The Skowhegan Area High School softball team scored nine runs on 11 hits over the first four innings Thursday night and went on to defeat Bangor 9-4 in the Class A North championship game at the Cony Family Field in Augusta.
The regional title is the second straight and the fourth in the last five seasons for Skowhegan, which also advanced to states in 2019 before COVID-19 shut down the 2020 season.
“We knew that we had to keep the focus. We had been struggling a little bit, but we pulled it together today,” said Skowhegan junior catcher Emily Dunbar, who paced the River Hawks’ 14-hit offense with a home run, double, single and three RBIs.
Second-ranked Skowhegan(18-1) seeks its first state championship since 2014 when it faces Biddeford (17-3) in Saturday’s 4 p.m. state final at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
Eighth-seeded Bangor ends its season at 10-10.
“Skowhegan’s obviously a very good team,” said Bangor coach Don Stanhope, who is stepping down from that post after 16 seasons. “They’re well coached, they hit the ball very well. We knew that this was not going to be a razor’s edge game, but we were going to have to play our best for seven straight innings.
“But we hurt ourselves a little in the first couple of innings. I think the emotions of the game were something we hadn’t experienced as a group, so it’s a great learning experience.”
Skowhegan had defeated Bangor twice during the regular season, by a combined score of 27-1, but both times the Rams were coming off COVID-related quarantines.
“We got them both times pretty good, but I knew they were better than that,” Johnson said. “We came in today expecting it to be a battle, but fortunately for us we swung the bats pretty well early and when we do that we’re pretty good and we got out to a good lead.”
Junior shortstop Jaycie Christopher and sophomore designated player Callaway LePage also posted three hits apiece for Skowhegan, while junior first baseman Riley Fitzpatrick added two singles.
Sophomore pitcher Sierra Carey limited Bangor’s offense to two hits, singles by Jenna Smith and Lane Barron, while striking out 10, walking two, hitting a batter and allowing just one earned run.
The River Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead as their first four batters reached base. Cleanup batter Dunbar hit a two-run double down the left-field line. Carey followed with a sacrifice fly to cap off the tone-setting rally.
Christopher’s RBI double in the bottom of the second and Dunbar’s third home run of the season, a leadoff blast well beyond the left-field fence, extended the margin to 5-0.
The River Hawks added four runs on four hits and two Bangor errors in the fourth inning to build a 9-0 cushion, with Carey hitting an RBI single and Fitzpatrick following with a run-scoring double to highlight the uprising.
Bangor broke through against Carey in the top of the fifth. Cassidy Ireland struck out but reached on a wild pitch to open the inning, then stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Rae Barron’s groundout to shortstop.
The Rams added three runs thanks to three Skowhegan errors, a walk and a hit batter in the sixth. Emmie Streams, Taylor Coombs and Lane Barron all scored to cut the deficit to 9-4.