STANDISH, Maine — The intent was to send a message.
The Skowhegan softball team wanted Thornton Academy to know what to expect Saturday afternoon and a barrage of hits and runs in the first inning signalled that effectively.
“I think it let them know that this was going to be a contest,” Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson said. “They weren’t just a team showing up and going to jump on us and we’d roll over. We had to swing the bats and fortunately for us, we hit the ball the way we’re capable of hitting the ball.”
The Indians used their potent offense to claim the Class A state championship at Bailey Field at Saint Joseph’s College. Skowhegan belted out 12 hits and rode the early lead to a 7-3 win over the Trojans.
“It feels amazing,” senior shortstop Emma Fitzgerald said. “Last year was a disappointment.”
Skowhegan (16-4) lost to Scarborough a year ago, 9-3. Getting back to the state game and winning was what fueled the Indians all year. It is their first state title since 1993. The Indians have been in six more state games since then and lost the previous five. The Western A team had won six of the previous eight state games.
Skowhegan celebrated its win with the Class C state champs from Madison. The two Somerset County teams posed together with the two state championship trophies.
“Last year, we could do it, but it just didn’t happen,” sophomore second baseman Eliza Bedard said.”This year, getting four runs right off the bat was awesome. This year, we knew. We’re all best friends and we knew we could do it because we’re all so close.”
On the the other hand, it was Thornton’s first appearance in the state final and the Trojans displayed some jitters early. Thornton had two errors in the first two innings and took a few innings to settle down.
“We got beat by a hell of a team today,” Thornton coach John Provost said. “They hit the ball extremely well. We just got beat by a better team. We didn’t play very good defensively early on in the game, and they just hit the ball.”
The Indians have totalled over 40 hits in four playoff games this season to add to the 162 runs they produced in the regular season. The 12 runs against the Trojans was the most Thornton had allowed all year.
Bedard finished with three hits and drove in a run. Taylor Johnson had a pair of hits and two RBIs while Fitzgerald drove in a run with two hits. Pitcher Kaitlyn Therriault scattered eight hits. Brooke Cross and Libby Pomerleau each had two hits for the Trojans, which stranded nine runners.
“We’ve been here,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of pressure on them. They’ve never been here. Our kids, we have some field hockey kids on here too. They’ve played in some big games. I think that allowed us to handle the moment. It took [Thornton] a little bit to get comfortable. Fortunately we took advantage of those innings.”
Skowhegan jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first thanks to four hits and a Thornton error. The Indians got hits from Mikayla Toth and Bedard to start the game. After an out, Andrea Quirion doubled in a run. Then an error on a Therriault grounder scored both Bedard and Quirion. Therriault scored on a Fitzgerald double.
“We just had to punch them in the throat and get on top early and stay there and keep plugging away,” Fitzgerald said.
Skowhegan added a run in the second. Another error on a Toth pop-up was followed by a Bedard RBI single for the 5-0 lead.
“We work on hitting more than half of our practices,” Bedard said. “Getting four runs right off the bat, it really boosted our confidence. We knew we had to get them early and let them know that we were going to be in it.”
Thornton threatened in the second. The Trojans loaded the bases but a fly ball by Aleisha Cross was caught by Morgan Buker in left. Brooke Cross stumbled trying to tag up and was called out at home as Buker’s throw to the plate arrived just in time.
Libby Pomerleau followed with a two-out, two-run single to get TA within 5-2 after two.
Skowhegan added two more in the fourth when Johnson singled in a pair for a 7-2 lead.
The Trojans (16-4) loaded the bases again in the fourth but only got one — a fielder’s choice grounder by Taylor Lux. TA had gotten runners on with a walk and two infield hits off bunts. After the Lux out that scored Maizie Lee, Therriault summoned up a pop-out to the catcher and a ground out to second to end the threat.