BUCKSPORT, Maine – Just before the University of Maine at Farmington's Haley Berry (Westbrook, Maine/Westbrook) stepped up to the plate in the top of the fourth inning of the Beavers' softball game Tuesday against Maine Maritime Academy, UMF head coach Cyndi Pratt gave the freshman an observation.
The Mariner third baseman was playing pretty far back, whispered Pratt. Berry might be able to bunt her way aboard to leadoff the inning. Get the leadoff runner aboard, and maybe the Beavers would have a chance to pad their 4-1 lead, Pratt reasoned.
"Just take a look at it," said Pratt.
Berry took a look. And passed on the idea.
Instead, Berry took the first offering from Maine Maritime pitcher Abby Yeo over the fence just slightly to the left of dead center for a solo home run, extending Farmington's advantage to 5-1. But that additional run proved decisive as No. 5 seed UMaine-Farmington (11-13) upended fourth-seeded Maine Maritime, 5-4, in a North Atlantic Conference Softball Tournament quarterfinal game Tuesday at Bucksport High School's John Wardwell Field.
With the win, the Beavers advance to Friday's double-elimination NAC Tournament championship round. UMaine-Farmington will face No. 1-seed Husson University on Friday, April 26, at 10:00 a.m. at O'Keefe Field.
Berry's home run was the first of her career – at any level of softball.
"Or, you know, just go hit a home run," laughed Pratt after the game, recounting the conversation with Berry and what she said to the rookie as she rounded third base on her way home.
The Beavers got the board first with four runs in third inning after beginning the frame with two outs. Amy Jones (Augusta, Maine/Cony) stroked a double to left and Shelby Bryant (South Portland, Maine/Catherine McAuley) batted her in with a single. Emily Soule (Chelsea, Maine/Cony) reached on an error and Kaitlyn Bartlett (Chesterville, Maine/Mt. Blue) made the Mariners pay. The senior launched a three-run shot to center field – celebrating her 22nd birthday with her 21st career home run – to put the Beavers in front, 4-0.
Maine Maritime (14-16) got a run back in the home half of the third when Sabrina Keach's fly ball was dropped in centerfield and Andi Flannery, who singled earlier, scored.
The Mariners scored three runs in the fourth to make it a one-run game. Hayley Rae's single plated both Leah Jackson and Keach, who walked and singled, before Yeo reached on an error that scored Cassandra Lafontaine.
UMF had a chance to add another run in the seventh when Bryant led off with a single and made her way to third with one out. Bartlett flew out to centerfield and Flannery gunned down Bryant, who was trying to score from third, to prevent another run.
Bartlett went 2-for-4 at the plate with three runs batted in, while Bryant also had two hits with one RBI.
Soule got the start in the circle for the Beavers and held the Mariners to four hits and two earned runs with five strikeouts in the win.
Yeo surrendered two earned runs on eight hits in the complete game effort, fanning one Farmington batter.