OAKLAND — With so much focus on what’s known as “small ball” in high school softball, sometimes you forget about the big stick in the lineup. On Wednesday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Field, that stick was the sole property of Messalonskee’s Katie Guarino.

Guarino hit her first home run of the season — a monster shot to straightaway center field in the bottom of the fifth inning — to lift the top-seeded Eagles to a 1-0 victory over No. 9 Mt. Ararat in a Class A North quarterfinal.

The senior first baseman took a crack at the first offering from Mt. Ararat pitcher Alana Weaver, lifting it over everything with a towering fly ball.

“When the time is that we need them, it’s the best time to have them,” Guarino said. “Last time we played them (in the season opener in April), I was 4 for 4 hitting, so it’s pretty nice to have that happen today.”

Guarino became the fifth different Eagle to homer this season, according to Messalonskee coach Leo Bouchard, which is a far cry from the 2015 state championship team powered by eight home runs from the now-graduated Kristy Prelgovisk out of the No. 3 spot in the order.

Guarino hit seventh Wednesday.

“Last year, we had Kristy and it was nice to have that threat in the middle of the order,” Bouchard said. “We don’t have that this year, but this year these girls one through nine in the order can hit the ball and make things happen.”

Mt. Ararat (10-8) had chances in the early innings to grab the go-ahead run, putting runners on base in each of the first four innings before coming up empty. Twice runners at first were picked off by Messalonskee catcher Taylor Easler after straying too far off first base, and another runner was erased by a double play in the third inning.

Still, Weaver worked around a couple of errors and two Messalonskee hits in the first four innings to keep the game scoreless.

“She’s pitched every inning for us this year,” Mt. Ararat coach Allan Graffam said. “That’s been Alana all year. In over 500 at-bats, she’s only walked 11. She’s been incredibly steady for us.”

The stage was set for Guarino in the fifth, who relied on a lesson learned in her first at-bat of the game in the second inning. Swinging at the first offering from Weaver in that frame, Guarino just missed homering with a blistering line drive that Mt. Ararat center fielder Belle Benner went back a few steps on before reaching over her head to haul in.

“She pitches it pretty nice on the first pitch,” Guarino said of Weaver. “I took it on the first pitch the first time, and it didn’t happen for me. Whenever it comes down the middle and not outside, I can usually do something with it.”

Armed with the lead for the first time in the game, Gatorade Player of the Year Kirsten Pelletier found the form that eluded her in the early going to close the door on the visitors, retiring the final eight batters of the game — striking out the side in the sixth — to close out the victory.

“I didn’t hit my corners as well as I should have today,” Pelletier said. “But we recovered and got the win, and we get to go again (in the semifinals).”

Pelletier finished with a three-hit shutout, including 10 strikeouts and just one walk, to remain unbeaten on the season. She recorded five of the strikeouts on changeups.

“That’s important. We have to incorporate that pitch more into our game plan,” Pelletier said of the offspeed pitch. “It kind of went away halfway through the season, but it’s something we need to keep working on.”

Messalonskee will play either No. 4 Edward Little or No. 5 Cony in a regional semifinal Saturday at 3 p.m. Those teams play Thursday.

“I’ve got six seniors out there,” Bouchard said. “They’re graduating (Thursday), they’ve got Project Graduation Friday and then they’ve got a playoff game on Saturday. They’ve got a lot on their minds right now. We knew this game was going to be a tough one, because this (Mt. Ararat) team is good.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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