NEWPORT, Maine — Kennadi Grover of the Oceanside High School of Rockland/Thomaston felt relieved to finally make solid contact in an at-bat this spring.
Grover’s three-run homer in the top of the fourth inning lifted the Mariners to a 7-5 softball victory over Nokomis on Wednesday afternoon.
“It felt nice to finally get a good hit,” said the senior first baseman. “I’ve had a tough run in the preseason.”
The timing for her breakout at-bat this year turned out well for the Mariners.
The season-opening game was this year’s only regular-season KVAC matchup between two of the top programs in Eastern Maine Class B. Oceanside was the No. 1 seed for last year’s EM tournament, while the Warriors, the No. 6 seed, reached the East final before falling to eventual state champ Old Town.
Grover’s homer was a line shot to the opposite field that carried over the right-field fence. It capped a five-run fourth inning that rallied the Mariners from a 5-2 deficit to the two-run lead. She thought it was going out as soon as she hit it.
“It felt really good off the bat,” Grover said. “Usually when they feel good off the bat, they’re going somewhere.”
Her coach, Rusty Worcester, knew it was gone, too.
“I’ve seen her play for four years and I can tell by the sound of the bat now,” Worcester said.
There was no more scoring after that, although both teams came close.
“Even right to the sixth inning, the seventh inning, we thought ‘We’ve got this,’’’ Nokomis coach John McLellan said. “It never did seem out of range.”
The Warriors had two runners on base with none out in the fourth, but pitcher Rachel Frye set down the next three batters, and they had two more on with one out in the sixth, but a called third strike and a bouncing grounder back to Frye ended that threat. In the bottom of the seventh, a hit batsman and a stolen base with two outs put a runner on second, but Danielle George was stranded when a strikeout ended the contest.
“Fly balls at the right time [for the Oceanside defense], didn’t hit the gaps — [it’s] all part of the game,” McLellan said.
Nokomis jumped ahead early with three runs in the first, with RBI singles by Courtney Carlson and Lacey Kent-Webber being the key hits.
Frye helped herself in the third by rapping a single up the middle that scored two runs.
Nokomis got that back in the bottom of the third with RBI singles by Kent-Webber and George.
When Frye went to the circle for the bottom of the fourth with a lead for the first time, she felt more confident.
“As a pitcher, it starts with me out there,” Frye said. “Then I have to count on everybody else if I put the ball in a place where [batters] can hit [it]. Gotta count on them, and after we got those runs I wasn’t so worried. … We got ourselves out of the hole we dug.”
Frye went the distance for Oceanside with six strikeouts, four walks and a hit batsman. Ari Curtis, the No. 7 hitter, and Caitlyn Raye, the No. 9 hitter, each hit two singles for the Mariners, and Grover also had a single.
For Nokomis, starter Becky Orcutt struck out five and walked two in four innings of work, and Libby Dunivan added four strikeouts, a walk and a hit batsman in three innings of relief. In addition to Kent-Webber, Orcutt and George posted two singles each.
McLellan wished his team could have taken advantage of the chance to pick up what probably will be a lot of Heal points.
“I know they say the first game doesn’t mean much, but this game meant a lot,” he said.