Hall-Dale pitcher Rita Benoit winds up for a pitch during Wednesday’s regional championship game against Monmouth Academy in Gorham. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

GORHAM — Sixth grade. Five years ago.

That’s when Hall-Dale pitcher Ashlynn Donahue can recall the last time she lost a softball game while playing with fellow hurler Rita Benoit and catcher Zoe Soule.

“We’ve all grown up together and have played since we were in the (youth) rec league, so we’ve all known each other for 12 years, and the chemistry is just insane,” Donahue said Wednesday night after the Bulldogs’ 15-3 rout of Monmouth in the Class C South final at the University of Southern Maine’s Husky Softball Field.

Hall-Dale (19-0) will take a 55-game winning streak — the third longest in Maine high school history — into Tuesday’s state final against North champion Bucksport (19-0). The Bulldogs aim for their third straight state title, which would be the longest Class C streak since Madison won four straight from 1994-97. First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m.

A big reason for Hall-Dale’s success has been the three-headed monster of Benoit, Donahue and Soule, three minds who jell into one come game time. The Bulldogs have allowed opponents to score just 23 runs this season; Hall-Dale’s offense, meanwhile, has surpassed 23 runs in a single game three times.

Benoit, a senior, was 9-0 in the regular season with a 0.56 ERA, 67 strikeouts and seven walks. Donahue, a junior, was 7-0 with a 1.40 ERA, 74 strikeouts and 17 walks. Both were named first-team mountain Valley Conference all-stars. When one is not pitching, the other usually plays first base.


Hall-Dale catcher Zoe Soule tosses warm-up throws during softball practice March 23 in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Soule, a junior and also an all-MVC first-teamer, has caught every game during the streak, according to coach Steve Acedo, and calls “98 percent of the pitches on her own.” Her pitchers trust her immensely.

“She calls everything and we’re usually on the exact same page,” said Benoit, who struck out 12 batters and allowed five hits in Wednesday’s five-inning win. “I’ll be thinking something in my head and she’ll already have called it, so we’re on the same wavelength.”

Although she’s still in high school, Soule speaks with the tone of a veteran coach; it’s fitting for someone who has caught both pitchers for years. She said she can pick up immediately which pitches are working and which aren’t. Benoit specializes in the screwball, while Donahue throws a nasty curve. Both pitchers said they almost never shake her off.

“I can tell what the hitters are going to hit by their warmup swings. I can tell what’s going to be working for the pitcher and what she’s going to throw confidently and what’s going to work that game,” Soule said. “So I think the experience, again, and what goes with that is very important.

“Just knowing your pitcher and knowing what they can throw in these big moments and what’s going to be easiest for them, the most confident pitch for them, is really important.”

Soule does more than call a great game: She threw out eight of 10 would-be base-stealers in the regular season, picked off five baserunners and had just one passed ball. At the plate, she hit .567 and led the MVC in hits and RBIs. She was 2-for-3 in a 3-2 semifinal win over Maranacook on June 10 and walked three times in Wednesday’s victory.


“She’s only allowed a couple pitches to go by back there. She’s a brick wall,” Benoit said.

Hall-Dale pitcher Ashlynn Donahue throws to a Winthrop batter during a Class C South softball quarterfinal game June 8 in Farmingdale. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The chemistry between catcher and pitchers has paid off on the scoreboard. Benoit, who plans to play soccer and hopefully softball at the University of Maine at Farmington, has one no-hitter and a trio of three-hitters to her credit — including Wednesday’s win — and she struck out 13 batters in an 11-1 win over Madison on May 23. Donahue has tossed one-, two- and three-hitters this spring.

And occasionally, the right-handers will team up to take down a foe. On June 8, Benoit and Donahue combined for a six-hitter with 14 strikeouts in a 10-2 quarterfinal win over Winthrop, and joined forces again two days later in the semifinal win over Maranacook, with starter Donahue allowing one hit over three innings and Benoit striking out three in four innings of relief.

“It doesn’t matter who’s on the mound, me or Rita, we still support each other,” Donahue said. “I have her back and she always has mine.”

It’s a mentality, combined with a steady mitt behind the plate, that hasn’t tasted defeat in five years.

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