WINTHROP — It blared over the speakers during pregame warmups. It was mildly sung during the postgame circle.

A common theme for the Winthrop softball team has come from the band Journey and its 1981 hit song “Don’t stop believin’.”

Two years ago, the Ramblers were struggling to find players to field a team. Today, Winthrop is on its way to the regional final, and is a win away from the program’s first trip to a state championship game.

Thanks to a six-run offensive outburst in the first inning, the No. 2-ranked Ramblers beat No. 3 Monmouth 7-4 in a Class C South semifinal on Saturday.

“It feels amazing,” Winthrop shortstop Amber Raymond said. “My sophomore year, we just started out losing, like every game, and we’d win two or three games. Now we’re here.”

“This is unbelievable for (the players),” Winthrop head coach Irwin Gurney added. “My goal for these kids this year was to go 8-8, and we’re playing in the southern Maine final. It’s absolutely incredible.”

Winthrop (13-5) will face No. 1 Madison (17-1) in the regional final at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Monmouth finished 13-5.

The Mustangs jumped out to a 2-0 lead to start the contest, highlighted by an RBI single from catcher Abby Ferland.

Winthrop responded in the bottom of the inning with its six-run output. Moriah Hajduk led off the attack with a single, followed by a walk to catcher Kayleigh Oberg. Rambler pitcher Layne Audet followed with a base hit to center field, before Raymond plated Winthrop’s first two runs of the game with a single to left field. Molly Glaser then crushed an Emily Chasse pitch over the head of left fielder Julia Johnson for a two-run double. Bry Baxter walked, and two batters later right fielder Hanna Caprara cracked a Chasse pitch down the right field line for a two-run double, giving Winthrop the 6-2 advantage.

The Mustangs cut into the lead in the third inning. Second baseman Mariah Herr reached base on a single, and two batters later third baseman Hannah Anderson crushed a face-high pitch to the right-center field gap for an RBI triple. Anderson scored moments later on a Winthrop error, bringing the score to 6-4 in favor of the Ramblers.

After a rough first inning, Chasse settled down for Monmouth, allowing just three more hits the rest of the way.

“Em was having trouble locating (pitches) that first inning, that’s when they had their big inning,” Monmouth head coach Dave Kaplan said. “After that, she was a shutdown pitcher for six innings.”

Winthrop cemented the game in the fifth, when Raymond smacked a Chasse pitch into the right field gap for an RBI triple. The hit plated Oberg to give the Ramblers a 7-4 lead.

“I look at these letters on the bat that I use,” Raymond said. “I just focus in, and I swing it when I see it.”

It’s the first time this season Winthrop defeated the Mustangs. The Ramblers dropped a 6-5 extra-inning decision to Monmouth on May 5.

“We normally would score more than that,” Kaplan said. “Against this team last time, we had 17 hits. We had seven or eight (Saturday). We didn’t get the bats rolling like we normally do. It killed the rallies.”

Kaplan said he looks forward to a future rivalry with the Ramblers, as both teams are young and on the rise.

“We’ve got everybody back (next year) but one,” Kaplan said. “We’re looking good, they are too. They’re losing Oberg, and that’s huge, but they’ve got good kids coming up. It’s going to be a battle.”

For the Ramblers, it’s on to the Bulldogs, and a possible date with history. Winthrop lost 10-5 to Madison on May 10 and 7-3 on May 24.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer