NORTH ANSON — Carrabec softball coach Craig Knight grinned and shook his head over and over in disbelief. The irony was, Knight was seeing something he thought was there all along.

“This is the team I’ve been waiting to see all year,” Knight said. “We played good defense. We got hits when we needed ’em. We didn’t go away. I’m speechless.”

Playing a Monmouth team that was coming off statement wins against Hall-Dale and Lisbon, the Cobras played their finest game of the year. Freshman Sam LeBeau tossed a three-hitter with nine strikeouts as Carrabec scored an upset with Wednesday afternoon’s 3-1 victory.

“That ranks right up there with one of the best games that we’ve played here at Carrabec in a long time,” Knight said. “I remember the 1-0 Mt. Abram game (on the same day in 2011). This one here’s gotta be right there with it.”

Both LeBeau and Monmouth pitcher Katie Canning benefited from a large strike zone. Canning also struck out nine, and threw only 11 balls in 71 pitches. Canning has been at the top of her game lately, and LeBeau worked the strike zone like a veteran.

“Once I got used to it in the beginning, then everything started just falling into place perfectly,” LeBeau said.

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“We don’t take many called third strikes, and we did in this game,” Monmouth coach Dave Kaplan said. “But the biggest thing was — well, there’s two things: We didn’t execute the bunt, and their pitcher probably threw the best game she’s going to throw all year. That kid mixed it up really well. She had a really good drop ball working, keeping us off balance. Change-up just when she needed it. And she was pitching to the umpire’s strike zone, which is a smart way to go.”

Monmouth (3-3) had baserunners in every inning, but hit only two balls out of the infield on the day — a single up the middle by Haley Fletcher in the fourth inning, and a pop fly double by Caroline Bonenfant in the fifth.

The Mustangs went up 1-0 in the second inning in one of the strangest ways possible: Hannah Anderson led off the inning and reached first on a dropped third strike, and scored from third with two out when Sidney Wilson’s bat hit the glove of catcher Bailey Dunphy for catcher’s interference.

In both the second and third innings, Carrabec (3-3) left runners on second and third. Monmouth second baseman Shannon Buzzell saved at least one run when she made a backhand play off a grounder by Brooke Moore to end the third inning.

In the fourth, LeBeau gave up a leadoff single, then struck out three in a row. Mickayla Willette, who was 3 for 3 on the day, started the Carrabec fourth with a bloop triple down the left field line. Willette then scored to tie the game as Paige Chadbourne reached on an error. With two out, Dunphy drilled a single to right field, and Chadbourne came home for a 2-1 lead.

The Cobras had been relaxed and laughing during each inning’s infield drills all game, but the lead seemed to spark their swagger and intensity. In the top of the fifth, Dunphy gunned down a runner trying to steal for the second out, and the Carrabec players reacted with glee, converging in the circle as Dunphy and Willette high-fived each other. After Bonenfant’s double with two out, third baseman Liberty Chestnut made a nice basket catch of a high chopper and got the batter at first base to end the inning.

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“That’s the part of it that we’ve talked about,” Knight said. “At times, we’ve just checked out. We haven’t been with it. But today, 15 strong, we were there. We didn’t check out at all today. They just had it today. When they walked down here and took batting practice, I knew there was something different. Everything just went good today.”

The Cobras needed another nice defensive play to escape with their lead in the sixth. With two out and Fletcher on third, Madi Neal slapped a hard grounder off Chestnut and over to Willette at shortstop. Willette’s throw barely beat Neal at first.

Carrabec added its last run in the sixth, as Willette and Chadbourne singled and Kilee Nile’s bunt scored pinch runner Taylor Nile. LeBeau finished off the Mustangs in the seventh, but Kaplan was confident his team would bounce back.

“I know we will,” Kaplan said. “We’re too good not to bounce back. We’re going to do some hard hitting work and bunting work at practice. We need to pick it up, and we need to get the energy level up. Long bus ride. They came off the bus flat. We’ve got to overcome that.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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