BREWER, Maine — The only way an Old Town softball player has been able to see a state championship game has been as a spectator at someone else’s matchup.
“In the whole history of Old Town softball, they’ve never made it past semifinals,” said Coyotes coach Jen Plourde. “They’ve never made it to an Eastern Maine [final].”
That has changed this year, and the Coyotes earned their first softball state championship berth Thursday with a 4-1 victory over Nokomis of Newport in the EM Class B final at Coffin Field.
The Coyotes (16-4) return to Coffin Field at 4 p.m. Saturday to play for their first softball state championship. Old Town will take on Western Maine champ Fryeburg Academy, an 8-1 winner over Greely of Cumberland Center on Thursday.
“It feels like one more game to us [now],” said Plourde, smiling from ear to ear. “I’m sure Saturday morning I’ll be a nervous wreck.”
Timely hitting by Brittany Cousins that backed the sharp pitching of Kendra Hayward led fifth-seeded Old Town past the No. 6 Warriors.
Cousins, the No. 8 hitter in the lineup, posted a pair of RBI singles. The first came in the second inning to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead.
Her second one, in the sixth inning, helped Old Town rebuild its cushion after the Warriors (14-6) scored in the top of the sixth to trim the margin to a single run.
“I was just looking to get a piece of anything I could and see if I could get it through anywhere,” said Cousins.
The ball skimmed the ground in the hole between first and second, slicing a bit off the bat of the righthanded Cousins and just under the outstretched arm of Nokomis second baseman Megan Perry.
“I was just trying to get a basehit,” added Cousins, who knocked in Michaela Milton from third.
Ashley Abbott had opened the bottom of the sixth by reaching on an error, then Milton came in as a pinch runner. After Susie Outman flied out to center field, Milton stole second on the first pitch to Ashley England. England sacrificed Milton to third.
Cousins scored from second when Meagan Cousins hit a bouncer to short. Brittany Cousins ran past the shortstop as the ball approached, distracting the fielder. When the ball caromed into the outfield, Brittany Cousins scored the final run.
After giving up two hits in the first inning, Hayward dominated the Warriors from the second through fifth innings, facing only 13 batters.
Nokomis finally got to her in the sixth when Becky Orcutt crushed a line drive over Brittany Cousins in left field. The two-out double scored Drew Graves from first.
“I thought maybe it would start our team off going with a good streak,” said Orcutt.
“That was a rise ball that I didn’t have enough spin on it, so it hung around in the zone,” said Hayward. “That was my mistake, but I just came back after that and pitched harder.”
She induced the next batter, Lacey Kent-Webber, to hit a high fly ball to right to end the inning.
“I thought we’d probably come through about that time, we might get into [a] rhythm, but [we] couldn’t get the rhythm going,” said Nokomis coach John McLellan.
Hayward, who gave up five hits, struck out nine and walked none.
“She’s an unbelievable pitcher, not overwhelming speed but that riser cut at the right time,” said McLellan. “It just looked good and the kids couldn’t lay off it.”
Orcutt also had a single for the Warriors.
Sara Packard limited Old Town to four hits and struck out five, but she walked three and Nokomis made five errors.
Hayward was aided by an Old Town defense that didn’t make an error.
“They were all right out there, [making] diving catches and stuff like that. It was just awesome to have them out there,” she said.
Old Town grabbed the lead in the bottom of the first when Meagan Cousins walked, stole second, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored when a throw on Rachel Martin’s fielder’s choice pulled the first baseman off the bag.
Outman walked to start the bottom of the second and Kayla Madden pinch-ran for her. Madden stole second, went to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on Brittany Cousins’ first hit.
“To lead them here and have them do so well is a great feeling,” said Plourde.