BREWER — Telstar senior righthander Kayla Merrill showed why she concluded her high school career with a 50-2 record Monday night at Coffin Field.
Merrill scattered three singles, striking out seven and not walking anyone, and senior first baseman Nicena Walker drove in three runs with a double and two singles as the Bethel-based school beat Dexter 7-0 to claim its second straight state Class C softball championship and third in the past six years.
Merrill, who hit a batter, threw 62 strikes among her 81 pitches and didn’t have a three-ball count.
It was her 15th shutout of the season.
“She had a nasty rise ball. That killed us. It was really tough,” said Dexter senior designated player Devyn Bell. “ They were strikes (coming in) and then they’d just hop up at the last second so you had no chance to get your bat on it.”
“Her rise ball was very effective,” agreed Dexter sophomore pitcher Libby Kain.
Bell considered her the best pitcher they’ve faced all season.
“She was more accurate than any pitcher we’ve faced this year,” added Bell. “Sixty-two strikes among 81 pitches is very impressive.”
“I usually try to go inside and outside,” said Merrill. “My sister (catcher Lyndsay Merrill) called a great game. We have this unexplainable connection. She knows what’s working for me.
“My curve was really working for me today. It’s a good day when my curveball works,” added Merrill, who will take her softball talent to Bangor’s Husson University in the fall.
“She had everything working so it made it easy for me to call stuff,” said Lyndsay Merrill.
“They were behind on her pitches so I didn’t call any changeups. I just went with all fast stuff.”
Kayla Merrill also aided her own cause with a triple and a single, two RBIs and three runs scored. Lyndsay Merrill had three singles and scored a pair of runs.
The 18-1 Rebels scored all the runs they were to need in the third inning when they pushed three runs across the plate.
Lyndsay Merrill started the rally with a pop-fly single into very shallow center field. She moved to second on a passed ball, went to third on a fielder’s choice and scored when her sister blasted her triple to left-center.
Walker ripped the next pitch to center field for an RBI single and she scored when Hannah Morin rifled the next pitch into right center for a double.
Telstar added two more in the fifth on an infield error, a stolen base, Walker’s ringing RBI double to right center and a dropped third strike that that required a throw to first on which Walker raced home from third.
Telstar scored its final two runs in the sixth on Lyndsay Merrill’s single to center, Katie Sumner’s sacrifice, Kayla Merrill’s RBI single on which a throwing error to the plate allowed her to continue to third and Walker’s base hit.
The Rebels were very aggressive at the plate. Five of their 10 hits came off first pitches.
“Coach (Jim Lunney) really stresses hitting first-pitch strikes. He said whoever takes the next first-pitch strike, he won’t talk to them the rest of the game,” grinned Kayla Merrill.
“Every pitcher wants to get ahead in the count (by throwing a first-pitch strike),” explained Lunney. “In those rallies, we had two or three first-pitch hits. We hit the ball very well tonight.”
Walker said she had an “awful game” in the 5-4 Western Maine title game win over Georges Valley of Thomaston “so I had to redeem myself.”
Kirstie Mower’s leadoff line-drive single in the first; Lisa Conway’s sharp single to start the third and Lauren Crane’s crisp single to open the fourth were Dexter’s only hits.
The youthful Tigers, making their first state championship softball appearance since 1985, concluded a 17-3 season. They started four sophomores, two freshmen and two juniors along with two seniors.
“They were just a better team,” said Bell. “We played our hearts out. Nobody should be hanging their heads. We had an amazing season.”
Kain pitched well in defeat. Just four of the runs off her were earned. She struck out six and walked two while allowing 10 hits.
“They have a good hitting team,” said Kain.
The Dexter girls presented the Telstar girls with an anti-domestic violence pin before the game to honor the memory of Dexter kindergarten teacher Amy Lake, who was shot to death along with her children Coty and Monica, by her estranged husband Steven a week ago. Steven Lake then killed himself.
Members of the softball team attended the funeral on Saturday morning and were going to play Telstar on Saturday night until thunderstorms postponed the game until Monday.