GORHAM — Under normal circumstances, it is the superior work in the pitching circle of Ana Lang that steers the Searsport Viking softball team’s ship.

And while she was her normal self in that regard during the squad’s Class D South championship game against No. 2 St. Dominic Academy of Auburn on Tuesday, June 14, it was Lang’s work at the plate that helped the Vikings navigate past the Saints and on to another state title encounter.

Searsport’s Ana Lang. Photo by Mark Haskell

The game at the University of Southern Maine went scoreless into an extra inning before Lang laced the game-winning, RBI-single to right-center field that plated teammate Baileigh Bagley as the Vikings swung to their second straight regional championship with a thrilling, 1-0, eight-inning victory.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” said Searsport coach Christin Obrey of the showdown with the Saints. “We changed some things up and tried some different things and it worked out for us.”

With the win, Searsport (14-5) advances to its second straight state Class D championship game, where it will face Hodgdon (16-2), the third seed out of Class D North, on Saturday, June 18 at 4 p.m. back at USM.

Searsport’s Kiara Krumbholz. Photo by Mark Haskell

Lang and Bagley had four of the team’s five hits on the afternoon, while Lang added the lone RBI and Bagley the lone run. Jordan Greeley also singled in the win for Searsport.

The Saints, who saw their season conclude at 17-2, were led at the dish by Isabella Webster (single) and Kassidy Cote (single).

Lang tossed a two-hit shutout in the pitching circle as she yielded only one walk and struck out 14 in the win.

Searsport’s Lily Nadeau, front. Photo by Mark Haskell

Through three playoff games, Lang has allowed only five hits (all singles), has one perfect game and struck out 45 batters.

“It feels good,” said Lang after Tuesday’s win. “Coming into this game, I was a lot nervous. Last year I don’t remember being nervous at all. The stakes were high. We played St. Dom’s in the regional last year and we knew it was going to be a close game.”

Kathleen Dean had a strong pitching performance in the tough-luck loss for St. Dominic as she allowed five hits and no walks, to go with nine strikeouts.

Team members for Searsport, coached by Obrey, Sharon Keach and Greg Keach, include MyKenzie Tripp, Kiara Krumbholz, Hunter Kronholm, Bagley, Laura Warman, Ellie Cahill, Lang, Lily Nadeau, Greeley, Kyla Perkins and Abby Astbury.

Searsport’s Jordan Greeley. Photo by Mark Haskell

Team members for St. Dominic Academy, coached by Scott Berube, include Emily Andrews, Ava Apodaca, Cami Casserly, Cote, Dean, Sydney Dick, Sophia Franciose, Pilar Hewey, Isabella McMillen, Bella Perryman, Natalie Reed, Kyla Wallace, Webster and Benedicte Yombe.

The Saints were committed to playing small ball throughout the game as their two hits came on bunt singles. St. Dominic was able to get a runner to third base in the seventh inning after Casserly reached on an error, but that runner was stranded as the final batter of the inning fouled out on a bunt attempt.

“Coming into this season we knew everyone was going to bunt [against us],” said Lang. “Stearns bunted off us a lot last year and this year, so we knew competitive teams were going to bunt. But defensively, Kyla and my corners and Kenzie came through big time today. They were just on it. Even though the bats weren’t going, the defense was on point all day.”

Searsport also missed out on a chance to score early in the game when it loaded the bases in the fourth after Lang and Greeley singled and Kronholm reached on an error, but Dean settled in and struck out the final two batters to get out of the jam.

Searsport’s Kyla Perkins, middle, and teammates celebrate. Photo by Mark Haskell

In the bottom of the eighth, Bagley blooped a single that went just over the outstretched glove of the second baseman and moved into scoring position after a Perkins groundout.

That set the stage for Lang, the lead batter, who had no intention of going out to pitch the ninth inning.

“She was throwing first-pitch strikes so I was all over it,” Lang said. “And second pitch she was throwing outside. So, take it the other way. I did that earlier as well. You just learn to catch onto the pitching, especially as a pitcher.”

“She is just an all-time all star,” coach Obrey said of Lang. “We can’t give her enough credit. She works real, real hard for the team and the girls and she pumps them up.”

And now, the Vikings get the opportunity to defend their state crown against a Hodgdon team fresh off celebrating its first regional title in school history.

“We’re ready,” said Lang. “The bats have to get going sooner, definitely. But we’re ready for anything. We’re going to play strategically, aggressively and do it.”

Searsport, the top seed in Class D South, defeated No. 8 Forest Hills of Jackman 10-0 in five innings in the quarterfinals and bested No. 5 Buckfield 5-3 in the semifinals to advance to Tuesday’s regional championship, while St. Dominic, the second seed, defeated No. 7 Rangeley 17-1 in the quarterfinals and No. 6 Richmond 15-5 in the semifinals.

Hodgdon defeated No. 14 Central Aroostook of Mars Hill 15-1 in the prelims, No. 6 Southern Aroostook of Dyer Brook 14-9 in the quarterfinals, No. 2 Woodland 3-2 in the semifinals and No. 8 Machias 2-0 in the regional final to advance to the state title game.