STANDISH – A year ago, as Dani Cimino received her Western Class B runner-up medal, her head coach at the time pulled her close.
“When we lost here, Coach (Sarah) Jamo told me, ‘Remember this,’ ” said Cimino, the only senior on this year’s Greely High softball team. “It was probably the most bitter taste in my mouth I ever had. And I was not going to let these girls’ season end early. I wanted to help them win.”
Cimino set down the final seven batters as fourth-ranked Greely edged sixth-ranked Gray-New Gloucester 2-1 Wednesday in the Western Class B final at Richard Bailey Field at St. Joseph’s College.
The Rangers (15-4) will play Oceanside or Gardiner at 11 a.m. Saturday in the state title game at St. Joseph’s. It’s the Rangers’ first appearance in the state final since 2000.
“It feels pretty sweet,” said Rangers Coach Jessica Gomez.
Cimino allowed five hits, walked two and hit a batter. She had to be on, because the Patriots’ Stephanie Greaton was pretty good, too. Greaton allowed three hits and walked one.
The Patriots (14-6) had more scoring chances. But Cimino and Greely’s defense never faltered.
Gray-NG’s Alex Thompson led off the game with a triple to right. Cimino struck out the next two batters, and second baseman Alexa Faietta caught a pop-up to end the threat.
“I knew I had to manage the inning,” said Cimino. “I knew I couldn’t let (the triple) get to me. I had to be mentally tough. I tried to stay calm.”
The Patriots struck first, in the top of the third, but could have had more. Greaton led off with a double and Thompson singled her to third. Sam Wilkins followed with a chopper back to Cimino, who threw to catcher Audrey Mann to get runner Breanna Buzzuto out at the plate.
A hit batter loaded the bases, and Zoe Adams hit a sacrifice fly that scored Thompson. But Cimino got the third out with a strikeout.
Then the Rangers struck back in the bottom of the third.
With one out, Sarah Felkel singled to right. Haley Felkel then reached on an infield error and both runners moved up on a groundout.
With two outs, Cimino dropped down a bunt that was mishandled. She beat the throw to first, and Sarah Felkel scored the tying run. Mykaela Twitchell, a left-handed batter, then lashed a single to left, driving in Haley Felkel with the go-ahead run.
Twitchell had done the same thing in a semifinal win at Fryeburg Academy.
“I was just looking for a pitch to hit,” said Twitchell. “I’ve been working on the outside pitch and luckily it was there. It was helpful to have that same situation in the Fryeburg game.”
The Patriots had a runner thrown out trying to steal in the fourth, then Cimino started a double play in the fifth when she caught a pop-up and threw a runner out at first. She needed only 15 pitches to get through the final two innings.
“I told the kids to keep their heads up, that they should be proud,” said Patriots Coach Amanda Harmon. “It’s an accomplishment just to get to this game. It definitely didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but we worked hard to get here.”
The Rangers, meanwhile, rebounded from losing their last two regular-season games.
“You have to step back and look at how young these girls are,” said Gomez. “But their composure is amazing. Whatever we ask them to do, they come through and do it. Whatever it is. Day in, day out, game or practice.”
Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: