STANDISH — Defending state champion Scarborough nearly put Thornton Academy away yet again in a postseason softball game in the first inning of Tuesday’s Western Class A regional final. But the turning point of the game, according to Thornton head coach John Provost, limited the damage, and the Trojans shut down the Red Storm the rest of the way in a 2-1 victory at Richard W. Bailey Field at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

The win vaults the second-seeded Trojans to their first state title game, while also handing last year’s champs their first defeat of the season and a little revenge.

Thornton had been knocked out of the playoffs by Scarborough in two of the past three years, but the Trojans turned the tables on Tuesday.

It didn’t happen instantly, as the top-seeded Red Storm won the first inning. Scarborough’s ace starting pitcher, Alyssa Williamson, set down the Trojans in order in the top of the first, sandwiching a pair of first-pitch groundouts around a multi-pitch at-bat by Morgan Dube that also resulted in a groundout.

Traversing through the first wasn’t as easy for Thornton starting pitcher Bailey Tremblay, who, after starting out the bottom of the frame with a groundout, issued a walk and a pair of singles. The second base hit, off the bat of senior catcher Megan Murrell on a 3-2 pitch, drove home Brittany Plowman for the game’s first run.

But Tremblay got an assist from her defense to get out of the jam, as Brenna Kent grounded to second baseman Taylor Lux, who started an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play.

“That was definitely a relief,” said Tremblay. “I was a little shaky the first inning; I guess my nerves got to me. But I knew what was at stake, and I knew that I had a great team behind me, and they showed up for me.”

“Bailey’s a slow starter; the first inning has always been her Achilles’ heel,” said Provost. “That double play was a huge pick-me-up. They knew the significance of it. That shut (Scarborough) down. That got them back off the field. I think it was the turning point of the game.”

The Trojans then put together all the offense they would need in the top of the second, with Tremblay leading the charge. She hit a grounder to short, but just beat out the throw to first. A sacrifice bunt by Brooke Cross moved her to second, followed by a bloop single to short by Kaylee Burns, who also beat out a close play at first, to put runners at the corners.

Burns moved to second on a catcher’s indifference to put two in scoring position, and Maizie Lee then did her job, hitting an infield single to deep second base, which scored Tremblay, while Burns followed on the path to the plate. Burns was out at the plate, but was ruled to have been interfered with by Maggie Murphy at third, giving the Trojans the go-ahead run.

In time, that ruling and the run proved to be the winning margin. Tremblay pitched lights-out from then on, allowing just two base runners the rest of the way ”“ on an error in the fourth and a harmless single by Kent in the bottom of the seventh.

The Thornton offense put a runner on in four of the last five innings, but couldn’t create any breathing room ”“ despite an offense that scored a combined 21 runs in its first two playoff games.

It didn’t matter, as the Trojans used pitching and defense to dethrone the defending champs.

“It was defense and a couple of timely hits. We score a lot of runs, but you’re not going to score a lot of runs against a very good pitcher,” said Provost. “We executed when we needed to execute.”

Lux, who committed the only error in the game with an errant throw in the fourth after making an initial diving stop, made amends with two big plays to end the game in the bottom of the seventh. After Kent’s one-out single, Lux fielded a grounder by Sophia Burnham and aggressively fired to second, getting the lead runner out instead of making the more conservative throw to first. Red Storm freshman Abbie Murrell then stepped to the plate with the game on the line and hit a bouncer back to Tremblay. The ball ticked off her glove, but Lux was able to adjust and glove the ball, then make the throw to first in time to seal the victory.

“I just had to make the play, get it out (of my glove),” said Lux.

“I knew she was going to get to that,” said Tremblay. “She’s been solid there all year; I just knew she was going to get that and make that last out.”

The Trojans will return to the softball field on the campus of St. Joe’s on Saturday for a Class A state championship matchup against Eastern Maine champ Skowhegan, and making it to the season’s final game has quite set in with the Trojans.

“It hasn’t sunk in quite yet, but I’m excited,” said Tremblay. “It will soon.”

Provost agreed.

“Not at all. Maybe tonight, but not right now.”

— Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.

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