Armitage's gem lifts Falmouth past Portland, into regional final

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Falmouth junior Reece Armitage (15) is congratulated by teammate Chris Camelio after scoring a run during the Yachtsmen’s 5-0 win over Portland in Saturday’s Class A South quarterfinal. Armitage scored twice and more importantly, threw a one-hit gem to help Falmouth advance to meet South Portland in Tuesday’s regional final.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Falmouth 5 Portland 0

P- 000 000 0- 0 1 1
F- 300 011 x- 5 10 0

Bottom 1st
C. Aube scored on wild pitch. Reece Armitage singled to center, Gee scored. Coyne doubled to left-center, Reece Armitage scored.

Bottom 5th
Reece Armitage hit sacrifice fly to right, C. Aube scored.

Bottom 6th
Garrett Aube singled to left, Camelio scored. 

Repeat hitters:
F- C. Aube, Coyne, Gee

Runs:
F- C. Aube 2, Reece Armitage, Camelio, Gee

RBI:
F- Reece Armitage 2, G. Aube, Coyne

Doubles:
F- Camelio, Coyne

Stolen bases:
F- Robbie Armitage, C. Aube, Gee

Left on base:
P- 3
F- 7

Barnard, Do. Tocci (5) and King; Reece Armitage and Garrett Aube

P:
Barnard (L, 4-4) 4.1 IP 7 H 4 R 4 ER 2 BB 2 K 2 WP
Do. Tocci 1.2 IP 3 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 0 K 

F:
Reece Armitage (W, 7-0)  7 IP 1 H 0 R 2 BB 12 K 1 HBP

Time: 1:35

FALMOUTH—Two days after Falmouth junior ace Cam Guarino threw a one-hit shutout in a playoff victory over Deering, classmate Reece Armitage got the ball, said, ‘anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better,’ and was every bit Guarino’s equal.

If not even better.

Hosting Portland in a Class A South baseball semifinal Saturday afternoon at Croker Memorial Field, in a rematch of a game won by Portland in the same round a year ago, Armitage made sure the Yachtsmen would enjoy a different result, overpowering the Bulldogs throughout, and he got plenty of help from his teammates in the process.

Top-ranked, undefeated Falmouth took control of the game in the bottom of the first inning, as senior centerfielder Connor Aube singled, leftfielder Tyler Gee did the same and after a stolen base and a strikeout, Aube scored on a wild pitch by Portland senior starter Charles Barnard. Armitage then singled in Gee and an RBI double from junior second baseman Colin Coyne gave the Yachtsmen a 3-0 advantage.

The fifth-ranked Bulldogs made some noise in the second, getting the first two runners on, but Armitage hit his stride and struck out the side, then he did the same in the third inning and fanned two more batters in the fourth.

Falmouth added a run in the fifth, as Armitage hit a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to score Aube and in the sixth, sophomore catcher Garrett Aube singled home third baseman Chris Camelio.

Armitage then capped his masterpiece in the seventh, setting Portland down in order in the seventh and the Yachtsmen closed out a 5-0 victory.

Armitage threw a one-hitter, struck out 12 and for good measure, drove in a pair of runs as Falmouth improved to 18-0, ended the Bulldogs’ season at 13-6 and advanced to meet No. 2 South Portland (16-2) in what promises to be a memorable Class A South Final Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

“For our program to go 18-0 and get to the Western Maine Final in Class A is great,” said Yachtsmen coach Kevin Winship. “We’ve kept it loose all year. We haven’t done anything different this year. That’s how we play our best baseball, stay loose and have fun.” 

No longer strangers

Falmouth and Portland High School reside just a few miles apart, but until last June, the Bulldogs and Yachtsmen had never met in a countable baseball game. Portland won that one, erupting late for a 4-0 victory in the Western A semifinals, and this year, both squads were very competitive.

The Bulldogs started 9-0, then went just 2-5 down the stretch as their offense went cold, but Monday, Portland’s bats came to life and it eliminated No. 12 Kennebunk in the preliminary round, 12-3. That sent the Bulldogs to No. 4 Thornton Academy Thursday, where senior southpaw ace Dan Marzilli pitched a one-hitter and Barnard drove in senior first baseman John Williams with a pinch-hit single for the game’s lone run in the fifth inning as Portland advanced, 1-0.

The Yachtsmen also started 9-0, but they kept winning and wound up 16-0, the program’s first undefeated regular season since 1997. As the top seed, Falmouth opened the playoffs Thursday with a 4-0 home victory over No. 8 Deering, behind Guarino.

Saturday, at high noon, Armitage was a gunslinger without peer.

Armitage set the tone by striking out Portland junior shortstop Jake Knop. He hit junior second baseman Dom Tocci with a pitch, but immediately picked him off, then got junior centerfielder Nick Archambault to pop out to second.

The Yachtsmen then got the only runs they’d need in the bottom half.

Connor Aube led off beating out an infield single to the hole and Aube went to third when Gee ripped a hit-and-run single to right. Gee then stole second, but Barnard struck out junior shortstop Robbie Armitage looking.

