BREWER, Maine — Oceanside and Gardiner went into Thursday night’s Eastern Maine Class B softball championship game expecting a duel of pitching and defense.
In their two previous meetings, the teams scored a combined four runs. This time, the offenses took center stage.
The third-seeded Mariners of Rockland/Thomaston pounded out 19 hits while earning an 11-4 victory over top-seeded Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rival Gardiner at Coffin Field.
It was the first regional softball crown for Oceanside in its second season after Rockland and Georges Valley consolidated in 2011.
“In the beginning of the year, it was kind of hard to see this light at the end of the tunnel a little bit,” admitted Mariners senior Molly Mellor, “but it’s come together so well and it’s awesome to be able to feel like this.”
Coach Rusty Worcester’s Mariners (18-1) play Western Maine champ Greely of Cumberland Center (15-4) in Saturday’s 11 a.m. state title contest at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
“We preach that we want to attack, attack, attack, but it’s got to be in the strike zone,” Worcester said.
“All the girls love to hit and they’ve proven the last couple games, against some real good competition, that they can hit the ball pretty well,” he added.
The Mariners had plenty of offense to support senior pitcher Rachel Frye, who worked her way around 11 hits to earn the win in the circle. She struck out five and walked two.
“It was a long game,” offered Frye, whose older sister Danielle won back-to-back state championships for the former Georges Valley High School in 2007 and 2008.
“I was pretty nervous pitching against these girls that can hit,” she added. “We’ve faced them twice before.”
Mellor, Kennadi Grover and Paige Tyler powered the Oceanside offense with four hits apiece. Mellor connected for four RBI singles, while Grover doubled twice and Tyler added one.
Frye posted three singles and Caitlyn Raye added two singles and an RBI.
Gardiner (17-2) simply was unable to slow down the Mariners.
Ailing junior Brittany Rollins was ineffective after suffering an injury in the KVAC title game against Oceanside. She faced only six batters.
“I knew that Oceanside team was very potent,” said Tigers coach Ginger Shaw. “They had hit the ball from 1 through 9 [spots in the order].”
Rollins was replaced by sophomore Kristal Smith, was in trouble most of the night. Gardiner also committed four errors.
The Tigers were led by two singles and an RBI each from Rollins and Morgan Carver and two singles by Brianna Brochu.
Oceanside scored three times in the first. Brooke Dugan doubled to left field and scored on Grover’s one-out double to left-center. After a wild pitch, Mellor lined a run-scoring single to center.
She eventually scored on Tyler’s spinning infield single that landed behind the pitching circle.
“We were so pumped. We had so much energy,” Mellor said. “We knew we had to keep going.”
Gardiner responded with two runs in the first. Brochu singled up the middle with one out, then Smith hit an RBI single to right and Rollins looped a run-producing double down the right-field line.
Despite repeated threats, the Tigers managed only two runs over the last six innings against Frye.
In the meantime, Oceanside kept scoring. The Mariners made it 4-2 on Tyler’s double and Raye’s two-out single past first base.
They made it 7-2 in the fourth with Mellor providing an RBI single and Ari Curtis pounding an RBI double.
The Tigers got a run back on Morgan Carver’s RBI double in the fourth, but another Mellor single in the fifth made it 8-3 Oceanside.
Gardiner maintained positive energy with chanting and cheering from the dugout.
“We have a motto, ‘Every Pitch,’ and they take that literally,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re up by 10 or down by 10, they have no quit in them.”
The Tigers but made things interesting in the sixth when Ellie Luken and Stephanie Plourde singled. A run scored on a fielding error, Kyle Granholm bunted her way on.
That brought up the potential tying run in Brochu, who hit a fly ball to shallow right field. Brianna Dugan made the catch and fired a strike to Curtis to cut down courtesy runner Nicole Chadwick at the plate.
“That’s a big play in a crunch-time situation by two freshmen,” Worcester said.
Oceanside came up and scored three times in the seventh to gain some breathing room.
Gardiner handed Oceanside its only regular-season loss, 2-1 on May 17, but the Mariners won the KVAC title game 1-0.
NOTE: Story corrected to show Danielle Frye helped Georges Valley win state titles in 2007 and 2008.