FREEPORT — Freeport’ softball team’s defense did its job and then some on Friday afternoon against Gray-New Gloucester. Twice early in the game, a flashy catch erased a based-loaded jam and kept the score tight.
The only problem? Patriots’ pitcher Haley True hardly needed her defense at all.
True limited the Falcons to five hits in seven innings of work and struck out five en route to an 8-1 Western Maine Conference win.
Freeport starter Brianna Welch looked just as sharp to start the game, turning her first three pitches into three outs. Then, in the second, she had to call for backup. Gray-NG (2-1) smacked three straight singles to create a one-out jam that Mikaela Ryan nearly broke open. On the second pitch of her at-bat from the eight spot, she laced a liner right up the middle. Falcons’ second basemen Brooke Toothaker snared it and quickly tagged second to end the inning.
In third frame, facing another loaded jam, Welch got a bobbled diving catch from centerfielder Brianna Bellefleur that kept the score 1-0.
“We played really well in the first three innings,” Freeport coach Jason Daniel said. “Last night, when we played Sacopee (a 2-1 win), we played unbelievable defense. I thought we were going to do the same thing today.”
“We definitely got on the ball,” Gray-NG coach Amanda Harmon said. “The first three pitches of the game, we made contact. Unfortunately, they filled those holes quickly. They played well.”
Eventually, though, the Gray-NG contact paid off. Ryan scored on an infield single from Kara Waltz in the fourth and True helped herself with a two-RBI double in the fifth. Earlier in the third, she earned a walk and eventually scored.
She may not be batting ninth for long.
“We are kind of moving a few girls in the spot,” Harmon said. “Unfortunately, with the spring, we’re still adjusting to getting on the field with some live batting. She does great battling in the box. She is someone who can fit anywhere, so we’re still making adjustments.”
“I’ve been working on slapping and bunting,” True said. “I’ve been off a little bit, so I’m working my way back, but I’m really happy that I made some contact today.”
The Patriots tacked on three more runs in the sixth and put the game on ice. Welsh pitched all seven innings and recorded one strikeout for Freeport.
Like many teams so far this spring, the Falcons haven’t had much time outside. In fact, because of unplayable field conditions, they don’t even have a home at the moment. Moving around to places like Freeport Middle School is not an ideal way to start the season.
“The girls are a little discouraged,” Daniel said. “It beats ’em up a little bit.”
True certainly didn’t help. She didn’t allow a runner until a walk in the fourth inning, and needed just 17 pitches in the first two frames.
“I think she was just focused,” Harmon said. “Dialed in, looking to produce the strikes, produce the pitches that make the plays.”
“That’s kind of what you have to do when you’re a pitcher,” True said. “You have to adjust to any sort of environment. The field was kind of wet today.”
Patience at the plate finally got Freeport on the board in the sixth. A two-strike single from Abbye Koenig was eventually followed by a four-pitch walk and RBI from Sarah Gray.
Daniel gave True credit but was also disappointed with a late showing from the bats.
The game’s final out, a liner from Alexys Koenig, was perhaps the best strike of the day for Freeport, but caught on the run.
“We just have a hard time sometimes hitting the slow pitchers,” Daniel said. “She was a good pitcher, she had a decent break, but the speed from last night compared to today was a lot different and we should have been tighter today then we were last night. We should have had a better game than we did last night.
“I’m happy with everything, they’ve just got to keep their confidence up,” Daniel said. “After the fourth inning, they kid of let themselves go a little bit. We’ve got to have our bats light up right from the beginning.”