AUGUSTA — Gardiner catcher Jazmin Clary declared herself “an animal” in the dugout during the second inning on Thursday at Brann Field, then she spent the rest of the afternoon proving it.

The junior went 2 for 3 with a double, three runs scored and an RBI, providing the constant pressure the Tigers forced rival Cony to buckle under en route to a 9-4 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference victory. For Gardiner, it was a third straight win following a season-opening loss to reigning Class B state champion Brewer, while Cony dropped to 1-2 having already accumulated more games played (3) than practice days outdoors (1) this spring.

Gardiner’s recipe was simple: Put the ball in play and make Cony get you out. More often than not, the Tigers benefited from the strategy.

“We usually have the mindset to know that it has to be that way, but it’s weird that the outcome always works out,” Clary said. “That’s pretty much what we try to do. It works every time.”

Gardiner third baseman Kylie Maschino fields a ball during a game Thursday against Cony at Newman Brann Memorial Field in Augusta. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Neither starting pitcher — Gabby McGuire for Cony, Jill Bisson for Gardiner — threw poorly, but neither combatted the opposing lineup with her best stuff, either. There were just 12 hits in the game, split evenly between the two clubs, only a handful of strikeouts and three total walks.

Where things broke down in the 2 hour, 10 minute game was defensively. Eight errors led to 10 unearned runs among the 13 to cross the plate. All five Gardiner runs in the third inning led to a 6-0 lead the Tigers would not relinquish, despite mustering just one hit through the opening three frames.

“Make them work. Strikeouts are easy,” Gardiner coach Don Brochu said. “You’ve got to make them catch the ball and throw it to get you out. We always want to hit the ball and just get it in play.”

Three Gardiner errors in the fifth pulled Cony to within 6-4, with Carly Lettre, Alexis Couverette and Jaden Bowley delivering consecutive RBIs from the 3-4-5 spots in the Rams lineup.

The tension was short-lived, however. Bisson killed that rally with back-to-back strikeouts to close out the fifth, then worked around a one-out single in the sixth and a one-out walk in the seventh. In all, Bisson stranded seven runners on base on the afternoon, four of them in scoring position.

“Our runs that we scored, they were all based on (Gardiner’s) errors. We didn’t have an earned run,” Cony coach Angela McKenna said. “That’s a major flaw. (Hitting) is usually where we’re strong.”

Cony’s Gabriella McGuire slides safely into third as Gardiner third baseman Kylie Maschino waits for the throw during a game on Thursday at Newman Brann Memorial Field in Augusta. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“(Bisson) is tough,” Brochu said. “She’s tougher than a bag of nails.”

Clary, who’d scored on a wild pitch in the second to open the scoring, went all the way to third on a bases-loaded error on a ball she swatted to Cony third baseman Brooklyn Belanger in the third and went from first to third on a wild pitch after singling in the fifth, keyed a three-run Gardiner seventh with a double to left. She would eventually score on Sydney Bartunek’s delayed squeeze bunt after McGuire froze briefly upon fielding the ball in front of home plate.

Those types of defensive decisions, ones not recorded as errors despite allowing Gardiner to wreak havoc on the base paths, hurt Cony more than anything on Thursday.

“We made some errors based on the fact that we’ve been in a gym for several weeks now,” McKenna said. “I think the girls know they made some mistakes and they know what they did.”

In the middle of it all, Clary provided the Tigers with an engine to churn out another early-season win.

Cony pitcher Gabby McGuire during a game on Thursday April 25, 2019 at Newman Brann Memorial Field in Augusta. (Staff photo by Joe Phelan/Staff Photographer) Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“Usually when we get on the bus, I plug in headphones and listen to game day music,” Clary said. “I usually don’t talk to anyone else, because I have to get my mindset. If I don’t, the games are horrible for me. It’s terrible. But I keep doing it, and it’s working really well for me.”

Maggie Bell was 2 for 4 with a pair of bunt singles and an RBI for Gardiner, while McGuire had two singles and a run scored for Cony.

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