide yesterday if we wanted to play today or Thursday, and we all decided we wanted to play today because we knew we needed something positive in our community,” said senior Devyn Bell, one of Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class C championship game heroines. “Everything happening right now is just so negative, it’s hard and we played in honor of the Lake family.”
The Lake family refers to Amy Lake and children Coty and Monica, who were all shot to death by estranged husband and father Steven Lake on Monday before Steven Lake killed himself.
Bell went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a single, and two RBIs and her top-seeded Tigers survived a last at-bat rally by No. 3 Central of Corinth and edged the Red Devils 5-4 at Coffin Field.
The 17-2 Tigers will play West champ Telstar in a game moved from noon to 7 p.m. at Coffin Saturday so team members can attend the funeral for the Lakes.
Each member of the Tigers had some degree of personal experience, familiarity or involvement with the Lakes.
“Everyone knew the kids. Monica was a softball player herself and I coached her with her mother in rec field hockey, and my younger brother had Mrs. Lake as a teacher,” said Bell. “It’s really hit home to everyone on this team.”
After Central took a 1-0 lead on Kayla Grindle’s one-out RBI groundout in the third inning, Bell tied it with a one-out, RBI single to left. Jordyn Bell then made it 2-1 Tigers with an RBI groundout, and Harley Ponte followed with an RBI single through the left infield hole in the bottom of the fourth.
The 15-4 Devils got a run back in the fifth as Brianna Speed hit a leadoff single and scored on a one-out single to right by Roberta Trafton, but Dexter scored twice more in the bottom of the inning. Maicee Gustin reached second on a dropped ball in the outfield and scored on another Devyn Bell double to center, and Bell scored on Jordyn Bell’s single over the third baseman’s head.
“I think one of the big things was when we were behind 4-2 and had two outs and then made an error, and they scored two more runs. That really hurt,” said Central coach Durice Washburn.
Central would threaten in the sixth and fail to score, but then put Dexter starting pitcher Libby Kain in a jam in the seventh as the first three batters reached to load the bases. After a flyout to center, two runs scored on a groundout to short and some aggressive baserunning by the appropriately named Speed and Katie Blanchard. But Chrissy Cunningham got the last out with a running catch of a shallow fly ball in right to touch off a celebration.
Libby Kain, who knew the Lakes, credited her ability to change speeds for limiting Central’s potent offense to eight hits.
“That was a pretty typical game for her,” said Dexter coach Galen Chapman. “She may have one or two innings where she has control trouble, but she’s pretty steady.”
Kain said it’s the first time in days she has felt like smiling.
“My family was really good friends with them, and when I heard the news, I couldn’t believe it. It just didn’t seem real,” Kain said. “We decided we were going to play for them and dedicate this game to them. It definitely felt good to put our minds on something else.”
The two teams met before the game to exchange symbolic tokens.
“They gave us purple ribbons and we gave them flowers with little notes saying how sorry we were for the tragedy,” Washburn said.
The title was the first in Class C for Dexter’s program.
“I’m just so proud of the girls. They fought through this and stayed focused,” Chapman said. “This is the first time we’ve won anything like this in Class C. We’ve won in Class B, but our last one was in 1984 or 1985.
“Ironically, they (Central) beat us in 2004 and that’s the last time we’ve been this far.”
The game featured several outstanding defensive plays, one of the best being a perfectly executed relay from center fielder Blanchard to shortstop Speed to catcher Roberta Trafton, who tagged out Lauren Crane at the plate in the first on an Eva Wing double.