GORHAM — Few times, if any, over the past three years has the Hall-Dale softball team seen the likes of what it saw here.

Speed; pitching; hitting; baserunning; defense. Bucksport put together a complete combination that no one aside from possibly the Bulldogs themselves had been able to do this decade — but it was a test Hall-Dale passed to continue an immaculate run with a third consecutive state title.

Hall-Dale claimed a 2-1 victory over Bucksport in the Class C championship game Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine. The Bulldogs were outhit by the Golden Bucks 8-5 but repeatedly kept their Northern Maine foes from crossing the plate before scoring the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.

The victory marked the 56th straight for Hall-Dale (20-0).

“I think that’s the hardest game I’ve ever played in in high school,” said Hall-Dale junior Zoe Soule, who scored the winning run on a Jade Graham sacrifice fly. “They fought us. … We watched them on tape, and we knew they were pretty good, but we didn’t know they were this good. Hats off to them.”

Rita Benoit pitched a complete game with seven strikeouts and one walk for Hall-Dale, and Mira Skehan added two hits. Ella Hosford had nine strikeouts and one walk for Bucksport in a strong losing effort.


Following a scoreless first, South No. 2 Hall-Dale would take the lead in the second. Two batters after Jade Graham escaped a rundown by sliding under the tag at third, Mira Skehan hit an RBI double down the left-field line to give the Bulldogs first blood.

The lead, though, would be brief. North No. 1 Bucksport (19-1) tied it with three straight hits to begin the inning and could have taken the lead if not for an obstruction call that denied Hosford the go-ahead run. Benoit then stranded two runners to end the inning, something she would do again in the fourth and fifth.

“They put a lot of runners on base,” said Hall-Dale head coach Steve Acedo. “They’re fast, they have good pitchers, and they play good defense. We had a lot of times where we had to battle our way out, and I think it was our experience that helped us in those situations.”

The Hall-Dale softball team celebrates after beating Bucksport 2-1 in the Class C championship game Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

After Benoit stranded another runner in the top of the sixth inning, Hall-Dale finally got to Hosford a second time. Soule smacked a single to begin the bottom of the frame before going to third on an Ashlynn Donahue sacrifice. She then scored on a Jade Graham sacrifice fly to put the Bulldogs in front.

It was a sequence, Acedo said, that played out exactly as expected. He knew his star catcher was due for a hit after failing to reach in both of her two at-bats. She did so, and it was then years of experience playing alongside one another that helped a veteran Hall-Dale duo bring across the winning run.

“I love to put it down that third-baseline, especially because it gives me more time to get to first as a left-handed hitter, and Zoe knows that,” Donahue said. “At the beginning of that inning, they told me, ‘If Zoe gets on, you’re bunting.’ I was ready to bunt and put it down that line, and she started running.”


The state championship-winning feeling, of course, is hardly new to Hall-Dale, which became the first team to win three straight Class C titles since Madison won four in a row from 1994-97. Yet this title, Donahue, Soule and Acedo all agreed, tastes the best of all three.

“I’m (moving) to Texas after this, so this is a good ending,” Acedo said. “I think it’s really special because we really had to battle for it. Of the three state championship games, this was the best game. It really came down to just a couple plays here and there, and again, that’s our experience coming through.”

Hall-Dale baserunner Zoe Soule dives safely into third base ahead of the throw to Bucksport third baseman Jayden Tripp during the Class C championship game Tuesday at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. Soule later came home to score the game-winning run. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It came as Maine’s newest dynasty held off one of yesteryear that had regained its perch atop Class C North after coming up short the previous four seasons. Bucksport had breezed its way to the regional crown this year to set up a clash of unbeatens for the ultimate prize.

It wasn’t the first one-run game this year for Hall-Dale, which beat Buckfield 4-3 in the regular season and topped Maranacook 3-2 in the regional semifinals. Still, the Bulldogs, Donahue said, had their toughest battle against a team that made zero errors and excelled in every facet.

“We just had to grind it out today,” Donahue said. “It took every single one of us, but we had to come together, bring ourselves together as a team and just find a way to do it. It was a close game; it was definitely the hardest game we’ve had.”

Most of this Hall-Dale team will be back to try and make it four in a row next year with only two players having graduated earlier this month. The Bulldogs, though, were determined to get this one for their departing head coach and senior starting pitcher, who finished her career a 56-0 three-time state champ.

“It’s our last season together with Rita, so we really wanted to win this one for her,” Donahue said. “We’re going to miss her a lot, and we’re glad we could get one more with her. It’s a really great feeling.”

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