Saturday, December 21, 2013
By Matt DiFilippo firstname.lastname@example.org
BREWER -- When defending state champion Cony lost in the quarterfinals, it looked like that opened the door for Brewer to win the Eastern A softball title.
But when Brewer opened the door just a little bit Saturday night, Skowhegan came charging through and knocked it down.
Skowhegan -- a team that had lost to the Witches by the mercy rule early in the season -- rallied for four runs in the top of the sixth inning and went on to a 5-2 victory over top-seeded Brewer at Coffin Field.
The fourth-seeded Indians (13-5) will face No. 7 Bangor (12-6) in the Eastern A final. Brewer finishes at 16-2.
Kaitlyn Therriault pitched another brilliant game for the Indians. Therriault allowed six hits and struck out four. Brewer had not scored less than three runs in any game this season before Saturday.
"Kaitlyn did really well," Skowhegan catcher Andrea Quirion said. "Her change-up didn't work too well late in the game, but everything else really worked for her. That's what came through for us."
Still, even Therriault began to despair when the game moved to the sixth inning and the Witches held a 2-0 lead.
"I just didn't think we had a chance, really," Therriault said. "Then we just started scoring runs, and I had confidence again."
Brewer went up 1-0 in the second inning on a single by Delaney Davis and a two-out double by pitcher Alexa Grindle. In the fifth, it looked like everything was going Brewer's way, as Morgan Small's two-out pop fly stayed inside the right-field line for an RBI double and a 2-0 Brewer lead. That lead could have been doubled, but Skowhegan third baseman Shelby Obert made a marvelous diving catch of Emily Gilmore's line drive down the line to end the inning.
At that point, Grindle had retired 10 Skowhegan batters in a row. She wasn't overpowering the Indians -- only one of those 10 outs was a strikeout -- but she was pitching so effectively that she hadn't allowed a ball out of the infield since Emma Fitzgerald's seeing-eye single in the second inning.
No. 9 batter Lyndsi Merrill led off the sixth for Skowhegan. and beat out a bunt single. Obert, facing what was potentially the last at-bat of her high school career, lined a hard double to right field as Merrill stopped at third.
Mikayala Toth lined out, but Merrill got back safely to third ahead of the throw. Taylor Johnson followed with a ground ball, and when the Witches opted to try to get Merrill at the plate rather than for the sure out at first, the ball skipped away and both Merrill and Obert scored to tie the game.
In an inning filled with great at-bats, Quirion added another one. After striking out and popping out in her previous two times up, Quirion worked an eight-pitch walk by fouling off two 3-2 pitches.
"It was a lot of anticipation," Quirion said. "I was struggling early in the game. I just waited on it, and it worked out for me."
Courtesy runner Anne-Marie Provencal stole second, and Therriault's groundout was enough to score Johnson with the go-ahead run. When Brewer threw the ball away trying to get Provencal at third, she scored to make it 4-2.
Brewer still had two at bats and a powerful offense, and went to work in the sixth. With one out, Sam Pellegrino walked and Chelsea King was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second.
Delaney Davis worked the count to 2-2 and lifted a fly ball to left field. At the last second, Eliza Bedard juggled the ball and dropped it, but she fired to Obert for the forecout at third, and Obert threw to Fitzgerald for the inning-ending 7-5-4 double play.
"You have to have things go your way," Skowhegan coach Lee Johnson said. "She missed it, but she was heads-up enough to make the throw, and then Shelby was heads-up enough to get the girl at second base. Easily, that whole thing could have been butchered. So yes, we made a mistake, but we recovered from it very, very well."
Skowhegan added its fifth run in the seventh. Bedard got a bunt single when no one covered first, and Obert doubled her home with two out. That set up the matchup no one saw coming: Bangor and Skowhegan in the regional final.
"We all knew that if we put a game together, then any of us could get there," Johnson said. "Bangor's been on a nice run, and our kids have been pretty tough as well. It's a testament to both teams to be to that point. We both have had our low points during the season, but we haven't given up, we've kept working, and the kids have done a great job."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243