GARDINER — The pair plaques — received after the Gardiner softball team won the 1985 and 86 Southern Division Championship — rest on a folded section of bleachers inside the John A. Bragoli Memorial Gym on a dreary Tuesday afternoon.

The pieces of hardware serve as a not-so-subtle reminder of a championship drought that is pushing 20 years. And if they had eyes, they’d be staring directly at the latest group of Tigers who believe — or at least hope — that this could finally be the year.

“This is a dream come true for us,” said center fielder and leadoff hitter Kylee Granholm, one of just three seniors on the team. “It’s crazy. We are finally here. This is our last go at it. Hopefully, we can go out and get it.”

Top-seeded Gardiner (17-1) will play No. 3 Oceanside (17-1) in the Eastern B championship game at 7 Thursday night at Brewer High School.

The Tigers seek their first conference title since 1986, when their coach, Ginger Shaw, was a junior.

“The kids are hungry to prove that they can play with anybody,” she said. “We’re trying to get the mojo going.”

Indeed, the Tigers are a nostalgic bunch these days.

Shaw carries around a heart-shaped rock and a four-leaf clover, mementos she hopes will bring good fortunes against a powerful Oceanside team that rocked Gardiner 4-0 in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B title game.

The heart-shaped rock was discovered in the team’s dugout during a doubleheader on Memorial Day weekend.

Infielder Lilly Chepke found the four-leaf clover prior to the 3-1 victory over Hermon in the regional semifinal Monday.

“Whatever it takes,” Shaw said with a laugh. “We’ll take all the mojo we can get.”

On Tuesday, Shaw also dusted off the championship plaques from the mid-1980s and brought them to practice.

The team took a break from a rare indoor practice to talk about history.

“We had a little talk,” Granholm said. “We talked about the last time we won.”

Added senior catcher Steph Plourde: “It was pretty cool. We haven’t won a state championship since 1980, and that is what we’re gunning for.”

Of course, it’s going to take more than good luck charms to knock off Oceanside.

The Mariners feature pitcher Rachel Frye, who’s been dominant this spring. Oceanside bounced Old Town from the tournament in the other semifinal Monday.

The rainout Tuesday will allow the Mariners to bring back their ace tonight.

“The rain probably benefited them more because they only have one pitcher,” Shaw said, “but it did help us, too. We were able to go over some things.”

Added senior infielder Taylor Banister: “We’ve seen Frye two times already and we’re 1-1 against her. We know what to expect.”

The Tigers feature pitchers Kristal Smith and Brittany Rollins. Shaw hadn’t decided Tuesday who would start, but said there’s a “90 percent chance Oceanside will see both of them.”

“We just don’t know which one they’ll see first,” she added.

Gardiner also features a deep lineup with a mix of power and speed. It will need a little of both elements to subdue the Mariners on Thursday.

“Hopefully, we can come at them hard,” Granholm said. “We’ll be ready.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640
[email protected]

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