WINTHROP — Their attitudes were playful and relaxed, but the game-face demeanor of the Mountain Valley softball team was all business Thursday.

The sixth-ranked Falcons were loose and loving it in their Western C quarterfinal, but their play was stellar in a 10-1 win over third-seeded Winthrop.

“We told them before the game to relax and have fun,” co-coach Lisa Russell said.

Mountain Valley had its fun and will advance to Saturday’s Western Class C semifinal against No. 2 Hall-Dale.

“Sometimes when they get too focused, they get too tense,” co-coach Deb Buotte said. “They make a mistake and lose it.”

Between all the joking, laughing and cheering, the Falcons played some serious ball. Lindsay Marston pitched a two-hitter and struck out six. She had a solid defense behind her and a persistent offense that never let up. The Falcons produced 10 hits off Winthrop pitcher Krissy Doughty.

“We all liked her speed,” said senior outfielder Karissa Murphy, who had three hits and drove in two runs. “We’re a pretty good hitting team when we put our minds to it.”

The Falcons scored two in the first inning and put the Ramblers in a hole. Mountain Valley never surrendered the momentum and Winthrop struggled to recover.

“We definitely knew we had to come out strong and do our best to start right off hitting and making the plays,” said senior second baseman Katie Mills.

Winthrop threatened in the third and got its lone run but struggled to string hits together against Marston and the solid play of the Falcons defense. The Ramblers hit the ball hard and deep sometimes but the Falcons were there. Shannon Laubauskas made a number of great catches in center.

“It wasn’t our day,” Winthrop coach Bob Ouellette said. “It’s been our Achillies this year, if we don’t come out and score early, we struggle. The end result is a product of how you play the game. We didn’t play well today.”

In addition to Murphy’s three hits, Mills had a pair of hits. Karen Flaherty drove in a pair with a hit. Katie Collette drove in a run with a hit while Marston, Sydney Petre and Sam Higley each had hits.

“Once we got that start, we can keep it going but sometimes it’s hard for us to get that start,” Mills said. “We did this game and it showed.”

The Falcons had experienced an early exit in recent playoffs and were gunning to take that next step. They posed for pictures in a down moment before the game and remained relaxed despite their common goal.

“We’ve all been playing together since we were little,” Murphy said. “So we know each other pretty well.”

After an out to start the game, Mountain Valley got a single from Mills and a walk to Collette. Marston reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Mills and Collette both scored on wild pitches for the early lead.

Doughty was able to have an easy second inning but it was the only one she had. Mountain Valley made it 4-0 in the third when Mills singled and scored on a Marston hit and subsequent error. Then Murphy followed with an RBI double.

Winthrop threatened in the bottom of the third but ran themselves out of a big inning. With one out and two on, the Ramblers got the second out at third, trying to take an extra base on a Falcon error. Cat Ouellette followed with a hard hit that went through the third baseman and plated the Ramblers (12-5) only run.  Marston then struck out the next batter to end the inning.

“Softball is all about timely hits with runners in scoring position,” Ouellette said. “That’s the whole game. If you can get those, you’re good. If you can’t get those, you get the runners on, we’ve had a hard time with that this year, we get to the people in our order that struggles hitting and we can’t get them in.”

The Falcons (12-5) made it 5-1 in the firth when a Murphy bloop single played Collette. Then Collette singled in Shannon Laubauskaus in the sixth for a 7-1 lead.

Mountain Valley sealed it with four runs on four hits in the seventh. Murphy singled in a run. Then Flaherty doubled home a pair. She then scored on an error following an Emily Laubauskas grounder.

“We played hard,” Russell said. “Lindsay pitched a great game and our defense was right there for us.”

The Falcons were playing without senior outfielder Aly Carlton, who had a dance recital. She’s expected to be able to play Saturday against Hall-Dale. Mountain Valley lost to the Bulldogs in the regular season.

“We were winning the whole game until the last inning,” said Mills. “It was really close. It came right down to the last play.”

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