BREWER, Maine — Greenville High School softball first baseman Tiegan Murray had been in a prolonged slump and wasn’t going to start Saturday’s Class D state championship game.
But after two impressive practices, co-coaches Mike Cabral and Erin Pelletier decided to insert her into the starting lineup. She drove in what proved to be the winning run in the seventh inning as Greenville, playing in its first ever title game, upended defending state champ Penobscot Valley of Howland 4-3 at Coffin Field.
“She has been working tirelessly on her hitting and had a phenomenal practice yesterday,” said Cabral. “She forced our hand and didn’t let us down.”
Her two-out hit gave the Lakers a 4-1 lead and they survived a seventh-inning rally by the Howlers thanks to sophomore left fielder Aleya Pelletier’s throw to the plate to nail a runner.
Class D South champion Greenville (18-1) won its 17th straight game.
Penobscot Valley finished at 19-1 after having its 39-game winning streak snapped.
Aleya Pelletier scored the seventh-inning run when she walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a groundout before Murray poked a Leine McKechnie pitch into short right field.
“I had been having trouble hitting so that made me feel great,” Murray said.
The Howlers, who had stranded 13 runners through the first six innings, made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh.
Emma Buck drew a one-out walk off sophomore pitcher Halle Pelletier and her sister, Ryley Buck, stroked a sharp single to center field. Emma Buck raced to third and Ryley continued to second on the throw to third.
Kara Theriault’s grounder went through the shortstop’s legs, enabling Emma Buck to score, but Aleya Pelletier threw a perfect strike on the fly to catcher Shelby Corwin, who applied the tag to Ryley Buck for the second out.
“I caught it in my glove and just hucked it in,” Aleya Pelletier said.
“She has a phenomenal arm,” said Cabral. “She can throw it on one hop to the plate from deep left field so we don’t cut off her throws.”
“That was a game-changer,” said co-coach Pelletier, who is Aleya’s mother.
“I’ve never seen her made a clutch play like that before,” said grateful pitcher Halle Pelletier, who is Aleya’s twin sister.
“I saw a little bobble by the left fielder so I sent her,” said PVHS head coach and third base coach Patrick Leonard. “It was a bang-bang play. It was a good throw and a good catch.”
With two outs, Lexi Ireland rifled a triple to right-center to score Theriault but Ireland was stranded at third when the next hitter grounded out.
PVHS took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Leine McKechnie’s flair into short right was lost in the sun by the second baseman for a double and sister Kortney walloped a double off the fence in right.
But the Lakers scored three unearned runs without the benefit of a hit in the fourth inning as the Howlers committed four errors.
Cowin was hit by a pitch to start the inning and moved to second on a pitcher’s throwing error on a pickoff at first.
One out later, Biana Breton, who had singled in the first inning, was walked intentionally and both runners moved up on Halle Pelletier’s grounder to first.
Cowin scored on a wild pitch to tie it and Jordan Mann’s grounder went through the second baseman’s legs which allowed Breton to score.
Sierra Bussell walked and when a pitch to Morgan Noyes went into the dirt, Mann ran to third and the catcher threw low past the third baseman which allowed Mann to score.
“That was uncharacteristic of us,” said Leonard.
The Howlers loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, fifth and six innings but Halle Pelletier got out of the jams with two strikeouts and a groundout.
“She had a really good rise ball and we swung at the wrong pitches,” said Leine McKechnie.
The Howlers swung at a lot of pitches that were high and out of the strike zone.
“The strike zone was smaller than we had during the regular season and it was tough to adapt. My mechanics were also off a little. But I pulled through with a bunch of different pitches they didn’t really know how to hit,” said Halle Pelletier. “Nobody can hit my rise ball or, if they do, it’s a pop fly.”
“Halle is a big-game, big situation pitcher,” said Cabral. “Whenever she gets in a tough situation, she takes her game to a new level. That’s why I wasn’t afraid to walk someone intentionally to load the bases.”
Pelletier pitched a six-hitter and survived nine walks, three intentional. She struck out nine and threw 137 pitches, 74 for strikes.
Leine McKechnie tossed a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts and five walks, two intentional. Just one run was earned. She threw 130 pitches of which 74 were strikes.
Ireland was the game’s only repeat hitter as she had a single to go with her triple.