Hall-Dale players celebrate their victory over Monmouth Academy in the Class C South title game on June 14 in Gorham. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

There was never a dull moment on the central Maine softball scene during the 2023 season.

Hall-Dale cemented its diamond dynasty by securing its third consecutive Class C championship, edging Bucksport 2-1 on June 20 at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. The Bulldogs finished 20-0 and pushed its winning streak to 56 games.

“To me, this year was probably one of best years I had at Hall-Dale,” head coach Steve Acedo said. “It was an awesome group, had great assistant coaches helping. Made everything go a lot smoother. The kids wanted to go out and win another one. It was a pretty exciting season.”

Despite having to replace five starters, Hall-Dale cruised through the Mountain Valley Conference. Pitchers Rita Benoit and Ashlynn Donahue combined for another undefeated season in the circle. Junior catcher Zoe Soule provided leadership behind the plate and was a force offensively (.585 batting average, 32 RBIs). Combined with sluggers Donahue (.667 batting average), Torie Tibbetts (.509 batting average) and Jade Graham (.553 average, five home runs, 31 RBIs), there was no weakness to Hall-Dale’s game.

While most of the lineup returns next season, the Bulldogs will hit the field in 2024 without their longtime leader. This was Acedo’s last season as Hall-Dale head coach, as he is moving to Texas.

“It’s pretty tough,” Acedo said. “Most of those kids I’ve been coaching since sixth grade. They knew I was leaving, so it made it a little easier. Of course, they’re all saying I’m coming back next year, and I’m telling them, ‘That’s not a short ride.’ When you have that kind of chemistry between players and coaches, it’s tough to step away from that. But you can’t go out any better than winning three state championships, either.”


Monmouth Academy (17-2), led by MVC Player of the Year and Miss Maine Softball finalist Brooklyn Federico, challenged Hall-Dale. Maranacook (14-4) also had a strong season, reaching the regional semifinals before falling to Hall-Dale. And a young Winthrop squad went 9-9 and reached the playoffs, the last run for head coach Chuck Gurney in a 19-year career.

In Class B, Nokomis (19-1) was a mere 60 feet from tying — and potentially beating — York in the Class B title game on June 21 at Coffin Field in Brewer. Instead, it was the Wildcats who won the Gold Glove with a 2-1 win.

“It’s tough, you go 19-0 and then that last (game), the one you want (doesn’t happen),” Nokomis head coach JD McLellan said. “But man oh man, what a season.”

Still, the Warriors won their first regional title, led by the pitching of junior Mia Coots, who struck out 251 batters and was named the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B Player of the Year for the second straight season. Coots was backed up by strong play from senior shortstop Camryn King (.559 average, 31 runs, 18 stolen bases) and senior catcher Megan Watson (.483 batting average, with three home runs).

Nokomis pitcher Mia Coots tries to catch a line drive against York in the Class B softball state championship game on June 20 at Brewer High School. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“I’m incredibly proud of these kids,” McLellan said. “You face a York team that’s full of great players, from one end (of the lineup) to the other, and to be that close, to have the opportunity to score and keeping it that close to them. I had all the players I needed. It just wasn’t in our cards this year.”

Lawrence, led by the play of Sage Reed, Jazmin Johnson and Kaylee Elkins, finished 14-4, including a 7-6 win over defending Class B champion Gardiner in 10 innings. The Bulldogs eventually fell 3-0 to Hermon in the semifinal round.


The Tigers (15-3) entered the season as a favorite in Class B South, with top slugger Taylor Takatsu returning, along with pitchers Brooke Gero, Lainey Cooley and Raylee Gilbert. Gardiner had a strong regular season, going 14-2, entering the B South tournament as the No. 2 seed before it fell to No. 3 Lake Region 1-0 in the semifinals.

In Class A, head coach Lee Johnson led a young Skowhegan (16-3) team to an A North final appearance. Oxford Hills edged the River Hawks 4-3 in the regional final.

“It was a very good season for us,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of turnover from last year’s team. We only had two kids starting in the same spot that we did last year. The rest of the kids were either new to the lineup or starting in a different spot. For us to get back to the same point that we did last year was a pretty good accomplishment, I thought, for this group.”

Gardiner pitcher Lainey Cooley fires a pitch during a Class B South quarterfinal game against Leavitt on June 9 at Central Maine Community College in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Callaway LePage, who was sidelined with a knee injury that kept her out of field hockey in the fall and basketball in the winter, returned to fine form, hitting .453 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. And junior Lily Noyes proved to be an excellent addition in the circle for the River Hawks, owning a 2.19 ERA while striking out 141 batters.

Messalonskee (13-5) reached the A North semifinals, where it lost to Skowhegan. The Eagles were once again led by pitcher Morgan Wills, who had a 1.06 ERA while striking out 219. Elise McDonald led Messalonskee with a .450 batting average.

“I was definitely happen with how the season had gone, especially with improving our record after only losing two (players) from the year before,” Messalonskee head coach Samantha Tunningley said. “I wish we could have made it a little bit further, obviously, and I think we could have, but overall I definitely think it was a good season.”

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