Big time Raider response
By Wayne E. Rivet
BREWER — Kendra Hayward is a coyote, but she easily could be a witch.
Outside the right field fence at Coffin Field in Brewer is a snack shack appropriately named the “Witch’s Kitchen.”
Hayward, a junior pitcher for the Class B East champion Old Town Coyotes, whipped up a nasty hex and put it on Fryeburg Academy bats Saturday afternoon.
Mixing a rising fastball with pitches that seemed to dance through the strike zone, Hayward struck out 15 Fryeburg hitters and allowed just four hits as Old Town claimed its first state softball championship with a 4-1 victory before a packed crowd.
Hitter after hitter returned to the Raiders’ dugout shaking their heads as Hayward struck out nine over the final four innings. Of the 15 Ks (a season high for FA), 11 were Raiders taking their best hacks.
“That ball is moving all over the place.”
“I’m having a hard time picking it up.”
“This is really getting frustrating.”
These were just a few of the remarks made by players as they watched Hayward handcuff a potent Raider attack, which had hit over .360 as a team during the regular season, giving up just four hits.
“It was just one of those days,” FA Coach Fred Apt said. “We battled, but she was just better.”
The defending state champion Raiders started well, scoring a run in their opening at bat. Junior catcher Karla Tripp dropped a bunt single, but was thrown out stealing — a rarity. With one out, senior Maggie McConkey walked on four pitches — another rarity, this time for Hayward who hadn’t walked many during the Coyotes’ playoff run. Sophomore Sarah Harriman delivered a clutch gap shot double to right with two strikes, which scored McConkey. Hayward avoided further trouble by notching her second strike out of the frame.
Harriman worked out of her own jam in the home half of the first. After surrendering a double to deep left on a 3-2 pitch to Meagan Cousins, Harriman induced a foul ball out to the catcher and then struck out two to end the inning.
Both teams went quietly 1-2-3 in the second.
FA had a chance to add a run in the third when junior Maddie Pearson walked and stole second with two out. But, Hayward rang up a strikeout to end the inning.
Old Town changed the game’s momentum in the third inning, capitalizing on a Raider miscue. Number 8 hitter Brittany Cousins started the inning by taking a fastball off her back to earn a pass. After a strikeout, Meagan Cousins tapped a 3-1 pitch, which sent a blooper into right field to put runners at the corners. Sam Milton made just enough contact on a 1-2 pitch to send a flare to the right side. FA senior second baseman Brie Pelkie retreated on the ball, reached up and appeared to make the catch. But, the ball fell out of her glove. Initially, Old Town runners headed back to their respective bases, but once the ball dropped, Brittany Cousins race to home plate from third base.
One philosophy Coach Apt preaches daily when the Raiders work on their defensive reactions is, “We need to get an out.” The thought is with a power pitcher on the hill, the team can avoid the “big inning” by always recording an out on each play.
Knowing Old Town would score on the play, Coach Apt yelled to his fielders to send the ball to second base for a force out. But, the Raiders tried to cut down the runner at home as senior outfielder Maddie Smith fired the ball from short rightfield to the plate. The ball arrived late, and Old Town now had two runners on.
Harriman induced a foul ball out, but the Coyotes broke the 1-1 tie as Hayward drilled a 1-1 pitch over FA leftfielder Ellen Bacchiocchi’s head for a double and two runs scored. Down 3-1, Harriman struck out the next hitter to end the inning.
But, the damage was done.
FA went 1-2-3 in the fourth — all on Ks.
Old Town picked up a single in the fourth, but were unable to score.
In the fifth, FA sophomore Emily Davidson walked and Tripp (2-for-3) reached on a bunt single. But with two out, Hayward recorded her third strikeout of the inning to end the threat.
The Coyotes added an insurance run in the home half of the fifth as Meagan Cousins reached on an error and later scored without Old Town recording a hit.
Hayward kept chugging along, allowing a Harriman (2-for-3) single in the sixth. Davidson belted a deep drive to leftfield to start the seventh, but Brittany Cousins made a nice running catch near the outfield fence to record the out. Hayward struck out the final two FA hitters, and the Coyotes (17-4) ended the Raiders’ magical run (18-2).
As it is often said, good pitching can stop a powerful hitting team. Hayward certainly was perplexing all afternoon.
“She doesn’t have amazing speed,” said Old Town first-year coach Jenn Plourde. “But, she hits her sports and moves it all around.”
While the loss was a stinger, the Raiders did bring home another plaque for the trophy case, as well as a special award — the school’s first-ever Western Maine Class B Sportsmanship Softball Banner. Coaches across the league vote for the team they believe show outstanding sportsmanship.
For a coach who preaches for his players to “do the right thing” be it on the field or in their private lives, Fred Apt told his team, “I couldn’t be more proud of a group for what you have accomplished this season. You came a long ways since late April. I thought you had the ability to reach this moment, but wasn’t really sure we could put it all together. You did, and you should be very proud.”
While losing for the second time at Coffin Field in a state final left many sporting tears, Coach Apt encouraged his players to “not let one game define your season.”
“You have no reason to hang your heads,” he said. “Be happy about what you accomplished.”