HOWLAND, Maine — Shaelyn Jones of Penobscot Valley High School said she had been struggling at the plate for a couple of games entering Monday afternoon’s Eastern Maine Class D semifinal contest with Woodland.
After drawing a walk in the first inning, Jones doubled in the third, then posted an RBI single in each of the next three innings for a 4-for-4 day in the second-seeded Howlers’ 12-4 victory over the No. 11 Dragons.
Penobscot Valley (17-1) is slated to face top-seeded Limestone Community School/Maine School of Science and Mathematics (17-0) for the EM championship at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Coffin Field in Brewer, weather permitting. The forecast is for rain Tuesday, and if the game is postponed, it will be rescheduled for Thursday.
“Coach [Thom Coyle] told me before the game, ‘We really need you to be really good today,’” said Jones.
“After that first double, my confidence was back up and everything fell into place,” said the Howlers’ third baseman.
Howlers ace Kayla Dube struck out 15 to highlight Penobscot Valley’s defensive side of the equation, and Woodland’s Whitney Bassett worked out of a couple of early jams to keep the Howlers off the scoreboard over the first three innings.
“I was expecting a close game,” said Coyle. “They ruined our undefeated season last year. They always give us a battle.”
The Dragons (9-10) got on the board first, taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth with the aid of two errors.
Devon Perkins singled to open the inning, stole second, headed for third on Pinney’s bouncer back to the pitcher and scored on the errant throw to first. Courtesy runner Kori Gullison went to second on the miscue and took third on a passed ball. Gullison scored when the throw to second to get a stealing Bassett, who had walked, skipped into center field.
“We knew it would be a battle, but we felt confident coming in,” said coach Gena Maloney.
Dube struck out the next two Dragons, walked the third and ended the inning when Kylee Lynn Caruso grounded back to her for the third out.
“I was really nervous” after the Dragons scored, said Dube, a senior.
“I wanted to do my part,” she said.
She also tried to boost her teammates.
“I try to encourage them, help them do their best,” Dube said.
The defending state champion Howlers responded with three runs in the fourth and five in the fifth to set Woodland back on its heels, then added four in the sixth.
Dube was thankful after the Howlers gained the lead.
“I could finally breathe,” she said.
Jones, who was stranded at third after doubling to open the third, posted RBI singles in each of the next three innings for the Howlers.
“It’s good to have a little scare and then come back,” said Coyle. “You’ve got to something good [in] coming back.”
The Dragons scored twice with two outs in the seventh but couldn’t keep the rally going long enough to catch the Howlers.
“They like to fight,” said Maloney of her team. “Right to the bitter end.”
Malloree Workman added three singles and an RBI for Penobscot Valley, and Meghan Howey concluded the Howlers’ scoring with a two-run single in the sixth.
In addition to her strikeouts, Dube posted two walks and a hit batsman and allowed six singles.
Kaylin Pinney paced the Dragons with three singles and an RBI, and Devon Perkins added two singles and an RBI.
“They’ve got great attitudes,” said Maloney. “Devin Perkins can hit from the left and the right and does both, [and] Kaylin Pinney won’t give up.”
Woodland pitcher Whitney Bassett struck out nine, walked one and allowed 12 hits. Only two of the runs scored off her were earned.
“It’s going to feel great,” said junior third baseman Jones of going to the Eastern Maine title game for the second year in a row. “Even though we lost a lot of seniors, we’re still that team.”