Hall-Dale High School celebrates defeating Mattanawcook Academy 5-1 in the Class C state championship game on June 18 at Coffin Field in Brewer. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Central Maine as a whole began the 2022 softball season with high expectations — and local teams did anything but disappoint.

There were some anticipated juggernauts, some surprise teams and plenty of unforgettable games throughout the spring. In the end, central Maine was home to half of Maine’s regional champions and produced two state title winners.

“This was an amazing year for our area,” said Hall-Dale senior second baseman Emma Soule. “A lot of the teams here did really well. There were a lot of wins here all around, and that’s really great to see.”

Central Maine entered the season with two of the reigning state champions, Skowhegan and Hall-Dale. Having lost very little production, both of these teams looked set to be among the major players in the state title picture again in 2022.

Hall-Dale fulfilled that mission with its second straight undefeated season. The Bulldogs battled through roster attrition resulting from COVID-19 and even one case of mononucleosis to beat Madison 1-0 in the Class C South title game and defeat Mattanawcook Academy 5-1 in the state final.

Class C South, which was loaded in 2022, was home to some of the best games statewide throughout the season. Many of those games involved Hall-Dale, including the walk-off win against Madison in the June 14 regional final, a 6-1 win in that matchup May 7 and a thrilling 3-2 win May 20 against Monmouth Academy.


“Those games against Madison and Monmouth were so much fun,” said Hall-Dale senior Tanley Tibbetts. “That first game against them, we came out with all we got. That second game could have gone either way, and we just pulled through and fought for each other.”

Gardiner’s Corrine Vasvary, left, gets a hug from Devin Clary, right, after she scored on a passed ball to beat Winslow and win the Class B softball championship game on June 18 in Gorham. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Skowhegan had another strong season in Class A as it finished 16-3. Yet the River Hawks were unable to defend their title as Messalonskee defeated them 10-0 to claim the A North crown.

Messalonskee’s regional final victory completed a stunning run to the Class A North crown. The No. 9 Eagles, who were a mere 5-11 entering the postseason, beat Lewiston in the preliminary round before beating regional title contenders Bangor and Brunswick in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, to set up a meeting with the rival River Hawks.

“We know that these girls had a lot of talent, and it was just about putting that talent together,” said Messalonskee head coach  Samantha Tunningley. “We were the youngest team pretty much every time we took the field, and it can take some time to get that confidence up for your younger players. Once they did that, things really came together.”

None of those state finals, though, could compare to what happened in the Class B title game June 18 at the University of Southern Maine. In a matchup of two central Maine regional champs, Gardiner beat Winslow 10-9 in a back-and-forth battle that ended with the Tigers scoring the winning run on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh inning.

It was a breathtaking conclusion to what had been a terrific year for local teams in Class B. There was Mia Coots putting forth earth-shattering numbers for Nokomis; Winslow once again winning the Northern Maine crown as the No. 8 seed; and, obviously, Gardiner ending a 42-year state title drought with the walk-off win over the Black Raiders in Gorham.


Nokomis sophomore Mia Coots (16) pitches against Maine Central Institute during a June 1 game in Newport. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“We knew we were going to have to come to play,” Gardiner sophomore pitcher Lainey Cooley said following the state championship win. “We knew Winslow was going to be ready for us. … There was a little pressure on us, but we just focused on every play and every pitch, just as we did all year.”

In Class D, Emily Collins produced an incredible season as she batted .688 en route to leading Valley to a 14-4 finish. She was a Miss Maine Softball finalist along with Madison’s Brooke McKenney and Skowhegan’s Jaycie Christopher, the latter of whom ultimately won the award.

Local softball is primed for another big year in 2023. The region will be rich in the circle with Coots, Lawrence’s Sage Reed, Messalonskee’s Morgan Wills and Winslow’s Emma Michaud among returning pitchers. Gardiner, meanwhile, brings back all but one player, and Hall-Dale returns a few key pieces despite the losses of seniors Soule, Tibbetts, Lily Platt and Samantha Thornton.

“I think you’re really seeing how softball is growing again here,” Tunningley said. “You kind of had this lull, and now you have girls playing all year long, which maybe wasn’t the case nine or 10 years ago. It’s really taking off again.”

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