NEWPORT, Maine — It is rare to have a game between two undefeated teams on the last week of the regular season.
But that is what transpired on Monday and the Gardiner-Nokomis Eastern Maine Class B softball game lived up to expectations.
It came down to which team was going to get the clutch hit, and Gardiner received two of them in the 10th inning as the Tigers scored seven two-out runs to beat the Warriors 10-3.
Gardiner concluded the regular season at 16-0 while Nokomis is 14-1 with one game remaining.
Nokomis starter Sara Packard, who pitched all 10 innings, got the first two outs in the 10th before Nicole Chadwick was called safe on a close play at first for an infield single to the left of shortstop Becky Orcutt, who made a nice play to get to it. Julie Nadeau, the nine hitter in the order, grounded a sharp single to center on a 1-2 pitch, and Bri Brochu reached on another infield single off an 0-2 pitch as her soft liner popped out of the glove of Orcutt, who made a full-length extension to keep the ball from reaching the outfield.
With the bases loaded, junior third baseman Lilly Chepke rifled an 0-1 pitch three feet fair down the left-field line for a bases-clearing triple.
“All I was thinking was that we want this game. Our team needs this game. We’ve been looking for it all season,” said Chepke. “I was pretty sure she threw me an outside fastball and I pulled it. I was looking to hit anything close.”
Morgan Carver was hit by a pitch and Kristal Smith walloped a long two-run double to left center. An infield error produced another run, and Katelyn Boyington singled home the final run.
“It was a great game. That last inning, they finally to me. Good teams will do that,” said Packard.
Smith also starred in the circle.
She relieved Brittany Rollins with two on and nobody out in the sixth inning and hurled five innings of three-hit, shutout relief to pick up the win. She struck out eight and didn’t walk anyone.
“I just tried to hit my spots with my fastball and back-door curve,” said Smith. “They have been working all year. It’s very tough to come in in relief. It’s hard to get in the mindset when you’re in the field and, next thing you know you’re pitching.
“But I thought I did a pretty decent job,” added Smith.
“She did a great job,” said Nokomis first baseman Libby Dunivan, who had one of the hits off Smith. “She threw harder than anyone we had seen. She threw very well.”
The teams swapped first-inning runs before Nokomis took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on a single by Tasha Howard, a Shannon Kasprzak sacrifice, a bunt single by Sierra Fortin and an error.
But Gardiner answered with two in the top of the sixth on singles by Lauren Chadwick, Rollins, Boyington (RBI) and Brochu (RBI).
Nokomis tied it in the bottom of the sixth when singles by Courtney Carlson and Dunivan chased Rollins. The runners were all safe on Drew Graves’ fielder’s choice, and the tying run eventually scored on Howard’s groundout.
Boyington had three singles to pace Gardiner’s 17-hit attack. Smith doubled twice, Carver and Chepke each tripled and singled and Brochu, sisters Nicole and Lauren Chadwick and Nadeau had two singles apiece.
Chepke had her three RBIS and Smith and Boyington had two each.
Dunivan singled twice for Nokomis, and Packard turned in a solid outing until the Tigers finally broke through.
“(Packard) threw very well,” said Rollins.