Messalonskee softball coach Samantha Tunningley and players celebrate around winning pitcher Morgan Wills, center, after the Eagles beat Skowhegan in the A North softball final Tuesday in Augusta. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

AUGUSTA — Kyra Cummings was asked if she felt her Messalonskee softball team had any shot of salvaging its season after a dreadful 3-11 start.

“Nope,” the sophomore outfielder said, shaking her head, after the Eagles routed Skowhegan 10-0 on Tuesday to claim the Class A North title at Cony Family Field as teammates took turns posing for photos holding the title plaque behind home plate. “Nope, we really didn’t.”

But that was three weeks ago, which might as well be three years ago. Thanks to a patient coach, strong-armed junior pitcher Morgan Wills, and a young, eager cast, the Eagles (9-11) have won six straight games heading into the Class A final against Biddeford. The teams will meet at 2 p.m. at Cony High School. 

After winning its last two regular season games, ninth-seeded Messalonskee slayed four consecutive higher-ranked foes in the A North tournament: No. 8 Lewiston (a 14-0 victory), top-seeded Brunswick (4-2), No. 5 Bangor (4-2) and No. 2 Skowhegan, the defending Class A champ. The Eagles’ record against those teams in the regular season? 1-4.

“It has been great to watch,” said Messalonskee coach Samantha Tunningley, who has guided the Eagles since 2017. “They have worked really hard. We’re very young, they’re very new to me, we’re very new to each other. It’s just been a lot of getting to know each other and trust each other in the field. With everything in place, we’ve really been able to grow.”

Messalonskee softball players celebrate with the Class A North championship plaque after they beat Skowhegan in the regional final Tuesday night in Augusta. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

A big reason for that success has been Wills, a junior whom Tunningley didn’t install as the full-time pitcher until midseason. Wills alternated with freshman Maddie Wilson in the circle as the coach tried to figure out who would fit where on a team with only two seniors — Gabrielle Sienko and Jordan Lambert — and had graduated nine players from last year’s bunch, which held the No. 1 seed in the North tourney only to lose to Bangor in the quarterfinals. Eventually, Wills became the full-time pitcher, and Wilson has become a key contributor in the outfield.


Tunningley told her players to keep the faith as she tinkered with her lineup.

“(I just told them to) focus on what we’re doing and good things will happen,” she said. “Put in the work in practice and it will show up on the field.”

Added Cummings: “Coach stayed confident in all of us and all of our ability and that we were going to improve and get to this point.”

The streak began May 27 with all the subtlety of a Wills fastball, when she fired a one-hitter in an 11-0 rout of Camden Hills, followed by an 18-0 no-hitter against Mt. Blue five days later in the regular-season finale. At No. 1 Brunswick on June 8 in the quarterfinals, Wills tossed a no-hitter in a come-from-behind 4-2 win.

Messalonskee pitcher Morgan Wills challenges a Skowhegan batter during the Class A North softball final on Tuesday night in Augusta. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“Morgan is an amazing pitcher,” said sophomore catcher Payton Alexander, who is in her first season as Wills’ batterymate. “It’s so nice catching for her.”

Alexander continued with a laugh, “It’s pretty easy to catch for her when she strikes everybody out and she has a good defense behind her.”


Tuesday’s final against Skowhegan was more of the same from Wills: two hits, 11 strikeouts and one walk. After allowing a leadoff single to Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christoper, she retired 11 straight batters.

“I think it took me a little bit to get in my groove and settle down a bit,” said Wills, who before each pitch scoops up a handful of dirt, wipes it on her pants and the ball, and shuffles the ball in her right hand before she fires away. But any nerves she may have go away quickly.

“I think it helps me get in my zone and settle down, just doing the same thing every single pitch,” she added.

At the plate Tuesday, the underclassmen came through as Cummings, fellow sophomore Elise McDonald and junior Olivia Culver  each scored twice; Alexander walked and scored a run; Wilson singled home a run; and freshman Audrey Mihm singled and scored.

And ask Cummings about her team’s chances now, and her response is completely different:

“We’re not done yet,” she said with a smile.

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