Eight is great: Mariners best seventh-grade schoolmates in title gameOceanside eighth-graders win 11-9 over Mariner seventh-graders
Thomaston — The Busline League middle school softball game on Tuesday, June 17 was about much more than simply two teams slugging it out for the championship.
It was, in fact, about one school and that institution's amazing number of diamond student-athletes, regardless of age or class affiliation.
In a rare occurrence, both Oceanside teams ran the gamut in their respective divisional playoffs and squared off — on their home field at Thomaston Grammar School — for the league title.
The Mariner seventh-graders (9-1) represented the South Division and the Mariner eighth-graders (11-2) the North Division.
The game featured two scoring runs from the teams as the eighth-graders jumped to a commanding lead, while the seventh-graders, undaunted, responded to tie the contest.
In the end, a two-run seventh inning from the eighth-grade squad proved the difference as it won the Mariner showdown and the league crown with an 11-9 victory.
The eighth-graders scored four runs in the second inning, three in the third and two in the fourth and seventh innings, while the seventh-graders scored six in the fifth and three in the sixth.
Team members for the eighth-graders include Casey Pine, Erin Dugan, Jenna Kaufman, Lauren Miller, Julia Kurr, Callie Morse, Taylor Hamlin, Emilee Clough, Jordan Brackett, Lauren Arsenault, Emily Tyler, Kiara Robinson, Gabby Simmons, Kim Roman, Mikayla Mank and Kristina Ferguson. The team is coached by Gene Drinkwater.
Team members for the seventh-graders include Hannah Moholland, Abby Veilleux, Chloe Jones, Raechel Joyce, Brooke Post, Kalli Grover, Nicole Paulsen, Kassidy Robinson, Morgan Linsey, Morgan Heal, Amiah Marquis, Skylar Kaler-Wall and Megan Keizer. The team is coached by Eric Nelsen.
Leading the eighth-graders at the plate were Simmons (hit, run), Tyler (run), Pine (run), Miller (2 runs), Brackett (hit, 2 runs), Clough (hit, run), Hamlin (2 hits, run), Dugan (run) and Roman (run).
For the seventh-graders, Moholland (hit, run), Veilleux (hit, run), Jones (2 runs), Post (hit, run), Grover (2 hits, run), Paulsen (hit, 2 runs) and Linsey (run) paced the offense.
Ferguson pitched 4 2/3 innings for the eighth-graders and allowed six hits and five walks, with three strikeouts. Tyler pitched 1 2/3 of relief, including a clean seventh frame to help the eighth-grade squad prevail.
Jones and Veilleux pitched for the seventh-grade squad.
The seventh-grade team was the “home” squad by virtue of a coin flip.
While the eighth-graders prevailed, the grit and determination demonstrated by both teams showed the future remains bright for the Oceanside High School teams.
“I thought it was a great day for Oceanside,” said seventh-grade coach Eric Nelsen, who coached the eighth-grade squad last year. “I had that team last year and we came close to winning it last year. And I told the girls this year 'It's great for Oceanside because we're the last two [teams] standing. We both dominated the entire Midcoast area in both divisions. It bodes well for the varsity team and that's what our job is, to develop the talent for the high school.”
“We're all doing this for Oceanside and we're trying to make the younger players better,” said Drinkwater, who credited Nelsen for his work with this year's seventh-grade team.
“That team is tough,” he said. “That eighth-grade team of mine might be the best one I've had in the seven years I've done it and we had all we could do to beat [the seventh-grade team].
“They were prepared and they knew everything they had to do to beat us. And they darn near did.”
Drinkwater said that “a lot of walks and errors” accounted for runs on both sides, which he chalked up to “a lot of emotion and pressure on the kids both ways.”
Despite the jitters Tuesday, the talent on both squads was clear, which is not lost on either coach.
“I've been doing this for over 20 years and I've not seen two consecutive classes that loaded [with athletic talent],” said Nelsen. “We had a lot of talent at Georges Valley and now Oceanside, but this many really good players in a two-year span is really quite unusual. We've got offense, pitching [and] defense. They are fundamentally sound in both classes.”
The eight-graders led 9-1 in the early going Tuesday, while the seventh-graders responded and plated eight unanswered runs as the game was knotted 9-9 going into the seventh inning.
Pine reached on an infield single followed by a walk drawn by Miller. The two used their savvy on the bases to come around to score and essentially, clinch the game.
Drinkwater also credited Tyler, who relieved Ferguson and was “dynamic” down the stretch.
The eighth-grade team won the North Division crown with victories over No. 5 Camden-Rockport in the semifinals and No. 2 Hope-Appleton in the North Division final after earning a first-round bye. The seventh-grade team also received a first-round bye and beat No. 4 Bristol in the semifinals and No. 2 Nobleboro to win the South Division title.
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. He has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School.
Mark is an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox, fantasy sports, the AMC drama "Breaking Bad" and iced coffee.
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn and sons Beckett and Austin.
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