GARDINER — Prior to Thursday’s regular season finale against Winslow, Gardiner’s players talked amongst themselves about it being the biggest game of the season.

As anyone who has seen them play the last two years knows, the Tigers don’t just talk a good game. They put up seven runs on the Black Raiders in the first inning, then watched pitcher Kristal Smith submit yet another dominant performance and clinched their second consecutive undefeated regular season with a 12-2 victory.

“Two years in a row, and there’s not a better way to do it — senior night, we beat Winslow, probably the biggest game of the year so far,” Smith said.

With the win, the Tigers also leap-frogged Old Town and Hermon into the top seed for the upcoming Eastern Class B tournament.

“We came ready to play,” Smith said. “We weren’t here to make friends. We were here for strictly business.”

Staked to the big early lead, Smith carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and ended up allowing two hits, a walk, and zero earned runs while striking out nine. Exactly one month earlier in Winslow, the Black Raiders cracked seven hits and scored the second-most runs of any opponent against Smith this season in a 7-5 loss.

“She’s tough. Not a lot of people have hit her,” Winslow coach Steve Bodge said. “We did score five last time with seven hits, but we didn’t have that today. She’s really good every day. She’s probably the premier player in the league.”

“She was spot-on today, hitting the corners where she needs to,” Gardiner coach Don Brochu added. “Pitcher and catcher (Morgan Carver) are working together real well.”

Gardiner’s big first inning started with one out. A walk, wild pitch and error sent Lilly Chepke home with the first run. Two more walks and two hit batters set up an RBI double by Mikala Shaw and RBI singles by Julia Nadeau and Bri Brochu that put the Tigers up 7-0.

“We just came right off the bat and hit, and I think we set the pace of the game,” Bri Brochu said.

“Winslow is definitely talented, and we didn’t take for granted that we beat them the last time, because we knew they wanted to beat us just as bad as we wanted to beat them. So we knew we had to bring our ‘A’ game,” Smith said.

Smith struck out five of the first six Black Raiders and fanned seven through the first four innings without allowing a ball out of the infield. Hayley Pottle had the hardest ball, a liner back to the circle caught by Smith.

Smith allowed her first baserunner with a leadoff walk to Paige Veilleux in the fifth. Jenna Petrovic doubled with two outs in the sixth for the Raiders’ first hit and simultaneously drove in Hannah Doble with their first run. Kiana Richards had Winslow’s other hit and Bailey Robbins drove in the other run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Gardiner added single runs in the second, fourth and fifth and two more in the sixth. Brochu led the Tigers with a single and double and two RBIs, while Lauren Chadwick went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk and scored three runs.

Gardiner will take on Lincoln Academy in the KVAC championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Thomas College, then wait to see who emerges from the preliminary round to travel to Gardiner for the quarterfinals on June 11. Winslow is the No. 6 seed and will host No. 11 Medomak Valley in a prelim on Tuesday.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

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Twitter: @RAWmaterial33