GARDINER — For the first time in more than a decade, the Mt. Blue softball team will participate in the regional quarterfinals.

Cony closed the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference schedule Friday afternoon with a 9-3 loss to Gardiner, officially eliminating the Rams from the Class A North tournament field. With the defeat, Mt. Blue held onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the region by less than half of a Heal point.

The final margin separating the No. 8 Cougars from the No. 9 Rams: 0.489 points.

Mt. Blue (8-8) will travel to meet undefeated top-seed Skowhegan (16-0) in the quarterfinals, likely next Thursday at a time to be determined. The Cougars earned a preliminary-round berth in 2014, which they lost to Hampden Academy that season.

The team has not made a postseason appearance since before the 2009 season, according to Maine Principals’ Association records dating back only that far.

A four-game winning streak in the second half of the season was enough to lift the Cougars into the tournament field, despite losing three straight to close out the regular season. Mt. Blue played three of the top four teams in the region — No. 1 Skowhegan, No. 2 Oxford Hills and No. 4 Edward Little over its final three contests.

Mt. Blue lost both regular-season meetings against Skowhegan, by scores of 5-0 and 14-1.

Cony and Mt. Blue met just once this spring, with Mt. Blue earning a 1-0 win on April 24. That victory was enough to provide separation between the two teams in the standings.

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