SULLIVAN — After nearly a year with no extracurricular activities at the school, every practice and game is a cherished opportunity for the Sumner softball team.
2020, a year of lost opportunities for athletes, was even more so at Sumner Memorial High School, one of the few Maine high schools to have called off fall sports in addition to missing out on last spring. With that in mind, Sumner has put in extra work to make the absolute most of its first outdoor sports season in more than a year.
“We were all heartbroken losing last year, so we’ve wanted to take advantage of every chance we get,” Sumner head coach Mike Sargent said. “We’ve been practicing six days a week, and they’ve been long practices. They’ve been working really hard.”
Over the course of the season, that hard work has paid off for Sargent’s Tigers. On Monday, it yielded a resounding win in the first playoff softball game in Hancock County in two years.
The seventh-ranked Sumner softball team rolled to a 15-4 win in Monday’s Class C North opening-round game against visiting Penquis Valley. The victory came as the Tigers combined situational hitting and strong defense with a solid outing from starting pitcher Brena Patten to claim their fifth win in six games.
Sumner jumped out to a 4-0 lead to start the game with three runs in the first inning and one in the second. No. 10 Penquis Valley (4-9) responded by plating three runs and putting the go-ahead runner on first base in the third, but Skylar Soule thwarted the Patriots’ push to tie or take the lead with a pair of outstretched catches to end the inning.
After Patten induced a double play to keep Sumner in front in the top of the fourth inning, Sumner (9-6) rallied in the bottom of the frame. Rachel Colby knocked an RBI single before scoring on a sacrifice to make the score 6-3, and the Tigers then added to their lead on a steal of home by Soule and an RBI hit by Clara Christiansen.
Although Penquis got a run back in fifth, Sumner got two-out hits from Soule, Rachel Colby, Bri Flaherty and Jenna Colby in the bottom half to make the score 11-4. The Tigers then turned the game into a full-on rout in the sixth as RBI hits from Elsie Carter, Rachel Colby and Soule stretched the home team’s lead to 15-4.
Sumner got an 8-3 double play for the first two outs of the seventh inning before Patten forced a popup to end the game. Sumner players celebrated both plays as the “final” out — the double play after both teams mistook the second out to be the last of the game and the popup, the real third out of the inning, as the true nail in the coffin.
“It’s a big stepping stone on a journey, I guess you could say,” Sargent said. “They’ve had the postseason in their sights the whole season, so to get the outcome they wanted is a good feeling. They’re really excited.”
The Tigers, who had 13 freshmen come out for tryouts, Sargent said, have a relatively young squad this season. Yet Sumner does boast a dedicated crop of seniors in Patten, Soule, Kaitlin Beal and Belinda Catheron, and the team’s underclassmen have made it their mission to ensure the four graduates go out on a high note.
“We just want to give them everything we can and make sure we’re playing our hardest for them,” Rachel Colby said. “Last year was tough on all of us, but it was especially hard for them, and we want them to keep playing. We’re going to keep fighting and try to go as far as we can.”
Sumner advances to face No. 2 Central (12-3) in the Class C North quarterfinals Thursday, June 10, in Corinth. A time for that game has yet to be announced.