STANDISH—From non-existent to transcendent, the story of the North Yarmouth Academy softball program added an unforgettable chapter Wednesday evening at Richard W. Bailey Field on the campus of St. Joseph’s College.

And the Panthers aren’t done yet.

Because for the first time ever, they’re going to play for the biggest prize of all.

NYA, a program which lay dormant for a decade, revived in 2021, then didn’t play a varsity schedule last spring, faced its biggest test of all in the Class D South Final and got pushed to the brink, but thanks some in-game improvisation, found a way to survive and advance.

The top-ranked Panthers, who absolutely pummeled the ball and virtually every foe this season, more than had their hands full against No. 2 Searsport and its ace, senior Ana Lang, but NYA junior Lily Rawnsley was every bit her equal in a game in which there was no margin for error.

After the pitchers traded zeroes for five innings, the Vikings broke through in the top of the sixth, when Lang stole home, but in the bottom half, junior centerfielder Kailyn McIntyre stole second and third, then came home on a wild pitch to tie it.


Then, in the bottom of the seventh, with one out, junior rightfielder Hayden Wienckowski reached on a bunt, stole second and when freshman catcher Cami Casserly grounded out, Wienckowski took third, hesitated for a moment, then dashed for home and scored without a throw to give the Panthers an improbable and palpitating 2-1 victory.

NYA improved to 17-1, ended Searsport’s fine season at 11-6 and advanced to the Class D state final, where it will take on Machias (13-3) Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at Brewer High School.

“This takes us to another level,” said Panthers coach Ricky Doyon. “It shows what this team is made of. We lost a game, on errors, and beat some decent teams, but this shows we’re the real deal. We have a lot of athletes. I thought we’d be OK when the season started, but probably not standing here. We had Lily, who’s a great pitcher, and great bats, and tonight, we adjusted when we had to.”

Whatever it takes

NYA returned to varsity play this spring with a lot of question marks, but quickly provided the answers, winning 15 of 16 games, averaging over 13 runs per contest.

“It was tough, but I knew we had a very good team of competitors, so I thought we could go far,” Rawnsley said.


As the top seed in Class D South, the Panthers earned a bye into the semifinals, then ousted No. 5 Richmond (14-3, in five-innings) Friday to move on to just the second regional final in program history.

Searsport, knocked off No. 7 Forest Hills (7-1) in the quarterfinals, then edged No. 3 Buckfield (1-0) in its semifinal.

The teams didn’t play this year and had no playoff history.

Wednesday, on a pleasant mid-June evening (65 degrees at the start), in front of a vocal crowd, the Panthers and Vikings engaged in an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, one which featured a jaw-dropping conclusion.

North Yarmouth Academy pitcher Lily Rawnsley prepares to fire a strike early in the Panthers’ 2-1 win over Searsport in Wednesday’s Class D South Final. Photos courtesy Brian Beard.

Lang led off by grounding out to short, then Rawnsley fanned second baseman Laura Warman looking at strike three before getting leftfielder Meta Wiseman to chase strike three as well.

Lang was even more dominant in the bottom half, catching senior third baseman Michala Wallace looking at strike three, fanning McIntyre, then striking out Rawnsley swinging as well.


In the top of the second, Rawnsley got first baseman Baileigh Bagley to ground out to short, catcher Mia Lang to pop out to second, then first baseman Lily Nadeau to pop out to third.

Ana Lang then blew NYA away again in the bottom half, fanning freshman shortstop Jordan Nash, Wienckowski and Casserly.

Rawnsley made it through the order without allowing a baserunner by retiring the side in order in the top of the third as well, getting shortstop Kiara Krumbholz to watch strike three, fanning designated hitter Elise Colby, then getting centerfielder Hadleigh Hall to ground back to the mound.

Sophomore first baseman Sadie Morgan began the bottom of the third by chasing strike three before the Panthers finally made contact on Ana Lang, as senior second baseman Anna Belleau laid down a bunt and was thrown out at first. Junior leftfielder Elizabeth Madden then produced the game’s first hit, a double to right, but she’d be stranded, as Wallace was out on a bunt back to the mound.

Rawnsley retired the first two hitters in the fourth, getting Ana Lang to pop out to short and Warman to ground back to the mound, but Wiseman came up with the Vikings’ first hit, a bunt single. Rawnsley then got Bagley to ground out to short for the final out.

