GARDINER — The strangest part of Friday afternoon was how normal it all seemed.

After more than a year of masks, Zoom calls and athletic competitions favoring proximity over playoffs, it was impossible not to notice the obvious irregularity of something so regular.

The records will show that Gardiner’s softball team walloped visiting Leavitt 12-0, and that senior shortstop Maddy Farnham clubbed her first career home run before ending the game in the bottom of the fifth with a run-scoring single to center to invoke the mercy rule.

Farnham couldn’t help but point out that her 2 for 3 day at the plate — and player of the game nod from the internet broadcasting team at Munzing Media — wasn’t even the best part of her senior day for the Tigers.

“I can’t imagine a better day, I really can’t,” Farnham said. “It felt normal for once in a very, very long time. It just felt really good.”

The Tigers improved to a perfect 6-0 on the season. Brooke Gero pitched a no-hitter and freshman third baseman Taylor Takatsu hit her second home run of the season. Gardiner brought 11 batters to the plate in a seven-run second inning, and senior center fielder Liv Tyler made three exceptional catches in center field for outs — not to be outdone by Kat Johnson’s running, tumbling backhanded catch in left field to end the Leavitt first.

On a 70-degree afternoon with bright sunny skies and parents, students and the Gardiner community at large lining the fence all around Somerville Field, it was a perfect day for softball. One day after Gov. Janet Mills announced further easing of public COVID-19 restrictions in Maine, and not long after the state’s outdoor mask mandate had been lifted, you could see faces cheering, players smiling and finally — for the first time in far too long for any of us — get the sense that things were turning the corner.

“You couldn’t ask for a better day, really. It was gorgeous,” Gardiner coach Ryan Gero said. “It was nice to finally get outside and not have a mask on. This helps.”

Short sleeves outnumbered sweatshirts by a hefty margin. There was dust swirling across the diamond instead of mud clumping to the bottom of cleats. Sunglasses were the accessory of choice, not a parka.

It was almost weird, right?

“I mean, kind of,” Tyler said. “It’s been so crazy the last year or so. I think we definitely played the best we ever have today.”

On the softball side of things, there was lots to like for the Tigers — the defense, the speed and aggressiveness on the base paths, the pop up and down the lineup.

Gero likes his team’s speed above all else, while Farnham was partial to the offense’s relentlessness.

Tyler took a broader look at things.

She thought the Tigers would be good, but even she admitted she wasn’t sure they’d be this good.

“I definitely thought we’d be a good team, but I wasn’t sure how we’d all click,” said Tyler, one of three seniors on the Gardiner roster. “I’ve never played with half of these girls before. Our whole team is freshmen and sophomores and one junior. I think having younger girls does help. They’re more open to what we have to say to help them.

“I think it works.”

On a beautiful Friday afternoon to finally break a bleak winter and even bleaker 2020 as we begin to emerge from the pandemic world that became all too familiar, the ‘new norm’ was replaced by the old norm.

And it was splendid.

“It was perfect,” Ryan Gero said. “This is what we do.”

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