BREWER — Saturday morning’s Class D softball state championship game between Penobscot Valley and Richmond was a sublime game. Ultimately, it was decided by a sublime pitcher.

Facing a team that came in averaging nearly 12 runs per game, PVHS pitcher Kayla Dube threw a four-hitter and struck out 14 to carry the Howlers to a 4-2 win and heir first-ever state softball championship.

“The (first) few innings, I was wicked nervous,” Dube said. “I had to shake it off and get confidence in myself, and trust myself. Once I did that, I was fine.”

The game, played at Coffin Field near Brewer High School, started out all Richmond. The Bobcats get a lot of their runs with their bunting and speed, and they went right to that approach against Dube.

Danica Hurley led off the top of the first with a bunt single, then stole second and third. Brianna Snedeker struck out but reached first on a dropped third strike. Hurley came home when Ciarra Lancaster dumped a single to short right field — the only Richmond hit that wasn’t a bunt — and Snedeker scored on a safety squeeze to make it 2-0.

Richmond’s Payton Johnson walked to lead off the next inning and stole second, but Dube was in the process of striking out five in a row. Dube used her rise ball effectively and that forced most of Richmond’s bunts into foul balls.

“The problem was, for a stretch there, we couldn’t get anybody on,” Richmond coach Rick Coughlin said. “If you don’t get any on, you can’t score. I thought we struck out way too much. She’s good, but we had to put the ball in play, and we didn’t.”

PVHS was scoreless over the first two innings, but still made good if not overpowering contact. Molly McGinn drove one into the gap to lead off the second inning, but Richmond right fielder Alyssa Pearson gunned her down at second trying to stretch the hit into a double. The Howlers never fully solved Richmond pitcher Leandra Martin’s change-up, but ended up with eight hits against six strikeouts.

“We’ve seen faster pitchers, but she definitely had more stuff to throw, and you can definitely tell,” PVHS catcher Jenna Hope said of Martin. “She knew how to throw it, too.”

Martin, fighting her control for the only time all game, walked the first two PVHS batters in the bottom of the third. Shaelyn Jones was up next, and ripped an in-between liner that short-hopped the glove of Snedeker at second base. Alissa Whitten was thrown out at home on a relay from Snedeker to Martin to catcher Lindsy Hoopingarner, but Whitten was ruled safe when the umpires noticed Hoopingarner blocked the plate without the ball.

Martin got the next two batters, but with two down, Hope plunked a single into center field. Kirstin Batchelder and Jones scored, and the Howlers had a 3-2 lead.

“I was just thinking how important it was, and I knew I had to hit the ball,” Hope said. “I guess I just did.”

PVHS came close to breaking things open in the fourth, but Martin got a foulout and a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the inning. In the Richmond fifth, Noell Acord and Hurley beat out bunt singles, and Snedeker was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Dube, relaxed by this point, got out of the jam with a strikeout and a groundout.

“We had our chances, and didn’t execute, basically,” Coughlin said. “They had their chances, and took advantage.”

The Howlers made it 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth. With two out and Whitten on third, Jones drilled a single through the right side for a big insurance run.

“That’s what we’ve been doing all year — we’ve been getting the timely hit,” PVHS coach Tom Coyle said.

Richmond tried to bunt out a rally again in the seventh. Acord reached on an error, and Jamie Plummer appeared to beat out a bunt single but was called out on a close play. Dube then threw out Hurley on a bunt and struck out the final batter to end the game.

“We played them as tough as anybody,” Coughlin said. “We had one bad inning, and then we had our chances, and just couldn’t take advantage. It was a heck of a game.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

 


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