BOX SCORE

Poland 7 Freeport 2

P- 001 022 2- 7 9 0
F- 200 000 0- 2 7 5

Bottom 1st
St. Pierre doubled to right-center, Pawlowski and Panenka scored.

Top 3rd
Paradis singled to center, Bolduc scored.

Top 5th
Rioux singled to right-center, Lacombe scored. Bunyea doubled to right, O’Leary scored.

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Top 6th
Lacombe grounded out to short, E. Martin scored. Paradis grounded out to second, Bolduc scored.

Top 7th
Bunyea scored on error. Bolduc singled to right, Hart scored.

Multiple hits:
P- Bunyea, Rioux
F- Panenka, Pawlowski

Runs:
P- Bolduc 2, Bunyea, Hart, E. Martin, O’Leary, Paradis
F- Panenka, Pawlowski

RBI:
P- Paradis 2, Bolduc, Bunyea, Lacombe, Rioux
F- St. Pierre 2

Doubles:
P- Bunyea 2
F- Panenka, Pawlowski, St. Pierre

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Left on base:
P- 9
F- 4

A. Martin and Rioux; George, Gervais (7) and St. Pierre.

P:
A. Martin (W) 7 IP 7 H 2 R 2 ER 0 BB 3 K

F:
George (L) 6+ IP 6 H 5 R 3 ER 3 BB 1 K
* George faced one batter in the 7th
Gervais 1 IP 3 H 2 R 2 ER 0 BB 0 K 1 HBP

Time: 1:30

FREEPORT—The way Freeport’s softball team reacted in the wake of Wednesday afternoon’s home loss to Poland tells you all you need to know about how far the Falcons have come this season.

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Following the game, tears, frustration and even a little anger was evident as Freeport felt it let a game it should have won slip away, which is saying a lot considering the Falcons were taking on an undefeated team.

After Freeport freshman Izzy George retired the Knights in the top of the first, the Falcons took a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom half, as freshman catcher Vanessa St. Pierre hit a two-out, two-run double.

But Freeport wouldn’t score again and Poland would gradually wear it down.

The Knights got on the board in the top of the third, as sophomore rightfielder Gretchyn Paradis hit an RBI single.

Poland then went ahead to stay in the fifth, as freshman catcher Olivia Rioux delivered a well-placed RBI single to tie it before senior centerfielder Emma Bunyea blooped a double down the rightfield line for a 3-2 advantage.

In the sixth, a couple errors and a two run-scoring ground balls pushed the lead to three and in the seventh, the Knights added two more runs on an error and an RBI single from senior second baseman Gabby Bolduc.

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Poland senior pitcher Atlantis Martin did the rest and the Knights went on to a 7-2 victory.

Poland won its eighth consecutive game without a loss this season and in the process, dropped the vastly improved Falcons to 6-4.

“Poland was undefeated and this is where we wanted to be, playing a team like that,” said Freeport coach Jason Daniel. “It’s a game we should have had.”

Turnaround season

Freeport has long been chasing the top teams in Class B South and this year, the Falcons have finally hit their stride.

Freeport opened with a 9-4 win at Morse, then beat host Mt. Ararat (16-2, in five-innings), visiting Wells (6-5) and host Yarmouth (10-8) for its best start in years. After losses to visiting Cape Elizabeth, the reigning Class B state champion (15-0, in five-innings), and host York (10-0, in six inning), the Falcons sandwiched home wins over Gray-New Gloucester (8-3) and Fryeburg Academy (13-8) around a 9-5 home loss to Lake Region. The victory over the Raiders was Freeport’s first since May 11, 2005.

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“I hoped we’d be this good,” George said. “I didn’t know what I was coming into. I thought it might be a little rougher than it’s been, but it’s been better than I hoped it would be so far.”

As for Poland, it started with a 16-1 (five-inning) win over Gray-New Gloucester, then downed Lewiston (6-4), blanked Greely (8-0), beat Lake Region (7-4), then needed just five innings to down Mt. Blue (20-4), Wells (23-0) and Yarmouth (16-4).

The teams didn’t meet last year. In 2019, they played a pair of five-inning games, with Poland rolling at home, 17-5, and the squads settling for a 5-5 tie in Freeport.

Wednesday, on a very pleasant afternoon (63 degrees at first pitch, with a light breeze blowing), the Falcons got off to a fast start, but couldn’t hand the Knights their first loss.

Freeport freshman pitcher Izzy George delivers a pitch to Poland leadoff batter Gretchyn Paradis at the start of Wednesday’s game, won by the Knights, 7-2. Hoffer photos.

George started the game by getting Paradis to ground sharply to first, where senior Jaclyn Burke made a nice stab before stepping on the bag for the out. Sophomore shortstop Khloe O’Leary was next and grounded the ball off Burke, but it ricocheted to sophomore second baseman Norah Albertini, who threw to Burke just in time. After Rioux lined a single to center, George got Bunyea to pop back to the mound for the third out.

In the bottom half, Burke struck out swinging leading off, but Freeport then got its offense going, although it ran itself out of an even bigger inning.

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Freshman centerfielder Celia Cobb singled to left, then senior leftfielder Brook Pawlowski beat out an infield single, but Cobb tried to take third on the play and was thrown out for the second out. Sophomore Rosie Panenka was next and singled to right to put runners at first and second and St. Pierre followed by pounding a Martin pitch to deep right-center for a two-run double. Albertini grounded out to short, but the Falcons had a quick 2-0 lead.

Martin then reached leading off the second on an error by Albertini at second, but in a bizarre play, senior third baseman Emma Gagne appeared to reach when her little pop up along the first base line stayed fair, but the ball was ruled to have touched the batter and Gagne was out. Sophomore Emma Martin then popped to George, who threw to first to double off sophomore courtesy runner Nicole Rioux to end the frame.

