Waterville hitter Jess Mayo, top right, is greeted by teammates at home plate after Mayo homered against Oceanside during a Class B North prelim game Monday in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — Back in the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade, the Waterville softball team went to work making itself at home.

Raylee Gilbert struck out 12 and went 3-for-4 at the plate, Jess Mayo hit a tone-setting two-run home run and the sixth-seeded Purple Panthers began their venture through the Class B North playoffs with a 15-5 victory over No. 11 Oceanside in the B North preliminary round on Monday.

“Our thing is ‘Don’t stop believing.’ You always have that chance, make it happen,” Gilbert said. “We approach every game with the mindset that … we’ve got to come into warmups with energy, and keep that energy going throughout the game. The girls did awesome today with the 95-degree weather, keeping that energy in the dugout.”

It’s Waterville’s first time in the playoffs since losing in the B East preliminary round in 2012. The Panthers quickly gained the upper hand in their return, pounding out 13 hits and scoring in every inning.

Waterville pitcher Raylee Gilbert delivers a pitch from the circle during a Class B North prelim game against Oceanside on Monday in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“We’ve really just started hitting our stride with our offense, which is great,” coach Tom Toner said. “Offensively, they just have been turning it on the last few games. I’m really proud where they came from, and where they got to.”

Waterville (11-6) got going early, taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning with two of the runs coming when Mayo (2-for-5, three RBIs) drove the first pitch she saw over the left field wall.

“It was great. That first pitch I just sat on it, and I was like ‘I’m going to hit it over the fence.’ And I did,” she said. “That just started us off. … I hit it with all the power I’ve got.”

Mayo joked that she was happy to see the ball clear the fence for another reason.

“Since it’s so hot, I didn’t want to run fast around the bases,” she said. “I was like ‘This is nice, I can just take my time.'”

Waterville catcher Abby Williams receives the pitch while she and pitcher Raylee Gilbert worked against an Oceanside hitter during a Class B North prelim game Monday in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The Panthers scored runs in the second and third, and broke open a 4-3 lead with six in the fourth. Waterville added two more runs in both the fifth and sixth innings, and found itself getting contributions from everywhere. The top of the lineup was especially productive, with Abby Williams (2-for-3, two runs, RBI), Gilbert (3-for-4, four runs, two RBs) and Savanna Cormier (3-for-5, three runs, RBI) all logging successful afternoons at the plate.

Ebba Heaton-James scored two runs for Waterville, while Gillian Poulin drove in a pair. Seven of the nine starters for the Panthers had hits, and Waterville batted around in the six-run fourth.

“I’m 100 percent satisfied,” Toner said. “One thing we talk about all the time is always keeping the foot on the gas. Win every inning. That’s what we want to do.”

It was more than enough support for Gilbert, who allowed five hits and only two earned runs.

“She’s very intense, very competitive,” Toner said. “I love that.”

Maddie Ripley had three hits and three RBIs and scored twice for Oceanside (6-11).

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