BANGOR, Maine — Bangor pitcher Skylar Cassum stood in the circle during the seventh inning of Wednesday afternoon’s Class A softball quarterfinal game in Augusta against Cony.
Cassum had just given up a two-out, two-run homer to opposing pitcher Arika Brochu that trimmed Bangor’s lead to the final score of 6-4.
“The ball came flying back onto the field,” said Bangor coach Don Stanhope, “and the umpire gave [her] a new ball. And she said, ‘No, I want that [home run] ball.’”
Junior second baseman Alexis Stanhope and senior first baseman Carly Cosgrove started walking over to settle Cassum, said coach Stanhope.
“She didn’t let them get within 10 feet of her,” he said. “She said, ‘No, I’ve got it. We’re fine, we’re fine.’ Grabbed the home run ball and went right after the next kid.”
Bangor, the No. 7 seed, halted the defending state champions’ rally right there, ending No. 2 Cony’s season and having faced down both of its imposing pitchers, Sonja Morse and Brochu.
“It was one of those things where, during the season, we lost a couple of games, three games, that were very close,” said Don Stanhope. “We gave up a lead in the last inning twice, and we talked about learning and knowing how to win is a skill. And that skill takes time to build.”
Bangor is scheduled to take on No. 6 Oxford Hills in South Paris in the semifinals at noon Saturday. Oxford Hills knocked off No.3 Messalonskee of Oakland 5-0 Wednesday.
“We talked all week about being fearless and relentless,” said Don Stanhope. “We really wanted to hit the pitches we were looking for and to go down there with the attitude ‘nothing to lose’ and just be fearless.”
Sophomore leadoff hitter Sydni Cosgrove lined the first pitch from Morse for a single.
“Right by the pitcher’s ear and right out into center field,” Stanhope said.
Cosgrove’s hit, the first of her two singles, boosted her teammates’ confidence.
“Whenever you’re playing Cony and they’ve got such dominant pitching and great athletes, if you come out of the gate swinging and you do something big, it’s easier for them to believe they belong there,” said Stanhope.
Bangor scored once in the first and twice in the second, while the defense kept Cony off the board for the first three innings.
“Skylar pitched to their stronger hitters well, they hit the ball and the kids made the plays. That’s a perfect plan,” said Don Stanhope, allowing himself a short laugh.
He singled out shortstop Sydni Cosgrove and Alexis Stanhope for making key plays in the middle infield and catcher Kylie Cunningham with keeping pitches in front of her.
“She made some great saves … that kept runners in a force out position, and that was huge,” said Don Stanhope.
Cony picked up single runs in the fourth and fifth to cut Bangor’s lead to 3-2, but a three-run sixth gave Bangor the cushion it needed to hold off Cony.
“We talked about we didn’t need to do anything outstanding,” Don Stanhope said. “We didn’t need to play some spectacular game to be successful. We just needed to do what we can do.”
Four of Bangor’s nine hits were doubles, including two by Kelsey Pendergast and one by Cordelia Stewart that hit the fence. Alexis Stanhope had a two-run double to go with an RBI single.
“We’ve got some strong kids who work real hard,” said Don Stanhope. “We have a couple of big sets of tires that the girls flip over, and we’ve got big sledge hammers that they use to hammer out the tires. So they’ve been working, conditioning-wise, really hard on that part of the game [along] with the skills they’ve been developing.”
Cony ace Morse was pulled after two innings and Brochu finished up, but that didn’t faze the Bangor girls.
“We talked about coming out strong and having them have to make the decision to pull the pitcher,” Don Stanhope said. “We had seen both pitchers in a preseason doubleheader, and we had split with them in those two games. We wanted to come out strong and set a tone, and I thought we’d see both pitchers eventually anyway. We planned for both pitchers.”
With a successful victory, now, Don Stanhope and his Rams get to plan for another game.