By James Anderson

Two of the top teams in the division met on the softball diamond at at Legion Field in Fryeburg on Wednesday with visiting York (13-2) topping Fryeburg Academy (13-3) in a 4-3 thriller on Senior Day, for the Raiders in the final game of the regular season and with the No. 1 seed for the playoffs on the line.

York will be the No. 1 seed in the west for the Class B playoffs, while the Raiders are the No. 2 seed.

Fryeburg, which earned a first-round bye, will play the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 7 Lincoln and No. 10 Spruce Mountain on Thursday in Fryeburg at a time still yet to be determined.

York brought a veteran talented squad to Fryeburg with pitcher Abby Orso, who has been among the best hurlers in the Pine Tree State. Meanwhile, Fryeburg brought a mix of young and old that relies on tight defense and opportunistic offense.

On two occasions York hit nasty infield fly balls that threatened to drop in. That is until Tina LeBlanc called off everyone with a loud take charge call of “I got it.” Both times LeBlanc made the catch for the out. LeBlanc is fundamentally sound at shortstop. She has a classic cross over step when chasing down a grounder to her left or right. This cross over step puts her in position to get to a ground ball quickly and break down to field the ball properly between her feet and out in front.

They say a team has to be strong up the middle. With Morgan Fusco at catcher, Emilia DeSanctis pitching, LeBlanc and Johnson at shortstop and second base, respectively, and Camden Jones in centerfield, the Raiders are certainly strong up the middle.

It was Senior day for the Raiders which always brings a mix of emotions among players, coaches, and fans.

Prior to the ballgame Athletic Director Sue Thurston welcomed the loyal Raider fans, and the players. Then in a very classy gesture from a very classy school Thurston recognized the York seniors with flowers and a brief speech which congratulated them.

Thurston then recognized and thanked the Raider seniors Caroline Condon, Tina LeBlanc, Brooke Juneau and manager River Lusky for their effort and the classy way they have represented their school and their community through the softball medium over the past four years.

We must realize that the senior game, which is the last home game of the regular season game, is a game players never thought would get here, and now realize is here all to soon. There are flowers, pictures and applause from adoring fans. Families are invited to be part of this very important day in a young person’s life. Tears of celebration and sadness come easily as players, families, and fans realize the importance of this milestone in the players lives.

Memories of games played and achievement earned swell the hearts of those involved. A youngster with great ability would go to the circle for the Raiders. Camden Jones made her varsity debut for the Raiders at Legion field.

The Wildcats would come away with the victory 4-3. Jones however proved she could pitch to, and stay with, one of the top teams in the division. York had defeated Fryeburg 7-1 earlier this season at York. Jones was really popping catcher Fusco’s glove with her fastball, and fooling York hitters with her off-speed pitch. In fact, she struck out a York batter when the girl from York obviously fooled by the pitch, waved and missed a high outside change of pace pitch from outside the strike zone.

It was a look into Fryeburg’s softball future and the future looks bright. Jones assignment for the off season will be to learn how to turn her off speed pitch into a change-up. A change-up is a pitch that can be located, high, low, inside, outside. Not just a pitch that is off speed. It must look like the fastball as well. With a good change-up it will make Jones’s already popping fastball look even faster.

York is one of two teams that have defeated the Raiders. York did what few teams have been able to do against the Raiders this season which is they took an early lead scoring one run in the first inning. Fryeburg has not been behind very often in this season. Orso is a difficult pitcher to come from behind on. Fusco and Jones would get on base in the first, but the Raiders would leave them stranded on second and third. In the next inning Matti McIntyre sporting a mini power pony braid would prove Orso hittable with a line drive through the 5-6 hole and into left field. The Raiders would not score however until the fifth when Jones showed fans that she could barrel the ball, scolding line drive over the centerfielder’s head that plated two runs for the Raiders. Jones had three hits on the afternoon. Fusco and O’Connell had two hits apiece.

York scored once in the first inning, twice in the third and once in the sixth. The Raiders closed to 3-2 in the fifth inning, but could only muster one run in the seventh after the Wildcats tacked on an insurance run in the sixth frame.

Longtime Raider fans have seen last inning heroics in the past, but it was not meant to be on Wednesday. So it is on to the playoffs, and we will see you there.

One final game note, the plate umpire was a man whose name many in Mount Washington Valley will recognize — Narcisco Torres, who called balls and strikes, and what a pleasure it was to watch a softball game that is umpired well. Thank you Narcisco.

In a rematch of two teams on top of the division the Fryeburg used an ambush of a third inning to defeat Wells 7-2 at Legion Field in Fryeburg, Maine on May 27.

The win avenged an earlier season 2-0 loss at Wells (8-8).

The Raiders used production from the top of their order and good pitching in the win. The game was scoreless but not boring through the first two innings. What fun to watch DeSanctis pitch and Fusco catch. Wells’ big gun Karissa Kenyon, who homered off DeSanctis in Wells earlier in the season, struck out early on a beautiful sequence of pitches which set the tone for the game. Strike one was a swinging strike on the outside corner just off the plate. Strike two was a high outside pitch that Kenyon could not catch up to. After a low and inside fastball for ball one, Fusco called for DeSanctis to climb the ladder with a fastball high and outside. Kenyon waved at it, but could not catch up for strike three.

The first runs of the game came when Fryeburg ambushed the Warriors in its half of the third. Kayrin Johnson was part of the action when she reached on a dropped third strike, and on an errant throw, used her speed to advance all the way to third. Tina LeBlanc had the big blow, a two-run double scoring Johnson and Camden Jones.

The Wells pitcher helped out with three wild pitches that moved runners up, and even scored a couple. Jones had three hits on the day, and LeBlanc had two safeties.

What genius on the part of the Fryeburg skipper Fred Apt to have Jones follow Fusco in the order. Fusco is an experienced leader, and Jones a young up and comer. Jones watches Fusco do her thing at the plate and absorbs every bit of her experience she can hold. Good stuff. No wonder Fryeburg softball is good every season. Then with the speed of Fusco and Jones on base up strides the thumper, LeBlanc. Pure genius! More to come from these girls especially with DeSanctis pitching the way she has. Against Wells, she allowed nine hits, walked two and had 10 strikeouts.

The girls brought out the pony braid this week, and it has worked. Jones even brought out the double pony braid, while LeBlanc brought out the single power pony braid.

Earlier in the week the Raiders topped Yarmouth at Yarmouth 4-1. The Raiders left 14 runners on base in the contest, while accumulating 18 hits. Kudos to the Yarmouth defense for holding Fryeburg to just four runs. Maddie McIntyre, Fusco, Paige O’Connell and Jones all had three hits, while LeBlanc and Maddie Darling had two hits apiece.

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