Editor’s note: This is the 22nd 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.

OAKLAND — It was becoming an annual story. Year after year, the Messalonskee softball team would be in the championship mix. And year after year, the Eagles were never able to break through.

In 2015, that all changed.

That was the year a talented and driven team, anchored by a slugging center fielder and an indomitable pitcher, lifted Messalonskee to summit in the form of a 1-0 victory over Scarborough in the Class A championship game for the Eagles’ first state title in 10 years.

“They knew what each other was doing. Very well-rounded defensive team, we’d do defensive drills for practice and they were like a machine,” Messalonskee coach Leo Bouchard said. “And offensively … they were patient. They would wait for their pitch, and they would drive the ball.

“They loved to be coached. They wanted information. They wanted to be better.”

Senior center fielder Kristy Prelgovisk said the team was a tightly-knit group.

“We were all very close and we had each others backs, on and off the field,” said Prelgovisk, a University of Rhode Island graduate this spring. “We worked together consistently rather than working individually, and any sort of negativity was brushed away.”

The Eagles had an imposing lineup. Shortstop Madisyn Charest, who batted .516 during the regular season, and second baseman MollyAn Killingbeck, who batted .529 with a .607 on-base percentage, led off. Designated player Hannah Duperry (.576) and first baseman Dakota Bryant (.345) were heavy hitters in the middle. Third baseman Cassidy Baker (.377) and freshman left fielder Sarah Labbe (.283) were solid bats near the bottom of the lineup.

The anchor, though, was Prelgovisk, who batted .511 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs in the regular season in the third spot. She hit more home runs than anyone on the team, and they weren’t cheap.

“When she hit the home run balls all season, both she and I knew it,” Bouchard said.

 

“She was a difference-maker,” junior pitcher Kirsten Pelletier said. “She’s just so strong, and she’s consistent. I think a lot of power hitters, even at the college level, aren’t consistent. … Kristy was consistent. Every time she came up to the plate, you knew something was going to come out of it.”

The Eagles were just as good on defense, with a pair of strong arms in right fielder Kelsey Dillon and catcher Taylor Easler. But Messalonskee’s best asset in the field was Pelletier, who struck out 144 in 107 regular-season innings and led the Eagles to a 13-3 record.

“She was amazing. Every game she came out strong, she was so steady,” said Killingbeck, the only other senior on the team. “If an inning wasn’t going great, she had that ability to brush it off and focus on the next move, the next play, and that helped keep the positivity for her and the rest of the team up.”

Messalonskee’s Kristy Prelgovisk (12) receives a warm welcome from teammates after she ripped a home run in the first inning of the Class A state title game against Scarborough. Portland Press Herald file photo

She had a drive and determination to succeed that matched her talent. Messalonskee lost a sloppy regular-season finale to Brewer, and when Bouchard went to the circle to talk to his pitcher, she had a message ready for him.

“She said ‘Coach, we’re going to make you a promise,’ ” Bouchard said. “She said ‘This is not going to happen again.’ And it didn’t. You could feel the energy.”

The revitalized Eagles made it to the Eastern Maine final, where they met No. 2 Bangor, and where they found themselves down 2-0 in the fifth after the Rams’ Emily Reilly homered off Pelletier.

“When I gave up that home run, (I thought) ‘Oh my God, what did I just do?’ ” said Pelletier, who graduated from Bates College this spring. “But I also remember trusting the team that was behind me and with me. I truly, 100 percent believed and never lost hope that we were going to win that game.”

The Eagles showed they had grit to go with their talent. Killingbeck doubled in Dillon in the fifth, making it 2-1. In the sixth, pinch runner Sierra McLellan scored on Pelletier’s perfect two-out bunt down the third base line when the Rams were slow to react to the ball.

“You saw the catcher’s shoulders just drop,” Bouchard said. “And you knew they were done.”

It became official in the eighth, when Duperry hit a hard grounder off the pitcher’s glove and Prelgovisk came in from third.

“That game truly showed us that even though we were down, we had to find a way to pick ourselves back up if we wanted to win,” Prelgovisk said. “It really was such a great victory for all of us.”

“(That was) the best game, all season,” Bouchard added.

Perhaps, but not the Eagles’ biggest challenge. That was Scarborough, the undefeated top seed from the West, which had won three of the previous six softball state crowns. The Red Storm had a heavy-hitting lineup and a pitcher in Lilly Volk who entered the final at 10-0 with a 1.04 ERA.

“Before the game, they had the infield and they were doing soft-toss, and I swear every single one of them went over the fence,” said Killingbeck, now a research assistant for Harvard Pilgrim. “We were all like ‘Whoa, they’re pretty great.’ I don’t know if we were intimidated, but we felt the pressure.”

Fortunately for the Eagles, their pitcher was mad. Pelletier couldn’t get comfortable warming up at Cony’s field, and as the start time neared, she was steaming.

“There was no good place to warm up, so I just started throwing. I looked at everyone and said ‘If I hit you, it is not my problem,’ ” she said. “I was frustrated, but I think that gave me a fiery side to the day.”

Pelletier was terrific. She allowed just two hits, walked three and struck out 12.

“I needed to show up that day,” she said. “The umpire that day was calling the outside corner. And I lived on the outside corner.”

Messalonskee pitcher Kirsten Pelletier delivers during the 2015 Class A state title game. Portland Press Herald file photo

All Pelletier needed was some offense. She didn’t need to wait long. In the first inning, Prelgovisk smashed a long home run over the left-field wall, putting Messalonskee up 1-0.

“(I was) not knowing what to expect since it was my first time hitting against this pitcher,” Prelgovisk said. “But when that last pitch came in and the ball made contact with my bat, that hit felt light and effortless.”

The Eagles felt a surge of optimism. They tried to temper it.

“We were all really, really happy,” Killingbeck said. “(But) we were ready for a close game. We were ready for them to score a bunch of runs. I mean, look at their record.”

Pelletier, though, knew she had enough.

“I was pretty positive that that was all we’d need,” she said. “Just give me one. Give me one run, and we’re going to close this game out.”

She got some help — Scarborough put two on in the fifth, but Easler gunned down Chloe Gorey trying to steal third — but had the answer inning after inning for the Red Storm bats. With Easler calling the pitches, Pelletier retired the last seven batters she faced, and the celebration was on.

“To win it with the group of girls we won it with, it meant the world,” Pelletier said. “It comes up on Facebook every year. … Me and my dad watched the final out last weekend, and I still get the same feeling I got.”

There was still one more thing to do.

“We all went back to the school and rang our victory bell,” Killingbeck said. “It was nice to share that moment with all the team members, and then the coaching staff and our parents and families.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.