PARIS — On a cold and blustery day, getting warmed up to pitch was highly unlikely. Getting the arm loose and ready to be effective was equally as challenging.

Though Erika Whitman has pitched in relief before, Thursday’s entrance was a different experience. The Oxford Hills senior stepped to the circle with the tying run at third and a Class A North quarterfinal hanging in the balance.

“It was kind of hard knowing I had only five pitches to really get warm,” Whitman said. “It obviously was freezing out. I felt a lot of pressure.”

Whitman got by with a little help from her friends in that inning, as a pair of defensive plays helped the Vikings escape that threat in the fifth. Oxford Hills then added to the lead and held off Hampden for a 5-2 playoff win. The Vikings will host Skowhegan in a semifinal Saturday.

“That was really big,” Whitman said. “If we hadn’t gotten that, we might have gotten down on ourselves and it might not have been so pretty from there.”

Hampden (7-11) had another try at a rally in the seventh. The Broncos scored once but had the game end when Hannah Kenney caught a fly ball in center and then gunned the throw home to get the final out at the plate. The Broncos finished with seven hits, but stranded seven runners.


“When we start getting hits, we start getting consecutive hits,” senior second baseman Abby Lord said. “We just didn’t have enough innings to get that rolling and that kind of killed us.”

Lord led the 10th-seeded Broncos with three hits and two runs scored. Julia Sicard had a pair of hits. Pitcher Sydney Hatch held second-ranked Oxford Hills to just four hits and struck out nine. Still, the Vikings were aggressive on the bases and forced the issue. Oxford Hills also took advantage of six Hampden errors.

“It wasn’t like we were producing (runs) with hits,” said Oxford Hills coach Cindy Goddard, whose team is now 9-0-1 in its past 10 games. “It was like get on and hope something happens.”

Anna Piirainen reached base three different times on a walk, hit and being hit by a pitch. She scored three of the Vikings runs. Whitman, Madison Starbird and Cody Akers had the other hits for Oxford Hills (12-4-1).

“Aggressive base running is what won us the game,” Piirainen said. “I knew what my job was, and that was aggressive base running.”

Akers pitched well for the Vikings into the fifth inning. She’d allowed just two hits in the first and blanked the Broncos the next three innings while the Vikings built a 2-0 lead.


In the fifth, Hampden produced three hits. A Sicard single and subsequent error allowed Lord to score. The Broncos had two runners on with just one out. That’s when Whitman entered the game.

She faced just one batter in the inning. Brooklyn Scott hit a grounder to third. Kenzie Kahkonen threw to Piirainen at the plate for the tag to nix the tying run. Then Piirainen threw down to second to get a runner there to end the inning.

“She made key plays that needed to happen,” Goddard said of Kahkonen.

In the bottom of the fifth, Oxford Hills made it 3-1 when Kahkonen reached on an error and then scored on a Hannah Kenney grounder. The Broncos infield didn’t realize that Kahkonen never stopped running. She raced in from second before the Broncos even noticed.

“She just kept running,” Goddard said. “Normally, you have to yell at them to do that.”

In the sixth, Piirainen was hit by a pitch and scored on an error on a Whitman hit. Then Madison Leblond, pinch-running for Whitman, forced an error while stealing third and scored to make it 5-1.


“We definitely had a few two many errors,” Lord said. “In a close game like that, you just can’t afford that.”

Hampden threatened again in the seventh. Lord reached on a one-out hit and scored on a wild pitch. Sicard singled and reached third but a fly by Mikala Leland was caught by Kenney in center. She fired it home to get the final out at the plate.

“We could just see it coming,” Goddard said of Kenney’s arm. “It was like, ‘Oh boy, here it comes.'”

The Vikings’ first two runs came from hustle by Piirainen on the bases. She walked in the second and advanced on a hit. She scored on an error on a Whitman grounder. In the fourth, Piirainen singled and scored on a Whitman RBI single.

“In practice, we’re always working on base running,” Piirainen said. “Whenever I’m running past first, I just look at our base coaches and see if I’m getting the signs to go.”

Hampden cranked out 15 hits against Lewiston in a prelim win Tuesday but couldn’t get the consistent offense against Akers and Whitman. The top two Broncos hitters produced five of the team’s seven hits.

“(Akers) was a little slower than the last one we faced and our team struggles with slower pitching,” Lord said.

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