High school softball

'Young, dangerous' Oceanside puts another feather in cap with win over Old Town

No. 3 Mariners score three in sixth to beat No. 2 Coyotes in semifinals, punch ticket back to regional championship game
By Ken Waltz | Jun 10, 2018
Photo by: Ken Waltz Oceanside's Jessica Watkinson lays down a bunt in front of Old Town catcher Jayden Cain, as well as the umpire, on June 9 during a high school softball game. The visiting Mariners beat the Coyotes 3-0 in a Class B North semifinal playoff game.

Old Town — Each off-season, when longtime high school softball coach Rusty Worcester is asked to project the fortunes of next spring's team, he looks the questioner in the eye, and with a wry smile on his face, states in a matter-of-fact tone: "Well, as usual, we will be young and dangerous."

Worcester's teams are, of course, not always young, but they are, year after year, without fail, always dangerous.

And this year's version of the Oceanside Mariners is especially young and, of course, dangerous. Very, very dangerous.

And if one does not believe that, simply ask the 17 opponents the Mariners have defeated this spring, with the latest being an impressive doozy, as No. 3 Oceanside rallied for three late runs to notch a 3-0 Class B North semifinal playoff victory over No. 2 Old Town, the two-time defending state champions, on a glorious late-spring afternoon Saturday, June 9.

Watch video, and see more photos, below.

The victory accomplished two things for the high-flying, smooth-sailing Mariners. It, at some level, avenged last year's 1-0, eight-inning regional final loss to Old Town and also thrust Oceanside back into that high profile regional title game against No. 1 Brewer (18-0) on Wednesday, June 13 at 3 p.m. at Coffin Field in Brewer.

The Witches beat No. 5 Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft (15-4) 10-1 in another semifinal playoff game.

The Mariners have dropped two close, competitive games against the Witches this year, including 4-2 in the regular season and 3-2 in nine innings in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title game.

How did the Mariners earn the chance to beat Old Town on Saturday. Well they did it with back-to-back, early-round home victories in recent days, including 3-0 over No. 6 Medomak Valley of Waldoboro (11-7) on Thursday, June 7 and 1-0 over No. 14 Mount Desert Island (9-8) on Wednesday, June 6.

Oceanside did not play Old Town during the regular season.

The Mariners (17-2) pulled past the Coyotes (16-2) on Saturday thanks to patience, perseverance, timely hitting, aggressive base running, stellar defense and the always-steady, often dominating pitching of Chloe Jones.

Oceanside received strong contributions from many players, from several of the team's six freshmen and one senior.

The game was scoreless until the top of the sixth inning when the Mariners plated all the runs they — and Jones — needed.

"Like I said from the start, they are the defending state champs," said Oceanside coach Rusty Worcester of Old Town. "They were the team you had to beat."

The coach said the Mariners came to the same field five years ago — to the day — and beat Old Town in a playoff game as Kennadi Grover, now a Mariner assistant coach, belted two home runs to center field — a victory that helped propel that 2013 team to the school's first state championship.

"We talked about that game," Worcester said. "We needed to come in here and hit the ball hard, put the ball in play and we did that. We had great pitching and defense. You put those things together, even though these players are young and dangerous, they can play with anybody."

Kennadi Grover, whose younger sister Kalli is a member of this year's Mariner squad, said she felt so into Saturday's game as the first-base coach, greeting and instructing each runner who passed her way.

"It was just so awesome, it was just like I was back playing again," Kennadi said. "I was on first and I was like hitting again and getting the goosebumps again just like I did before," even though she essentially was experiencing the game through an extension of the players. "It was a big, big win for all of us."

In the top of the sixth inning, the pivotal uprising for the visitors, Hannah Moholland keyed the rally with a one-out double down the right-field line and scampered to third on a single to left field by Casey Pine, the team's lone senior, to left field. Jones helped her cause with a solid RBI-single between third and shortstop, and was replaced by courtesy runner Lily Judecki, before Kalli Grover delivered a run-scoring hit to center field. Jessica Watkinson, a freshman, again came up clutch with  ground ball single to center for the final insurance run.

The Mariner offense was paced by Raechel Joyce (double), Moholland (double, run), Pine (single, stolen base, run, RBI), Jones (single), Judecki (steal, run), Grover (single, RBI), Grace Woodman (single, steal) and Watkinson (2 singles, RBI).

Jones again was consistently efficient and strong with her work from the pitching circle, as she allowed two hits, a walk and recorded eight strikeouts.

"This was an amazing win today, we did phenomenally in the infield and outfield, everywhere," Jones said. "I think we did amazing."

Jones said she does get a bit nervous being the center of attention and the go-to player in the pitching circle, with the ball in her hand for every pitch, but she makes it fun and tries not to put too much pressure on herself.

"I feel this year was a lot different than last year's game with Old Town because this year we were hitting the ball," Jones said, adding that Smith is an incredible pitcher and tough to hit. "This year we were keeping each other up, even when we made a mistake. It was just a great atmosphere to be in."

Catcher Abby Veilleux also played a positive role in the pitcher's performance. Veilleux also took a hard foul ball off the facemask/helmet late in the game that momentarily shook her up, but she returned to her position behind the plate.

In fact, only one Old Town batter reached third base.

For the Coyotes, McKenna Smith (8 hits, walk, 10 strikeouts ) also pitched well, and Jayden Cain (triple) and Olivia Albert (single) had the team's hits.

