June 24, 2019
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Penobscot Valley softball team looking to avenge loss in state title game

Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times
Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times
Southern Aroostook pitcher Kylie Vining, right, prepares to tag Penobscot Valley baserunner Morgan Banks during the Class D North softball championship June 13 in Brewer.

In 2017, the Penobscot Valley High School softball team shocked Richmond 4-0 in the Class D state championship game, ending Richmond’s 88-game winning streak.

Last spring, Greenville turned the tables on the Howlers of Howland and snapped their 39-game winning skein 4-3 in the state final.

That loss is serving as extra motivation this season for a group of battle-tested PVHS players who are used to competing in championship games.

The Howlers also reached the Class D basketball state championship game last winter, losing to Boothbay Region. And the PVHS girls soccer team reached the Class D North title game in 2017.

“I am truly blessed to have such a fine group of young ladies,” head softball coach Patrick Leonard said. “It’s a close-knit group and they work hard for each other in every sport.

“They’re very competitive. They don’t like to lose,” Leonard added.

Junior first baseman Lexi Ireland said expectations slipped after the 2016 seniors, including her older sister Sami, graduated.

“It took a lot of hard work to build up our level of competition. But now we’re one of the teams to beat in every sport,” Ireland said.

Ireland is one of two juniors who plays all three sports along with ace pitcher Leine McKechnie. Sophomore Emily St. Cyr is the other three-sport starter.

McKechnie and Ireland said there is a special bond among the players.

“We grew up around each other and did stuff together in the offseason as well as during school. That has been paying off,” McKechnie said.

“Because we’re from such a small school, we’re close. We have a connection with one another. We have a bond we share that has gotten us far in every sport,” Ireland said.

The Howlers have begun another winning streak as they are 5-0 and have outscored their opponents 93-3 this spring.

Ireland said playing in so many regional and state championship games has been beneficial because they have learned how to play under pressure. She said they are focused on winning another state title after last year’s game.

“We all know how much it hurt to lose last year,” Ireland said. “We shouldn’t have lost that game. It has motivated us to work harder and play better.”

“It was frustrating. But we have to put it behind us and use it to push us to work harder,” McKechnie said.

The Howlers had to replace two pivotal players off last year’s team, catcher Kortney McKechnie and shortstop Ryley Buck.

Junior Morgan Banks, a catcher in middle school, has moved from right field behind the plate and sophomore Natalie Spencer is the shortstop.

The hard-throwing McKechnie was the Penobscot Valley Conference Class D Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year last season and Ireland said she’s even better this year because of her maturity.

“She has more velocity [on her fastball] and her other pitches are better, too,” Leonard said.

“I want all my pitches to be more consistent so I can throw them where I want them to go,” said McKechnie, who worked on them during the winter.

First baseman Ireland and senior second baseman Erynn Williams are three-year starters and sophomore Kara Theriault returns at third base. Sophomore left fielder Emma Buck has been swinging a hot bat, St. Cyr plays center field and sophomore Makaykla Sisco and junior MacKenzie Thompson have seen time in right.

Kortney McKechnie and Steve Hope assist Leonard and Kortney McKechnie calls the pitches for her sister.

Leine McKechnie, Ireland, Buck and Theriault are the offensive catalysts.

 



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