CUMBERLAND — The defending Western Class B champion Cape Elizabeth baseball team got its biggest win of the 2009 season Monday afternoon.
Frustrated for much of the day by the host Greely Rangers, the Capers tied the score in the fifth, then won it on junior Kyle Piscopo’s dramatic grand slam home run in the top of the seventh, which proved to be the difference in a 5-1 triumph.
“We stayed confident the entire game,” said Piscopo. “We’re happy to beat our big rivals.”
Cape Elizabeth and Greely are longtime adversaries who have enjoyed great success in recent years. The Capers won the 2004 Class B championship and rose from the No. 9 seed to make a stunning run to the state game a year ago before losing to Gardiner. The Rangers won the 2007 state title and were upset by Yarmouth in the quarterfinals last season.
Prior to Monday, Greely hadn’t been seriously tested in 2009. A 5-0 home win over Poland last Wednesday left the Rangers 7-0. They outscored the opposition 66-21 in that span.
Cape Elizabeth, the preseason favorite, lost 6-4 in its second game at Poland, but took a five-game win streak into the showdown.
Last year, the teams split with each winning on the road. Monday, the Capers got to celebrate on Greely’s field again.
Rangers senior Sam Stauber and Cape Elizabeth senior Andrew Guay both set the opposition down in order in the first.
The Capers had a great chance to get the jump in the top of the second when sophomore designated hitter Robert MacDonald, junior first baseman Will Pierce and junior leftfielder Conor Moloney all singled with no one out to load the bases. Stauber then came to life and struck out three in a row to keep the game scoreless.
Senior first baseman Pat Copp then crushed the first pitch of the bottom of the inning deep over the left-centerfield fence to put Greely ahead 1-0. Senior third baseman Kevin Hart reached on an infield hit, stole second and moved to third on a fly out, but Guay escaped further trouble with a strikeout and a lineout.
“I wasn’t too worried about (the home run),” Guay said. “It was only one run. I wanted to keep my head on straight and throw strikes.”
After both teams went 1-2-3 in the third, the threats resumed in the fourth.
In the top half, Pierce singled with one out, but advanced no further. In the bottom of the inning, senior centerfielder Nate Martin walked to start the frame, stole second and went to third on a throwing error. Guay again escaped, fanning Copp, getting Hart to pop out to shortstop (after a failed squeeze bunt) and inducing senior catcher Ryan Howland to pop up to catcher.
The Capers drew even in the top of the fifth. Junior catcher Ezra Wolfinger doubled to left-center to lead off as Martin dove to no avail. Wolfinger moved up on a wild pitch, then scored when junior third baseman Tanner Garrity singled under senior second baseman Leo Paquette’s glove.
After Greely went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth and Cape Elizabeth did the same in the top half of the sixth, the Rangers threatened to go back ahead in the bottom of the sixth.
With two out, Martin beat out a bunt. Copp then ripped a hit to left-center, but senior centerfielder Zach Breed cut it off and forced Martin to hold at third. Hart then hit a slow grounder to third, but Garrity delivered a strong throw just in time to keep the game tied.
The Capers then seized control in the seventh.
Senior rightfielder Ryan Boyington led off by singling to right-center. Wolfinger then hit a ground ball that Stauber got a piece of and Paquette couldn’t handle. Garrity tried to sacrifice, but Copp pounced on the ball and fired to third where Hart made a sensational diving save of the errant throw while keeping his foot on the bag for out number one. A wild pitch moved the runners up, however, and Stauber walked Breed intentionally to set up a duel with Piscopo.
On the fifth pitch, Piscopo was declared the winner, launching a drive to left-center that Martin could only watch sail out of play for a 5-1 Cape Elizabeth lead.
“It was my first high school home run,” Piscopo said. “I was looking for a base hit or a deep fly to get one run in. The pitch was middle-in. It didn’t feel that great off the bat, but it carried.”
“I thought he hit it better (in the top of the fifth) when Martin ran it down,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Hayward. “Hitting it where Martin can’t catch it was a good thing.”
Guay quickly slammed the door in the bottom half, getting junior leftfielder Luke Booth to ground out to second base to end it.
“That was fun,” Hayward said. “It’s certainly a high-energy game every time we play Greely. The kids have a lot of focus. We didn’t give up and stayed focused. We had some good at-bats.”
“It really was a great win for us,” added Guay. “It gives us a lot of confidence. It’s the first close game we’ve played all season.
“We always look forward to playing Greely. To beat them is big. They were undefeated. We wanted to win really bad. We got a lot of men on base and stranded them. We knew sooner or later we’d put some runs across.”
Pierce and Wolfinger both had two hits for the Capers. Guay went seven innings and allowed one run on four hits with one walk and seven strikeouts on just 74 pitches.
“Andrew was solid,” Hayward said. “His strike ratio gets better every year.”
Cape Elizabeth (10th in the latest Western Class B Heal Points standings) took a step back and fell to 7-2 Wednesday with a 7-2 loss at Yarmouth.
The Capers go to York Monday and host St. Dom’s Wednesday as they gear up for what they hope is another playoff run.
“We have almost the same team back,” Guay said. “We have the experience from last year. If we keep hitting the ball and pitching well, we should be fine.”
“I think we’re doing really well,” Piscopo said. “Hopefully we won’t lose many more games.”
“We have to win a couple more to ensure we get in the playoffs,” Hayward added. “That’s all I want. Get in and see what happens. We showed last year that seeds don’t matter.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com.
Cape Elizabeth senior Andrew Guay delivers a strike during his dominant performance in the Capers’ 5-1 win at Greely Monday. (Brandon McKenney photo)