Coach Worcester said what this year's Mariner squad, with one senior, five juniors, a sophomore and six freshmen, has accomplished is remarkable.

"It is all about the program and the girls buying into the program, which is 20 years deep (with Oceanside and Georges Valley combined for the coach). We just keep playing our game. I adjust it to the players I have. Sometimes I have power hitters, sometimes I have some base runners. We have just tried to get the freshmen up to speed and they have done a great job. And when those freshmen step up like they did today, it just rolls right to the top of our order and that is really good."

Pine said the Mariners understood, after facing the talented Smith last year in the regional final, that she threw plenty of strikes and would be tough to generate a lot of offense against.

"So it was just having good spirits, all of our leaders, seniors and juniors, staying up and not let the freshmen get down on themselves. That really helped us out a lot," Pine said.

Pine added that just because she technically is the team's lone senior, it does not feel that way. "It is not just me," Pine said. "The juniors help out so much. I am not the only 'senior,' I feel like we have six of them."

Pine said she and her teammates are well aware that softball games between talented, competitive, evenly-matched opponents can be scoreless before someone breaks through to pull out the victory. She said she is just happy this time it was the Mariners who made the key plays and hits.

Joyce, one of the team's spark plugs on the field and in the dugout, especially with her chants/cheers when runners are on base, or "ducks are on the pond," said, "I am definitely the loudest cheerer in the dugout. I like to make everyone know they can do it. That we are all ready to go and that we believe in them. I want them to know they can do it themselves. I know a lot of the freshmen get anxious up there. They don't really want to swing or execute. I know, because I was a varsity starter as a freshman too, I know how anxious you can get up there … I want them to know we've got their backs."

She said as a junior, she feels she has to lead back example all over the field and in the dugout. "I always do my best to show them how they should do it," Joyce said. "And even if I do something wrong, I say, 'Next play, next play. We can do it. Next one.' "

As for her flapping of her arms and shouting "ducks on the pond" from the dugout, Joyce said last year senior Alexis Mazurek started the chant. "Now that she is gone, I love that, I still want everyone to do it. We got the arms going, we have the quack going, now it is just part of the team."

After the Mariners went down in order in the top of the first inning, Old Town threatened when Cain tripled with one out in the bottom of the frame. But the Mariner defense stiffened and stranded the Coyote 60 feet from home plate.

Neither team mustered a hint of offense in the second frame as Jones fanned the side and Smith had two strikeouts to keep Oceanside at bay.

Trouble brewed for the Mariners in the third as Woodman led with a single and stole second, but she was stranded when Smith struck out two and induced a pop-up back to the circle.

Meanwhile, Jones continued to cruise and it appeared she and her teammates would bust open the scoreless tie in the top of the fourth inning as Joyce led with a double, Pine walked with one out and Jones reached on an error to load the bases, but the visitors could not score.

Old Town wasted Albert's two-out single in the bottom of the inning, and Watkinson singled to start the fifth, only to be thrown out as she attempted to steal second base.

At that point it remained scoreless, something the Mariners might have expected, given the opponent. "We love close games," Joyce said. "It is not as fun when you are winning by like 10 runs … There is no real pump-up about it. It is better when it is a close game."

After Oceanside broke out to take a 3-0 lead in the top of the sixth stanza, Jones and her teammates — also thanks to a sweet leaping catch by second baseman Joyce in the seventh — retired six of the final seven Coyote batters to sail onto the regional championship game for the second straight year.

And a third meeting on the year with unbeaten Brewer.

"We have no problem playing them for a third time," Worcester said. "Two good teams going head to head once again will be fun. Matter of fact, after the KVAC game, [the] Brewer coach [Harry "Skip" Estes] said to me, 'See you in the finals.' And now it's worked out that we will.

"They are a tremendous team, obviously being undefeated on the year, but we will give it everything we have and leave everything out on the field. Remember we are young but dangerous. We have nothing to loose. We will be ready."

Oceanside at Old Town softball
Old Town hosts Oceanside on June 9 in high school softball. (Video by: Ken Waltz and Holly Vanorse Spicer)
Oceanside's Chloe Jones. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Kalli Grover. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Kalli Grover, right, and Raechel Joyce. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Hannah Robinson. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Hannah Robinson. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Hannah Robinson. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Jessica Watkinson. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Kalli Grover, front, and Grace Woodman. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Hannah Robinson, right, and Old Town's Jayden Cain. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Jessica Watkinson. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Abby Veilleux. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Raechel Joyce, right, and Old Town's Jayden Cain. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Hannah Moholland, right, and Old Town's Jayden Cain. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Hannah Moholland, right, and assistant coach Kennadi Grover. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Hannah Moholland. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Casey Pine, right, and Old Town's Jayden Cain. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Chloe Jones, right, and Old Town's Jayden Cain. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Grace Woodman, right, and Abby Veilleux. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Chloe Jones, right, and assistant coach Kennadi Grover. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Kalli Grover, right, and Old Town's Jayden Cain. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Grace Woodman, left, and coach Rusty Worcester. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Jessica Watkinson, front, and her teammate in the dugout. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Abby Veilleux, takes a moment after being hit in the facemask/helmet by a hard foul ball. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
From left, Oceanside's Kalli Grover, Raechel Joyce and Casey Pine. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
Oceanside's Chloe Jones. (Photo by: Ken Waltz)
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