OLD TOWN, Maine — Walks can be so costly especially in the playoffs where runs can be at a premium.
But the Old Town High School Coyotes haven’t had to worry about that during their postseason run to their first-ever Eastern Maine softball championship.
Junior right-hander Kendra Hayward hasn’t walked anyone in four playoff games spanning 28 innings.
She has allowed just 14 hits and three runs and has struck out 38 in leading the 16-4 Coyotes into Saturday’s Class B state final against defending state champ Fryeburg Academy, 18-1, at Brewer’s Coffin Field.
Game time is 4 p.m.
After two-hitting Waterville 8-0 in their preliminary round game, she tossed a three-hitter to beat Caribou 1-0, scattered four hits in a 5-2 win over top-seeded Oceanside of Thomaston/Rockland and five-hit Nokomis of Newport 4-1 in the Eastern final.
The other three pitchers who will lead their Eastern Maine championship teams into Saturday’s state games are also juniors.
Kayla Dube and her Penobscot Valley High School Howlers from Howland, 18-1, will take on 16-1 Richmond at 11 a.m. in Brewer in the “D” final; Cassidy Adams will take the circle for 19-0 Bucksport in their contest with Dirigo of Dixfield, 13-6, to decide the “C” champion at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish at 11 a.m., and Sonja Morse will be in the circle for 19-0 Cony High of Augusta for their Class A showdown with 17-2 South Portland at 3 p.m. at Saint Joseph’s.
Hayward, Dube and Adams all work with pitching guru Bob Mercer in the winter.
Hayward has five pitches and isn’t afraid to use any of them.
She features a rise, a drop, a curve, a changeup and a fastball.
“I use all of them and I mix them up as much as I can. I have confidence in all of them,” she said. “It keeps the hitters on their toes. They don’t know what I’m going to throw. I try to work the corners and I like to work inside.”
She has spent a lot of time polishing her rise ball.
“It’s one of my best pitches,” she said.
“She uses her rise ball really well,” Nokomis pitcher Sara Packard said. “She gets people chasing it.”
Nokomis coach J.D. McLellan said her rise ball was “awesome.”
“I thought it would be a little flatter,” said McLellan. “And she has some pop to it. We weren’t ready for that. She also had a real good curve that broke at the right time.”
In addition to the refinement of her rise ball, Hayward said she wanted to finish games more efficiently this season.
“I wanted to be consistent for the whole game. I didn’t want to veer off at the end. I’ve tried to stay as strong as I can for the whole game,” she said.
She has increased her velocity and said “my confidence has grown so much after I increased my speed.”
Hayward will be tested by powerhouse Fryeburg Academy, which has won five straight Western Maine titles and will be looking for its fourth state championship.
The Raiders of coach Fred Apt have an ace of their own in Sarah Harriman and three of their offensive catalysts have been Maggie McConkey, Emily Davidson and Maddie Smith.
The Class D contest will feature a Penobscot Valley team that will be making its school’s first state championship game appearance since 1981.
Sophomore third baseman Shaelyn Jones, who has had five hits in the playoffs and has been involved in several of their rallies, is the daughter of Tammy Austin, who was coach Tom Coyle’s third baseman at PVHS in 1981.
Dube has given up just four runs in three playoff games and has struck out 36.
Richmond, playing in its third straight state game, has featured the pitching of Leandra Martin and an offensive attack led by Danica Hurley, Alyssa Pearson and Jamie Plummer.
Bucksport will be favored in their game with Dirigo.
The Bucks dropped down to “C” after winning the Eastern B title last year and have been dominant, although Calais gave them a battle in their regional title game. Bucksport won 4-0.
Bucksport had outscored its previous two playoff opponents 17-1.
Adams has been superb in the circle and their offense has been led by Sadie Wight, Mindy Pye, Bailey Blair, Deb Wight, Brianna Bires, Shelby Redman and Kacie Hurd.
Alyssa Wade has pitched Dirigo into the final. Dirigo has won 12 of its last 14 games.
Cony’s Morse has had an outstanding year with her 14-0 record. She has also been an offensive catalyst along with Nicole Rugan, Arika Brochu, Alyssa Dennett and the Russell sisters, Maggie and Molly.
Cony hasn’t won a state softball crown since 1983.
Erin Bogdanovich, younger sister of Alexis Bogdanovich, who pitched South Portland to a state title in 2010, will attempt to duplicate her sister’s feat after snapping Scarborough’s 27-game winning streak with a 5-1 win in the regional final.