HOWLAND, Maine — Orono softball coach Bill Cowan gave his club an ultimatum Tuesday night as his Red Riots prepared for Wednesday’s Class C clash with Penobscot Valley.
“What I said to them is, ‘this is a 12-3 team, this game can get us a bye in the playoffs and a home [quarterfinal] game. This is a playoff game,’” Cowan said.
His team responded in a big way, as the Red Riots used a balanced offensive effort to string together eight runs on seven hits in the fourth inning en route to a 10-3 victory over the Howlers in their mutual regular-season finale at Hutchinson Field.
Orono was ranked fourth in Heal point rankings released Tuesday morning and by improving to 10-6 with another pointworthy victory, the Red Riots may have earned the right to host a quarterfinal game.
PVHS (12-4) should earn a home prelim game.
The Riots came out swinging the bats against Casey McCloskey, one of Eastern Maine’s top pitchers. Sarah Thibeault, the lone senior on Cowan’s club, drove in the first run of the game with a double.
The Howlers got the run back in the bottom of the frame, as McCloskey drew a leadoff walk and later scored on a wild pitch.
But the Riots hit the ball all over the place in the fourth, as the team sent 12 batters to the plate, with half of them driving in at least one run.
“[McCloskey’s] a good pitcher, it was going to be a tough game,” said Thibeault. “Mr. Cowan told us [Tuesday] this was the biggest game we’re going to play and we just went out there and swung that bat.”
Thibeault was one of multiple Orono offensive leaders with a double, single, two RBIs and two runs scored, while Elizabeth Fox’s two-run single was the big blow in the fourth.
Fox admitted Cowan’s speech made her a little apprehensive, but she and her teammates settled down quickly.
“It made us nervous at first, but then we [realized] we knew we had to dig down,” said Fox.
Jade Keezer collected three singles and an RBI while Amanda York went 2-for-4 with an RBI to back freshman righthander Andi Foster, who pitched a solid game with eight strikeouts.
“Andi’s a freshman this year and she’s done really, really well for us this year,” said Fox, Foster’s batterymate.
Even though the Riots field two freshmen and five sophomores, success is nothing new to this group. Many of the corps players played on the school’s regional champion soccer team and the basketball team that advanced to the EM semifinals.
Those factors could prove vital once the postseason starts.
“These kids, they know how to win,” Cowan said. “When I started coaching here that was a problem, but these kids know how to win.”
Cowan also believes this is the first time an Orono softball team has achieved 10 regular-season victories.
Audrey LaChance was the Howlers’ lone repeat hitter with two singles, while McCloskey compiled 11 strikeouts in absorbing the loss.