SKOWHEGAN — How did the Skowhegan softball team respond to falling behind for the first time all season Friday afternoon?

In the very fashion you’d expect from a reigning regional champion.

The Indians scored a pair of runs with two outs in the bottom of the fifth against fellow Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference powerhouse Oxford Hills and rode the two runs to a 2-1 victory in a rematch of last season’s Class A North final.

“That was the first time we’ve been behind, which was what we needed,” Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson said. “We needed to see how we would react, and we reacted. We found a way to scramble and make some things happen.”

Skowhegan (11-0) got back-to-back RBI singles from Alyssa Everett and Sydney Ames, answering the lone run of the game for Oxford Hills (10-2) in the top of the fifth.

The Vikings, who saw their 10-game winning streak snapped, ended Skowhegan pitcher Ashley Alward’s perfect game bid with Kenzie Kahkonen’s bloop double down the left field line to lead off the fifth. She would eventually come around to score on Kaisa Heikkinen’s fielder’s choice to the right side of the infield.

“It’s nice to have the offense have our backs (as pitchers),” said Alward, a senior. “We always have our defense behind us, too, and it was nice to have the offense today.”

Alward struck out nine and walked nobody — scattering four hits in her complete-game effort — narrowly outpitching Viking Lauren Merrill in a matchup of two of the region’s best arms. Merrill surrendered only three hits while fanning five.

“It was just a great game,” Johnson said. “Without it being a playoff game, that’s as good as it gets.”

TURNING POINT: Trailing by a run with two outs in the home half of the fifth, Skowhegan’s Mariah Dunbar appeared dead to rights in her attempt to steal second base with No. 9 hitter Everett at the plate. The throw from Viking catcher Ashley Childs beat Dunbar to the bag in plenty of time, but when the shortstop Heikkinen couldn’t hold onto the ball, Dunbar was safe.

“I definitely thought she was going to be out,” Everett said. “But when I saw (Heikkinen) miss the ball, it gave me a little bit more energy. I definitely thought it was my turn to get a hit. I needed to.”

Everett fouled off two would-be third strikes before dropping a base hit down the left field line that brought Dunbar around with the tying run.

“You’ve just got to keep playing,” Johnson said. “You can’t worry about the situation or what happens ‘if.’ Sometimes the breaks go your way, sometimes they don’t… It changed the whole inning.”

Three pitches later, leadoff hitter Ames roped a line drive to right-center field just out of the reach of Viking second baseman Madison Starbird to bring Everett home with what would prove to be the winning run.

“The pressure’s on all the time in games like this,” Vikings coach Cynthia Goddard said. “It’s those small things that matter, and they took advantage of it.”

CLOSING THE DOOR: Alward stranded four runners on base, three in scoring position, over the final three innings.

After Oxford Hills took the lead and got a runner to second with one out in the fifth, Alward racked up a strikeout and a play she made herself on a bunt to end the threat.

She then stranded Vikings at second and third in the sixth and pitched around a two-out single in the seventh. Four of Alward’s nine strikeouts came after allowing the game’s first run.

“I knew I had to dig us out after we had a couple of different mental errors (defensively),” Alward said. “I knew that was when I had to pick it up a little bit, throw strikes and try to get the outs myself.”

UP NEXT: Unfortunately, Friday’s game was the only meeting scheduled between Skowhegan and Oxford Hlls during the regular season. The Indians host Class B Nokomis (8-5) on Monday, while the Vikings host Edward Little (8-5).

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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