In the bottom half, McIntyre grounded out to third, Rawnsley struck out swinging, then Nash fanned as well.


In the top of the fifth, Rawnsley got Mia Lang to pop out to first, but Nadeau singled to center. She wasn’t able to advance, however, as Krumbholz struck out swinging and Colby did the same.

NYA came up empty in the bottom half, as Wienckowski struck out looking, Casserly was out on a bunt back to the mound, then after Morgan reached on an error, Belleau struck out swinging.

Searsport finally broke the scoring ice in the top of the sixth.

After Hall struck out looking, Ana Lang got to second on an error by Belleau. Warman moved her to third, then with Wiseman at the plate, Lang raced home with the game’s first run. Wiseman struck out, but the Panthers were on the ropes.

They promptly responded in the bottom half, courtesy some two-out magic.

Madden grounded out to first and Wallace chased strike three, but McIntyre reached on an error at third, then stole second and third before racing home to tie it on a wild pitch with Rawnsley at the plate.


“Once we got speed on the bases, we were moving,” Doyon said. “Once we got Kailyn on, she was stealing every base.”

Rawnsley fanned for the third out, but it was a brand new ball game.

In the top of the seventh, Bagley popped out to second, Mia Lang flew out to right, then Nadeau grounded out to second to send the game to the fateful bottom of the seventh.

There, Nash grounded out to first, but Wienckowski bunted the ball in play and reached on an error.

And then, the fun began.

First, Wienckowski stole second.


Casserly then did her job, grounding the ball to the right side. Casserly reached safely on an error and Wienckowski momentarily stood on third, but when she saw Nadeau take a step back toward first, she turned on the jets, raced home and scored without a throw.

“Cammy hit it, they threw it and I was on third and I didn’t even know what was happening,” said Wienckowski. “I didn’t see the ball coming to me, so I just put my head down and ran.”

For an instant, no one realized what had happened and then, bedlam ensued, as NYA celebrated its 2-1 victory.

Celebration time for the new Class D South champions.

“It feels wonderful,” said Wienckowski. “It’s like a fever dream. My head’s in the clouds. The key part to our team is speed. Once we’re on base, there’s no stopping us. It was frustrating, but we battled back. By the end of the game, we were good.”

“It’s a lot more stressful to have a game like this, but it feels so much better when we finally won,” Rawnsley said. “I was a little worried, but I trusted my team. I knew if we got on base, we would get home. It was the best thing ever.”

“We changed our game a little bit,” Doyon added. “Normally, we hit all day long, but their pitcher is phenomenal. I knew once we got around the order a third time, we’d get something on the ball. The last play, we would have done a bunt, hit-and-run, steal, anything. I’ve never seen these girls as vocal as they were tonight. We had a couple close games, but they really wanted this one.”


The Panthers mustered just one hit, but managed to advance, as McIntyre and Wienckowski scored the runs.

NYA left three runners on base.

Rawnsley earned the win thanks to another superb effort. She went the distance, allowing just one unearned run on two hits. She didn’t walk a batter and struck out eight.

“Lily did a wonderful job,” said Wienckowski.

“Lily was outstanding,” Doyon said. “She kept them off-balance most of the game. A couple errors hurt us.”

NYA shows off its prize after a post-game ceremony.

For Searsport, Ana Lang scored the only run and was excellent on the mound, giving up two runs (both unearned) on just one hit in 6.1 innings, as she was the hard-luck loser. Lang didn’t walk a hitter and struck out 13.


One more step

NYA has a chance to cap a sensational year for girls’ sports at the school with a first-ever softball title. Soccer, also coached by Doyon, won a state title in dominant fashion back in November and basketball lost in overtime of its regional final.

The Panthers and Machias have no history and NYA has no idea what to expect Saturday, but it likes its chances.

“This was our toughest game so far,” said Wienckowski. “(Saturday), we just have to keep doing what we do. Get on base and run fast. We didn’t even have a team last year, so it’s great we’re going to states.”

“We’re not done,” Rawnsley said. “I’m ready. We just need to keep getting on base, making contact and keep our defense going.”

“We’ll go up there and make adjustments in that game if we need to and go for it,” added Doyon. “We have nothing to lose. We didn’t even have a team last year and we’ll go see what we can do.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at

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