STANDISH, Maine — It was McKenna Smith’s day from start to finish, and Fryeburg Academy had no answers for Old Town’s junior right-hander.
Smith overpowered the Raiders to the tune of 19 strikeouts and allowed only three hits as Old Town claimed its second consecutive Class B softball state championship with a 2-0 victory at Saint Joseph’s College on Saturday afternoon.
Smith, who took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, completed an outstanding postseason run in which she didn’t give up a run in four outings.
“It’s just incredible for us to be able to do it again as a team,” said Smith. “It’s a great feeling.”
Coach Jenn Plourde’s Coyotes cap off an 18-2 campaign while Fryeburg, which rallied to upset top-ranked Wells in the South regional final, finishes 15-4.
The Coyotes got the only two runs they’d need, both of them unearned, in the top of the third inning.
Natalie St. Louis led off with a sharp single to right and went to third on Morgan Love’s deep fly ball, which was mishandled by the right fielder.
Smith drove in St. Louis with a sacrifice fly to right and Love came home on a passed ball after a dropped third strike.
Old Town could have had a much bigger cushion, but the Coyotes stranded eight baserunners and Raiders’ right-hander Nicole Bennett (nine strikeouts) never wavered in keeping her team close.
“She kept us in the game,” said Fryeburg coach Fred Apt.
Fryeburg did have a few chances to push a run across, most notably in the third inning. McKenzie Buzzell cranked a deep drive to left with a runner on first, but Jennessa Brown made a lunging catch at the fence while falling backwards, saving at least one run.
Smith struck out Kristina LeBlanc on three pitches to quiet that rally.
“I’m super proud of her,” Smith of Brown. “That was an amazing catch.”
Chloe Coen broke up Smith’s no-hit bid with two out in the fifth by ripping a single to center, but the undaunted Smith fanned the next batter on four pitches. She then struck out the side in the sixth after Buzzell led off with a single and fanned two of the final three batters after Kaylee Emery started the seventh with a base hit.
“One of the biggest things we’ve talked to her about is you have to have a level head,” Plourde said of Smith. “Her pitching coach, Rick Roberts, has done that. Her head needs to be in it at all times, and today it showed.”
Even though Smith was mowing down batters left and right, her Coyotes made only one error behind her, on Fryeburg’s first hitter of the game.
“I still have people behind me that are really important,” said Smith, trying to share the credit. “No matter what happens it’s still great to have such an amazing team behind me.”
Smith did an outstanding job of mixing up her pitches, and constantly had the Raiders chasing rise balls.
“I can’t even express how hard she’s worked over the winter to want to be our No. 1,” Plourde said. “It paid off.”
Smith, who played center field on Old Town’s 2016 state title team, showed the poise of a hurler who had significant state-game experience.
“To be in the circle is a whole different feeling,” Smith said. “There’s always going to be some nerves but you’ve got to put them aside and focus on the game.”
Plourde knew Fryeburg wouldn’t go down without a battle after what happened in Tuesday’s regional championship game. The Raiders reminded her of a familiar foe.
“We knew that going in,” she said. “We prepared for that mentality. They’re a lot like Hermon and to have that background helped us quite a bit.”