GORHAM — Amber Bretton reached second base, turned to her dugout and screamed in joy.

In a matter of minutes, looming heartbreak had turned into elation for the Gorham softball team.

Bretton finished with four hits, including the go-ahead RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning, and fourth-seeded Gorham rallied to defeat No. 5 South Portland/Westbrook, 8-7, in a Class A South quarterfinal Friday at the University of Southern Maine.

Gorham led 6-0 after three innings, only to fall behind 7-6 before bouncing back for the win.

“Even up 6-0, we knew it was going to be a dogfight right to the end,” said Rams Coach Phil McGouldrick, whose team improved to 12-5. “South Portland and Gorham are two of the better hitting teams in the league, and it showed today.”

South Portland/Westbrook (12-5) went ahead 7-6 in the top of the sixth on a two-run homer by Ella Nickerson, but couldn’t thwart a final Gorham rally in the bottom half of the inning.


“We knew (our rally) was going to happen. We always trust in our offense and our defense,” said Nickerson, who also hit a double. “Anything can happen in this game. It just came down to that last at-bat.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Lucy Dubail singled to right, then moved up on a groundout. Kyleah Mack followed with a double to the right-field gap, scoring Dubail to tie the game.

“I’ve played so much softball that I don’t feel nervous when I go up to the plate,” said Mack, who went 2 for 4 with two RBI. “And definitely, in those tight moments, I’m more focused.”

That brought up Bretton, Gorham’s pitcher, with a chance for redemption. She jumped on a 1-1 pitch and drilled it into the left-field gap to score Mack for the lead.

“I was obviously not too happy about that home run, so I kind of used that as motivation,” said Bretton, who has committed to play college softball at UConn. “There’s no other choice.”

Late drama is nothing unusual between these two teams. Gorham overcame a 6-0 deficit in its 11-10 regular-season win, scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh after South Portland/Westbrook broke a 7-7 tie with three runs in the top of the seventh.


“They’ve shown that quality all season long, that inner fortitude that allows them to know they’re never out of it,” McGouldrick said. “We’ve had so many two-out rallies, so many late-game rallies. I’d like to stop doing that and just get ahead, take the lead and keep the lead. But they’ve done that a lot.”

Gorham scored six two-out runs in the second inning, but South Portland/Westbrook got a run on Emma Boulette’s double in the fourth, and Madison Cole had a two-run double during a three-run fifth that made it 6-4.

In the sixth, Nickerson’s blast cleared the left-field wall – much to her surprise.

“I thought it was a flyout to left,” she said. “It gave me a feeling that we had it.”

McGouldrick met with his team in the circle and preached poise in the moment.

“We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got six outs to work with. We know how good a hitting team we are,'” he said. “The kids were pretty well composed for that situation, honestly.”


So was his pitcher.

“I just take a deep breath and realize, tunnel vision. We’ve got to do our job,” Bretton said. “We can’t look at that last pitch. We’ve got to move on. If we dwell on that past, we’re just going to stay there.”

Gorham travels to top-seeded Biddeford, the defending state champion, for a semifinal at noon Saturday at Doran Field.

South Portland/Westbrook Coach Drew DiMauro credited the resilience of his team, a first-year co-op.

“We feel fulfilled,” he said. “I’m really proud of how hard they fight and how serious they take it. It’s a special group.”

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