OAKLAND — Ashley Alward was at it again, helping the Skowhegan softball team put the finishing touches on a perfect regular season.

The senior pitcher struck out 13 on Tuesday afternoon, anchoring the Indians in a 5-2 win over Messalonskee in the final Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A game of the season for both clubs. For the first time during this three-year run of dominance in the region, including the last two Class A North titles, Skowhegan finished with an unblemished 16-0 record.

That, however, isn’t quite enough.

Skowhegan’s Julia Steeves fields a throw as Messalonskee’s Leah Smith slides into third base during a game Tuesday. Staff photo by David Leaming

“Two second-place state championship finishes in a row,” Wylie Bedard said of Skowhegan’s motivation this season. “We really want (the title) this year. That’s what we’ve been working towards.”

Bedard had an RBI double as part of a three-run first inning for the Indians. Mariah Dunbar added a run-scoring single of her own in the fourth as Skowhegan did just enough to overcome a very good defensive effort from rival Messalonskee (9-7).

“It’s always fun to be playing ahead,” Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson said. “When you’ve got the lead, you’re in a better position and you feel confident. It’s always nice to get early runs.”

While Skowhegan wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs for the second straight season, the Eagles were awaiting results of other games Tuesday to find out where they’d fall in the pecking order.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Once Skowhegan scored three times in the top of the first inning, there was little doubt that it was Alward’s game to lose from there. She didn’t disappoint.

The hard-throwing righty struck out the side in order in the first, a feat she would repeat in both the fifth and seventh innings. Alward ran into a little trouble in the second, putting runners on second and third with two outs before striking out Danielle Hall to end the threat.

That K set the stage for a stretch of 11 straight Eagles retired by Alward.

In the sixth, Messalonskee turned to RBI hits from Taylor Baker (a double) and cleanup hitter Leah Smith to make it a 4-2 game.

“I don’t think anything was necessarily different, I just left a couple of pitches out over the plate,” Alward said of the Messalonskee sixth. “They capitalized on my mistake. My defense was able to dig out and make the best of a nerve-wracking situation.”

Alward responded by striking out the side in the seventh on 13 pitches.

“We always have to be concentrating, we always have to be working as hard as we can,” Alward said. “We can’t take anybody lightly. At any moment, something could go wrong that can change the course of the game.”

DEFENSIVE: A sloppy first inning saw the Eagles commit a pair of errors leading to two unearned runs as they fell behind 3-0 out of the gate, but that same defense kept Messalonskee within striking distance in the late innings.

Taylor Bernier and Baker connected to start a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth, and third baseman Sarah Labbe turned an unassisted double play to end the Skowhegan seventh.

“We had a couple of good plays that really pumped us up and kept us in the game,” Messalonskee coach Samantha Moore said. “It’s all about the girls attitudes. Today, they were up and it really has an effect on our game.”

Center fielder Makenzie Charest made a superb catch on Bedard’s deep fly ball in the third, just two innings after Bedard hit her RBI double over Charest’s head. Bernier snared Lindsey Warren’s line drive to second one batter prior to Charest’s catch on a ball destined to turn into an RBI single for the Indians.

PITCH FOR PITCH: Sophomore Danielle Hall did her best to match Alward’s efforts in the circle for Messalonskee.

Hall pitched six innings, yielding six hits and only two earned runs, with two strikeouts and three walks.

“I think Danielle pitches her own game,” Moore said. “We have good communication about what’s working and what’s not, and we make adjustments accordingly. I don’t think she does anything to try and match the other pitcher, she just pitches her own game.”

Messalonskee pitcher Danielle Hall throws to first base for an out against Skowhegan on Tuesday in Oakland. Staff photo by David Leaming

Hall retired the side in order in the second, and she pitched around leadoff singles in both the third and fifth innings.

STAT SHEET: For Skowhegan, Annie Cooke went 2 for 4 with a run scored and nearly had a third hit when she collided with Bernier, who was covering first, on a play in the first inning. Catcher Sydney Reed went 2 for 3 with a sacrifice out of the two-hole in the order, while leadoff hitter Sydney Ames walked twice and scored a run.

For Messalonskee, Smith was 2 for 3 with an RBI, while the top two in the Eagle order — Alyssa Genness and Baker each went 1 for 3 with a run scored.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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