In the bottom half, Atlantis Martin got sophomore third baseman Amanda Panciocco to fly out to center, freshman rightfielder Ciara Daly to ground back to the mound and George to bounce out to short.

Poland then broke through in the top of the third.

After Albertini couldn’t handle Bolduc’s pop-up, allowing her to reach, sophomore first baseman Sydney Lacombe drew a walk. Paradis followed with a single up the middle to score Bolduc and put runners at first and second. George was able to avoid further trouble by striking out O’Leary, getting Rioux to bounce to third and Bunyea to pop to Albertini at second, who raced in and made a nice catch to keep the score 2-1.

Freeport couldn’t answer in the bottom half, as Burke flew out deep to center on the first pitch, Cobb watched strike three and Pawlowski grounded out to second.

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George then preserved the lead in the top of the fourth, as Atlantis Martin hit a little squibber in front of the plate which St. Pierre retrieved and threw her out by a step and after Gagne singled off the glove of Panenka, Emma Martin popped out to short and Bolduc bounced out to short.

Panenka then ripped a double past Gagne at third leading off the bottom half and she moved up to third on a ground out to third by St. Pierre. Albertini then laid down a bunt, which was fielded by Gagne, who faked a throw to first, then whirled and fired to O’Leary, the shortstop, who tagged out Panenka before she could dive back into the bag for  a crucial second out. Panciocco then popped out to short and the Falcons had failed to add to the lead.

That would loom large in the top of the fifth, when the Knights went ahead.

Lacombe led off with a single to left, but she was forced out at second on a ground ball from Paradis. O’Leary drew a walk, then, after getting ahead 3-1, then having the count go full, Rioux dropped the ball into right-center to score Paradis and O’Leary took second on the play. Bunyea then blooped a double just fair inside the rightfield line to bring home O’Leary with the go-ahead run.

“It’s frustrating when that happens, but I’ve pitched long enough to know I have to get over it,” George said.

George got Atlantis Martin to fly to left and Gagne to line hard to Panciocco at third to retire the side, but Poland had a 3-2 advantage.

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In the bottom of the fifth, Daly grounded to second, George was robbed on a ground ball up the middle by Bolduc, who made a nice backhanded stab before throwing to first for the out, and Burke flew to center for the third out.

The Knights tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth.

Emma Martin drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch, then moved to third when Bolduc reached on an error, with Bolduc taking second. Lacombe then grounded to short, where Panenka threw her out from her knees, but Martin came home to score with Bolduc taking third on the throw. Paradis then grounded out to second, but on the play, Bolduc came home. O’Leary flew out deep to center to end it, but Poland’s lead was up to 5-2.

Freeport senior Brook Pawlowski rips a double.

With the heart of the order due in the bottom half, Freeport looked to rally, but Cobb grounded back to the mound on the first pitch and after Pawlowski doubled to right, Panenka bounced out to second and St. Pierre popped out to the pitcher.

The Knights got two more insurance runs in the top of the seventh.

Rioux got ahead in the count 3-1 leading off and George was removed in favor of junior Ava Gervais, with George going to second. Gervais came in and threw a strike, then got Rioux to ground out to third, but Bunyea doubled to left-center and when George couldn’t handle Atlantis Martin’s grounder, Bunyea came home to score. Junior leftfielder Alyssa Hart came on to run for Martin and she took second when Gervais hit Gagne on the foot with a pitch. Emma Martin lined a single to left to load the bases, then Bolduc blooped a single to right to score another run and reload the bases. Lacombe then lined out to right and Paradis bounced into a short-to-third force out, but the damage was done and Poland took a five-run advantage to the bottom half.

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Albertini sparked hope with a bloop single to center, but Panciocco struck out on a 3-2 pitch, Gervais lined hard to left and George ended the game in a tidy 90 minutes by grounding out to third, giving the Knights a 7-2 victory.

“We’ve been winning games, so it’s tough to lose,” said George. “Sometimes, we start off strong, then lose the energy.”

“It’s  tough loss,” Daniel said. “We were coming off a win over a good team in Fryeburg.  We’re as good as any team in the division, but the errors hurt us today. Take away the errors and the game’s probably tied and we go to extra innings. When you make five errors, it’s hard to come back. We hit the ball well, but we have to make the plays.”

Freeport got two hits apiece from Panenka and Pawlowski, who both scored, and two RBI from St. Pierre, but couldn’t generate enough consistent offense. The Falcons left four runners on base.

George took the loss, giving up five runs on six hits in six-plus innings. She walked three and struck out one.

“Izzy pitched a great game and did awesome and she needed backup,” Daniel said. “She’s a freshman and she’s pitched really well.”

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Gervais gave up two runs on three hits in her inning of relief.

Atlantis Martin earned the win for Poland, giving up two runs on seven hits in going the distance. Martin didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.

Bunyea and Rioux both had two hits. Bolduc scored twice, while Bunyea, Hart, Emma Martin, O’Leary and Paradis all touched home once. Paradis had two RBI, while Bolduc, Bunyea, Lacombe and Rioux added one apiece.

The Knights stranded nine runners.

Regrouping

After hosting Old Orchard Beach Friday, Poland goes to Cape Elizabeth Monday and welcomes Fryeburg Academy Wednesday of next week.

Freeport, meanwhile, is off until next Wednesday, when it goes to Greely. The Falcons then play at Cape Elizabeth May 20.

“We’re going to have some good practices and focus on some things,” George said. “We have really good chemistry. We work hard in practice. Because we have such great chemistry, I know we’ll come back and we’ll play our best.”

“We have some days off, then we have a tough stretch,” Daniel said. “We need to get some things together. We can’t beat ourselves.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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