AUGUSTA — Kai Smith is only 14 years old and was thrust onto the biggest softball stage of her young life Wednesday night, but the Messalonskee freshman was locked in like Josh Beckett.
Smith looked everything like an ace for the Eagles from Oakland, shutting down a hard-hitting Brewer club with a three-hit masterpiece as coach Leo Bouchard’s club earned its first Eastern Maine Class A championship since 2005 with a 6-0 victory at Cony Family Field.
So much for being apprehensive on the big stage.
“I’ve been practicing a lot, I’ve been pitching every day,” said Smith. “I was pretty confident in my team.”
The Eagles (16-3) return here Saturday at noon to take on Western Maine champion Scarborough (18-1).
Things looked difficult for coach Skip Estes’ Brewer club (17-2) early when senior lefthander Emily Cox had to leave the game after facing only two batters.
Cox, who has been battling elbow tendinitis over the last few weeks, gave way to righthander Morgan Haradon with one out in the top of the first.
“It’s very tough because she had such a fantastic season this year, she pitched very well,” Estes said.
Cox had to come out of the circle to field Kylee Knight’s bunt, forcing her to make a throw to first, which was when she tweaked the elbow.
Messalonskee would score first in that inning, with Bri Warren leading off with a walk and later scoring on Alyssa Eugley’s sacrifice bunt.
The Eagles tacked on two more in the second on Jess Soucy’s mammoth two-run home run to left field. Smith was the first to offer congratulations when Soucy returned to the dugout.
“When she’s got run support, she juts gets stronger,” Bouchard said. “The nerves go away. She just pitched a hell of a game.”
Smith finished her outing with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Messalonskee scored three more times in the fourth on an RBI single by Eugley and two-run base hit off the bat of Tatiana Vogel.
That was more than enough for Smith, who bedazzled the Witches with riseballs, changeups and fastballs.
“I’ve been working on low and inside pitches, and these girls, they’re going to swing,” said Smith. “They want to hit the ball.”
Smith retired 16 consecutive batters after the Witches’ Deaven Smith had stroked a two-out double in the bottom of the first, and the righty worked around base hits by Sarah Babin and Amy Curry in the seventh to preserve the shutout.
“The more runs we have, the more relaxed I am,” said Smith.
Bouchard was equally impressed with the way his team hit the ball. When Soucy cranked her home run, Smith was even more fired up.
“When that ball went over the fence, of course I watched the ball and I watched Jess go back to the dugout. (Smith) was just full of energy and she brought that energy out on the field,” said Bouchard.
Once Brewer fell behind, the Witches became a free-swinging team, often chasing riseballs and changeups out of the strike zone, but Estes felt the Eagles played well.
“They came out hitting, they did a wonderful job,” Estes said. “We chased some of the stuff high, and the kids really wanted to perform but they kept on fighting, they never quit.”
Haradon did settle in nicely after the rocky start, retiring the final 15 Messalonskee hitters she faced.