GRAY — Greely High’s softball team has won eight games this season in a variety of ways, with good pitching, hitting or defense. Monday evening, it was fairly obvious which phase of the game was the big factor in Greely’s 9-3 victory over Gray-New Gloucester.

“It was a good team win,” said Greely Coach Sarah Jamo. “I think our biggest asset today was our team defense. A lot of big plays.”

The Western Class B fourth-ranked Rangers (8-1) seemed to make at least one spectacular defensive play every inning to stymie the third-ranked Patriots (8-2). Center fielder Katie Whittum made a long running back-handed catch to rob Maria Valente of at least a double. She later threw a runner out at home plate.

Third baseman Lindsey Arsenault caught a line drive and turned it into a double play. And catcher Edith Aromando scooped up a bunt and threw a runner out at first to end another threat.

“We know we have to hit the ball,” said shortstop Caroline Hamilton. “But the first game of the year, we kind of let up defensively. We know no lead is safe and that we have to hold it on defense.”

Greely scored six runs in the top of the second to take control. The Rangers had only two hits in the inning — an RBI single by Aromando and run-scoring double by Jenna Brink — while scoring three runs on wild pitches and another on a throwing error.

That one inning turned out to be the difference.

“It got to us and took us out of our focus,” said Patriots Coach Amanda Harmon. “I wish we had played a better game. But now we’ve got to move on to our next game (at second-ranked Fryeburg Academy on Wednesday). I’m looking forward to that game. We’ve got to go in there with confidence.”

Winning pitcher Danielle Cimino hit a two-run single in the third to make it 8-0. From there, the Rangers protected the lead well.

Whittum, who had two singles, set the tone with her running catch off Valente, who drove the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth deep into center field.

“I saw it off the bat and thought it was gone,” said Whittum. “And then I just tried to do the routine drop step that we were always taught and just tried to put my glove down and run to it. It was a little lucky.”

An inning later, she fielded a ground single by the Patriots’ Sandy Ricardi in center field and threw a strike to Aromando to cut down a runner at the plate for the second out of the inning.

The Patriots scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh on a double by Valente and had the bases loaded before Cimino struck out the final two batters.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH