WATERVILLE — Articles detailing last season’s disappointing ending  were pasted on the walls in the dugout. Constant reminders popped up throughout the spring. The Skowhegan softball team was not to forget last season.

Even after falling behind 1-0 in the first inning in the Class A North final Wednesday at Colby College, Skowhegan refused to let another undefeated season end at the hands of Oxford Hills.

Top-seeded Skowhegan scored five unanswered runs, including three in the home half of the first, and rode another strong effort off the right arm of senior Sydney Ames to a 5-1 victory over the No. 2 Vikings to capture the rematch of the 2018 regional final. The victory marked the third Class A North title in four seasons for unbeaten Skowhegan (19-0), which will play for the Class A state championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Brewer.

Skowhegan’s Mariah Whittemore prepares to tag out Oxford Hills Olivia Gallen during the Class A North title game Wednesday at Colby College. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

“To lose in that way, at that time, was really disheartening,” Skowhegan catcher Sydney Reed said of losing last year’s A North final. “It was a motivating factor. It was always in the back of our minds throughout the entire season, that we needed to prepare ourselves.”

It was as if Wednesday’s rematch — the third consecutive final between the clubs — was the reverse image of last spring’s title game. In that contest, Skowhegan was battered early and committed costly errors, forced to play the catch-up game against Lauren Merrill they could not accomplish.

This time around, it was the Vikings (17-2) who found themselves unable to rise to the occasion — committing four errors , allowing three unearned runs and unable to catch up to Ames at the plate. Ames allowed only four hits, striking out eight and walking three.

The only run she allowed was unearned.

“Our biggest focus was keeping our heads in the game, not letting anything bother us, one out at a time and one at-bat at a time,” said Skowhegan first baseman Mariah Dunbar, who delivered a two-run single in the first inning to provide the eventual game-winning runs. “That was our main focus today, and it kept us calm.”

Reed enjoyed a 2 for 3 afternoon with two runs scored, posting the only multiple-hit effort in a Skowhegan lineup that saw all but two spots in the order reach base at least once. She touched off a stretch of four consecutive singles from Skowhegan in the bottom of a three-run first.

“It was important to respond quickly and score more runs than they did,” Reed said. “We knew we’d beaten them once before (4-3 during the regular season). Honestly, we wanted it so badly. There was a lot on the line, but even more it’s my senior year and I didn’t want this to be my last game. I wanted to push it further and further.”

Reed came up with two key defensive plays in the fourth inning, with Oxford Hills threatening to climb back into contention.

The first two Viking batters reached base, with Madison Day being thrown out when Reed tracked down an errant throw from right fielder Amber Merry to gun her down at home. On the very next play, Reed picked Merrill off at third after she’d venturing too far down the third base line for the second out.

Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher catches an infield popup during the Class A North title game against Oxford Hills on Wednesday at Colby College. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

“They attacked right off, and we didn’t handle the pressure,” Oxford Hills coach Cynthia Goodard said. “I have to be honest with you, my team probably hasn’t made that many errors altogether in one game (this season). It’s hard when you don’t play as relaxed as you can and enjoy it and you play tight, and when you play tight things like that happen.”

“We didn’t let (an error in the first inning) snowball,” Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson added. “I’ll be honest, last year that’s what happened to us in this game. We allowed one mistake to turn into three or four. This group has not done that. They’ve been pretty mentally tough. When they make one mistake, they dig in and try to help each other out.”

Skowhegan added two unearned insurance runs in the third with a two-out rally. After Dunbar reached via an error by Oxford Hills third baseman Kaitlyn Montelongo which brought Reed around to score, Dunbar raced home on Mariah Whittemore’s RBI single to center.

Skowhegan catcher Sydney Reed tags out Oxford Hills runner Lauren Merrill during the Class A North title game Wednesday at Colby College. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

That was more than enough for Ames, who hasn’t allowed an earned run in three postseason starts this spring.

Over her final three and a third innings, no Viking runner advanced beyond first base.

“We just came out and were determined to win today,” Johnson said. “The kids have been that way all year long. They played extremely well today, in pretty much all aspects of the game.”


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