BREWER, Maine — The Bucksport High School softball team was on the brink of a monumental squander of a scoring opportunity in the fifth inning of Saturday’s Class C state championship game against Madison at Coffin Field in Brewer.
The first four hitters produced singles but the Golden Bucks hadn’t scored because two missed bunts resulted in baserunners being thrown out.
Junior catcher MaKenzie Smith came to the rescue, dropping a soft, two-run single into right field to give the Bucks a 2-1 victory in a rematch of last year’s state final won by Madison.
“We’ve played a lot of games where we’ve had that one [big] inning when we all come together. And that was that inning,” said Smith.
Smith admitted stepping to the plate feeling “quite a bit of pressure.
“I had to go up there knowing I was going to hit it or I would have, frankly, freaked out,” she chuckled.
She didn’t think the ball would drop in.
“They were ready for anything so when I saw it go out there, I was ready for her to catch it,” said Smith.
It was 20-0 Bucksport’s second state title in three years and its fourth in six seasons.
Madison, seeking its third state title in four years, finished at 18-2.
With her team trailing 1-0 entering the fifth, Bucksport’s Maggie Bires opened the inning with a sinking line drive single to right off senior right-hander Madeline Wood.
Brittney DeWitt came on to pinch-run, but when Kylee Atwood failed to execute a sacrifice bunt, Madison catcher Ashley Emery alertly picked DeWitt off first.
Atwood then poked an opposite-field single into left-center and stole second.
Darian Jellison followed by looping a single into right-center, sending Atwood to third. Jellison wound up at second on the throw to the infield.
Hunt failed to execute a squeeze bunt and Atwood was nailed off third for the second out.
But Hunt lined a single to right-center and stole second, putting runners on second and third.
Madison intentionally walked Penobscot Valley Conference Class C Player of the Year Madysen Robichaud, who had five hits in three Class C North playoff wins including two homers and a triple.
“They can walk Madysen all they want. Then I’ve got MaKenzie,” said Bucksport coach Mike Carrier. “She is just as good a hitter as Madysen. She just doesn’t hit home runs. She has been pounding the ball this year.”
Smith then poked her opposite-field single score Jellison and Hunt.
“I just knew I was going to hit it,” said Smith. “I just went up there knowing that if it was in the middle [of the plate], it was mine and I was going to send it.”
“She drove an outside pitch nicely to right field,” said Wood. “We were playing her back [in the outfield] and she hit it where we weren’t.”
The other hero for the Bucks was junior pitcher Katelin Saunders, who threw a masterful two-hitter with 13 strikeouts and three walks. The only run off her was unearned. She threw 117 pitches, 81 for strikes.
“I felt like I did very well today,” said Saunders. “I knew I was on my A game. I was feeling it. I knew I was going to pull through. I knew I had to throw my breaking pitches and hit my spots because they have really good hitters.”
Madison scored its run in the third on a two-base throwing error and Wood’s sharp, two-out RBI single to center.
Whitney Bess belted a leadoff double in the sixth for Madison but Saunders stranded her there.
“She was definitely the best pitcher we’ve faced this year,” said Wood. “She was the fastest pitcher we’ve seen.”
“She was dynamite,” said Madison coach Chris LeBlanc. “She had very good command of her pitches and she challenged us.”
Last game’s title-game loss served as motivation for Bucksport.
“We all really wanted it. It was very important to me to pull out the win,” said Saunders, who doubled in the second inning.
“She was very good. She hit her spots and managed to strike a lot of us out,” said Madison senior designated player Destiny Howes.
Wood pitched well in defeat, allowing six hits and the two runs with two strikeouts and three walks.