BY GARY HAWKINS
GARDINER — Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B softball teams looking for weaknesses in the Gardiner lineup this season are still looking.
The Tigers have two fire-balling pitchers in Brittany Rollins and Kristal Smith, a sound, versatile defense and can they hit.
Tuesday, they collected 16 hits, including five doubles, in defeating Leavitt 11-2. The two runs, both unearned, were the first surrendered by the Tigers (6-0) this season. So far they’ve outscored their opponents 84-2.
“We are definitely hitting a lot better than we have in the last couple of years,” said Rollins, who singled twice, doubled and drove in four runs. “I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a better team but we;re still very good.”
The Tigers have yet to hit the meat of their schedule, but the Hornets (3-3) gave them their best test to date. Gardiner broke the game open with four runs in the fourth inning, the big hit a two-run double to the left-center field gap by No. 9 batter Julia Nadeau. At least everyone in the starting lineup had a least one hit. Smith had three while Morgan Carver and Nadeau each doubled and singled.
“We work a ton on our hitting,” Gardiner coach Ginger Shaw said. “You’re only as strong as your (greatest) weakness. We’re working on not having that weakness.”
Leavitt managed two hits,both from Kaitlyn Deblois, while freshman Abbie Robertson went the distance on the mound.
“We’ve got a ways to go,” Leavitt coach Pete Higgins said. “It’s good to play a better team and they were better than us.”
Rollins drew the start and struck out eight in four innings. Deblois broke up her no-hitter with a solid doubled to left with two out in the fourth.
She is a quality hitter,” Higgins said, She’s got quick wrists you don’t throw it by her.” The Tigers got some timely hits. Carver doubled with two out in the first inning and scored on a single from Rollins. And in the third, Rollins singled home a pair of runs with two out again.
Smith replaced Rollins to start the fifth and didn’t have her usual control as she walked the first batter. She sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a hit batter and escaped damage when Carver, who had moved to catcher, threw out a runner attempting to take third on a passed ball.
“It doesn’t give you as much time to mentally prepared,’ said Smith, who usually alternates starts with Rollins. “You have to make the adjustment quickly.”
A dropped popup led to two Gardiner runs in the fifth followed by an RBI singled from Lilly Chepke, and Smith singled home the final run in the sixth. The Hornets got o the board in the seventh when Deblois led the inning with a single followed by to infield errors, the second scoring both runs. The Tigers averted further damage when Ellie Luken caught a fly ball in center and doubled a runner off second base and Smith ended the game with her fifth strikeout. Rollins and Smith were easily the two hardest throwing pitchers the Hornets have seen this season.
“In years past that probably was the norm,” Higgins said. “Today that’s the exception and they have two of them.”