Editor’s note: This is the 11th installment of our new series, “Remember When,” in which we revisit some of the memorable games, events, streaks and runs in high school spring sports we’ve covered over the last few decades.

SKOWHEGAN — Skowhegan softball coach Lee Johnson had some concerns going into the 2014 season. He didn’t want to share them with the team.

He did, however, find the perfect confidant in first baseman — and daughter — Taylor Johnson.

“My dad said to me before the season started ‘you’re going to have to be patient this year, because we might not be as strong as we have been in the past,’ ” Taylor Johnson said. “I’m a very competitive person, sports were a big part of my life. To hear that, I was like ‘I don’t want to go out not doing very well.’ ”

Taylor Johnson, and five other seniors, got an ending far more to their liking. Instead of a rude awakening, Skowhegan finished the year with a celebration after beating Thornton Academy 7-3 in the Class A final, giving the program its first state title since 1993.

“That was just a really special year,” catcher Andrea Quirion said. “I look back and I’m smiling right now, just thinking about it. There was no better way for high school to end for us.”


Skowhegan earned it, winning three straight one-run games in the Eastern Maine tournament, and the team and its coach got to cross off a last item on the checklist. Skowhegan reached the Class A championship game the year before and lost, and had lost in state finals three times in the previous seven seasons and five times since prevailing in 1993.

In 2014, however, it was Skowhegan’s turn to hoist hardware.

“The biggest thing that has always stuck out in my mind about that team was how much they did not want to let each other down,” said Lee Johnson, who’s led the program since 2000. “And how much they cared about each other.”

He had his doubts at the start, however, and for good reason. The team had lost three players from the previous year’s Eastern Maine championship team, most notably third baseman Shelby Obert, who batted over .500 for her career before going on to play at the University of Maine.

“There were a lot of kids that were jumping into different roles,” he said. “We were unsure what we would be. We knew we’d be a very competitive team, but by no means did we think we were going to win a state championship.”

He and his players got a sense for what they were capable of early on. In the first game of the season, Skowhegan pounded four home runs and beat Oxford Hills 21-2.


“As I’m going down the lineup, I’m going ‘We might actually have a deep lineup here,’ ” Lee Johnson said.

He did, and that lineup made Skowhegan a force all season. The order had center fielder Mikayla Toth and second baseman Eliza Bedard lead off, then had Taylor Johnson, Quirion and pitcher Kaitlyn Therriault in the heart of the order. The tough outs continued with shortstop Emma Fitzgerald, left fielder Morgan Buker, third baseman Bonnie-Jane Aiken and right fielder Renee Wright, and the returning starters all saw their batting averages climb between 100 and 200 points from the season before.

“That was really what kind of propelled us,” Lee Johnson said. “It was a group effort. It was definitely not one person who stepped up.”

Skowhegan was also solid on defense, led by the battery of Quirion behind the plate and Therriault, a tested playoff pitcher, in the circle.

“For Kaitlyn, it was all about her mental toughness,” Lee Johnson said. “She would not change her demeanor whatsoever. … She had ice in her veins.”

No. 2 Skowhegan’s postseason reached an Eastern Maine final showdown with No. 1 Cony, which had become Skowhegan’s chief nemesis. The Rams, the 2012 state champs, beat Skowhegan three times during the season (once by 10 runs), and had one of the state’s best pitchers in Arika Brochu.


Andrea Quirion looks to make contact during a 2014 game against Messalonskee in Oakland. Morning Sentinel file photo

Skowhegan, however, came in confident, and ready to swing away against the Cony ace.

“In our heads, (we thought) ‘They have to beat us again. Why can’t this be our turn?’ ” Quirion said. “That was just one of those games where it was a battle every inning, up and down.”

Twenty-one of the 35 Skowhegan hitters that went to the plate swung at the first pitch, and the biggest hit went to Buker, who drilled a home run that put Skowhegan ahead to stay in what became a 3-2 triumph.

That put Skowhegan back in the final. And this time, the players approached the game with veteran poise.

“For a lot of us on the team, (2013) was the first state championship game we’d ever been in,” Therriault said. “That gave us a bit of confidence the following year … knowing what it was going to be like the second time around.”

Thornton found that out quickly. Toth and Bedard led off with singles, and Quirion smashed a deep drive that hit off the top of the left-field wall for an RBI double, putting Skowhegan up 1-0.


“I feel like I blinked and then I hit that ball, and it just cruised,” Quirion said. “When I saw it go past (the left fielder) I was like ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to run!’ ”

That started a four-run inning. Soon the lead was 5-0 Skowhegan going into the bottom of the second. The players were ecstatic — but not overconfident.

“We were like ‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,’ ” Taylor Johnson said. “We knew they were a good offensive team.”

Sure enough, Thornton began to flex its muscles, but Skowhegan found the answers. The Golden Trojans loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but Buker threw a runner out at the plate to limit the damage to two runs. Thornton loaded the bases with no outs again in the fourth, but Skowhegan got out of the jam this time with only one run surrendered.

Emotions ran high after the Skowhegan softball team, including Morgan Buker, left, sank Thornton Academy in the 2014 Class A state game at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Portland Press Herald file photo

Those escapes, plus two more runs on a single by Taylor Johnson, had a new feeling setting in.

“I think, coming out of that second time with the bases loaded, was probably the moment where we were like ‘We can be state champions,’ ” Taylor Johnson said.


Three innings later, they were. And for all of the players on the team who had lost that game the year before, the trophy they got to raise wasn’t just about one season’s success story.

It was about finished business, and a righted wrong.

“It felt like total redemption, almost, from the year before,” Quirion said. “There was no better way that year could have ended.”

For one player, though, it meant something different. For Taylor Johnson, who was told to prepare for a bumpy season by her father, it was as fulfilling to see him win as it was for her to win herself.

“It was just special to be able to do it with him, knowing that he’s been there so many times,” she said. “I was just ecstatic for dad, because he puts his heart and soul into that sport.”

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