GARDINER — The Gardiner softball team always seems to make the plays it needs to win — it’s just a matter of how and when.

Although some top teams wow observers with blowout wins, Gardiner isn’t one of them. The Tigers aren’t fancy or flashy; they just find ways to win games, as they did Tuesday in an 8-2 home victory over rival Cony.

“Our kids have each other’s backs, and they win games; that’s just what they do,” said Gardiner head coach Ryan Gero. “At the end of the day, a win’s a win, and I don’t care how we get it.”

This time, Gardiner got it in the form of a fifth-inning rally that turned a tie game into a comfortable result. The Tigers broke through with six runs in the frame to get back in the win column just 24 hours after suffering their first loss of the season.

After Cony’s Zainab Albraihi reached base on an error to begin the game, Gardiner’s Brooke Gero retired nine straight batters to keep the Rams hitless through three innings. The Tigers (10-1), meanwhile, took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Taylor Takatsu hit a double to left to bring in Corinne Vasvary and Devin Clary.

“I went up there thinking my team needed a little oomph early,” said Takatsu, who has been a regular source of extra-base hits for Gardiner over the past two years. “I wanted to give us the lead right away, so I was just like, ‘This is your chance; you can do it.’”


Cony (5-5), though, would break its hitless spell by scoring two runs in the fourth inning to tie the game. Sage Fortin shook off a foul ball to the hands with a base hit to begin the frame. Additional hits from Alivia St. Peter and Torrie Webber — combined with a Haylee Cyr sacrifice fly and a passed ball — allowed the Rams to erase the deficit.

Yet Gardiner would retake the lead in the fifth inning as Dakota Lovely followed a Vasvary single and Clary walk with a single up the middle to put the home team up 3-2. The Tigers then made it 5-2 as Grace Deering singled home Clary and Lovely before the team plated its final runs on an error at first base.

The home plate umpire calls time as a strong wind gust stirs up a cloud of dust during a softball game between Gardiner and Cony on Tuesday in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Gero struck out nine batters, walked just one and allowed five hits in a complete-game effort to earn the win for Gardiner, which had seven hits. Cony, which finished with five hits, got 4 1/3 innings of work from losing pitcher Bri Madore (six strikeouts, five walks, five earned runs) and 1 2/3 innings from Cyr.

Gardiner’s winning rally came as the team exhibited exemplary patience in the batter’s box. The Tigers drew three walks in the inning with all three of those runners scoring, and the mix of those free bases and the three timely hits were enough to pull away from the visiting Rams.

“We waited for our pitch today, and when we wait for our pitch, we usually find that pitch that we can drive,” Gero said. “We’ve got to find the pitch that we want to hit rather than just any pitch. … It was a good team effort, especially after that loss yesterday.”

Indeed, Gardiner’s 12-6 loss Monday against Leavitt was one the Tigers wanted to put behind them as soon as possible. After the error to begin the game, Gardiner played mistake-free softball the rest of the way, even forcing a lineout double play in the sixth to follow up its offensive breakthrough.

“(Monday) was pretty messy, so coming back today, we knew we wanted to go out and get a win right away, especially against Cony,” Takatsu said. “This is what we needed, and I think it will follow us for the rest of the season.”

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