OAKLAND — Conference championship games mean more to some than others.

For some, they are little more than formal scrimmages that serve as tuneups for when the games really count, while others relish the opportunity to play for a title of any kind.

For Messalonskee High School softball coach Leo Bouchard, Friday’s Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championship was a little bit of both.

Senior Kirsten Pelletier allowed three hits and two walks while striking out 12 in a complete-game effort to pitch the Eagles past Oxford Hills 7-0 for the KVAC A title in what was a special day for her head coach.

In addition to Friday being Bouchard’s birthday, the win was also his first over Oxford Hills in his 11 seasons with the Eagles (15-0-1). It also made Messalonskee’s lone blemish on its record, a 1-1 tie with the Vikings earlier this season, sit just a touch better.

“We don’t play them every year, but (Oxford Hills coach) Cindy (Goddard) has always had the better end of the outcome,” Bouchard said. “(The game) did (mean something) to me because like I said before I had never beaten them but the other thing is some people complain, ‘oh gee, one is playing two.’

“You want a good game anyway. You’re not in the playoffs yet. You’re in that in between time and you’re looking for that good team to play. That’s a heck of a team we just played across the way over there. If it wasn’t them, it would be somebody else.”

Plate discipline proved critical to Messalonskee’s success, as the Eagles made Oxford Hills starter Cody Akers work from the first inning. She threw 39 pitches in the opening frame and 93 by the time she was chased after 3 2/3 innings.

“We’ve done that all year, be patient, looking for strikes, swinging at strikes, not swinging at the stuff above our hands, make the pitcher work and force the count in our favor,” Bouchard said. “They’ve responded to it very, very well and you saw that (Friday). They did a great job (Friday). I’m very proud of them.”

After Madisyn Charest grounded out to second to start the inning, Kelsey Dillon and Pelletier each drew walks on eight and six pitches, respectively. Both runners then advanced a base when Pelletier drew a throw to first from Oxford Hills catcher Anna Piirainen that the Vikings’ first baseman could not handle.

Akers bounced back to win a seven-pitch at-bat with Sarah Labbe with a strikeout, but the Vikings (11-4-1) would not escape the inning unscathed. Down 0-2 in the count with two outs, Hannah Duperry, the designated player, laced a ball to left that crossed up the Oxford Hills’ left fielder. The ball ultimately caromed off her glove, which allowed both runs to score and give Pelletier all the runs she would need in the circle.

“It wasn’t our best performance,” Goddard said. “When we played them at home everything was on, hitting, pitching and defense. (Friday) all three of those ingredients weren’t on and (Messalonskee was) on.

“They have all the weapons. They have some good bunters and some good hitters and they got the hits when they needed to and obviously a good pitcher. You know you’re only going to get one or two runs if you’re lucky.”

The Eagles added some insurance in the bottom of the fourth thanks to three straight RBI singles from Charest, Dillon and Pelletier. Messalonskee then tacked on two more in the bottom of the sixth to wrap up the scoring when Labbe’s single scored Charest and Dillon scored from third on a passed ball after singling earlier in the inning.

As for the Oxford Hills’ offense, there were only two instances in which they threatened to score against Pelletier all game.

The Vikings had runners on second and third with two outs in the top of the second but Pelletier got out of the jam by getting Madison Leblond to fly out to center. Then, in the top of the fourth, Hannah Kenney led off with a single and proceeded to steal both second and third. She would get no further, though, as Pelletier struck out the side to end the threat.

“We threw more fastballs (Friday). We worked on hitting our corners better (Friday). We mixed in a screw ball, we mixed in changeups,” Pelletier said. “We noticed what hitters were more aggressive than others and we attacked them early.”

Evan Crawley – 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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