DYER BROOK, Maine — Facing a depleted squad from Ashland, the No. 1 Southern Aroostook softball team made quick work of the visiting Hornets on Saturday afternoon in a Class D North semifinal.
The Warriors (16-0) beat No. 4 Ashland 14-2 in a game shortened to five innings via the 12-run rule.
With the victory, Southern Aroostook advances to the Class D North championship for the second straight year. The Warriors face No. 2 Penobscot Valley (18-0) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Brewer High School.
The two squads met in last year’s regional championship, a game the Howlers won 3-0.
“This group of girls is very athletic,” SA coach Rob Betschner said. “We are really a young team with one senior, who is actually a junior that is graduating early, and four freshmen.”
As young as the group is, the Warriors also are experienced as many of the athletes were members of SA basketball team that won the state Class D championship this year.
On Saturday, the Warriors exploded for seven runs in the second inning and closed the door in the fifth, plating four more runs to reach the 12-run rule.
SA bashed 15 hits off Ashland hurler Camryn Debay. Sydney Brewer led the attack with two singles and three RBIs, while Paige Vose hit two doubles and Kylie Vining added a double and a single. Alexis Hartin had two singles.
Vining scattered six hits and one walk with six strikeouts inside the pitching circle for the Warriors.
“I’m very excited to be heading back to the championship,” Vining said. “We knew Ashland was going to hit the ball, so we had to be ready. It was important for us to make our plays and we did that today.”
Vining said while many of the team played in last year’s regional championship, there are some who did not. Therefore, she said it is up to the upperclassmen to provide key veteran leadership.
“You can’t play nervous, because if you do that is when you make errors,” she said.
Olivia Tardie had two singles for Ashland, which ended the season with an 11-6 record. The Hornets were without the services of five players for Saturday’s game, including all four seniors on the team as that group opted to attend their senior class trip.
“We had nine girls playing today, including one girl (Willow Hall) with a rotator cuff problem playing center field,” said Ashland coach Terry Hunter. “I am very proud of the girls who are here. Some of them haven’t played that much. Missing four starters we had to makeshift where to put people. It is what it is.”
“The cards were against coach Hunter, but he is a great coach so I knew Ashland would play us tough,” Betschner added. “Any time you have to change your players around like that, it’s tough.”