ATHENS, Ga. — Although Maine was the first team ousted from the NCAA softball regional at the University of Georgia, there were a couple bright moments in the Black Bears’ 10-1 loss Saturday to Oklahoma State.

First, Maine scored for the first time in an NCAA tournament game when Janelle Bouchard – the team’s only senior – drove home Erika Leonard with a single in the fourth inning.

And while the Black Bears (28-21) seemed overmatched against Oklahoma State (30-25), the team’s future looks bright, with a host of battled-tested young players who are hungry to earn another shot at the NCAA tournament.

“We’re not ready to play at this level offensively, so it’s a thing we’ve got to learn from and move forward from. … We know now that we have to play at a level higher than our conference is,” UMaine Coach Mike Coutts said.

“We struggled offensively, and there’s a reason we struggled. We have to be able to address those reasons every day we go to practice next year.”

Maine dodged bullets in the first and second inning as Oklahoma State, which recorded 14 hits, put runners aboard but couldn’t score any runs. An unassisted double play by third baseman Alyssa Derrick ended the first inning, and starter Molly Flowers snuffed out a second-inning threat by striking out Randee O’Donnell.

But Oklahoma State’s Tiffany Mikkelson drilled a three-run homer in the third inning, then added an RBI double in the fourth, capping a three-run outburst that made it 7-0.

Oklahoma State also scored another run in the sixth and two in the seventh.

“They keep coming at you offensively, and we’ve got to pitch more efficiently,” said Coutts. “We scored one run, and you’re not going to win a lot of games – you’ve got to pitch perfectly to win 1-0. Their 1-9 (hitters) put a lot of pressure on you, and we just weren’t ready to handle it all (Saturday).”

Kacey Freeze held Maine hitless through the first three innings. Leonard singled to start the fourth, reached second on sacrifice by Rachel Carlson and scored on Bouchard’s single – the first of her two hits.

Bouchard, a Kennebunk native who played two years at Valparaiso before transferring to Maine, said she sees happier days ahead for her teammates.

“My time here was short, but I definitely feel we got better this year and I think we’re going to get every better next year,” said Bouchard, who finished the season batting .398 with 40 RBI. “I’m proud of how the girls fought this year and how far we’ve come from last year. We struggled offensively last year, but everybody in the team improved this year. We had a great run and I’m really proud of the girls.”

Coutts, in his first year at the helm of the program, knows the Black Bears will miss Bouchard’s presence in the lineup.

“It’s going to be hard for us to replace (Bouchard’s) leadership,” he said. “Her passion and commitment to the game – it’s going to be hard for us to replace that. I’m hoping that someone will step forward and do that.

“It’s a great learning experience and it’s going to be exciting to build on it, and the girls will be ready to do it because we felt we could win a game here. It wasn’t that we were just happy to be here; we felt we could win a game here. Having that taste in your mouth just makes you want to go home and work your tail off to win a game.”