STANDISH — McKenna Smith didn’t allow herself to think about how she was pitching for seven innings. According to Old Town’s team rule, she’s only allowed to think about each out, hit, or otherwise for just seven seconds.
She’ll have plenty of time to think about her pitching performance now. In what might be an unforgettable outing for some, the Coyotes’ junior pitcher struck out 19 batters to lift Old Town to a 2-0 victory over Fryeburg Academy in the Class B softball state championship at Richard W. Bailey Field on Saturday.
“She just dominated the game,” Fryeburg coach Fred Apt said.
Smith started the game with a two-out single in the top of the first after Raiders (16-4) senior pitcher Nicole Bennett struck out the first two batters of the game. She then reached third before being stranded to end the inning with no runs.
The Raiders led off the bottom of the frame with Mackenzie Buzzell reaching on an error. Then it was all Smith in the circle, striking out the next seven batters.
“I went through the game just thinking that it’s a state game, they’re a good team, you got to be prepared for whether I strike them out or whether they hit the ball,” Smith said.
By the time Smith allowed another runner the Coyotes (18-2) had a 2-0 lead.
Natalie St. Louis led off the top of the third with a single, then made it to third when Morgan Love reached on an error. Smith drove in the only run Old Town needed with a sacrifice fly to right, then Love scored an insurance run when Olivia Albert struck out on a wild pitch.
For a split second it looked like the Raiders might answer in the bottom of the inning. Grace Condon walked on a 3-2 pitch with one out, then Buzzell lined a fly ball to deep left. But instead of reaching base, Old Town freshman left fielder Jannessa Brown reached up and made a catch running back toward the wall. It was the only out of the game Smith didn’t record.
“She talks in practice, she was like ‘Coach, I have the hardest time running backwards,'” Old Town coach Jennifer Plourde said. “We call her ‘the giraffe’ on the team. It’s a nickname that we have for her. She said ‘Coach, giraffes can’t run backwards,’ and she was dead serious. So it was one of those things, as soon as she came in we just all started laughing. We were like ‘giraffes can run.’ Jannessa’s was an unbelievable catch. That was just a huge — I think — boost for McKenna to know that the defense was behind her.”
“You look at that and say ‘what could have happened — what could have — if that ball gets over her head?'” Apt said. “Obviously it gives us a runner, maybe you score, second and third, and some momentum. But it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Smith ended that inning with her eighth strikeout, which started a streak of six straight punchouts. Then Chloe Coen ripped a single past Smith’s head and into center for the Raiders’ first hit of the game.
“She’s worked so hard. I can’t even express to you how hard she’s worked over the winter to want to be our No. 1, and it paid off,” Plourde said. “One of the biggest things that we’ve talked to her about is you have to keep a level head. Like if they hit off you, let it go, focus on the next one. Her pitching coach, Rick Roberts, has done that. Him and I have talked over the winter and throughout the spring, and we were just like her head needs to be in it at all times, and today it just showed.”
Buzzell led off the sixth with another single, but Smith followed with three more strikeouts.
Kaylee Emery then led off the bottom of the seventh with a hard-hit single to left, stirring up memories of the Raiders’ seventh inning comeback in the South regional final.
“I said ‘well, here we go again,’ and maybe we come through. If we just get another one,” Apt said.
Another one never came. Smith sandwiched her 18th and 19th strikeouts around a pop up to the circle to give the Coyotes their second straight state title.
“It felt awesome. Last year I played center. It’s a whole different feeling,” Smith said. “I worked really hard to pitch, and that’s the thing like I love, so to be in the circle for this game was just an incredible feeling.”
Bennett pitched well in her own right, striking out nine Old Town batters while scattering seven hits.
“She kept us in the game, she kept us in position, and if we could have strung together a few hits, but we just couldn’t do it,” Apt said.
Old Town High School’s Morgan Love (5) slides home with her team’s second run of the game as Fryeburg Academy catcher Makayla Cooper waits for the throw to reach her during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.
The Fryeburg team puts their arms in for a cheer, as reflected in starting pitcher Nicole Bennett’s sunglasses, during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.Old Town players Taylor Hanson (8) and Jayden Cain (6) cheer on batter Morgan Love (5) during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.Fryeburg Academy’s Tina LeBlanc makes a play on the ball during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.Old Town’s Jasmine Smith (1) slides safely into second base ahead of the throw to Fryeburg shortstop Tina LeBlanc during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.Old Town High School’s Jannessa Brown stretches to make a catch on a well-hit ball during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.Fryebuirg Academy’s Brooke Juneau goes to pick up a ball in the outfield during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.Fryeburg Academy pitcher Nicole Bennett delivers a pitch during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.Old Town pitcher Mckenna Smith delivers a pitch against Fryeburg during the Class B state softball championship at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Saturday.