BUCKSPORT — Mikayla Tripp has had her share of solid performances as a Bucksport pitcher, but none have been quite as prolific as this.
After years as the Golden Bucks’ No. 2 starter behind former standout Kate Saunders, Tripp, one of two seniors on a young Bucksport team, has earned her chance in the spotlight this season as the staff ace. Taking to the circle Thursday to open her team’s 2019 playoff slate, Tripp was nearly untouchable.
Tripp’s career-high 18 strikeouts led Bucksport to a 3-1 win over Orono on Thursday in the Class C North quarterfinals. The senior also had two doubles at the plate to push the Golden Bucks within one win of their ninth straight Northern Maine championship game appearance.
“Her fastball was smoking,” Bucksport head coach Mike Carrier said. “When she’s throwing smoke like she was today, it has movement; it curves, it turns in, it goes up and it moves all over the place. That’s just how she throws the ball, and it makes her really tough to hit.”
After Tripp struck out the side in the first inning, No. 9 Orono (8-10) followed what would be its only base hit of the game in the second with a stolen base before scoring on a passed ball to take a 1-0 lead. Yet the Golden Bucks got two hits to begin the bottom of the inning and tied the game at 1 when Brittney Dewitt scored from third base on a fielder’s choice.
Tripp then recorded a 1-2-3 inning with a pair of strikeouts in the top of the third before smacking her first double of the game in the bottom half. After Dewitt’s RBI single gave top-seeded Bucksport (14-3) a 2-1 lead, Tripp struck out all three batters in the fourth and two in the fifth to bring her total to 13.
In the bottom of the fifth, Bucksport’s Victoria Watkins reached on a bunt single and advanced to second when Orono failed to tag her on a would-be double play. Tripp took advantage of the error with an RBI double to make the score 3-1 and struck out five straight batters over the next two innings before forcing a groundout to end the game.
With the game starting at 3 p.m., players in the field had the sun directly in their eyes as they looked west toward the batter’s box. That didn’t faze Tripp, who continued to excel even as she was unable to wipe the sweat from her palms in the seventh inning.
“That last inning, I forgot my towel and threw a couple in the ground,” Tripp said with a laugh. “It was a nice day out in general, but it was pretty brutal for a game.”
The win continued a remarkable senior season for Tripp, whose 149 strikeouts in 71 innings in the circle and .650 average at the plate through 14 games earned her Penobscot Valley Conference Player of the Year recognition last Tuesday. Next year, she will continue her softball career under Diann Ramsey at Husson University.
“I’ve been wanting to [play softball in college] probably ever since I was in middle school,” Tripp said. “Coach Ramsey reached out to me, and as soon as she reached out to me, I knew that was what I was going to do.”
As a team, Bucksport made contact all game long but settled for three runs as many of the balls put in play resulted in pop flies. Still, for a largely inexperienced roster playing in a do-or-die postseason situation, Carrier was relatively pleased with his team’s effort.
“As I told the girls, a win is a win,” Carrier said. “You learn from it, and you move on from it. What matters is what happens after this game.”
That will come at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, June 8, when Bucksport hosts No. 4 Dexter (12-5) in the Class C North semifinals. The Golden Bucks beat Dexter 8-2 when the teams first met April 22 in Bucksport, but the Tigers got revenge in the May 23 rematch when they prevailed 8-7 in 12 innings at Dexter Regional High School.
Win or lose, that game will be the last time playing at home for Tripp and Dewitt. Even with a largely young team set to provide the program with a solid backbone for the future, the Golden Bucks’ senior duo will be sorely missed.
“I’m going to miss this team, this field and this whole community,” Tripp said. “It’s going to really hit me hard when it happens.”
DI-S softball team, EHS, GSA baseball teams clinch regional semifinal berths
Hancock County will have four team’s playing in Saturday’s Northern Maine semifinals as the Deer Isle-Stonington softball team and Ellsworth and George Stevens Academy baseball teams also earned quarterfinal wins.
On Thursday, No. 6 Deer Isle-Stonington upset third-ranked Southern Aroostook (12-3) 10-9 in Class D North play in Dyer Brook. The game went to extra innings tied 7-7 before the Mariners (14-4) scored three runs in ninth and cut a rally from the home team short to advance to face No. 2 Penobscot Valley (16-1) at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
In Blue Hill, top-ranked GSA won its 13th game in a row with a 9-0 win over No. 8 Lee Academy (7-10) in Class C North play. Austin Snow struck out 10 batters in six innings of work for the Eagles (16-1) and added two hits and four RBIs at the plate to lead the home team to victory.
GSA’s win was its 13th straight and gave the Eagles their fifth regional semifinal appearance in the past six years. Although the team made a few baserunning mistakes, it was largely a solid performance for a GSA squad looking to keep its momentum going.
“When you haven’t played for a week, you can get a little nervous, and that can make that quarterfinal game tough on you,” GSA head coach Dan Kane said. “In the past, I can remember playing a lot of them with lesser teams, with teams that weren’t quite as good as us, and we had to fight it out. Today, we relaxed and got going.”
Elsewhere in Thursday’s Class C North playoff slate, the No. 7 Bucksport baseball team (8-10) fell 9-6 on the road against second-ranked Fort Kent despite taking a 5-0 lead to start the game. In Harrington, the seventh-seeded Sumner softball team (7-11) lost 11-4 to No. 2 Narraguagus (16-1).
On Wednesday, Ellsworth earned a berth in the Class B North semifinals with a 5-2 victory over No. 8 Lawrence (8-10). Pitcher Conner Wagstaff had 12 strikeouts for No. 1 Ellsworth (16-1), which held off a sixth-inning surge from the visiting Bulldogs to advance.
GSA will begin Saturday’s baseball action at noon when it faces No. 4 Orono (9-8) in Blue Hill. Ellsworth will host the winner of tomorrow’s quarterfinal game between No. 4 Medomak Valley (14-3) and No. 12 John Bapst (8-9) with first pitch Saturday scheduled for 1 (if John Bapst wins) or 2 (if Medomak Valley wins).