GRAY — After an overwhelming victory over Freeport on Wednesday, Gray-New Gloucester’s softball team came out of the gates slowly Thursday, giving up a home run to the fourth batter the Patriots faced. The offense got back on track in the bottom of the first, taking the lead with a bunt, a triple and some base hits as the Patriots cruised to a 16-2, five-inning victory. 

“We just started a little flat,” Gray-NG coach Darcey Gardiner said. “I think with the score yesterday they came out with some high hopes and expectations today, not realizing that Freeport is going to come with a fury. They have hitters on that squad, they were super-aggressive batters yesterday, swinging on first-strike pitches, so us coaches knew that was going to happen and I think our defense started flat and underestimated them.” 

After a quick infield single, Freeport fell victim to a bad bounce on a grounder down the first-base line that spun back in the field of play at the last second, leading to a double play. Falcons coach Jason Daniel said he took responsibility for that as the first base coach at the time, but Freeport earned a walk the next at-bat, followed by a home run by Rosie Panenka to put the Falcons up 2-0 early. 

“The double play was my fault all day,” Daniel said. “My girl should’ve known to run straight through but it was just a simple mistake, it should have been 16-4. (The home run) was a big boost right off the beginning.”

After the top of the first inning, Freeport had already doubled their scoring output from its 15-1 loss to the Patriots on Wednesday. With such a big win, Gray-NG may have underestimated the Falcons early. 

In the bottom half of the inning, Maisie Lerette started the inning with a walk, her first of four times reaching base Thursday, followed by two stolen bases and then a run scored off of Amelia Cobb’s squeeze bunt that ended in a base hit. 

“That one was a really big one,” Gardiner said. “We have a freshman leading us off and then our senior in the number two spot lays down that bunt and she is, from what I’ve seen coaching, is one of the best bunters in the state of Maine. She really helped get the energy up and get it going, so to be able to make a squeeze-bunt play like that it gets everyone fired up. Especially with no outs there, too, it gets everyone fired up.”

Cobb’s successful squeeze bunt kickstarted a seven-run first for Gray-NG and helped pitcher Madi Pelletier settle in after a rocky start.

“It was a great momentum-booster,” Pelletier said. “It was cold, a lot different than yesterday, so getting that to put us ahead was just huge.”

Pelletier worked the off-speed pitches Thursday afternoon, something both Pelletier and Gardiner regarded as crucial on the back end of a back-to-back. 

“I think she’s a stud,” Gardiner said. “She threw a lot more changeups today and that really kept the batters off. Facing a team two days in a row like that, you’ve got to be able to throw the off-speed stuff today that really helped us out a lot.”

“I knew I had to just hit my spots and my changeup was great today,” Pelletier added. “I was really happy with that. Part of the game plan, I didn’t throw too many yesterday and when you’re playing a team twice in a row you want to switch it up a little.”

The Patriots tacked on two runs in the second inning thanks to base hits from Morgan Curtis, her second of three hits on the day, Pelletier (her second of three), and a fly ball that helped Skye Chandler reach on an error and also drive in a run. 

Four runs in the third and three in the fourth were driven in by Gray-NG to go up 16-2, but Daniel left his pitcher, Brook Pawlowski, in the whole game. 

“She had to finish it and get through it,” Daniel said. “She finished the game yesterday and my main pitcher yesterday hurt her arm yesterday so she was in center. She just had to do it. She charged through, but she’s got to count on her defense to help her out. She pitches, they make plays, it goes good.

“Yesterday we struggled with them and today we still did good things, but you take the four or five errors away and the three or four dropped balls away and it’s a good game. It’s cold, 34 degrees without the wind, back-to-back games and I’ve got a young team.”

On the other side of the ball, Pelletier gave up just three base runners total in the final four innings after the first-inning home run. At about 35 degrees on the field, both teams had to weather the elements and the Gray-NG bench helped distract from the cold. 

“For as cold as the game was, control the controllables,” Gardiner said. “We can’t control the weather today. It’s a cold game for everyone, so if we can step up to bat and ignore the cold weather and play softball and also staying up in the dugout, that’s a huge thing in weather like this to have the energy and support from the dugout, really makes a big difference.”

Panenlka was the only batter to reach base twice for Freeport, with a home run in the first and a double in the third. 

Pelletier finished the game giving up just three hits and striking out seven in five frames. 

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