|Oceanside High School||Old Town High School|
OLD TOWN, Maine — Last season, McKenna Smith of Old Town High School outdueled Oceanside of Rockland’s Chloe Jones in an eight-inning Class B North softball final.
But Saturday belonged to Jones.
The junior right-hander allowed just two hits and she also drove in what proved to be the winning run with a single in a three-run, sixth-inning rally as the Mariners bested Smith and the Coyotes 3-0 in their Class B North semifinal.
Third seed Oceanside (17-2) takes on top seed Brewer (18-0) in Wednesday’s 3 p.m. Class B North final at Coffin Field in Brewer.
Defending two-time state champ Old Town finished at 16-2.
Jones featured a lively fastball and rise ball and a nifty curve but it was her terrific changeup that kept the Old Town hitters off balance and made her other pitches more effective.
Jones allowed only two baserunners after Jayden Cain hit a one-out triple in the first inning. Olivia Albert singled to left-center with two outs in the fourth and Cain drew a two-out walk in the sixth.
Jones struck out eight and walked one while throwing an economical 79 pitches including 54 strikes. It is her third consecutive playoff shutout.
“I was extremely happy with the way I pitched today,” said Jones. “I knew I had to bring my ‘A’ game and, obviously, I did. I felt like I got better as the game went along. I was really nervous in the first inning but my teammates picked me up.”
After Cain’s resounding triple to right-center in the first, Jones induced a popup and groundout to keep the game scoreless. That was the only time Old Town got a player past first base.
“She’s a very good pitcher and she did a very good job today,” said Old Town coach Jenn Plourde. “She kept our hitters off balance with her changeup. That’s her strikeout pitch.”
“The changeup is one of my best pitches. I love it,” said Jones, daughter of 11-time Maine State Golf Association Player of the Year Ricky Jones.
The Mariners played errorless defense behind her and turned in a handful of gems including two by junior second baseman Raechel Joyce. She snared a twisting, wind-blown popup in the first inning and leaped as high as she could to rob Hannah Sibley of a base hit in the seventh.
Freshman center fielder Jessica Watkinson made a nice running catch on Morgan Love’s shallow fly ball in the third.
“We kept hitting it to people and they did their jobs,” Smith said.
The hard-throwing Smith, who will be a scholarship pitcher at Division II Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire next year, pitched well in defeat. She allowed eight hits and three runs with 11 strikeouts and just one walk.
Oceanside coach Rusty Worcester said he told his players they had to lay off Smith’s rise ball and he felt they did so.
“We had only one bad swing at her rise ball. We wanted to make her bring her pitches to our belt so we could put the ball in play and we did,” Worcester said.
Smith worked out of a runner-on-second, no-outs situation in the third inning and a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth.
In the sixth, Hannah Moholland started the decisive rally with a one-out, opposite-field double just inside the right-field line.
Casey Pine lined a single to left, then stole second before Jones grounded a sharp RBI single between third and short.
Pinch-runner Lily Judecki stole second and Pine scored on Kalli Grover’s pop-fly single into left off the glove of Albert, who nearly made a great catch.
After another stolen base, Watkinson grounded an RBI single to center.
“(Their hits) found holes. We couldn’t get to them. It happens. It just wasn’t our day,” Smith said. “I wish I could have done better myself.”
Watkinson was the game’s only repeat hitter with two singles. Joyce had a ground-rule double.