With Reece Armitage at the plate, Barnard’s low pitch got past sophomore catcher Cam King and rolled the backstop, allowing Aube to come home with the game’s first run. 

Armitage then grounded a hit up the middle and Gee came home for a 2-0 lead.

Coyne was next and he crushed a double to left-center, allowing Reece Armitage to score with the third run. 

Camelio then grounded out to short and after first baseman Jesse Melchiskey walked and a wild pitch put runners at second and third, Barnard got designated hitter Hogan Tracy to ground out to shortstop, keeping the score 3-0.

But the damage had been done.

“We usually break it open in the first inning,” said Connor Aube. “We come out swinging.”

“Those runs helped bring the pressure off,” said Reece Armitage. “I could relax and take my time.”

Portland had a chance to answer in the top of the second when senior designated hitter Joey Fusco walked and Williams hit a squibber over the pitcher’s head and reached with an infield single.

Little did the Bulldogs suspect that would their lone hit of the game.

Armitage didn’t allow Portland to cut into the deficit, as he fanned senior third baseman Jack Nichols swinging on an off-speed pitch,

“Jack had a couple really good swings and if he hit one in the gap, it might have been different,” said Bulldogs coach Mike Rutherford.

Armitage then did the same to Barnard, then blew strike three past senior leftfielder Zach Fortin.

“All year, when I get runners on, I can dial in and deal,” Armitage said. “I had to get the nerves out of my legs, I wasn’t finishing. That’s what my pitching coach (Craig Pendleton) told me to do.”

“We put up that three-spot and (Reece’s) big inning was the second inning,” Winship said. “He got into some adversity and he battled. Big-time players make big-time plays. He showed why he’s one of the best pitchers around.”

Portland wouldn’t come close to generating offense after that.

Barnard hit his stride in the bottom of the second, getting Garrett Aube to line to short, Connor Aube to fly deep to left (where Fortin made a nice running catch near the line) and Gee to ground out to first (with Barnard covering).

Armitage returned to his strikeout ways in the third, catching senior rightfielder George Chaison-Lapine looking, blowing high heat past Knop, then catching Tocci looking at strike three.

In the bottom half, Robbie Armitage flew to center and Reece Armitage looked at strike three, but Coyne singled to center. With Camelio at the plate, Coyne tried to steal second, but was thrown out by King for the third out. 

Archambault bid for a hit leading off the fourth, but Robbie Armitage, ranging to his left, made the play and threw to first for the first out. Reece Armitage then struck Fusco out on a check swing and caught Williams looking at strike three.

Barnard remained strong in the bottom half, as he got Camelio to ground out to first, Melchiskey to fly deep to center and Tracy to ground out to first.

Nichols led off the fifth by hitting what proved to be the Bulldogs’ lone ball out of the infield all game, but Guarino, playing rightfield, raced back and made the catch. Barnard was then robbed by Robbie Armitage, who again ranged to his left before throwing out the batter, and Reece Armitage struck out Fortin to end the inning.

Falmouth got an insurance run in the bottom half.

After Garrett Aube lined to right, where Chaison-Lapine made a nice sliding catch, Connor Aube singled to left and stole second and Gee and Robbie Armitage walked to load the bases.

That ended Barnard’s outing and he was replaced by sophomore Donnie Tocci.

Reece Armitage didn’t let Tocci get comfortable, swinging at the first pitch and ripping a line drive to right. Chaison-Lapine made the catch, but Aube came home on the sacrifice fly to make it 4-0. Coyne grounded to first to end the frame.

Portland got a baserunner in the sixth, but had nothing to show for it.

After Chaison-Lapine popped out foul to first and Knop looked at strike three, Dom Tocci walked, ending Armitage’s run of 14 straight batters retired, but Archambault ended the threat by grounding out to third.

The Yachtsmen scored once more in the bottom half.

Leading off, Camelio, partially out of self defense, tomahawked a high pitch deep over Fortin’s head in left. The ball short-hopped the wall and Camelio wound up at second with a double. Melchiskey grounded out to third and Tracy lined to Williams at first, but Garrett Aube came through with a line single over Nichols at third and Camelio came home to make it 5-0. Aube went to second when Fortin bobbled the ball, but after intentionally walking Connor Aube and allowing an infield single to Gee to load the bases, Tocci avoided further damage by getting Robbie Armitage to line to left, where Fortin made a sliding catch to retire the side.

Reece Armitage slammed the door in the seventh, getting Fusco to look at strike three, Williams to ground back to the mound and at 1:45 p.m., after 95 dominant minutes, Armitage closed it out by inducing a ground ball back to the mound off the bat of Nichols, then throwing to first for the final out.

“We wanted redemption,” Reece Armitage said. “We wanted to get after them.” 

“It feels good, considering we lost to them last year,” Connor Aube said. “It’s a long time coming, it feels like.”

