FARMINGTON – Before Tuesday’s softball game, Mary Berry took a poll.

The results weren’t exactly favorable but what the Mt. Blue coach expected.

“Before the game, I asked the girls for a show of hands ‘How many have ever played in a playoff game before?'” said Berry, the first year Cougars’ coach. “There was probably a little less than half. When you have that inexperience, it’s going to be nerve-wracking. It’s just a matter of settling down and realizing that we can play with them, and if we make mistakes, things will be okay.”

It took a little time for the Cougars to adjust to the playoff atmosphere, but Mt. Blue overcame the jitters and an early deficit for a 3-2 win over Leavitt in an Eastern A preliminary.

The Cougars, who had not won a playoff game since 2001, advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinal at second-ranked Brewer. Mt. Blue (11-6) had just nine wins in the last four seasons, including an 0-16 year in 2004.

“I’m kind of speechless,” said Berry. “It’s definitely a huge boost, especially for our confidence as well as the program and the community. We’ve had such great community support and school support. For the program, it definitely has attracted a lot of girls to want to play softball.”

Leavitt jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but the Cougars quickly settled down. Even though Mt. Blue stranded six runners in the first three innings, Berry looked for the positives.

“I could feel myself aging by the minute,” said Berry, the former Skowhegan and University of Maine at Farmington standout. “It definitely was tough, but it was also encouraging because it’s not that often that we get that many baserunners. I knew if we kept getting baserunners like we did the first couple of innings, we’d be in pretty good shape for the rest of the game.”

After Leavitt escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first and ended another threat in the second with two runners on, the Hornets weren’t as fortunate in the third and fourth. After a Caitlin Richard triple, Amelia Allen doubled her home.

“Once we got that first run, we knew we were back in it,” said Allen.

In the fourth, Kaitlyn Bartlett singled and an error in the outfield allowed Sabrina Keach to score the tying run. Then with two outs, Allen singled and another outfield error on the hit allowed for the game-winner.

“I was more pumped up than anything,” said Allen. “I knew somebody was on base, and I knew we were tied. So I just wanted to get them in.”

Mt. Blue pitcher Megan Richard struck out six and allowed just six hits – four over the final six innings. Leavitt’s lone threat in the final four innings came in the sixth when Brittany Gurney and Jen Knowles each singled with two outs. Aime Chiasson had a hard liner toward the gap in right, but Ashley Goucher chased it down.

Leavitt, which split with the Cougars in the regular season, built the 2-0 lead in the first when Caroline Bochtler’s groundout scored Megan Miller. Then a single by Brittany Nelson plated Heidi Swett. The Cougars threatened to tie it thanks to three walks and two hit batters in the first two innings, but Leavitt (8-9) escaped unscathed.

“I think we were more nervous and excited at the same time,” said Allen. “Most of us seemed to give up, but when something good happened, we were all in it again, even though they were two runs ahead.”


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