GARDINER — There won’t be any softball practice on Saturday at either Gardiner or Cony high schools.

For the Tigers, their 9-3 win over the Rams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference season finale on Friday provided them the reward of a well-earned day off. For the Rams, the loss officially eliminated them from postseason play.

On a day where motivation came in different forms, it was Gardiner (11-5) which proved up to the task. The Tigers scored three runs in the first inning to take an early lead and, led by a highly productive afternoon from the top four in the order, they rarely relented. Senior Jill Bisson went 3 for 3 with a pair of doubles, four runs batted in and three runs scored as the quartet finished up with a 9 for 13 effort (.692) accounting for six runs, five RBIs and three extra base hits.

“They were just making good contact with the ball, hitting line drives and staying relaxed,” said Gardiner coach Don Brochu, whose team swept the two games against Cony this season, having also beaten the Rams 9-4 on April 22. “That’s what we’re trying to work through for playoff time now. You can’t take anything off this time of the season. This is it.”

Bisson, in particular, thought it was a very good day for a Gardiner squad which lost three of four in mid-May. The Tigers locked up the No. 7 seed in Class B North and will likely host Ellsworth on Tuesday in a preliminary round game.

The pitcher said she needed little motivation beyond finishing the regular season on a high note against a blood rival, but she was happy to find some.

“We came in with the mindset that we needed to win today. We needed to prove something to ourselves — maybe not to other people, but we had to prove something to ourselves,” Bisson said. “And, Coach bribed us with no practice (Saturday). So, we have no practice.”

For Cony (6-10), it was a different story altogether. With a win, Cony would have leapfrogged idle Mt. Blue for the eighth and final Class A North tournament spot. The Rams could not take advantage of being the final Class A North team to play its last regular season game, missing out on the postseason by just 0.469 Heal points.

After being retired 1-2-3 in the first inning, the Rams put the leadoff batter aboard in every remaining inning. Save for a three-run second inning which provided all of the scoring for the visitors, Cony could do little else with the early activity on the base paths, stranding seven runners on base for the game. All seven of those were left in scoring position in what served as a perfect microcosm of the team’s entire 2019 season.

“When you leave girls stranded on base, you can’t win games that way,” Cony coach Angela McKenna said. “We played strong defensively most of the time, but we just couldn’t seem to get girls on base home. That’s kind of the whole big overview, too.”

Mt. Blue will travel to play undefeated top-seed Skowhegan in the regional quarterfinals next week. The Cougars will play a postseason game for the first time since a prelim appearance in 2014 and in the quarterfinals for the first time in more than a decade.

They can likely thank Bisson and the Gardiner defense for that honor. Bisson wasn’t her sharpest self, but she was very good whenever the Rams threatened. Right fielder Kaeti Philbrook saved a run with a running catch at the foul line in the fifth inning, and center fielder Maggie Bell crashed into the fence to rob Carly Lettre of extra bases in the seventh.

The game ended when catcher Jaz Clary picked off Gaby McGuire at first base, leading to a rundown in which shortstop Maddie Farnham made the tag for the final out of Cony’s season.

“I was working with a little bit of a tight strike zone, but with my team playing behind me and cheering me on, I regained myself,” Bisson said. “That helped me. I think I worked through some hard spots.”

Gardiner’s Haley Brann went 3 for 3 with two runs scored, and Farnham followed her with a 2 for 3 day with three runs to provide 1-2 punch at the top of the Tiger lineup. Philbrook finished up 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI.

McGuire was 2 for 4 for Cony, and Alexis Everett was 2 for 3 with an RBI.


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