READFIELD — For someone who professes a strong dislike for running, Shylah Woodford sure did a lot of it in the fifth inning Thursday.

The Maranacook softball team’s senior shortstop made a pair of plays in the top of the fifth that saved numerous runs in the Black Bears’ 6-3 Class C South quarterfinal victory over Dirigo. She immediately followed them with an unusual home run at the fenceless Kents Hill School field that had her doing what she loathes most.

“I felt like I could just kind of give my team some security with those outs, and I think the momentum from that carried into the bottom of the inning,” Woodford said. “I definitely ran a lot, but I’ll do anything to help my team, and that’s what I needed to do today.”

The inning highlighted a game that featured multiple key contributors for Maranacook, which also got nine strikeouts from pitcher Alexis Michaud and three hits (including a home run) from Allie LaBelle. The  Black Bears will take on No. 2 Hall-Dale (17-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the regional semis.

No. 6 Dirigo (10-8) took an early lead in the top of the first as Lana Waite hit a two-run home run. Maranacook would get a run back in the bottom half on an Allie LaBelle RBI single, though Dirigo would take the lead into the third as pitcher Grace Robbins sent Maranacook down in order in the second.

In the bottom of the third, third-ranked Maranacook (14-3) would pull ahead as Michaud scored the tying run on an Esme Jamison sacrifice before LaBelle singled in Woodford to put the Black Bears on top. By that point, Michaud had hit her stride in the circle with two strikeouts in the third inning and three in the fourth.


“It was definitely more stressful playing (without the fence) and on the turf, but I just did the best I could and settled into it,” Michaud said. “I knew I had to focus on striking them out, and when they hit, my defense was there to back me up. They did a great job getting to those balls.”

Maranacook added to its lead in the fourth as Michaud laid down a sacrifice bunt that brought in Annabelle Brann, who had singled and then made it to third on a Dirigo error. That set the stage for a fifth inning that could have easily seen the Cougars take the lead — but instead, Woodford went to work.

First, the senior made a diving catch on a line drive before making a throw to second to double off Dirigo’s Alyssa Ellis. Then, with two outs and the bases loaded after the Cougars had clawed back a run, she knocked down a hard-hit grounder and picked the ball up in time to make the tag for the forceout.

“I was thinking, ‘Stop it,’” Woodford said. “Our outfielders were so far back (because of the lack of the fence), so I had to make sure it didn’t get to them because that would have been bad. I tried to stop it with my body, and then, in that situation, I just had to get the ball before anything.”

Woodford then hit a fly ball to right that might have gone for a double on another day but instead simply kept rolling as she sprinted around for a home run. One batter later, LaBelle homered to left-center to make it 6-3. Michaud would record one-two-three innings in the sixth and seventh to secure the victory.

None of the three home runs hit would have cleared the fence at any other ballpark. In an ironic twist, the only ball that would have gone for a homer at such a park came on a Kaleigh Kubicki drive to center that easily went 225-plus feet but was caught for an out.

“It was tough, and you really had to adjust for it,” Woodford said. “Everybody was just yelling, ‘Keep running,’ because the ball would just keep going. … It was tough in the field, too, because with the turf, you really didn’t know where the ball was going to go.”

Now comes the hard part: taking down a Hall-Dale team that has its sights set on a third consecutive state championship. The Bulldogs defeated Winthrop 10-2 on Thursday in their own Class C South quarterfinal contest.

“We’re just going to go there and be us,” said Maranacook head coach Don Beckwith. “We played with a lot of intensity after (they took the lead in the first inning). We need to make sure we do that again.”

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