Knights crown Rangers

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POLAND – Dani Belanger couldn’t have picked a better time to break out of a slump.

The Poland catcher belted a two-run homer in the second and later picked up an RBI single to help the Knights knock off the Greely Rangers 10-3 in a Western Maine Conference softball game Tuesday.

The game marked the end of the regular season for both squads. With the Rangers (10-6) firmly entrenched as the third seed for the Western B playoffs, coach Jim Seavey elected to rest starting pitcher Krissy Taplin. Meanwhile, the Knights (8-8) had more to play for. They are currently sitting in the No. 7 hole, but the win could vault them into the fifth position.

“We’re hoping for top five to get away from a prelim,” said Poland coach Dan Simpson. “I think we’ll be fifth.”

Greely got on the board in the top of the first as Erika Zambello rapped a lead-off double down the left-field line. One out later, she scored on a groundout by starting pitcher Jenna Valente.

The Rangers would go into a dry spell after Zambello’s hit as Poland hurler Kelli O’Connor retired the next 14 batters in a row. Over the seven innings, O’Connor allowed just four hits.

Poland would take advantage of four Greely miscues in the field and built a 10-1 lead after five innings. The first five runs were all unearned.

O’Connor struck out with two outs in the second, but the ball found the backstop, and O’Connor found her way to first. Two pitches later, Belanger blasted a high, long drive over the left-fielder’s head. She raced around the bases and slid home well in front of the relay throw.

“I just wanted to get a hit,” said Belanger. “I’ve been in a slump. It felt good.”

“She’s been struggling of late,” added Simpson, “but she’s been working hard in practice. She took the waist-high fastball and crushed it.”

The Knights capitalized on a pair of infield errors to plate three more runs in the fourth. O’Connor reached when shortstop Isabel Pisini bobbled her grounder. With the bases loaded and no one out, Brianna Pratte hit a two-hopper to third. The throw home was a low one, however, and the ball got away from catcher Emily Green as two runners crossed. Kaci Ford followed with the first of her two RBI singles.

“Whether they’re seeing-eye singles or errors,” said Seavey, “they usually come back to haunt you.”

The three runs chased Valente (0-1), but relief pitcher Amanda Ingerson faired no better. The Knights roughed her up for five runs on seven hits over two innings of work.

“Yesterday, we left 12 runners on against Cape Elizabeth,” said Simpson. “We didn’t do that today. Hopefully, we’re hitting our stride.”

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