Winslow’s Leah Knight (9) celebrates after scoring on a passed ball against Hermon in the Class B North softball championship game Tuesday in Brewer. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WINSLOW — The Winslow softball team did an immaculate job just making it to the state final last season — but what happened in that game is something the Black Raiders would like to forget.

Winslow shook up the Class B North tournament field a year ago after being an afterthought throughout the regular season. In beating Old Town, Hermon, Foxcroft and Nokomis to win the regional title, the Black Raiders matched their regular season win total in the Northern Maine playoffs alone.

Cape Elizabeth, though, would batter the Black Raiders 19-4 in the state championship game. The result didn’t diminish the accomplishments of a Winslow team no one even expected to be in the final, but it was still far from how Kasey Larsen’s team wanted to go out.

“I think nerves really got to us when we got to that game,” the Winslow head coach said. “We were physically prepared for what was being thrown at us, but maybe not mentally. This year, there are less nerves, and I think the girls believe in themselves more.”

Winslow (13-7) will get another crack at the state title game this year after once again taking an improbable path to a Northern Maine title as the No. 8 seed in the field. This time, the Black Raiders plan on finishing with more than the regional plaque they’ve already won. Winslow will play Class B South champion and No. 2 seed Gardiner (18-2) at 12:30 p.m., Saturday at the University of Southern Maine.

After an up-and-down season, Winslow has reached the state championship by winning games in a variety of ways over the past two weeks. The Black Raiders, who ended the regular season 9-7, beat ninth-ranked Presque Isle 9-2 in the Class B North Round of 16 before topping No. 1 seed Nokomis 6-3 in the quarterfinals.


That win over Nokomis came as Winslow snapped ace pitcher Mia Coots’ streak of 75 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. It marked the second straight year the Black Raiders eliminated the Warriors from postseason contention following the team’s 10-9 victory in the matchup in last year’s regional championship game.

“We were just very confident at the plate in that game, which I felt helped us a lot,” said senior third baseman Leah Knight. “We really fed off each other’s energy, which was a game-changer. Once one person got a hit, it just kept going on down.”

Winslow shortstop Kate Nichols (20) catches a fly ball for an out against Hermon in the Class B North softball championship game Tuesday in Brewer. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Winslow’s bats haven’t been quite as loud over the past two games, but the Black Raiders have still been able to plate the runs they’ve needed. In truth, they haven’t needed many thanks to the pitching of Emma Michaud, who held Lawrence to two runs on four hits in the semifinals and struck out 11 in a one-hit shutout in Tuesday’s regional title game.

“Emma has a really short memory on the mound, so not much fazes her,” Larsen said. “She just has this way of staying calm, and that’s calming for her infielders. That creates a lot of confidence and trust within each other, and when you trust each other, you play good softball.”

A big difference in Winslow this year, as Larsen noted, has been the team’s lack of nerves in major situations. Whereas the moment got to the Black Raiders against Cape Elizabeth last year, their head coach has noticed a more relaxed, energetic team during practices this season.

Larsen also said Winslow used the regular season to try out players at different positions and experiment with changes to the lineup. The Black Raiders, she added, were “more than OK” with trading a few wins in the regular season for establishing the right defensive setup and batting order for the playoffs.

“It gives us more of an opportunity to solidify what our starting lineup is going to be and who works best in what position,” Larsen said. “It’s not always about who the best nine players on the field are; it’s about who works together cohesively. That takes a little bit of time.”

This time, the Black Raiders have every belief they can write a better ending than last year’s loss to Cape Elizabeth.

“I think that game is what inspired us this year,” Knight said. “We’re a stronger team mentally, and we wanted to make it back to the state game and end it a different way. Hopefully, that’s what we can do this year.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: