After a decade’s worth of close calls, the Greely softball team finally got back to the Class B state final last weekend, but the Rangers’ dream of winning an elusive championship fell just short.
Through five innings of Saturday’s showdown with Oceanside at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, Greely, behind senior ace Danielle Cimino, clung to a 1-0 lead, but unfortunately for the Rangers, they had to play seven innings and the final two frames were cruel.
The Mariners scored three runs in the top of the sixth, then added five in the seventh as they went on to an 8-1 victory, ending Greely’s season at 15-5.
The Rangers, who lost to Fryeburg in last year’s regional final, welcomed a new coach this spring in Jess Gomez, then won 12 of 16 games to earn the No. 4 seed in Western B. After a 9-3 win over No. 12 Yarmouth in the quarterfinals, Greely finally slayed the Fryeburg dragon, 2-1, in the semis. That sent the Rangers to St. Joe’s for the regional final Wednesday of last week against surprise finalist Gray-New Gloucester, the No. 6 seed, which had upset second-ranked Cape Elizabeth.
Cimino gave up a leadoff triple in the first inning, but escaped the jam to keep it scoreless.
“I had to manage the inning,” said Cimino. “I had to be mentally tough. I couldn’t let it get to me. I had to stay calm and within myself.”
The Patriots did get a run in the third, but Greely battled back with two.
With one out, Sarah Felkel singled and Haley Felkel reached on an error. A second out moved them over. Then Cimino dropped a bunt in front of the plate. The pitcher bobbled the ball and Cimino beat the throw to first while Sarah Felkel scored.
“It was a squeeze,” said Cimino. “I knew I had to get it down. It wasn’t the greatest pitch. I was a little worried because it had a little air underneath it, but it dropped and it was far enough up from them to get to it.”
Twitchell followed with a single to plate Haley Felkel and gave the Rangers the lead.
“Fortunately, I was in that same situation in the Fryeburg game, so I had some experience going into it,” said Twitchell. “I was looking for a pitch I could hit. I’ve been working on the outside pitches and luckily, it was there. We always have an inning where we come back. When we got runners at first and second, we had our engine going and we got hits. We were able to execute.”
Gray-New Gloucester had other chances, but couldn’t convert and Greely held on to prevail, 2-1.
“The girls have improved so much from day one,” said Gomez. “It’s absolutely astonishing to see that improvement, to see the way they play, the way they hustle. They play together and they’re a great definition of team.”
Saturday, the Rangers took part in just their second ever state game (Greely, behind ace Sarah Bennis, beat Erskine, 1-0, in 10 innings, to win the 2002 title), against an Oceanside squad they had never faced.
Greely took a 1-0 lead in the second when Audrey Mann singled home Miranda Moore.
Cimino held that lead until the sixth, when the Mariners took advantage of some shaky defense to push across three runs.
The bottom fell out in the seventh, when Oceanside (a combination of the former Rockland and Georges Valley High Schools) scored five more runs.
Cimino retired 13 of the first 15 batters she faced and wound up allowing six hits. She had seven strikeouts, two walks and hit a batter.
Look for Greely, which returns several key contributors, to build on this year’s experience and make another run in 2014.
Sun Journal staff writer Kevin Mills contributed to this story.
Greely sophomore Audrey Mann lines a run-scoring hit in the second inning of Saturday’s Class B state final against Oceanside. Unfortunately for the Rangers, that’s all the offense they could muster and the Mariners rallied for an 8-1 triumph.