BREWER, Maine — Penobscot Valley High School sophomore catcher Jenna Hope hadn’t had a hit in three previous playoff games for the Howlers.
But she came through on Saturday morning and she couldn’t have picked a better time for it.
Hope’s two-out, two-run single in the third inning capped a three-run rally that erased a 2-0 deficit and that was all junior pitcher Kayla Dube needed as the Howlers captured their first-ever state softball championship by virtue of a thrilling 4-2 victory over Richmond in the Class D title game at Coffin Field.
PVHS of Howland finished off a 19-1 season while Richmond, playing in its third straight state D final after going 1-1 in the previous two, wound up 16-2.
Right-hander Dube tossed a four-hitter with three of those hits being bunt singles. She struck out 14, walked one and hit a batter. Just one of the runs off her was earned.
Dube, who admitted having a case of nerves early in the game, threw 80 strikes among her 110 pitches.
“My rise ball was working really well today,” said Dube. “Coming into the game, I knew it was a pitch I really needed to have working for me. This was one of my best games of the season. I also threw my curve and drop and they worked, too.”
Her rise ball helped neutralize Richmond’s bunting game.
“We told her before the game to keep her speed on her rise ball and bring it up in the [strike] zone. They fouled some off and some of their girls reached for it and knocked it down [while attempting to bunt],” said PVHS coach Tom Coyle. “[Dube] knew what she had to do.”
The Bobcats loaded the bases with one out in the fifth but Dube struck out Lindsy Hoopingarner and induced Ciarra Lancaster to ground out to shortstop Kirstin Batchelder to end the threat.
Dube retired six of the final seven hitters over the final two innings, including three via strikeouts, to set off the celebration.
“She was one of the best pitchers we’ve faced all year,” said Richmond coach Rick Coughlin. “She threw really well. We didn’t execute when we needed to, basically. We had our chances and didn’t take advantage of them and they had a couple of chances and they took advantage of them.”
After spotting the Bobcats a 2-0 lead in the first inning, PVHS’ No. 9 hitter Alissa Whitten triggered the third-inning rally by drawing a walk and Batchelder also walked.
Shaelyn Jones scorched a sinking liner off the glove of second baseman Brianna Snedeker, who made a nice play getting a piece of it on her backhand side.
Whitten initially stopped at third but broke for the plate and ran into catcher Hoopingarner, who had wandered up the third base line trying to catch the throw from pitcher Leandra Martin.
The collision occurred before the ball reached Hoopingarner and Hoopingarner was in the baseline so Whitten was allowed to score.
With runners on second and third, Martin struck out Reese Leonard and induced Eliza Pelletier to pop up before Hope lofted her two-run single into shallow center field.
“I knew there were people on base and I knew I had to get some type of hit,” said Hope. “I was very nervous but I was confident I could hit it.
“For a second, I didn’t think it was going to drop in but then it did,” added Hope.
“We were kind of shaken a bit after falling behind 2-0 in the first inning. We didn’t expect that. They came out and had a lot of great bunts,” said Batchelder. “But when we came back and scored the three runs, we were on cloud nine.”
The speedy Whitten was instrumental in producing an important insurance run in the sixth as she hit a sinking line drive single into center, stole second, continued to third on an overthrow and scored on Jones’ crisp two-out ground ball single to right.
Jones was seeking atonement when she stepped to the plate because she had fouled out with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning.
“I was so thankful I got another chance [to hit with runners in scoring position],” said Jones who picked on the first pitch and drilled it between second and first.
In Richmond’s first-inning rally, Danica Hurley reached on a bunt single, stole second and went to third when a passed ball allowed Snedeker to reach first on a swinging strike three.
Snedeker then stole second.
Hurley scored on Lancaster’s one-out pop fly single to right and Snedeker scored on Alyssa Pearson’s groundout to third.
Jones and Batchelder each had a pair of singles for Penobscot Valley. Whitten singled, walked, reached on an error on her sacrifice bunt and scored two runs.
Hurley was Richmond’s only repeat hitter with a pair of bunt singles.