McKenna Smith didn’t start playing softball until the fifth or sixth grade. Based on her junior season at Old Town High, it’s obvious she’s taken to the sport quite well.

Smith put together a tremendous season to lead Old Town to its second consecutive Class B state championship. After a regular season in which she was named the Penobscot Valley Conference pitcher and player of the year, Smith threw four shutouts in the playoffs. The final one was a 2-0 decision over Fryeburg Academy in the Class B state final in which she struck out 19.

“She just really dedicated herself this year,” Old Town Coach Jenn Plourde said of Smith, the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Player of the Year.

Smith had a 13-1 record with a 0.62 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 90 innings. She also batted .417 with six doubles, four home runs, 23 RBI and 21 runs to help the Coyotes win their final 16 games after starting 2-2.

A new mental approach made the biggest difference for Smith. As a sophomore, she played center field in the playoffs as Old Town won the state championship. She knew what she had to work on in the offseason with her pitching coach, Rick Roberts of Ellsworth.

“Last year I had a really tough time feeling that I had to prove and show myself to everyone,” she said. “If there was a hit off me or a misplay, I was struggling and it got to me. So I took my winter with my pitching coach to mentally get strong and be ready.

“He put me in different scenarios: three on, two outs, 3-2 counts, stuff like that. He continued to push me harder even when I didn’t want to be pushed. There would be days when I was having fun and doing my job, and being focused, and there were days when I didn’t want to be pushed. But you have to be able to get through it and be focused.”

That’s where Plourde saw the greatest difference in Smith, who played first base or shortstop when not pitching.

“Everyone knew physically and athletically she could be a great pitcher,” Plourde said. “It was about her not putting the pressure on herself. If someone made a mistake, an error or a bad throw … last year sometimes it got to her a bit. This year she was telling people when they made mistakes, ‘It’s OK, I got you.’ ”

Smith also plays field hockey and runs indoor track, and finished second in the high jump at the Class B indoor state meet. But it’s softball that has grabbed her.

“I love just being with the girls and cheering everyone on,” she said. “It’s such a team sport. Track is a team sport but you compete individually. I’ve grown to love (softball). My family bonds over it. It’s connected to various ways in my life.”

TELEGRAM ALL-STATE TEAM

Ashley Alward, Skowhegan junior, pitcher/utility: The KVAC Class A North Player of the Year, Alward helped the Indians reach the Class A state title game for a second consecutive year. She batted .382 as Skowhegan’s No. 3 hitter with a team-high 19 RBI, and went 11-1 as a pitcher with a 0.72 ERA and 126 strikeouts.

Jess Brown, Portland junior, pitcher: The Gatorade Maine Player of the Year, Brown was a huge reason why the Bulldogs made it to the Class A South final for the first time since 2004. She went 12-2 with a 1.29 ERA and struck out 134 batters in 1002/3 innings. She also hit .451.

Mackenzie Buzzell, Fryeburg Academy senior, center field: The Player of the Year in the Western Maine Conference, Buzzell played a huge role in helping the Raiders reach the Class B state final. She hit .541 with six home runs, six doubles, two triples, 20 RBI and 37 runs.

Anya Chase, Wells junior, pitcher: One of the state’s most dominant pitchers, the lefty went 11-2 with a 1.20 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 812/3 innings as Wells reached the Class B South final. She walked only 12 batters. She also hit .484 with eight doubles, seven triples, 19 RBI and 29 runs as Wells’ leadoff batter.

Brook Davis, Biddeford junior, catcher: A repeat All-State selection, Davis was the SMAA defensive player of the year while also batting .510 with 14 RBI and 23 runs. She hit two home runs and was walked 16 times, producing an on-base percentage of .609.

Chloe Griffin, Scarborough junior, outfield/pitcher: A returning All-State selection, Griffin was a double threat for the Class A champion. She batted .438 with two home runs, 29 RBI and 37 runs. In the circle, she was 6-0 with a 0.46 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 30 innings.

Alexis Mazurek, Oceanside senior, first base: Mazurek did not commit an error and helped the Mariners to the Class B North championship game with a big bat, hitting .514 with a school record-tying eight home runs. She also hit eight doubles and drove in 32 runs, scoring 30.

Grace McGouldrick, Gorham junior, shortstop/pitcher: McGouldrick had an outstanding season at the plate, hitting .609 with 32 runs and 23 RBI as the Rams’ No. 3 hitter. She hit six triples and five home runs, and stole 11 bases. As a pitcher she was 5-6 with 99 strikeouts in 85 innings. She has verbally committed to play at UMaine.

Olivia Mora, Windham senior, first base: The Player of the Year in the SMAA and a Miss Maine Softball finalist, Mora hit .596 with five doubles, three triples, four home runs, 17 RBI and 31 runs. She tied the school record with 13 career home runs and will next play at Roger Williams.

Abbie Murrell, Scarborough senior, pitcher/utility: One of the most dominant players in the SMAA, Murrell helped Scarborough win the Class A state title by batting .457 with three home runs and 34 RBI. As a pitcher she was 8-0 with a 0.43 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 48 innings. She will next play at St. Anselm College.

Hailey Perry, Hermon senior, catcher: The Miss Maine Softball winner, Perry was a flawless defensive catcher who also hit .579 in leading the Hawks to the Class B North semifinals, She hit nine doubles and three triples, and drove in 24 runs. She’ll play at the University of Maine.

Madysen Robichaud, Bucksport senior, outfield: A finalist for Miss Maine Softball, Robichaud was a top player on Bucksport’s Class C state championship team. She hit over .500 with six home runs, including two in the playoffs. She scored 29 runs, drove in 23 and was walked 22 times. Robichaud will play at USM.

McKenna Smith, Old Town junior, pitcher: Our selection as Player of the Year, Smith was outstanding in leading the Coyotes to their second consecutive Class B state title, going 13-1 with a 0.62 ERA and 182 strikeouts in 90 innings. She also batted .417 with six doubles, four home runs, 23 RBI and 21 runs. She was 10 of 10 in stolen bases.

Lilly Volk, Scarborough senior, pitcher: A finalist for Miss Maine Softball, Volk helped the Red Storm to the Class A state title. She was 8-0 with a 0.99 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 56 innings, and batted .391 with two home runs, 26 RBI and 23 runs. She will next play at the University of Maine.

Coach of the Year

Jenn Plourde, Old Town: Plourde kept the Coyotes focused all season on simply becoming a better team each game, rather than trying to repeat as Class B champions. And when it came for the playoffs, she and her staff figured out the best defensive alignment, which put McKenna Smith in the circle. She pitched four shutouts and the Coyotes were back on top.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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