In her three years as softball coach at Yarmouth High, Amy Ashley has always believed in letting her players learn from their mistakes.

“We totally believe in learning by failure,” said Ashley. “The players have to be comfortable by making plays. We tell them to dare to be great. And to do that you actually have to dare.

“They have to know the coaches are behind them. Softball is such a quick game that they have to be able to make decisions on their feet and have the confidence that they are making the right plays.”

This year, the Clippers have made all the right plays.

Fourth-seeded Yarmouth (15-3) will play No. 7 Fryeburg Academy (13-6) is the Western Class B championship game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Joseph’s College. It is the Clippers’ first appearance in a regional championship game since June 11, 1996, when Yarmouth played in Western Class C and lost to Madison 9-2.

“It’s a great step for the program,” said Ashley. “We came so close to making it last year.”

Ah yes, last year. That’s when the Clippers were thisclose to upsetting top-ranked Cape Elizabeth in the regional semifinals. Yarmouth led 8-3 entering the bottom of the seventh, but the Capers scored six runs, the final four coming with two outs on a couple of home runs.

“We mentioned that game the very first day of practice,” said Ashley. “It was a heart-breaking loss and we used that to motivate us to show we can do anything we set our minds to.”

They certainly thought about it last Saturday before playing Greely in the regional semifinals, a game Yarmouth won 7-0. The team’s two seniors, catcher Kallie Hutchinson and left fielder Michelle Robichaud, got together with junior pitcher Mari Cooper and junior third baseman Cat Thompson. “We looked at each other and we knew we weren’t going to let that happen again,” said Hutchinson.

Cooper, in particular, said she learned a hard lesson from that loss to Cape Elizabeth.

“Every game that we’re winning, even if we’re up eight runs, and especially if we’re on the road, always that thought (of that game) goes through my head,” she said. “I never want to underestimate a team, never want to give anything less than my all. Any team can come back. That’s what I learned from last year.”

Ashley said Cooper took that loss particularly hard.

“For two weeks, she wasn’t herself,” said Ashley. “But it was a teachable moment and she learned a lot from it.”

Hutchinson believes that this team is successful because expectations weren’t high.

“We knew going into the season that we had a lot of potential but there weren’t a lot of eyes on us,” she said. “Knowing that there was no pressure, that people weren’t expecting a lot from us, allowed us to play more freely and to play for each other. We’re all friends, on and off the field, and going into the playoffs we felt we were in a pretty good position.”

But it is a team that also works hard at what it does. Hutchinson and others have spoken about the communication, especially in the infield, where Thompson is the only returning starter. Sophomores Andrea St. Pierre and Sydney St. Pierre start at shortstop and second base while junior Eleanor O’Gorman starts at first base.

And that goes back to practices, where Ashley and her staff put the Clippers in game situations and let them figure things out.

“We don’t have a lot of girls who play a lot of softball, who play in the summer,” said Ashley. “So we like to teach by having the girls practice it.”

They also continually switch players’ positions during practice, so that everyone knows more than one position.

“It took a lot of time, especially early in the season, to work on these things,” said Cooper.

Cooper was one of the few who actually thought the Clippers could be this good. After one victory earlier this season, the group got together and Ashley asked who thought they would have this record – “I think we were 8-2,” said Cooper – and she said she was the only one to raise her hand.

“I knew this team had the most potential of all the teams I’ve been on in high school,” she said. “We have so much athletic ability and we work so hard in practice.”

Cooper has been very instrumental in the Clippers’ surge. As a pitcher she is 13-1 with a 1.99 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 982/3 innings. She’s also hitting .404 with 17 RBI and 16 runs.

Thompson, a hard-throwing pitcher as well as a strong defensive third baseman, leads the Clippers with a .466 batting average, 21 runs and 17 RBI. Hutchinson leads the team with two home runs and is batting .362.

This is a team that has gotten better as the season has progressed, especially defensively. Yarmouth has turned in two error-free games in the tournament.

And no matter what happens against Fryeburg – which Yarmouth beat 9-7 on May 1 by scoring two runs in the top of the seventh when the Raiders misplayed an infield pop-up – the Clippers have made softball a hit again.

“This means so much to the community,” said Ashley. “We had the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at the Greely game the other day. And in a lacrosse town, that’s great to see.”