SOUTH PARIS — It isn’t always a matter of how many hits you get, but what you can do with the ones you do produce.
The Oxford Hills softball team had only three hits Wednesday. All three came in the first inning, but they were enough to stake the Vikings to an early lead that held up in a 2-1 victory over Messalonskee.
Heather Verrier and Alex Rowe each drove in runs in the first for a 2-0 lead. The Vikings held off the Eagles for a win against a Messalonskee club that was ranked second in the latest Eastern A standings.
“We were all nervous,” said outfielder Alex Rowe. “We knew we’re a good team. We knew we could beat them. We just had to focus and work hard. It’s a huge boost when we can win games like this.”
Messalonskee pitcher Kai Smith didn’t allow an Oxford Hills hit the rest of the game and struck out 10.
The Eagles (7-2) scattered six hits against winning pitcher Crystal West, but Messalonskee stranded five runners and squandered numerous opportunities.
“These games can go either way,” Oxford Hills coach Cindy Goddard said. “Sometimes its the team that gets two hits back to back.”
That’s what the Vikings did in the first, and it was all Oxford Hills (7-2) needed. After a single and an error put two runners on with one out, Verrier drilled a shot into the gap.
“Verrier’s hit was the key,” said Goddard. “With two strikes on her, she got a nice smash.”
She only got a single out of the hit, but it was enough to plate a run.
“Anything close and I’m hitting it,” said Verrier. “I thought it was a good pitch. It was right down the middle.”
Rowe followed and got the sign from Goddard.
“Coach gave me the suicide squeeze bunt,” said Rowe, who might have preferred anything but a bunt attempt. “I was looking at her like, ‘Oh God, here we go.’ I knew I had to get it down a and that’s what I did. I just focused and kept my eye on the ball.”
She beat out the hit and another run scored to make it 2-0.
“It’s really exciting to get the lead,” said Verrier. “Everyone was excited. Once we get it going, the bats keep going.”
In this case, the Vikings offense couldn’t add to the lead, but some errorless ball and the Eagles inability to get clutch hits protected the lead. The Vikings got some solid play in the field including a nice running catch in center by Mariah Martin.
“Mariah made a great catch out in center,” said Goddard. “She’s got some good wheels.”
Messalonskee had lead runners on in the first two innings and stranded them. The Eagles left another in scoring position in the fourth with help from Martin’s catch that secured the second out.
The Eagles finally got on the board in the sixth. Alyssa Eugley had a one-out triple and scored on a Tat Vogel double. The Vikings stranded Vogel at second to end the sixth. Then the Vikings got three straight outs to finish the seventh. Eugley and Vogel each had two hits for Messalonskee.
“If you get two runs on a team quickly, you know you’re already ahead,” said Rowe. “You just want to keep it up.”