SOUTH CHINA — The Black Bears had it in the bag. And then they didn’t. And then they did again.

And then they almost didn’t. Again.

In the end, senior pitcher Paige Costa stranded the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth inning, tossing Maranacook Community High School to an 8-7 win over Erskine Academy in a Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B softball game on a blustery, overcast Wednesday afternoon.

The Black Bears (2-2) scored four unearned runs in the top of the ninth after squandering a three-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, staking Costa out to an 8-4 lead. Freshman second baseman Amanda Goucher (2 for 4, two doubles, three RBIs) and junior catcher Erin Bonenfant delivered run-scoring singles in the frame after the first four Maranacook batters reached base via error.

Erskine (1-3) nearly fought all the way back in the home half of the ninth despite the four-run deficit. Four of the first five Eagles to bat knocked base hits — the last of which was catcher Taylor McLaggan’s two-run single to center field that made it an 8-6 game.

With the bases loaded and only one out, Jenna Lully scored on a wild pitch that put runners at second and third.

Costa, though, retired Erskine’s Faith Krause and Parker King on pop-ups to first to end it.

“I was getting a little nervous, but I knew my girls could pull through,” Costa, who walked only one batter all day, said of the tenuous final inning. “I wasn’t too worried about it. We just had to do what we had to do and do our jobs.”

“She’s really grown a lot,” Maranacook coach Jeannine Paradis said of Costa. “She’s really come through and matured a lot and started to take that leadership role. She’s really pitched a few good games and done a great job of stepping up for us.”

Both of Maranacook’s wins this season have come in extra innings. The Black Bears beat Nokomis in eight innings on April 24.

“We got some really good timely hitting, especially in some of our bigger innings,” Paradis said. “Some of our regular hitters weren’t hitting as well to begin the game, but they came through in the last couple of innings to really put the pressure back on.”

Ironically, it was good defense that handed Erskine their ninth-inning opportunity. After a leadoff triple from Bonenfant to open the eighth, Eagle pitcher Kayla Hodgkins erased her with some outstanding field awareness — fielding Costa’s sacrifice bunt and turning her back to Bonenfant as if to throw to first. Instead, Hodgkins whirled back around to gun Bonenfant down at home plate.

A hit batter later, Maranacook had two on with just the one out — but Erskine first baseman Alexis Bonenfant made a great play on Kiara Degen’s screaming line drive at the bag to turn an unassisted double play and prevent any damage.

It proved to be just a small reprieve for Erskine, which committed four of its seven errors in the ninth inning.

“We have those innings when things can pile up,” Erskine coach Holly Tripp said. “I call it ‘quicksand,’ because the harder you fight the harder you sink in. But I was really impressed with how we came back from that and didn’t give up offensively… I’m not upset. It’s a hard (loss), but I’m not upset.”

Neither team was particularly sharp early on, combining for five errors in a first inning in which they traded single runs.

Maranacook busted out with three runs in the third to take a 4-1 lead. Erin Bonenfant (2 for 5, three RBIs) drove in two runs with an infield single to the hole in the right side after Goucher’s rare sacrifice fly to the catcher in foul ground had given the Black Bears the lead.

They held that lead until the sixth when the Eagles tied things up with three unearned runs. Eight of the 15 runs scored in the game were unearned — including the winning runs for Maranacook and all four of Erskine’s runs prior to extra innings.

Erskine might have had the go-ahead run score in the sixth on King’s single to right-center field, but Krause was thrown out at the plate by Goucher’s relay throw to home — where Erin Bonenfant, perhaps illegally, Tripp argued briefly, successfully sealed off the plate from Krause.

“We’re still pretty young, we’re still learning the basics, so we’re going to make mistakes,” Paradis said. “We’re going to get better as the season goes on, and it’s really fun to watch these kids develop.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC