BREWER, Maine — Junior right-hander Kendra Hayward’s remarkable postseason run continued and she also chipped in with the game’s most pivotal hit, a two-run double in the the third inning, as Old Town made its first-ever appearance in a state championship softball game a triumphant one, 4-1, over defending Class B champion Fryeburg Academy Saturday at Coffin Field.
Hayward, who had allowed just three runs and struck out 38 over 28 innings in four Eastern Maine playoff games, allowed a first-inning run before shutting the door on the Raiders.
She struck out 15 and allowed only four hits while walking three. She threw 111 pitches, 76 of which were strikes.
“That was a great performance,” said Fryeburg Academy coach Fred Apt. “She did a great job keeping us off-balance. I was talking to our girls between innings and they said the ball was moving unlike anything they’d seen.”
He added that he can’t recall the last time one of his Fryeburg Academy teams struck out 15 times in a game. This was his 12th year as the head coach.
“I went with my rise ball mostly,” said Hayward. “I also threw my curve to keep them on their toes. They didn’t hit the rise ball very well. They dropped their shoulders [and swung under it].”
She admitted that her rise ball flattened out for a few innings so she relied more on her curve but after they took the lead with their three-run rally in the third inning, “I started throwing harder because I wanted to end the game. And my rise came back.”
“She had a nice rise ball and definitely kept us on our toes,” said Fryeburg senior third baseman Maggie McConkey. “Unfortunately, we were off-balance. She worked inside and outside. She threw a great game.”
Meanwhile, Hayward’s double snapped a 1-1 tie and capped the third-inning rally.
Old Town’s Brittany Cousins was hit in the back by a Sarah Harriman pitch to open the third and stole second.
One out later, her sister Meagan looped a single into right to put runners on first and third.
The Coyotes then caught a huge break.
Sam Milton hit a routine popup to second and, with Meagan Cousins running on the pitch, she probably would have been doubled up at first to end the inning.
But the popup was dropped and Brittany Cousins scored the tying run.
On the throw to the plate, the runners moved up to second and third.
Hayward then turned on a 1-1 rise ball and rifled a head-high liner that sailed to the right of left fielder Ellen Bacchiocchi and went to the fence.
“It was a low rise ball and [Harriman] left it in the zone,” said Hayward. “I knew I had to hit it. I just turned on it.”
Meagan Cousins scored a valuable insurance run in the fifth when she reached on an error and continued to second when she noticed the Raiders weren’t paying attention and didn’t have anyone covering second.
She moved to third on a passed ball and scored on Sam Milton’s bunt.
“It didn’t matter if I got out, I just wanted to get Meagan home,” said Milton.
Fryeburg had scored its run on a two-out walk to McConkey, the first issued by Hayward in the postseason, and Harriman’s long double to right center.
Hayward struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings, getting out of a two-on, two-outs jam in the fifth, and retired six of the last seven hitters she faced to supply Old Town with its title.
“I am so proud of Kendra. It was her game [pitching and hitting] today,” said senior center fielder Meagan Cousins who doubled and singled and scored twice for Old Town, which finished at 17-4.
“This is an amazing group of girls,” said Old Town first-year coach Jenn Plourde. “I’m speechless. They have worked so hard and they’ve been underestimated throughout the tournament.”
Hayward also benefitted from an errorless defensive performance by her mates that included a nice running catch by left fielder Brittany Cousins on Emily Davidson’s liner to open the seventh.
Harriman had a booming single off the right field fence — she tripped rounding first — to go with her RBI double and Tripp had a pair of bunt singles.
The hard-throwing Harriman turned in a strong performance in the circle for the 18-2 Raiders. All four runs off her were unearned.