MONMOUTH — It looks the same in the Heal point standings no matter what. The record will show that Monmouth improved to 9-2 as one of the top teams in Class C South, and that Maranacook dropped its fifth game in its first seven outings this season.
What the record won’t show is that the losing team walked away Monday afternoon feeling a whole lot better about itself than the victors did after the Mustangs held on for a 5-3 softball win.
“Midseason lull, I guess?” Monmouth coach Dave Kaplan wondered aloud. “I’ll take it. You know how it looks in the Heal point standings, and that’s what matters.”
The Black Bears outhit their hosts 7-3, got a double-digit strikeout performance from Alexis Michaud in the circle and put the tying runs in scoring position with two outs in the seventh.
But as has been the case several times already in their oft-paused season, Maranacook couldn’t get the big knock.
“Timely hits,” mused Black Bear coach Don Beckwith. “That was the difference today. We just can’t get the timely hit when we need it.”
The Mustangs only got a few hits in this one, but unlike the visitors, they got the ones they needed.
Down 3-0 early on, Maranacook got on the board in the fourth with Shelby Smith’s RBI single to left.
Monmouth then did what all good teams do, promptly answering in the home half of the inning with a pair of runs of its own. Abby Flanagan’s run-scoring single to left capped an inning in which Michaud struck out the side around a walk and an error behind her.
“We’ve done that consistently all year, winning the inning,” Kaplan said. “We preach winning the inning, and so they’re always thinking about let’s get two if they get one, let’s get three if they get two.”
Three of the Mustangs’ five runs were unearned. Michaud did a good job of limiting the damage beyond a couple of runs in any single inning.
“We’re not hitting the ball like we should be in the middle of the season,” Kaplan said. “We should be hitting the snot out of the ball, and we’re not. Time to go back to practice and work some things out.”
The Black Bears added a pair in the sixth courtesy of Shylah Woodford’s two-out, two-run single to left to pull within two. They could not repeat the feat in the seventh to force extra innings.
Monmouth sophomore Brooklyn Federico got two quick outs before a walk, a base hit and a wild pitch allowed Maranacook to apply some pressure.
Federico said she’s learned from other razor-thin games this season, including one in which she surrendered a lead late against perennial powerhouse Madison.
“Sometimes I dig myself into holes. I don’t know why, but I feel like it always happens,” Federico said. “I just have to push through and get us out of it. I think it got a lot of us nervous, but we knew we could do it.
“We just had to buckle down and focus and really just pull through.”
Federico finished off Kaleigh Kubicki to seal it, her eighth strikeout of the afternoon.
“She was tough when she had to be,” Kaplan said.
“I thought we played well,” Beckwith said. “There were a couple of things we could have done better, but only a couple of things. We had a chance today. We can come back, and we’ve shown that a couple of times.
“All we have to do is just win at the end to get in the playoffs and get a little confidence going and then go.”