OAKLAND — Confidence is an intangible quality that can be hard to measure. For the Skowhegan softball team, it was impossible to miss its impact Monday afternoon.

After coughing up an early three-run lead, the Indians bounced back with three runs in each of the last two frames, pulling away to a 10-4 win over Messalonskee in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A matchup between the last two Class A North champions.

“Getting to where we got to last year gave this team some confidence that they can withstand those pressure times,” Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson said. “I think they’ve grown up and matured. Even though they’re a young team, I think they’ve got some maturity, which you don’t see in a young team very often.”

Junior pitcher Ashley Alward, who was shaky in a three-run Messalonskee fifth inning that tied the game at 4-4, found her touch and retired the last nine batters she faced to close out her first complete game of the season. Alward fanned 12 Eagles, while also powering the Skowhegan offense out of the three-hole in the order with a 2-for-4 day that included a two-run home run in the third and a tie-breaking RBI single to left in the sixth.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit at the plate,” said Alward, who finished with four RBIs. “Coming up with that first one gave us a little bit of a confidence. Everybody hit the ball, so it was a good team win.”

Alward recorded six of the game’s final eight outs via strikeout as the reigning regional champs improved to 2-0.

“She looked strong to me,” Johnson said. “We did something a little bit different with the pitches that we were calling (in the late innings), but she threw the ones we called. She did a really good job executing what we were trying to do.”

“I was glad to pitch the full game and get the win,” Alward said. “It was just bearing down and getting the ball where it needed to be. I think the strike zone favored my spins a little bit more, and I worked in the changeup a lot the last two innings and that seemed to be working.”

Messalonskee (0-2) took the early lead with some aggressive baserunning in the first inning as leadoff hitter Alyssa Smith reached via a walk and then went from first to third on Alyssa Genness’ sacrifice, coming around to score on an errant throw.

Skowhegan responded with two runs in the third, courtesy of Alward’s first career homer — a no-doubter that easily cleared the fence in left and plated Sydney Reed (2 for 5) ahead of her.

In the fourth, the Indians added two more when Genness dropped what would have been the third out in left field, allowing both Skowhegan baserunners to score on the play.

Were it not for a great reaction play by Smith (five walks, four strikeouts) in the circle on Alward’s sharp liner back up the middle, the damage could have been worse.

Messalonskee rallied in the fifth using a walk, an error and a wild pitch to score three times and tie things up with the benefit of just one hit in the inning.

“We have a long way to go, but we will get there,” Messalonskee coach Samantha Moore said. “I felt like we had gotten ourselves back into the game, but this program has to work on staying up the entire seven innings. (In the sixth inning), you could really see it on our faces that it killed their morale.”

Alward took over from there, though, while her counterpart Smith tired and the Skowhegan lineup took advantage. The Indians pounded out seven of their 12 hits in the final two innings and scored six times.

After Alward singled to break the tie in the sixth, junior shortstop Wylie Bedard added a two-run single to left. Sophomore center fielder Sydney Ames (3 for 4) drove in a run in the seventh with her second double of the day, and Reed singled up the middle to score another run ahead of Alward’s sac fly.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC