READFIELD — It took nearly two and a half hours in the sweltering heat, but the Maranacook softball team enjoyed every minute of it Monday afternoon as they pounded its way into the regional quarterfinals.

Maranacook’s late-season offense continued to roll, scoring in all but one inning and hanging a crooked number on the board on four different occasions, cruising to a 19-8 win over Traip Academy in the opening round of the Class C South softball tournament.

Allie Labelle went 4 for 4 with four runs scored, three doubles and three RBIs for the Black Bears. Brook Stratton enjoyed a 3 for 5 afternoon with three runs scored and three RBIs.

Even though it was hot and the game was lengthy, the Black Bears were content to make up for lost time. A month-long pause during the preseason because of COVID-19 safety measures is a distant memory.

“We didn’t have the preseason games,” Stratton said. “We didn’t have all the practices. We had to start just by getting to know each other, because we’d already had last year off and then we had that month where we couldn’t even practice.”

Maranacook scored five runs in the second to open a 6-1 lead and three in the fourth to go ahead 9-4.

“It’s about winning innings. We have a philosophy here that we just have to win innings,” Maranacook coach Don Beckwith said.

Six of Traip’s eight runs were unearned.

“Our lineup is as good as anybody offensively,” Beckwith said. “Defensively is where we struggle sometimes.”

First baseman Hannah Thorsen went 3 for 3 with three singles for Traip. Kate McPherson and Molly Sawtelle each went 2 for 4 in the loss. The Rangers finished with 10 hits, but none were for extra bases.

The bottom four spots in the in Traip order were a combined 1 for 10 as the Rangers stranded 10 runners on base — nine of them in scoring position.

Maranacook’s Kaleigh Kubick gets picked off at third on a throw to Traip’s Jen McCluskey during a Class C South prelim game Monday in Readfield. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

It wasn’t until the late innings that the Black Bears were able to finally create some breathing room against a Rangers squad that made Maranacook’s sophomore pitcher Alexis Michaud work for every single one of the 27 outs she needed to earn the victory.

Abby Jacques, Labelle, Esme Jamison and Stratton rapped out four straight run-producing hits in a six-run fifth inning. Labelle doubled and Stratton tripled as part of the rally.

By the time the dust settled on the fifth, Maranacook had batted around and turned a one-run game into a 15-8 lead.

Senior center fielder Grace Dwyer collected a pair of singles out of the leadoff spot with four runs scored. Seven-hole hitter Shelby Smith went 3 for 4 with a triple, a double and two RBIs.

Every single spot in the Black Bear lineup crossed the plate at least once. Six of Maranacook’s 14 hits went for extra bases.

“We have some power hitters. We really do,” Stratton said. “It’s awesome. We go out, we get some big hits, we get fired up. And then we come back in and do it again.

Maranacook’s Abby Jacques gets ready to put a tag on Traip’s Kate McPherson during a Class C South prelim game Monday in Readfield. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“We pick up right where we left off. We struggled with that mentality a little bit in the beginning of the season.”

Maranacook will play the winner of Tuesday’s Winthrop-Lisbon contest on Thursday.

The Black Bears never stopped believing that they could be the type of team they were on Monday, even after tough losses to teams like Gardiner and Waterville early in the year.

“Finally, after we played Gardiner that first time, we really got the team energy back,” LaBelle said. “We got fired up for every small it, every little play. I think it’s really pushed us forward and allowed us to have confidence in ourselves.”

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