HERMON, Maine — One swing of the bat.
The state Little League softball championship game between Scarborough and Shaker Valley from Waterboro/Limerick changed dramatically in the third inning Sunday when Sydney Michelson erased a three-run deficit by rifling a three-run inside-the-park homer.
Scarborough, beaten by Shaker Valley 8-5 on Saturday to force Sunday’s title game, added another run in the inning and went on to post a 6-3 triumph and claim its third straight state title in the ages 11-12 division.
Scarborough, which went 4-1 in the six-team double elimination tournament, will now play the Vermont champion to open pool play in the East Regionals in Bristol, Connecticut, at 2 p.m. Saturday. Shaker Valley finished up at 4-2 including dealing Scarborough its only loss.
With her team trailing 3-0 entering the third inning, Scarborough’s Sylvia Foley triggered the rally by blooping a single into very shallow right field off Grace Tutt, and Audrey Haigis drew a one-out walk on a 3-2 pitch.
The lefthanded-hitting Michelson ripped the next pitch into right center and it rolled to the fence as Foley and Haigis scored ahead of her.
“That totally lifted all of our team. We had been flat,” said Madison Blanche, who followed the homer with a ground-ball single to center and scored what proved to be the winning run when Hannah Dobecki grounded a single to center and it was misplayed by the center fielder for an error.
“I was just looking to hit it because I struck out the time before,” said Michelson. “I just wanted to make contact. The pitch was outside but I had moved in [closer to the plate] so I could make contact. She had been pitching me outside so I wouldn’t be able to hit it.”
It was her first postseason homer.
Her father, assistant coach Jere Michelson, had instructed the hitters before the game to move closer to the plate.
“She hit a changeup. She just contacted on it,” said Tutt. “That was one of my worst innings.”
But workhorse Tutt had very few bad innings in the tournament as she pitched every game and turned in a remarkable performance as a pitcher and as a hitter. She also made a number of impressive defensive plays.
“She pitched an amazing game,” said Dobecki. “It’s hard to pitch that much and still pitch a great game.”
”I think she got kind of tired. Pitching every day this week is really tough,” said Scarborough pitcher Mia Kelley, who bounced back from a two-inning, four-run stint on Saturday to pitch a six-hit complete game on Sunday.
Kelley retired the last 11 hitters she faced with seven coming via strikeouts.
She finished with seven strikeouts and no walks. She threw 80 pitches of which 56 were strikes.
“I wasn’t hitting my spots yesterday,” said Kelley. “I worked really hard today and we made a ton of plays in the field. “
After making four errors on Saturday, Scarborough made just one on Sunday and turned in a number of nice plays including a great running catch by second baseman Ava McDonald, who robbed Tutt of extra bases in the fourth inning. Left fielder Foley and reserve left fielder Madison Blanchard also made important grabs.
Michelson and Blanche keyed an important two-run rally in the fifth with back-to-back one-out singles. Michelson raced to third on Blanche’s single, Blanche stole second and they scored on groundouts by Kelley and Dobecki. Michelson slid under the tag at the plate on Kelley’s grounder.
Shaker Valley, which had bolted out to a 4-0 lead on Saturday, jumped out to its 3-0 lead on Sunday with two second-inning runs and another in the third.
In the second, Emily Davison and Brianna Bastarache had one-out singles and each stole second before Karlee Wescott’s single scored Davision and Tutt’s base hit delivered Bastarache. Foley caught Lacey Bean’s fly ball to end the threat.
In the third, Hannah Collins reached on an infield single, stole second and eventually scored on a wild pitch. An Abby Pomerleau single and a throwing error by the third baseman put runners on second and third with one out but Kelley bore down to strike out the next two hitters.
Michelson and Blanche had two hits apiece for Scarborough.
Tutt had two singles for Shaker Valley and she threw a six-hitter with nine strikeouts and one walk. She threw 85 pitches, 57 for strikes.
“I’m very proud of the girls,” said Shaker Valley coach Kevin Tutt. “We fought hard. Our goal was to get [to the championship game]. We just came up a little short.”