“Portland made some good plays,” Winship added. “They’re a good team. Our kids all play (Legion ball) together during the season. It felt good to beat them. Mike’s a really good friend of mine. I coached with him for eight years. To beat my mentor in a game he beat us in last year, it feels really good.”

Armitage improved to 7-0 with a one-hitter. He walked two, hit a batter and struck out 12. 

“Everything was working,” Armitage said. “My curve and my two-seamer. Coach P knows what to call every time. Props to him. (Cam and I) push each other. I saw what he did (Thursday) and I wanted to match it.”

“Reece was into it from the get-go,” Connor Aube said. “He was pounding the zone. We have incredible defense behind him. We have a great infield that works well together. The outfield knows what’s going on and my brother behind the dish has done an outstanding job.”

“I thought Reece was really dominant today,” Winship added. “He commanded the strike zone. His fastball was overpowering and he threw curveballs for strikes, which was devastating. Once Reece settles in, he’s really tough. They never squared him up and we played good defense. That makes it easier on him to pitch, knowing we’ll make plays.”

The Yachtsmen mustered 10 hits, as Connor Aube, Coyne and Gee all had two. Connor Aube scored twice, while Reece Armitage, Camelio and Gee touched home once. Reece Armitage had two RBI and Garrett Aube and Coyne each had one. Robbie Armitage, Connor Aube and Gee had stolen bases.

Falmouth stranded seven runners.

No answers

Portland only managed four base runners and stranded three. Williams’ 50-foot single was the lone hit. No runner got to third base.

“When you get one ball out of the infield and get one infield hit and strike out 12 times, what can you do?” Rutherford lamented. “We got beat by a better pitcher today. When Armitage throws strikes like that, curveball, slider, hard fastball, it’s tough. We could have gotten out of the first inning with one run, but the way he was throwing today, one was enough. Giving up three in the first inning felt like 15.”  

Barnard fell to 4-4 after giving up four earned runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings. He walked two, threw two wild pitches and struck out two.

Tocci gave up a run on three hits and a walk in 1.2 innings of relief.

“(Falmouth’s) the best team,” Rutherford said. “They’re not a Class B team. They have to play a Class B schedule, but they are the best team. Even if they were in the SMAA, they’d be the best team. They have the best 1-2 punch. Guarino and Armitage are the two best. They field well. They hit well enough. Kevin is a very good coach. He does a great job. He knows how to coach the game. They play fundamentally strong baseball. I’d feel very confident if I was Kevin. They should win the state championship.”

Portland entered the season as one of the favorites, started out like a championship-caliber squad, struggled down the stretch, then won a couple of playoff games for the second year in a row.

“(The season) was up and down, but we beat the best pitcher in our league (Ben Lambert of Thornton Academy in the quarterfinals),” Rutherford said. “We expected to play Falmouth in the regional final. If we won this game, I think we would have won the Western Maine title.”

The Bulldogs will be hard-hit by graduation, as 12 seniors depart, including Barnard, Chaison-Lapine, Fortin, Fusco, Marzilli, Nichols, Williams and Joey Clayton, who spent a lot of time in the outfield this spring.

That group will be fondly remembered.

“When I see the seniors down the road, what I’ll remember about them is that they brought Portland back to relevancy,” Rutherford said. “The old Portland teams were always in the final four, competing for a championship. I congratulate the seniors for getting us back. We just got beaten by a better team.”

Despite the roster turnover, the 2017 Bulldogs should be right back in contention.

“Knop, Archambault, Tocci and King, the middle of the field, is all back,” Rutherford said. “We have some young kids ready. Our freshman team was undefeated. We have really good talent in the pipeline. Losing Marzilli and Barnard will hurt. They were our horses.

“We’ll be a different team. We won’t be ranked number one, but I think by the end of the year, we’ll be relevant.”

Off to St. Joe’s

Falmouth will compete in its first Class A South Final and its first regional final at any level since winning the Class B championship in 2012 when it has the daunting task of matching wits with the defending regional champions from South Portland.

The teams have no history.

They’re about to make some.

“It should be really fun,” Connor Aube said. “We won’t be content with 18-0. We want to be 20-0. That’s the goal.”

“There’s no pressure,” Reece Armitage said. “It’s a new season, four games. We have to keep pounding, early and often.”

“Cam will get the ball Tuesday,” Winship added. “I know a lot about South Portland. We’re happy to be there. We’ll go out and do the best we can.” 

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter:@foresports.

Falmouth junior Reece Armitage shows off his one-hit, 12-strikeout form.

Portland senior starter Charles Barnard deals to the plate. Barnard suffered the loss.

Falmouth leftfielder Tyler Gee lines a hit.

Falmouth senior Connor Aube steals second base.

Portland junior second baseman Dom Tocci tags out Falmouth junior Colin Coyne.

Falmouth junior shortstop Robbie Armitage pounds a hit.

Portland senior rightfielder George Chaison-Lapine slides to make a catch.

Falmouth senior Connor Aube, left, and junior Colin Coyne celebrate during the Yachtsmen’s victory.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.