Raiders right at home

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WALES – Oak Hill High School was supposed to hit the road for Wednesday’s softball game. Shortly after lunchtime, the Raiders found out they would be the “visiting” team on their home field.

And by the time Audrey Grass squeezed the final out in her glove at second base to protect a 1-0 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference victory over Maranacook, she and her teammates probably wouldn’t have cared if they had to endure a ride home from Madawaska.

Kristen Eaton’s triple plated Becca Roberts in the top of the seventh inning. Angie Russell then coaxed three infield pop-ups in the bottom half of the final frame to tighten the clamps on a three-hit shutout. Russell struck out five and walked only one in a crisp gem played adjacent to her school due to wet grounds in Readfield.

“That was a nice thing to hear at the end of the day,” Eaton said of the switcheroo. “We always feel more confident on our home field.”

Hard to know if the familiar surroundings and bus avoidance helped, but Oak Hill (6-4) played like a team with something to prove against the Black Bears, who have been one of the Raiders’ fiercest rivals since the days of the old Mid-Maine Conference.

In the opening game of the KVAC campaign, back on April 19 (you remember, when the sun shone almost every day and the temperatures consistently hit 70 degrees), Maranacook trounced Oak Hill by 12 runs on this same diamond.

“It has been three years since we’ve beaten them,” said Oak Hill coach Julie Boucher. “They’ve had some great teams in that time. We were young last year, and we’ve come a long way this year.”

After Shannon Safford singled to lead off the game, Maranacook hurler Ann Marie Marble held Oak Hill hitless until Grass reached base to start the sixth.

Grass later scampered to third on a throwing error with one out, but Marble struck out Nikki Doustou and Safford to escape the jam.

“(Marble) got a little tricky with us,” Eaton said. “The umpire was calling strikes a little high, but after about halfway through the game you have to adjust to that and swing at whatever is close.”

The Raiders ripped four consecutive hits to break the spell in the seventh. Maranacook’s defense kept the damage to a minimum. Eaton was thrown out trying to stretch her blast to the right field wall into a home run, and catcher Ali Trafton picked off Magan Blais at third after Blais followed Eaton’s heroics with a double.

Maranacook (6-5) only advanced one runner to second base. That came on Sam Mitchell’s two-out single and a booted grounder that put Ali Kennedy aboard in the fifth. Russell struck out Marble to quell the threat.

Blais backed up Russell with a defensive gem in the fourth, lunging from third base to snag a short pop by Katie Norwood and flinging to first to freeze Chelsea Brochu for an inning-ending double play.

“That was a key play for us,” Boucher said. “For the most part it was a very, very well-played game. It was a great job by Angie. She pitched around them nicely. They’re great hitters.”

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