NEWPORT — For a while, it seemed as if the Gardiner and Nokomis high school softball teams would play all night. As the seventh inning became the eighth, then ninth, neither team could take advantage of baserunners or the opponents’ mistakes. Both undefeated, neither gave an inch.
“We had several chances we did not capitalize on,” Gardiner coach Ginger Shaw said. “We talked about those.”
In the top of the tenth inning, Shaw’s Tigers finally broke through, with an improbable seven run rally with two outs to take a 10-3 win over the Warriors.
“We really wanted it,” Gardiner third baseman Lilly Chepke, who hit a key three-run double in the tenth inning, said. “All season, we’ve been looking to this last game.”
Gardiner, now 16-0, waits for the playoffs. Nokomis, now 14-1, finishes the regular season against Maine Central Institute on Wednesday.
“It was a great game, a great crowd,” Nokomis coach J.D. McLellan said. “I don’t remember the last time we went 10 innings.”
In the top of the tenth inning, Nokomis pitcher Sara Packard got two quick outs before Nicole Chadwick beat out an infield single to extend the inning — and start the rally. Julia Nadeau and Bri Brochu hit back-to-back singles to load the bases for Chepke, who lined a double down the left field line to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead.
“I was thinking, two outs, bases loaded, I’ve got to do it for my team,” Chepke said. “It was me and the pitcher. I didn’t hear anything else.”
After Morgan Carver was hit by a pitch, Kristal Smith hit a two-run double to make the lead 8-3. A Nokomis error led to another run and after Brittany Rollins walked, Katelyn Boyington’s RBI single gave Gardiner the seven run cushion.
McLellan said the outburst was the result of Packard’s fatigue and Gardiner’s potent lineup. Tired, Packard started to hang pitches.
“I wanted her to win or lose it. She pitched a great game,” McLellan said. “A team as good as they hit, you hang a few, they’ll take advantage.”
The Warriors went quietly in the bottom of the tenth to end the game. Smith, who came on in relief of Rollins in the sixth, earned the win. The Gardiner pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts. Shaw said the plan wasn’t to use both pitchers, but about midway through the game, she and the coaching staff decided it would be best to make the change.
“That Nokomis team is an excellent club. That’s the best test we’ve had,” Shaw said. “We saw about the fourth inning where this was all going. We as a coaching staff decided to make that change, and it worked for both (Rollins and Smith).”
In the top of the sixth, the Tigers scored a pair of runs on RBI singles by Boyington and Brochu to take a 3-2 lead. The Warriors answered with a run in the bottom of the inning, when Courtney Carlson scored on a Taylor Shaw groundout. Nokomis took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Shaw scored on a sacrifice bunt by Packard.
Carver had two hits for Gardiner, including a triple. Smith hit two doubles, while Lauren Chadwick had three hits.
Packard struck out five and walked two for Nokomis.