CUMBERLAND — Wednesday’s softball showdown at Twin Brook Recreation Center showed how much difference one little yard can make in, well, one little yard.
Greely and Gray-New Gloucester combined for 16 runs and 17 hits in the Rangers’ 9-7 home victory. That’s roughly the combined production of any four or five games between the Western Maine Conference Class B neighbors in the past.
Get used to it. It’s a new world this season with the pitcher’s mound moving to 43 feet from home plate. Until everyone in the field adapts, those 1-0 and 2-1 thrillers and double-digit strikeout performances from the 40-foot days are a distant memory.
“It’s definitely changed things, no doubt about it,” said Gray-NG coach David Getchell. “The speed of their pitcher today is nothing we haven’t seen. This is just one of those games where the girls couldn’t seem to get it together.”
While Greely (7-1) played error-free defense and turned a double play in support of winning pitcher Mary Zambello, G-NG (5-2) committed three miscues behind Laura Getchell.
Two of those came in the bottom of the first inning, when the Rangers answered a two-run opening statement by the Patriots with five of their own.
“Everyone on our team is always battling, and we hit pretty well all through the order,” Zambello said. “When our defense is as tight as it was today, we’re basically unstoppable.”
Getchell entered her senior season with more than 500 career strikeouts and a history of frustrating the Rangers. But Greely fanned only six times in its first look at the right-hander from the increased distance.
Greely notched nine hits, eight of them singles, and stole nine bases to put consistent pressure on the Patriots’ infield.
When G-NG rallied with three runs to tie the game in the top of the fourth, Greely bundled together base hits by Bryce McEwen, Karlee Biskup, Lindsey Arsenault, Emma Seymour and Marika Stayte and a sacrifice fly from Michaela Finnegan to plate four in response.
“We always say, ‘We’re in our house. We have to go protect it.’ That’s kind of what we did today,” Greely coach Mike Robb said of the first- and fourth-inning rallies. “They love to run the bases, too. They can all slide, hit, run and bunt.”
Rachel Edson’s second hit of the day sparked a seventh-inning push by the Patriots. Kassie Wilson’s groundout pushed home Edson, and Laura Getchell’s two-out RBI single later put the potential tying run on base.
Zambello coaxed a comebacker from Maggie Chaplin, however, and fired to first for the final out.
G-NG’s Abby Ryan belted two nearly identical home runs over the fence in left — a two-run stroke in the first and a lead-off launch in the fourth.
Alicia Valente added an RBI double in the fourth for the Patriots, who struck out only twice against Zambello.
Arsenault killed a potential fifth-inning rally by turning an unassisted double play at first after a tricky pop-up off the bat of Wilson.
“I like (the pitching change), because it gets everyone more involved,” Zambello said. “We’ve had a few double plays this year. It’s great to see.”
Edith Aromando punctuated Greely’s first inning flurry with a two-run single. Whittum and Biskup were repeat hitters for the Rangers.