GARDINER — Leavitt Area High School softball coach Kevin Leonard had a bad feeling about his team’s chances on the bus ride to a game at Gardiner Area High School Friday. Tigers Pitcher Kristal Smith wasted little time in turning those worries into reality.

After giving up a leadoff, bloop single to right to start the game, Smith bounced back to strike out the side and faced little resistance from there in Gardiner’s 6-0 win over the Hornets Friday.

She tossed a two-hitter with one walk and 11 strikeouts to run her record to 9-0 this season. The Eastern Class B-leading Tigers are 10-0, while Leavitt falls to 7-3 in Western B.

“I’ll be honest with you, for some reason we just don’t have the confidence when it comes to really good clubs,” Leonard said. “…(It’s tough) when you come down here and you know you’ve got your hands full right from the start. We gave it the best shot and we’ll keep plugging.”

Smith took a business-like approach to her work in the circle Friday. Sensing her opposition had trouble catching up to her fastball, she rarely went to off-speed pitches and effectively worked the entire strike zone. Leavitt had just four balls leave the infield — only one of which was hit hard — and Smith ended the game with the same edge she started it with, striking out the side in the top of the seventh.

“I try to start off giving the impression that I am mad,” Smith said. “Leavitt’s a good team, they’re good offensively and defensively, so you just have to throw your hardest.

“My fastball was definitely hitting 60 (MPH Friday) and if I can get them on the fastball, why throw anything else until they hit it?”

Smith was particularly at her best against the heart of the Hornets’ lineup. Leavitt’s two-three-four hitters combined to go 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts and two groundouts to the pitcher. Smith was quick to point out, though, it was not just her that got the job done Friday as her defense did not commit an error behind her.

“We came ready to play today. We definitely had the focus level,” Smith said. “We were loud in the dugout, everyone came together, and we got the hits that we needed to and the defense supplied all the effort. It wasn’t just me.

“…(The defense was) excellent. It’s not always me, it’s not always just one person. Everyone does their job and everyone backs each other up.”

Offensively, Gardiner wasted little time in getting all the runs it would need for the contest. Bri Brochu led off the bottom of the first with a single but wound up on second after a throwing error. She proceeded to steal third and two pitches later came home on an RBI double from Lilly Chepke.

Smith then singled in between a popout to left and lineout to short to put runners on second and third. Julia Nadeau followed with a single to score Chepke, but Smith got hung up in between third and home trying to score from second. She was eventually tagged out trying to scramble back to third.

The two runs would prove to be more than enough, yet Gardiner continued to plug away at the plate.

Morgan Carver pushed the lead to 3-0 after two innings when she scored on a single from Brochu. A double from Smith with one out in the fifth plated Lauren Chadwick, and Smith — after advancing to third on a groundout to Leavitt shortstop Angela Daigle — later scored when Nadeau reached on an error. Gardiner closed out its scoring similarly to the way it began, as Brochu singled with two outs in the sixth, stole second and scored on a single from Chepke. Brochu finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Chepke was 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored. Smith and Carver each went 2-for-3 at the plate.

“That was pretty good game all around,” Gardiner coach Don Brochu said. “We’ve been solid defensively and hitting, it’s there. It’s where we need to be at.”

For Don Brochu — who is in his first year as Gardiner’s head coach after a number of years serving as an assistant — and his Tigers, Friday’s game was an example of just how far they’ve come in the month since the season started.

“Our first game they played us tough. Their defense is strong,” Brochu, referring to a 4-2 win at Leavitt on April 24, said. “We’re hitting a lot better now than what we did in that first game. That was probably the difference between the two games here.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley


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