OLD TOWN, Maine — Last spring, the fifth-seeded Old Town High School Coyotes shocked the top-seeded Oceanside High School Mariners in their Eastern Maine Class B softball semifinal in Thomaston.
Thanks to senior first baseman Kennadi Grover, the Mariners returned the favor on Monday.
Grover belted a two-run home run to right-center to snap a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning and added a solo shot in the seventh as No. 3 Oceanside beat No. 2 Old Town 5-2.
Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston (17-1) is scheduled to take on top seed Gardiner (17-1), in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. EM championship game at Brewer’s Coffin Field, but Oceanside athletic director Jim Leonard said graduation ceremonies are scheduled for Tuesday night so they will try to play earlier.
Defending state champ Old Town finished up at 16-2.
Old Town roughed up Oceanside ace Rachel Frye for 10 hits in a 5-2 win last year and the Mariners did likewise to Old Town star Kendra Hayward on Monday, pounding out 11 hits, including four for extra bases.
Brooke Dugan triggered the fifth-inning rally by ripping a sharp single to left and stealing second. One out later, Grover rifled a 2-1 pitch on a line over the fence in right-center field.
“It was a fastball on the outside corner and I knew it was going somewhere when it left the bat. It felt really good,” said Grover.
“It was supposed to be a curveball outside,” said Hayward. “It stayed over the plate and she got ahold of it.”
In the seventh, Grover pulled a high changeup over the left-center-field fence.
“I knew she was going to come in with a changeup because I hit that last homer (off a fastball). I waited for it. It was in my sweet spot,” said Grover.
“She got ahold of it. She swings really hard. She’s very good,” said Hayward, who was impressed with the Oceanside hitters.
“They definitely hit the ball real hard. They attacked the ball. They swung at anything decent. But they were also disciplined. They laid off a lot of pitches. That helped them out a lot,” said Hayward, who added that she couldn’t recall ever giving up 11 hits in a game.
“We told the girls on the way up that we wanted them to attack the first pitch in the strike zone,” said Oceanside coach Rusty Worcester. “When you face a great pitcher like Hayward, if you get down in the count, you’re at her mercy. She’s awesome. We wanted to be aggressive in the strike zone and the girls crushed the ball.”
He also noted that his Mariners had extra motivation after last year’s semifinal loss.
“The girls were very hungry,” said Worcester.
“They tagged the ball big-time,” said Old Town coach Jenn Plourde. “Two home runs in a playoff game … what else can you say about that.”
Hard-throwing senior righty Frye went the distance for the win, allowing six hits and two runs, both earned, with nine strikeouts and no walks. She threw 65 strikes among her 97 pitches.
“I can do better but it sufficed today,” said Frye. “They were hitting my changeup so I didn’t throw it much. I went with by fastball, basically.”
“She was definitely one of the best pitchers we’ve faced this year,” said Old Town sophomore shortstop and leadoff hitter Rachel Martin, who went 1-for-3 with a single. “She moved the ball around very well. We haven’t faced many pitchers like her. She had all kinds of pitches and got a lot of us with pitches on the outside corner.”
“She moved the ball around a lot, she’d go low and then high. She kept us on our toes which made it harder for us. We’re used to pitches right down the middle. She’s very good,” said Hayward.
Oceanside took a 2-0 lead in the second on a sharp single by Molly Mellor, a throwing error on the catcher, Ari Curtis’ run-scoring single to center and a run-producing infield throwing error.
Old Town tied it in the third on a bunt single by Sami Milton, Martin’s sinking line drive single to center, Brittany Cousins’ sacrifice bunt, Hayward’s sacrifice fly and a wild pitch.
Grover had a single to go with her two homers. Dugan doubled and singled and Mellor had a pair of singles. Hannah Plourde doubled.
Milton had two singles for Old Town and Hayward had a single and a sacrifice fly. Hayward pitched a complete game to cap an outstanding career, striking out seven and walking one.