Skowhegan pitcher Sierra Carey (right, with hand in the air) cheers with teammates during a Class A North game against Hampden Academy on Monday in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — What a difference a year can make.

Last spring, the Skowhegan softball team went into the season with the big-game talent, but not the big-game experience. The River Hawks had the kind of roster that they knew could play the pressure-packed games of June. What they didn’t know was whether they could win them.

“Last year, we were a really young team,” senior shortstop Jaycie Christopher said. “We only had two kids that had played on the team my freshman year.”

This season, could you imagine a more different script? In addition to being the defending Class A softball state champions, many of the River Hawks who were on the field and in the dugout for Monday’s opening 1-0 victory over Hampden Academy were on the field hockey team that won another A North regional championship last fall. Or the girls basketball team that just won the Class A state championship in March, one that started five players — Christopher, Callaway LePage, Maddy and Annabelle Morris, and Reese Danforth — that were in the lineup Monday.

Last year, the River Hawks hadn’t won yet. Since then, that’s all they’ve done.

“We had a lot of learning last year,” Christopher said. “This year, we feel like we’re in a pretty good place, in terms of experience. … The biggest part for us is just the mental piece of it. We know we have some talent and experience, but it’s using that to our advantage and continuing to get better, and making sure we’re in the right frame of mind.”


The River Hawks showed some flashes of that winning ingredient Monday. Skowhegan didn’t blink in what became a nervy seven innings, and junior Sierra Carey, back in the circle after pitching her team to the state final last spring, was at her best in the biggest moments, driving in the lone run with a bases-loaded single in the first and then earning the shutout with 12 strikeouts, the last three coming in a row in the seventh with the tying run at second.

“We have a lot of kids who understand what it takes to win,” coach Lee Johnson said. “They’ve been part of championships quite a bit as of late.”

Johnson said he’s been able to notice an air of confidence that wasn’t as pronounced last season.

“I think there’s definitely a confidence about them. But it’s not overconfident,” he said. “I think they realize that we’re going to have to work for this. We lost some key pieces last year.”

With eight starters back from last year’s Class A final, though, Johnson knows his team will be ready to handle whatever pressure spots it encounters.

“I have no doubt that in crunch time, like we saw today, they’ll find a way to compete,” he said. “They know what it takes.”


They knew it on Monday. In the first, Maddy Morris drew a one-out walk, and then went to second on Christopher’s single up the middle. Emily Dunbar drew a walk to load the bases, and Carey hit a looping fly to shallow left that just fell in for a hit, allowing Morris to come in to score.

“I’d say there’s a lot of confidence,” Maddy Morris said, “but then again, you know everybody’s trying to come at you and win it, so you just have to keep that in mind too. Keep working and battling. … We needed this game. It shows that it isn’t all going to be easy.”

Carey made sure the run she drove in would stand. She allowed only four hits while striking out the dozen — six swinging, six looking — and never looked rattled when a Hampden threat seemed to be forming. In the first, a Cam Neal double after an Allee Wellman single put runners on second and third, but Carey got a grounder to second to escape trouble. In the fifth, Emma Shute singled to lead off and went to second one out later, but Carey retired the next two hitters.

And then in the seventh, after Meghan Delahanty had a leadoff single that might have gotten another pitcher holding a 1-0 lead to start sweating, Carey struck out three batters in a row for the second time in the game to end it.

Skowhegan baserunner Jaycie Christopher takes a running lead down the third baseline as Hampden third baseman Meahan Delanhant watches the pitch during a Class A North game Monday in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“She didn’t get flustered by anything,” Johnson said. “She didn’t have any issues dealing with the moment. She just went out and executed pitches. … She did a great job today, and I thought all the kids did.”

Carey said she was able to stay relaxed. Why not? She’s been in a spot like that before.


“I’ve grown a lot over the years. It doesn’t take one season to become mentally tough,” she said. “I’d say that I am mentally tough. In situations like that, I keep my calm.”

Carey then turned her attention to her team.

“I can’t wait to see what’s to come,” she said. “I think we’re going to have a good season this year.”

That’s certainly been the theme.

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