AUGUSTA — It was a memorable pitcher’s duel between a pair of juniors.
But, in the end, it was a clutch two-out double by junior first baseman Molly Russell in the fourth inning that proved decisive as Sonja Morse outpitched Alexa Grindle to lead Cony High of Augusta to a 1-0 softball victory over Brewer in their Eastern Maine Class A championship game Tuesday night.
The Rams will take a 19-0 record into Saturday’s 3 p.m. state championship game against Western Maine champ South Portland at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.
It was Cony’s first Eastern Maine title since 2006.
Brewer wound up 12-7 while losing for just the third time in its last 13 games.
Morse fired a three-hitter, striking out nine and walking just two. She threw only 79 pitches, 54 of which were strikes.
Grindle tossed a seven-hitter with four strikeouts and one walk against a Cony team that entered the game averaging 11.6 runs per game.
Grindle also threw 79 pitches with 56 of them being strikes.
Both teams turned in superb defensive performances.
The fourth-inning rally began with a one-out walk to Maggie Russell, Molly’s sister.
Alyssa Brochu blooped a single just inside the right-field line but Brewer right fielder Deaven Smith threw a perfect strike on the fly to third to nail Russell.
Molly Russell followed with a double off the fence in center and Brochu raced home as the shoulder-high relay throw was just a tad up the third base line and nicked off the glove of catcher Sarah Babin.
“I was ticked off because my sister was thrown out at third,” said Molly Russell. “I just wanted to hit something [hard] to move the runner along.”
Grindle said Russell hit a “fastball that was low.”
Molly Russell had two singles to go with her double and has been on a hitting tear of late according to Cony coach Rocky Gaslin.
“Coach Gaslin’s wife, Barb, gave me a [deep] breathing technique last year and I’ve gone back to it ([recently],” explained Molly Russell. “I had been having an up-and-down season.”
Molly Russell explained the deep breathing relaxes her at the plate and helps her focus.
Brewer had its best scoring chance in the fifth when Morgan Small ripped a leadoff line-drive single into the left center field gap. Only a nice play by center fielder Arika Brochu, who cut the ball off, prevented Small from getting extra bases.
Cassie Harvey walked and both runners moved up on Carly Seymour’s groundout.
Maddy Bailey tried to deliver the tying run with a bunt but fouled off a couple before Morse got her with a called third strike on a fastball.
Morse then induced Lindsay Houp to bounce back to her for the final out.
Brewer had runners on second with two outs in the sixth and seventh innings but Morse pitched out of both jams to run her record to 14-0.
“This was one of my best games of the season,” said Morse. “I had my changeup working today.”
Morse also has a rise and a screwball.
“She had a wicked changeup,” said Brewer’s Harvey. “And she hit the corners well. She came inside a lot.”
“I wanted to come inside,” said Morse who jammed Brewer hitters effectively all night.
“She’s the best pitcher we’ve faced. She’s the hardest thrower,” said Brewer’s Smith.
Morse praised Grindle for her performance.
“She did very well,” said Morse.
“It was a nerve-wracking game,” said Molly Russell.
Cony hadn’t had any close games this season. The closest was a 5-1 victory over Erskine Academy of South China.
Grindle said her drop was her best pitch as it has been of late and, like Morse, she tried to keep the ball inside on the hands of the Cony hitters.
Cony has hit 22 homers this season but Russell’s double was the Rams’
only extra-base hit.
“Alexa pitched one heckuva’ game,” said Brewer coach Skip Estes. “It was a fantastic game. We came just one hit away from going to the states. I was very proud of the girls. We proved we belonged.”
Molly Russell was the game’s only repeat hitter. Nicole Rugan, Maggie Russell, Alyssa Brochu and Olivia Deeves each had a base hit for Cony.
Harvey, Small and Smith had singles for Brewer.