PORTLAND – A season of learning how to win close games paid dividends for the McAuley softball team Friday.

The fourth-seeded Lions (13-4) got out of a seventh-inning jam with clutch defense to defeat Kennebunk 7-6 in a Western Class A quarterfinal.

The fifth-seeded Rams (12-5) began the seventh inning down 7-4, but Kelsey Livermore tripled to drive in two runs and represented the tying run as she stood on third with just one out.

She took a few steps on a sharply hit grounder to second base, then darted for home.

Lions second baseman Sara Mercier fielded the ball, checked the runner heading to first and threw to home plate where catcher Sam Shildroth tagged out Livermore.

One out later, the Lions secured their first berth in the regional semifinals. They’ll face South Portland at 1 p.m. today. The top-seeded Red Riots (17-0) eliminated Sanford, 11-0.

“We practice that play a lot,” said Shildroth. “You just have to block the plate and try and make the play.

“This is the furthest our team has gone.”

The final batter grounded out to the shortstop, ending the Rams’ rally.

“That was a great play. It could have been the one,” said Kennebunk Coach Jim Lang. “But unfortunately we have no one to blame but ourselves. McAuley played a great game. They got their bats on the ball and really battled.

“I was very proud of our team. We got down a couple of times and were coming back.”

McAuley Coach Robbie Ferrante had gone back to his starting pitcher, Gabby Townsend, for the final two innings after shifting reliever Jen Field back to left field. Field relieved Townsend in the third.

Field got out of another major jam in the fifth with a grounder to second and pair of strikeouts after loading the bases on two hits and a walk.

“We’re used to tight games like that,” said McAuley center fielder Shelby Bryant. “We win like that all the time.”

Kennebunk took a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Brittany Madore’s two-out single drove in two runs before Liz Cable tried to stretch a double into a triple and was thrown out at third, but not before Madore scored.

The Lions batted around in the bottom of the inning to score six runs on five hits, two walks and two errors, then added an unearned run in the fifth to take a 7-3 lead.

“We get to keep playing,” said Ferrante.

“Our key really was our No. 8 and 9 batters getting on base. And we had two big outs hit to seniors twice.

“On that (key play in the seventh) our catcher just blocked the plate and made a nice tag.”

Overall, the Lions scored their runs off nine hits, two walks and three errors.

Kennebunk pitcher Hannah King had two 1-2-3 innings, each with three straight groundouts.

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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