The Greely High softball team has spent all season clearing hurdles.
Shutting down Eastern Class B champ Oceanside’s potent offense will be the final obstacle between the Rangers and their first state title since 2002.
Saturday’s state final is at St. Joseph’s College at 11 a.m.
Oceanside (18-1), the second seed in the East, took down top-ranked Gardiner 11-4 with 19 hits in its regional final.
The Rangers (15-4) generated three hits in their 2-1 West final win over Gray-New Gloucester.
“We definitely didn’t play up to what we’re capable of,” Greely Coach Jessica Gomez said. “We did play well but we haven’t hit the ball the way we’re capable.”
It was their second straight 2-1 win. In the regional semifinal Greely cleared a huge physical and emotional barrier by beating top-ranked and five-time Western B champ Fryeburg.
“That game was huge for us,” said first baseman Mykaela Twitchell, who has consecutive game-winning singles. “For us, Fryeburg was just that team that we had to beat.”
In other state finals, West No. 1 Scarborough (18-1) will look for its fourth title in seven years when it faces East No. 4 Skowhegan (14-5) in Augusta at noon. Scarborough beat Skowhegan in the 2007 and ’09 title games.
In Class C, undefeated Madison (19-0) and reigning champ Bucksport (19-0) go for the title at noon at Brewer.
The Class D game is a rematch as West champ Richmond (16-0) faces defending champion Penobscot Valley, led by pitcher Kayla Dube, at St. Joseph’s (3 p.m.). The Howlers won last year’s game, 4-2.
Greely started the season with the bitter memory of losing to Fryeburg in the 2012 regional final. Former Ranger star and one-year coach Sarah Jamo had taken the head coaching job at the University of Southern Maine, making Gomez the fourth varsity coach in four years.
Then lone senior and starting pitcher Dani Cimino looked at a practice field full of freshmen and sophomores.
“There are a lot of little kids. Physically they are tiny kids,” Cimino said.
Key returners Cimino, Twitchell and third baseman Elyse Dinan were quickly won over by the talent of the young players.
“Their size says nothing about their playing. They’re fantastic. All of them,” Cimino said. “By the fourth game into the season we said, these kids play like upperclassmen. They know what they’re doing. Mechanically they do everything correct. They pay attention. It was really nice to see that.”
There’s also a change in attitude.
“Last year with so many seniors it was more of an intense pressure,” Dinan said. “This year we’re still taking it seriously but it’s more of a relaxed, loose energy.”
It’s hard to take anything too seriously when players like freshman middle infielders Sarah Felkel (shortstop) and Lexi Faietta (second base) are around. While their veteran teammates were speaking at Thursday’s practice, Felkel and Faietta were engaged in an impromptu wrestling match.
Dinan shook her head and laughed.
“It’s a little looser today but we always have the energy there,” she said.
Cimino is regarded as one of the top pitchers in the state. She will play next year at Wheaton College and already has had success in a championship venue.
As a setter she led Greely to consecutive Class A volleyball titles.
“Winning (in volleyball) junior, senior year was definitely huge for me mentally preparing myself for softball,” Cimino said. “Setting is a pretty lonely job and pitching is the same way.”
Oceanside is led by Brooke Dugan and Kennadi Grover. Both batted over .500 in the regular season. Dugan scored 36 runs in 16 games, driven in 25 and pounded 12 extra-base hits, including three home runs.
“She’s not your prototypical leadoff batter,” Oceanside Coach Rusty Worcester said. “She has tremendous wheels but she’s one that can hit for power, hit it to the gaps.”
Grover led the team with a .578 average with 24 RBI and seven extra-base hits (2 HRs).
Rachel Frye has been the team’s top pitcher for three seasons. This season she is 16-1, striking out 134 in 911/3 regular-season innings with a 1.34 ERA. Frye has helped herself with a .440 average, four doubles and two homers.
The already strong batting order received a playoff boost from designated player Paige Tyler, who had four hits against Gardiner. Coming off a knee surgery, she had only five regular-season at-bats.
The Mariners would be the school’s first-ever state championship team. Oceanside is completing its second year after the consolidation of Rockland and Georges Valley. Frye’s older sister, Danielle, pitched the Worcester-coached Georges Valley teams to Class C titles in 2007 and 2008.
CLASS A: Scarborough has used solid pitching from Alyssa Williamson and big-play innings to return to the state title game. In three playoff wins, Williamson has allowed five runs.
Twice the Red Storm have come from behind with a multirun rally late in the game with second baseman Marisa O’Toole playing a starring role.
In the regional quarterfinals, O’Toole’s bunt single to lead off the sixth started a five-run rally in a 5-1 win against Marshwood. On Wednesday night in its 5-2 regional final victory against Sanford, O’Toole hit a long two-run homer to tie the game and spark a four-run fifth.
Scarborough is known for limiting physical and mental errors, with the ability to put pressure on defenses.
That offense has been led most of the season by Williamson, O’Toole, and infielders Erin Giles and Grace Farnkoff. Freshman outfielder Chloe Gorey and first baseman/outfielder Brenna Kent also have produced in key spots during the playoff run.
Skowhegan has ridden the pitching of junior Kaitlyn Theriault in its improbable playoff run. Theriault, aided by an effective change-up, was one out rom a no-hitter and finished with a one-hit, 2-0 shutout of No. 7 Bangor in the East regional final. Theriault had shut down top-seed Brewer in the regional semifinal 5-2 on six hits.
Skowhegan showed the ability to have a late-inning rally against Brewer, scoring four runs in the sixth inning to erase a 2-0 deficit.
The Indians are led offensively by third baseman Shelby Obert, a finalist for the Miss Maine Softball award.
Obert batted .508 in the regular season with 23 RBI and four homers. She had two of Skowhegan’s five hits in the regional final.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: