Oceanside powers way to regional championship gameMariners to face Gardiner in title contest Thursday, June 13 in Brewer
Old Town — It is said that pitching dominates most high school softball games, but Oceanside senior Kennadi Grover and her Mariner teammates proved a little power also comes in mighty handy when a berth in the Eastern Class B championship is on the line.
Grover smashed two home runs, both of which drove in the deciding final three runs of the game to bust open a 2-2 deadlock, as No. 3 Oceanside (18-1 overall, including the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title) upended defending state Class B champion and No. 2 Old Town (16-2) 5-2 in a regional semifinal playoff game on Monday afternoon, June 10.
See video below.
The semifinal clash originally was scheduled for Saturday, June 8, but heavy rain and unplayable field conditions forced the contest to be moved to Monday.
“They were just so focused today,” said Oceanside coach Rusty Worcester. “They wanted to play, wanted to win and helped each other out, always out there talking and cheering each other on. It was a very nice thing to see as a coach, because you never know what’s going to happen this time of year.”
The Mariners know all about that as fifth-seeded Old Town upset No. 1 Oceanside in last year's semifinal playoff game, which spoiled the Mariners' title dreams in the school's first year of existence. Old Town went on to win the state Class B title.
But Oceanside returned the favor to the higher-seeded Coyotes this season.
Rain again has factored into an Oceanside playoff game as the regional championship, scheduled for Tuesday, June 11 at 7 p.m., has been moved to Thursday, June 13 at 7 p.m. in Brewer due to inclement weather.
Oceanside's graduation also is Tuesday night. School officials had been in contact with the Maine Principals' Association late Monday in an effort to move the time of the game for Tuesday, which now is, thanks to Mother Nature, not an issue.
Oceanside will face top-seeded Gardiner (17-1) Thursday, which bested No. 4 Hermon (16-2) 3-1 in another regional semifinal Monday.
For the Mariners in Monday's semifinal, Brooke Dugan (double, single, 2 stolen bases), Grover (single, 2 home runs, 2 runs, 3 RBIs), Mellor (2 singles, run), Plourde (double), Ari Curtis (single, run), Paige Tyler (single) and Davis (single) keyed the offense.
Leading Old Town's offense were Rachel Martin (single, run), Hayward (single), Michaela Milton (run), Susie Outman (single), Kelsey Gifford (single) and Sami Milton (2 singles, run).
Rachel Frye (6 hits, no walks, 9 strikeouts) pitched the win for Oceanside, while Kendra Hayward (11 hits, walk, 7 strikeouts) took the loss for the Coyotes.
Hayward, who stymied the Mariners in last year's semifinal, was a focal point in Monday's game for the Mariners.
“We knew we were facing one of the best pitchers in the state,” said Worcester of Hayward. “We wanted to be aggressive in the strike zone on that first pitch.”
Worcester said Frye “really came on strong in the end” and was spotting her fastball well against the Coyotes.
With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning, Brooke Dugan rapped a single and stole second base, which set the table for Grover later in the inning.
After a strikeout, Grover tattooed a 2-1 offering from Hayward over the fence in right-center field, to put the visitors ahead 4-2.
“I just wanted to get a hit knowing someone was on second base,” said Grover. “I was hoping I could break through somewhere.”
She broke through again in the seventh inning, this time belting a Hayward changeup over the fence in center field in the first pitch of the at-bat.
“I knew it was coming,” said Grover of the changeup.
“For four years she’s been a stud for us,” said Worcester. “She’s a great, great hitter and she showed it today. Fastball she takes it [over the fence] to right-center field and then the next time up, she’s smart enough to see that maybe something off-speed is coming first. You don’t get much better at the plate than that.”
Plourde also had a two-out double in the final inning, but was stranded at second base.
The Mariners jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning when Molly Mellor singled and came around to score on an RBI-single by Curtis, who later scampered in on an error.
Hayward helped her own cause in the third inning, when she plated S. Milton on a sacrifice fly to center field, to cut the hosts' deficit in half, while Martin tied the score late in the frame as she scored on a wild pitch.
Both teams had a batter reach base in the first inning, as Grover stroked a two-out single, but was thrown out attempting to steal second. For Old Town, Hayward singled with two outs in the bottom of the first and pinch runner M. Milton stole second, but was stranded.
Oceanside threatened again in the fourth inning as Plourde reached on a misplayed third strike and moved to second. Tyler also singled but that rally stalled. For Old Town, Outman singled to start the bottom of the fourth and pinch runner Chelsea Lynch (for Outman) and Kelsey Hesseltine reached third and second respectively, but were stranded.
S. Milton led the bottom of the fifth with a single but was thrown out attempting to steal. The Coyotes never threatened again, except for a two-out single by Gifford in the seventh, as Frye fanned three of the final six batters she retired.
Oceanside has six seniors, including several starters in first baseman Grover, pitcher Rachel Frye, outfielder Hannah Plourde, second baseman Emma Davis and shortstop Mellor. Zoey Proctor also is a senior.
While it is now clear the Mariners will face the Tigers for the third time this season — this time with a berth in the state Class B championship on the line — Worcester said no matter who the Mariners play, they will be ready.
“We just want to play,” said Worcester. “We’ll play anybody. We feel like if we play the kind of game we played today we can beat anybody.”
Oceanside does not play Old Town or Hermon during the regular season. The Mariners beat No. 6 Washington Academy of East Machias 1-0 and Old Town downed No. 7 Winslow 4-0 in earlier quarterfinal playoff games.
Oceanside also split two games with Gardiner this season, losing 2-1 in a May 17 regular-season game in Thomaston and downing the Tigers 4-0 May 31 in Winslow to win the KVAC Class B title.
Interestingly, the top four teams in Eastern Class B finished their regular seasons 15-1.