BREWER, Maine — The undefeated and top-seeded Gardiner High School Tigers had averaged just over 10 runs per game in the team’s 18 wins prior to Wednesday’s Eastern Maine Class B final against Hermon.
But sophomore left-hander Karli Theberge spun a masterful three-hitter, retiring the last 10 hitters she faced, and the third-seeded Hawks pounded out nine hits en route to a 6-1 triumph at Coffin Field.
Hermon improved to 17-2 and will face Western Maine champ Wells in Saturday’s 4 p.m. state championship game at Coffin Field.
Gardiner, which beat Hermon in last year’s semifinal round, wound up 18-1.
Theberge struck out two, walked one and threw 90 pitches, 58 for strikes. She threw 10 or fewer pitches in five innings, and she was backed by an airtight defense as her mates committed just one error behind her. She induced 16 ground-ball outs.
“I wanted to have fast innings so I could get my teammates out of the heat,” said Theberge. “All of my pitches were working, but I went mostly with my drop and screwball. I just tried to hit my spots. I knew they were a great hitting team.”
She added that her defense turned in an awesome performance.
Theberge also worked in a handful of change-ups to keep the Gardiner hitters off balance.
“Her change-up was very good,” said Gardiner senior pitcher-first baseman Brittany Rollins, who grounded out on a change-up in the second inning.
“She threw a little faster than the pitchers we had been seeing,” added Rollins.
Gardiner junior third baseman Lilly Chepke said that Theberge was just the second lefty they had faced this season, and Theberge was a “lot better” than the previous lefty.
“We’re used to seeing pitches up and down and right down the middle,” said Rollins, noting that Theberge gave them very few pitches to hit right down the middle.
Hermon senior catcher Shaniah Haskell said all of Therberge’s “spins worked well,” and they concentrated on keeping the ball out of the middle of the plate “because those are meat pitches.”
The Hawks jumped out to a lead they would never relinquish by scoring twice in the second inning.
Theberge drew a leadoff walk and moved to second when Haskell reached on a bunt single.
Kylie Kennedy walked to load the bases, and Lexey MacManus drove in Theberge with a line drive single to center. One out later, a wild pitch produced the second run.
Gardiner got one back in the bottom of the second when Lauren Chadwick grounded a single to left, sped to third on Kristal Smith’s sinking line-drive single to left and scored on Ellie Luken’s groundout.
But the Hawks restored their two-run lead in the third with an unearned run as Theberge reached on a two-out error by the shortstop and scored all the way from first on Haskell’s long double to left.
Gardiner starter Kristal Smith was replaced by Rollins after the third inning, and the Hawks scored two off her in the fourth and one more in the seventh.
In the fourth, Claire Petersen reached on a one-out bunt single and was sacrificed to second.
Allessa Oakes knocked her in by bouncing a single to center, and Oakes wound up scoring when Sydney Addessi launched a double to the right center field cap.
“It was a high fastball, and I wanted to get on top of it because I had been getting under the ball,” said Addessi.
Gardiner loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth on a dropped infield pop-up by shortstop Oakes, Smith’s infield single and a walk.
But Theberge induced an inning-ending grounder to second, and the Tigers never got another baserunner.
Oakes atoned for her miscue by handling seven ground balls flawlessly to anchor the defense.
Addessi was instrumental in the seventh inning run as she pulled a leadoff triple into the right field corner and scored when Theberge drilled an opposite-field single to left.
“It was an inside pitch, and I just went with it,” said Addessi.
Addessi, with her triple and double and RBI, and Haskell, with her double and single and RBI, paced Hermon’s attack. Oakes, Theberge and MacManus contributed their RBI singles.
“They were ready. They hit the ball well,” said Rollins.
Smith had two singles for Gardiner.