WINSLOW — An opponent finally solved Skowhegan pitcher Ashley Alward.

Second-seeded Oxford Hills snapped a 3-3 tie with four runs in the sixth inning and defeated top-seeded Skowhegan to win the Class A North softball championship with a 7-3 victory Tuesday.

Madison Day and Kenzie Kahkonen hit back-to-back two-run singles as the Vikings, who won their first regional title since 1999, earned a spot in the state championship game Saturday against undefeated Scarborough.

The loss was the first of the season for two-time defending regional champion Skowhegan (18-1) and marked the first time the Indians conceded more than three runs. Prior to Tuesday, opponents had scored 15 runs in 18 games.

“I think the whole team felt a lot of pressure coming into this game, going back-to-back the last couple of years,” Alward said. “That might have been a little bit of self-pressure, too, getting on us. With me, I think there was a little bit of pressure that I felt. I was trying to aim the ball instead of just throwing it.”

“How many runs did we give up all year? Pretty close to (today),” Skowhegan Coach Lee Johnson said. “They have a deep lineup. They have a lot of kids that can hit the ball hard, and we knew that right from the get-go.”

Sophomore Lauren Merrill turned in a clutch performance for Oxford Hills (16-3), which lost to the Indians in the regional final last season.

“It feels great,” Merrill said. “We lost to them before, but we beat them during (the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference playoffs) and that gave us a lot of confidence, knowing that they were beatable. We knew if we just pushed (to win), we could.”

On a day when it felt like every batted ball turned into an adventure, the teams combined for seven errors behind Alward and Merrill – the KVAC’s two most dominant pitchers – who posted just two 1-2-3 innings between them. Merrill walked four and struck out only three, none more important than getting Wylie Bedard looking to end the game.

“She pitched well in the first two games against them this year,” Vikings Coach Cynthia Goddard said. “She’s just a competitor. She never gets on the negative side, she never puts her head down. She just looks at it like, ‘OK, what comes next?’ We’re really fortunate in that area.

“She wanted this game.”

Oxford Hills opened a 3-0 lead in the top of the fifth, adding to an early one-run lead as three Skowhegan errors in the inning led to a pair of runs.

The Indians rallied in the home half, however.

Alyssa Everett’s bunt single was the first Skowhegan hit and put two runners on base for Sydney Ames, who hit a two-run double to right-center. Alward followed with a sacrifice fly to left to score Ames and tie the game.

In the sixth, however, five straight Oxford Hills batters reached base, with Day and Kahkonen drilling consecutive hits to produce the 7-3 lead.

“That was big,” Goddard said. “They haven’t given up that many runs all season, and now all we had to do was just shut the door. Even if we gave up one or two more runs, we still had a great opportunity to win.”

“They just started timing me up and hitting the ball a little bit and put some pressure on the defense,” said Alward, who struck out 12. “They just started hitting the ball.”

Skowhegan left eight runners on base, five of them in scoring position.

“We needed to produce a little bit more in those at-bats,” Johnson said.

“But, hey, listen, that’s what you get when it’s one-and-done. It’s one day, and today they were a better team than us.”

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