Raiders headed to fourth straight State title game

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer

STANDISH — “It never gets old!”

That was the feeling of Fryeburg Academy varsity softball coach Fred Apt, as well as senior captains Kelsey Sheehan, Charlotte “Chuckie” Lewis and Ashley Watkins as the Raiders won their fifth straight Class B West title Tuesday night with a dominating 6-1 victory over fourthranked Oak Hill.

The Raiders (19-0) will meet the winner of the East Finals — Caribou or Bucksport — for the state championship on Saturday, 11 a.m. at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.

For the three FA captains, this will be their fourth straight state title game appearance.

“It’s just amazing,” said Sheehan as she hugged fellow teammates after freshman pitcher Sarah Harriman recorded her 11th strikeout to end the game.

Harriman was amazing as well. After struggling in her first two playoff appearances, Harriman studied game tape and found a “few problems” with her delivery. Those “tweaks” paid off as Harriman entered the final inning sporting a no-hitter.

Oak Hill ended a streak of 16 straight hitters retired on a fast-sinking fly ball to left-center, which Maddie “Whammer” Pearson nearly made a sliding basket catch. Oak Hill ruined the shutout bid with an infield single.

Harriman finished the night with an impressive story line — five times she retired the “other” Raiders in order, two hits allowed, no walks and a 2- for-3 night at the plate, including a two-strike bomb in the first inning, good for a two-run triple as FA opened up a quick 3-0 lead.

Coach Apt liked his club’s aggressive approach both offensively and defensively. “When we play Fryeburg softball, we’re really tough to beat,” he said. “I thought it was important that we start quickly, and keep the pressure on them.”

FA put Oak Hill, which was making its first title game appearance in many years, on their heels right from the start.

After a quick 1-2-3 top half of the first, Fryeburg struck for three runs. After Carla Tripp reached on an error, she stole second. A base hit by Pearson and a steal put runners at second and third. Maggie McConkey delivered a RBI single up the middle.

With two out, Harriman hammered an outside pitch to the left-center gap for a two-run triple.
FA kept the heat on by scoring a run in the second. With two out, Tripp beat out a bunt single, and then scored when Pearson launched a bullet into the left-center gap, sending the ball to the wall. Pearson tried to stretch the double to a triple, but was thrown out at third. Fryeburg tossed around the leather as well as shortstop senior Michelle Rascoe silenced the Oak Hill faithful by vacuuming up a hard ground ball, and fellow senior Charlotte “Chuckie” Lewis continued her stellar play at second, cooly scooping up a hot shot in the seventh to record the second out.

With Coach Apt encouraging his hitters to not be content with a 4-0 lead — “Let’s show them we’re not just a one inning team,” he said — the Raiders plated two more runs in the fifth as Pearson (3-for- 4) doubled and Lewis ripped a triple down the third base line with two out. Harriman picked up her third RBI with a line drive single to right-center. FA touched up Oak Hill pitching for 11 hits.

Just as their pre-game t-shirts proclaimed, Fryeburg Academy showed their “swag” and brought home another plaque for the trophy case. Now, just one test remains.

“We’re happy, but we know we’ve got more work to do,” Coach Apt said. “We’ve worked too darn hard since early April to be satisfied. The bigger prize is right in front of us."

Path to Finals

Like a year ago, the path to the State Finals was hardly a smooth one for the Raiders. It again took late-game heroics — some by cagey veterans and another by a reserve — for the Raiders to move on.

“You just never know who is going to deliver that big hit or make the big play in the playoffs. We have a full roster of kids who can all impact a game at any point,” Coach Apt said.

He was right on.

Junior reserve Abby Brown crushed a 0-1 pitch just inside the third base line in the seventh inning scoring Rascoe (walk) from first base to lift the Raiders to a 4-3 victory over Greely in the quarterfinals.

Maggie McConkey and Maddie Pearson were both 2- for-3 for the Raiders. Pitcher Sarah Harriman tossed a five hitter with 9 strikeouts and three walks.

Fryeburg scored first in the opening inning. Tripp led off with a walk, and then Pearson then hit a double in the gap. The throw went to third base and hit Tripp in the helmet. Pearson got caught in a rundown (and eventually would be tagged out), but Tripp was able to score when the Rangers failed to have a player cover home plate.

In the fourth inning, Fryeburg would add two more runs as Pearson singled, moved to third on a double by McConkey, and scored on a wild pitch. Ashley Watkins knocked in McConkey with a RBI single to make it 3-0.

Greely tied the game in the fifth, keyed by a hard ground ball that bounced off McConkey and trickled into leftfield to plate two runs. Another fantastic finish played itself out the next day as the Raiders rallied from a tworun deficit in their last at bat to tie the game, and eventually won it in the ninth, 5-4, over Lincoln Academy in the semis.

Lincoln, a team the Raiders hadn’t seen in the regular season, scored first in the top of the third inning on two hits. Fryeburg came right back in the bottom half to tie it on back-to-back doubles by the #8 and #9 hitters — Karissa Watkins and Bri Pelkie.

Lincoln loaded the bases in the fourth inning, but FA pitcher Sarah Harriman (7 strikeouts, 3 walks, 7 hits) would get out of the jam with a pop out to first baseman Ashley Watkins to end the threat.

Fryeburg looked to build off that as Ashley Watkins started the fourth with an opposite field single. But, Harriman lined a bullet at the first baseman, who turned a double play.

Lincoln would take a 2-1 lead in the fifth on a dropped third strike. The Lincoln hitter beat the throw to first, which allowed a runner to score from third. Fryeburg struck back in the bottom of the sixth with two outs as Charlotte Lewis roped a double into the gap, which rolled to the fence.

The hit seemed to spark other FA teammates, including Rascoe. The FA senior fell behind 1-2 in the count, but she fouled off several pitches and ultimately won the battle by launching a double to the opposite field to score Lewis, evening the score.

“If you really need a hit, Michelle is one of the players you want up in that situation because she always seems to put the ball in play,” Coach Apt said. “She showed no signs of being nervous in that situation.”

In extra innings, Lincoln scored twice in the top of the eighth to stun the Raider faithful. Raider playe

rs, however, returned to the dugout confident about their ability to battle back under extreme conditions. “This game is not going to end this way,” senior Ashley Watkins told her teammates. With one out, Watkins started the rally by aggressively running out a double. Harriman knocked her in with a base hit to right and took second on the throw to home plate.

With two outs Rascoe was again in the spotlight, and delivered a RBI single to tie the game. “Michelle said she wasn’t ready for the season to end yet,” Coach Apt said.

After Lincoln went quietly in the ninth, FA junior Bri Pelkie (2-for-30 drilled a 1-2 pitch for a single. Tripp (3-for-5) singled and Pelkie moved up to third base. The Whammer (Pearson) connected on a 2-0 pitch for a fly ball to right-center, deep enough to score Pelkie with the winning run.

With new life, the Raiders now look to win their third state championship in four years on Saturday morning.

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