Perfection! 20-0: Raiders claim third state title in four years

TIME TO CELEBRATE — Fryeburg Academy senior captains Ashley Watkins (left), Kelsey Sheehan and Charlotte Lewis hoist the Class B State Championship trophy after the Raiders downed Bucksport 5-2 at St. Joseph’s College last Saturday to claim the softball title. Pictured left to right are Michelle Boucher, Bri Pelkie, Ellen Bacchiocchi, Carla Tripp and Karissa Watkins. (Photo by Rachel Damon/Fryeburg Academy)

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer

STANDISH — When a team has won 19 straight games, you try to find any little tactic that might possibly “get into their heads.”

Walking onto Bailey Field at St. Joseph College Saturday two-by-two and sporting a “serious, all business” look, Fryeburg Academy players saw one particular sign attached to the fence adjacent to the Bucksport dugout.

The message was simple, “Raiders soon to be 19-1.”

Immediately, FA players had a few choice words of their own.

“It’s a little gamesmanship on their part, anything to get you off your game,” Fryeburg Coach Fred Apt told his team. “Play the way you can, and you will be having the final word.”

As they did all season, the Raiders let their clutch hitting and ability to make the big defensive stop when needed do all their talking.

Sophomore Maddie Pearson set the tone in the first inning when she blasted a scorching drive over the centerfielder’s head to score Carla Tripp (bunt single), and junior Bri Pelkie laced a liner just over the outstretched glove on Bucksport’s second baseman to plate two insurance runs with two out in the fourth inning propelling the Raiders to a 5-2 victory to claim the program’s third state title in four years.

The title capped a school-first perfect season, 20-0, and ran the Raiders’ record over the past four years to 76-4. Bucksport, in its first final since 2006, went home 17-3.

And the sign? Well, a Raider fan retrieved the sign and presented it to FA players during a victory celebration held at the Academy. “I never planned on 20-0, that’s for sure,” Coach Apt said.

The pursuit of perfection was under attack in the first inning. The Golden Bucks, who play a similar aggressive style as the Raiders, tried to cash in on a walk. After a sacrifice bunt moving the runner to second, the Bucks tried to take advantage of FA third baseman Maggie McConkey playing in against another bunt by sending the runner. But, FA sophomore catcher Carla Tripp fired a low strike to shortstop Michelle Rascoe, who made the tag for an out.

“She did an amazing job of getting it,” Tripp said, “because I didn’t think it was that great a throw.”

Fryeburg wiggled out of further trouble. After an error, a walk and an infield hit, the bases were loaded with two outs. McConkey ended the threat by fielding a ground ball and barely beating a Bucksport runner to the base.

As they did in the West Finals, the Raiders put Bucksport back onto their heels by scoring three times in the home half of the first. Tripp, who had struggled with her bunting in previous playoff games, placed the ball perfectly down the first base line and easily beat Bucksport pitcher Abby Yeo’s (five hits allowed, seven strikeouts) throw. Before Bucksport could settle down, Pearson demonstrated why she has the nickname, “The Whammer,” when she slammed a rocket that sailed over the center fielder’s head for a RBI triple.

Bucksport, known for its solid defense, unraveled as McConkey was hit by a pitch and stole second. Pearson scored on a wild pitch, which allowed McConkey to move to third. After Charlotte Lewis walked, the LR senior stole second. Bucksport rolled the dice and fired the ball down to second, but it sailed into the outfield, allowing McConkey to score the third run. At times during the playoffs, Sarah Harriman showed signs that she is indeed a rookie pitcher. Playing in her biggest game to date — the Class B State Championship — the freshman hurler admitted she had a bad case of the jitters.

“I never get nervous before games, but the first inning, I was so nervous. I didn’t know where the ball was going,” Harriman said. “It’s the first game I’ve gotten nervous in a long time. Coach (Fred) Apt had to talk to me and told me that ‘you need to calm down, it’s just a game, you’ve played a million of them.’” Harriman fired five straight balls, and Bucksport had a window of opportunity to put the defending West champion on the ropes in the first, but came up empty. In the third, the Golden Bucks got on the board with two runs.

Leadoff hitter Mindy Pye hit a long double to left to start the inning. A walk would make it two on and no out. An infield hit pushed across the first Golden Bucks run. On the play, Tripp collided with the runner and went down. A Bucksport runner tried to take advantage by heading to third, but Tripp, from a sitting position, fired a strike to McConkey to cut down the baserunner.

NO DOUBT WHO WAS NUMBER 1! — Fryeburg Academy capped off the best softball season in school history with a perfect 20-0 record and a state championship. Waving to fans, who lined Fryeburg streets to greet the champs, were (left to right) Charlotte Lewis, Maddy Smith, Maddie Pearson, Sarah Harriman, Karissa Watkins, Ellen Bacchiocchi, Michelle Boucher, Bri Pelkie, Carla Tripp and Ashley Watkins. (Photo by Rachel Damon/Fryeburg Academy)

After two infield hits and a run the game sat at 3 to 2 with runners on first and third. Harriman called for a timeout, and waved for Coach Apt to visit the mound. “We expected that they might try to bunt again, so I told Sarah to fake a throw to first and make a throw to third,” Coach Apt said.

The play unfolded just as Coach Apt expected. Following a good fake to first, Harriman gunned a throw to McConkey, who tagged the runner out. The Bucksport runner made an attempt to get back to the bag, but McConkey’s knee pinned on arm short of the bag. Fryeburg would end the inning with a grounder to shortstop Rascoe to retire the side.

“That’s the nature of the game,” Bucksport Coach Mike Carrier said. “In most of these games, it’s the mistakes that win the game.”

Bucksport’s three errors proved costly.

Meanwhile, Fryeburg picked up momentum in the later innings. Pelkie, who hoped to line a shot down the third base line because the Bucks were playing in expecting a bunt from the Raiders’ Number 9 hitter, instead rifled an outside pitch to right field for a two-run single.

“The dugout exploded (after Pelkie’s hit),” Pearson said. “It was crazy. I think we all secretly knew it was over then.” From there, Harriman showed why she was named a first-team All-Conference selection. The freshman retired the final 10 batters (12 of the final 14) she faced, including two strikeouts in the seventh, to finish the day.

When Rascoe scooped up a roller to short and fired a perfect toss across the diamond to fellow senior Ashley Watkins for the final out, the Raiders had reached softball’s summit once again — possibly erasing some of the sting from last year’s disappointing 6-2 loss in the state finals to Hermon (which despite returning the entire squad failed to reach the East Finals this season).

As Coach Apt would later say, “This has been just awesome. We’ve been to the finals four straight years, and won three. What these kids have accomplished is just incredible.”

Harriman’s final stat line read, 5 hits allowed, 5 strikeouts, 4 walks.

Offensively, Michelle Rascoe (who had a busy day at shortstop with six putouts or assists) and Charlotte Lewis each had a hit.

All Conference: Coach Apt announced at Tuesday’s banquet that along with Harriman, sophomores Carla Tripp and Maddie Pearson were also firstteam selections. Other selections were second baseman Charlotte Lewis, third baseman Maggie McConkey and first baseman Ashley Watkins.

Watkins will play in today’s Senior Game at Cony High School in Augusta at 6 p.m.

Pearson, Tripp and Harriman will play in the underclassman All-Star Game at St. Joseph’s College on Monday.

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