As the old adage goes, it is not how you start a game, it is how you finish. And Wednesday’s high school softball contest between host Rockland and visiting Belfast at South Field proved to be the definition of that motto.

The Lions (4-4) plated six runs in the seventh inning and erased an early 4-1 deficit en route to a 10-6 victory over the Tigers (1-7).

Belfast (8.8281 Heal Points) is 11th and Rockland (1.3672 points) 17th in Eastern Class B. Hermon (7-0, 43.5547 points) is first in the 19-team region.

Hayley Rae, Victoria Overlock, MaKayla Cummings, Ashland Hall, Jade Cummings and Killyan Richards all singled for the Lions. Five of Belfast’s six hits came in the top of the seventh inning.

The top of Rockland’s batting order handled the offensive load, as third hitter Natalie Russell rapped three singles, while second hitter Danica Gustin doubled, singled and scored twice and leadoff batter Emma Davis singled and scored.

Ashley Dennison and Zoey Proctor pitched for the Tigers, combining to allow six hits and seven walks, with three strikeouts. Overlock went the distance for the Lions, allowing six hits and six walks, with 11 strikeouts.

Rockland led 4-1 heading into the top of the fifth inning when the complexion of the game drastically changed on one pivotal, yet controversial play.

After both Richards and Morgan Mansfield each scored to narrow the visitors’ deficit to 4-3, Lion Whitney Cross struck out for what appeared the third out of the inning.

It was later ruled, after many of the Tiger players had run off the field to their dugout, that the Rockland catcher had dropped the third strike, thus allowing Cross to scoot up the line to first base. A batter who strikes out in baseball and softball can attempt to run to first if the catcher drops the ball on a third strike. Usually, on such a play, the catcher throws to first to record the out before the batter reaches the base.

On this play, the two umpires conferred that the ball, or play, was indeed live and, during the confusion, Cross took second base, while Overlock, who was on base at the time of the strikeout, scampered home to tie the game 4-4. This all happened while many of the Tiger players stood on the foul side of the first-base line.

“That was probably one of the weirdest plays I’ve ever seen,” said Belfast coach Chris Bartlett. “They called her out on a swing and that’s when the [Rockland players] took off and I realized the ball had hit the dirt, so I told [Cross] to run. The base runners didn’t give up, it was a heads-up play and it really was a defining moment of the game. We were down 4-1 and we’re struggling, then we tied things up and we started to make things happen a little bit and the ball started rolling for us.”

Tiger coach Don Pietroski declined to comment directly on the play, but did admit it was a significant momentum swing for Belfast.

“We did not lose the game because of that call,” he said. “Did it hurt? Yeah, but that’s the way it is. We have to learn as a team that when you’ve got somebody down, you’ve got to keep them down. We struggled with that part of it. But I’m pleased. The game was fun, we were competitive, we faced a really good pitcher and I think we did a lot of good things.”

Belfast scored six times in the top of the seventh inning on hits from Rae, MaKayla and Jade Cummings, Hall and Richards, and also had three runners reach base via base on balls.

Bartlett said his players did a better job of relaxing later in the game and focused on hitting “their pitches,” which attributed to their offensive resurgence in the seventh inning.

“We swung at a lot of first pitches and got anxious and we weren’t hitting our pitches,” said Bartlett. “But towards the end of it they finally started to settle down and came around. But Rockland played a great game. They play hard and they hit the ball well [today].”

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.