BREWER, Maine — The Ashland High School Hornets haven’t been behind very much this season en route to an undefeated record and the top seed in the Class D North softball ranks.
On Wednesday night at Coffin Field in Brewer, they squandered a 5-0 lead in their Class D North championship game against Stearns of Millinocket and found themselves trailing by two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Stearns had scored seven runs in the sixth and seventh innings.
But Ashland rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Stearns 8-7 and win its first Class D North regional softball tournament title since 2004.
Ashland (17-0) plays in Saturday’s noon state title game against Searsport in Brewer.
Second seed Stearns wound up 12-4.
Willow Hall opened the seventh with a sharp opposite-field single to left for her first hit of the day.
“I was very nervous. I hadn’t hit well in the previous innings so I knew I needed to come through,” Hall said.
“I knew we could do it.”
Kayla MacLean blooped a single into left.
One out later, Sidney St. Peter grounded a single to left-center to score Hall and when the throw into the infield skipped away, the runners moved up to second and third.
“I love to hit the first pitch. It was right down the middle,” St. Peter said.
“Sidney is a very good hitter. She’s unorthodox a little bit but she can drive the ball,” Ashland coach Terry Hunter said.
Stearns coach Nick Cullen intentionally walked Hailee Cuningham to set up a force at the plate, but a wild pitch allowed the tying run to score. Stearns intentionally walked the next hitter to reload the bases, but another wild pitch produced the winning run.
“We have some very good hitters,” Hunter said. “It was a tough game at the end.”
The Hornets appeared on their way to a comfortable win when they built a 5-0 lead.
But the determined Minutemen clawed their way back into it by scoring three runs in the sixth after the first two hitters were retired.
Singles by Katie Kenyon, Makayla Anderson and Kelly Farber produced the first run and Deanna Newbury singled home two more.
Stearns took the lead with four more in the seventh on a one-out error by the third baseman, singles by Natalie Michaud, Maisey Girsa, Kasey Kenyon and Katie Kenyon, and Anderson’s run-producing bunt.
Ashland took a 2-0 lead in the first on singles by Danni Carter and Jamie Poulin, a Poulin stolen base and RBI grounders by Hall and MacLean.
The Hornets added a run in the fourth on St. Peter’s double and Mia Carney’s two-out single. They tacked on two more in the fifth on Poulin’s leadoff double, MacLean’s RBI single, Gabby Ayotte’s single, an error and Cunnigham’s fielder’s choice.
Kaitlyn Ferro went the distance for the win. She allowed 10 hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
MacLean had a double and two singles and St. Peter and Poulin each doubled and singled for the Hornets.
Katie Kenyon, Farber and Anderson each hit two singles for Stearns.
Alisyn Alley registered a complete game for Stearns. She gave up 11 hits with one strikeout and three walks, two of which were intentional.