The Hodgdon High School softball team had a short run in the Class D North playoffs a year ago.
The seventh-seeded Hawks beat No. 10 Fort Fairfield 28-8 in a preliminary round game but were then dispatched by No. 2 Stearns of Millinocket 15-3 in the quarterfinals.
But Hodgdon coach Mark Faulkingham felt this year’s team was capable of a much deeper playoff run. He told his players from the outset that they were good enough to contend for the D North title.
“That should be one of our goals,” Faulkingham said. “We only graduated two players off last year’s team.”
He was right.
The Hawks claimed their first ever Class D North championship with a 2-0 win over Machias at Coffin Field in Brewer on Tuesday. That will send Hodgdon, now 16-2, to Saturday’s 4 p.m. state championship game against defending state titlist Searsport, 14-5, at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham.
In the other state championship games on Saturday, Class A North champ Messalonskee of Oakland — which went 5-11 during the regular season and was the ninth seed — has outscored its four playoff opponents 32-4 to earn the right to face 17-2 Biddeford at Augusta’s Cony High School field beginning at 2 p.m.
Biddeford, which lost to Skowhegan 7-4 in last year’s state final, was the No. 2 seed in A South.
The Class B game at Gorham, which is slated for a 12:30 p.m. start, will see 13-7 Winslow, the eighth seed from the North, face 18-2 Gardiner, which was the South’s second seed.
Winslow was humbled by Cape Elizabeth 19-4 in last year’s state title game.
The Class C final pits Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, 19-1 and winner of 15 straight, against defending state champ Hall-Dale, 18-0, in a 2 p.m. game at Brewer’s Coffin Field.
Third seed Hodgdon has had an impressive playoff run, outscoring its opponents 34-12.
Junior Marissa Dow pitched a gem in the D North final, allowing only three hits with four strikeouts and only one walk.
But Faulkingham has the luxury of another quality junior pitcher in Sadie Thompson.
They shared the circle throughout the season.
“Sadie is a control pitcher. Marissa has a little more heat and mixes her pitches up more,” Faulkingham said. “And they both put in the work in the offseason, attending [pitching] camps and clinics. That’s a testament to their parents, too.”
Whichever player isn’t pitching takes on the role of starting shortstop.
Faulkingham likes his lineup, saying they are “solid” one-through-nine with Dow, Thompson and sophomore catcher Aleyah Matheson being the leading hitters along with speedy lead-off hitter Meghan Peters, the sophomore second baseman.
Senior Delaney Little is the first baseman and senior Kaelyn Lawlor starts at third.
Freshman Gracie Little, Delaney’s sister, is the left fielder, senior Monique Polchies is in center field and junior Sydney Harvey starts in right field.
Freshman Sydney Rockwell has been a valuable utility player.
The second-year coach said a late May come-from-behind 4-3 win over Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook, which had beaten them 14-9 early in the season, was the turning point in the season as they rallied for two runs in the seventh.
“That’s when they started to believe in themselves and when they turned the corner,” he said.
The Hawks will have their hands full with South top seed Searsport, which features Penobscot Valley Conference Class D Player of the Year Ana Lang.
Junior pitcher Lang struck out 30 in her last two playoff games including 13 in a 1-0 eight-inning win over St. Dom’s of Auburn in the D South title game. She also singled home the winning run.
Searsport, whose five losses came against the top three teams in Class C North, also feature All-PVC second teamers Hunter Kronholm and Jordan Greeley and third teamer Kyla Perkins.
The Class C final will feature a terrific pitching duel between Mattanawcook’s Jennie Whitten, who one-hit Orono and struck out 13 in six innings in the C North final, against Hall-Dale’s Ashlynn Donahue, who shut out Madison 1-0 in the C South final.
Mattanawcook Academy hasn’t played in a state final since 2001, one year after it won its last state title.
The Class B title game involves two schools 25 miles apart who didn’t meet during the regular season because they are in different regions.
But the common denominator is that both Winslow and Gardiner have been stingy in the playoffs, each allowing only seven runs in their four playoff wins.
Emma Michaud shut out Hermon 3-0 in the B North final while Gardiner upset York 3-2.
Winslow hasn’t won a state title since 2005 and Gardiner last won a softball crown in 1980.
In Class A, Messalonskee has strung together an incredible playoff run behind junior pitcher Morgan Wills, who tossed a two-hit shutout in a stunning 10-0 A North final win over Skowhegan after striking out 16 Bangor Rams in a 4-2 win in the semifinals.
She also had two hits and two runs batted in against Skowhegan.
Biddeford’s Charlotte Donovan shut out Windham 2-0 in the A South final.
Biddeford last won a state title in 2016 after Messalonskee had won it the previous year.