SKOWHEGAN — Ashley Alward announced her arrival. And she did it awesomely.

Alward, a freshman pitcher at Skowhegan Area High School, got the call to start Wednesday afternoon’s softball season opener against Messalonskee. She allowed five hits and struck out 15, and the Indians came out on top on Eliza Bedard’s walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 3-2 victory.

“In the beginning, I was kind of nervous,” Alward said. “But I’ve been playing since I was 9. It was … interesting.”

Kirsten Pelletier (seven hits allowed, seven strikeouts, one earned run) also pitched a solid game for Messalonskee. The difference in the game was that Skowhegan made contact more often. The Indians’ winning rally came on two bloop singles and a sacrifice bunt, while Messalonskee stranded runners with the strikeouts and had batters fail to get a bunt down on several different occasions.

“We swung too hard,” Messalonskee coach Leo Bouchard said. “She pitched very well. She mixed it up.”

“What we do in practice is we usually set the pitching machine a little bit higher, or to the pitcher’s speed that she throws, so that gets us ready for it,” Bedard said. “We knew that (Kirsten) was pretty fast, so we set it up pretty high.”


Alward retired the first six batters she faced, and allowed only two balls out of the infield over the first six innings. Meanwhile, Skowhegan took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Bedard doubled, then scored from second on a passed ball when the pitch took a crazy hop off the backstop. One inning later, two Messalonskee errors and some smart baserunning by Julia Steeves made it 2-0, Skowhegan.

Messalonskee got one run back in the fifth when Sarah Labbe walked and scored on a booming two-out double by Hannah Duperry. Then things started getting weird and dramatic in the seventh inning.

With Messalonskee still trailing 2-1, Dakota Bragg led off with a single up the middle. One out later, she stole second, and then moved to third on a bunt single by Madisyn Charest. Cassidy Baker swung and missed at a 1-2 pitch, but nearly everyone except Steeves (catching for Skowhegan) and Bragg thought it was a foul ball. Bragg raced home as Steeves went after the ball and no one covered the plate, and Baker went to first, but only after first going to the dugout because she thought she had struck out.

“I honestly thought it was a foul ball, but nobody heard a noise or anything,” Alward said. “So it was hard to tell.”

Despite an argument from Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson that Baker was out of the baseline, she remained at first, but Alward struck out the last two batters of the inning to keep the score tied.

Skowhegan got leadoff singles in both the seventh and eighth innings, but couldn’t score. In the bottom of the eighth, Renee Wright was on third with one out, and Bedard at the plate. Bedard drilled a sharp one-hopper, but Baker, at third base, made an outstanding play to snag the ball and nail the speedy Wright at the plate.


In the Messalonskee ninth, Bragg was on third with one out, and Charest bunted in front of the plate. Charest tried to hop over the ball on her way to first, but both umpires ruled the ball hit her for an automatic out. The call cost the Eagles a run and maybe the game, and Bouchard vehemently disagreed with the decision.

Finally, Skowhegan rallied in the bottom of the 10th. Pinch hitter Lindsey Warren hit a looper over first base that landed just inside the foul line. Annie Worthen bunted Warren to second, and Bedard, after swinging and missing twice to fall behind 1-2, lifted a pitch into short center field that Charest, playing shortstop, just missed after a long run.

“The last throw was a change-up,” Bedard said. “I knew I just had to hold it off and wait, and then just drive it as hard as I could.”

The win, even as early in the season as it is, still means a lot for Skowhegan. The Indians graduated most of their starting lineup after winning the state championship last year, and this was a good sign that Skowhegan will still be competitive.

In a way, the game means a lot for Messalonskee, too. The Eagles were missing two starters who were on college trips, but they had their chances to win anyway, and that may be part of what drives them the rest of the spring.

“This game, it’s a loss,” Bouchard said. “It’s not going to knock you out of the playoffs. It’s got a sour place in our stomach right now, and I hope that that sourness stays there all season. Right now, this team’s miserable. They’re not happy with themselves — and justifiably so. I can guarantee you, they will bounce back.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo

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