SACO – Erin Brayden acknowledged the nervousness. But when she took the final swing of the game, she didn’t show it.

Put in a pressure situation, with a runner on third base and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, against a rival team in a playoff game, the freshman delivered.

Brayden’s two-out single drove in Meghan Agger to give Thorn-ton Academy a 1-0 victory Friday over Biddeford in a Western Class A softball quarterfinal.

“I was so scared,” said Bray-den, who entered the game as a pinch hitter. “But I went out there like it was batting practice. I think I did pretty well. I was nervous, but it went well.”

Brayden sent a line drive into right field on a 2-0 pitch, scoring Agger from third base for the only run.

“If you’re going to get beat,” Biddeford Coach Leon Paquin said, “you want to get beat on a clean hit.”

Thornton Academy (15-2) will face No. 2 Scarborough (16-1) at 10 a.m. today in a regional semifinal. The Red Storm beat Noble 9-0 on Thursday.

“We talked about our bench and the ability to come off the bench and contribute, and Erin’s just been swinging the bat extremely well the last three weeks in practice,” Trojans Coach John Provost said. “We talked about it and if I needed the big hit, it was going to be her. She handled the pressure well.”

The game originally was scheduled for Thursday, and the teams were tied 1-1 before it was called because of lightning and rain. Maine Principals’ Association guidelines call for playoff games stopped before five innings have been completed (41/2 innings if the home team leads) to be replayed from the beginning.

“We played two innings (Thursday) and seven innings (Friday), and every single inning we had base runners on,” Provost said. “We couldn’t get that key hit until the end.”

While Brayden’s hit decided the game, defense and pitching defined it. Neither team registered an error. Biddeford’s Sarah Gilblair struck out seven and walked four, and Thornton’s Julia Geaumont struck out five, walked two and allowed four hits, all singles.

Yet through the first six innings, Biddeford (11-6) and Thornton stranded a combined 11 runners (six for Biddeford), including a combined seven in scoring position (three for Biddeford).

“It was the determination of the pitchers and that they were able to make quality pitches at the right time,” Paquin said.

“It makes it awful tough. Those are two of the best pitchers in the SMAA and the hitters have to really square up on the ball. They mix speeds, they get them off balance and it’s very tough to get hits off that quality pitching.

“That’s why in those clutch situations, the pitching was better than the hitting.”

But the outcome came down to strategy and finding the key hit, the one that didn’t come in the eight innings prior to Brayden’s hit. In the top of the seventh, the Tigers stranded Kristina McCurry on second after Geaumont struck out Alex Quigley and Renee Trottier to end Biddeford’s threat.

“We kept leaving runners on, but we got one in when it mattered,” Brayden said.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

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