Bangor rallies to stun Falmouth in Class A state final

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With Bangor celebrating in the background, Falmouth senior Colin Coyne (22) is consoled by freshman Ike Kiely following the Yachtsmen’s gutwrenching 4-3 loss in Saturday’s Class A state final.

Adam Birt photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Class A Final

Bangor 4 Falmouth 3 (9 innings)

F- 000 200 001- 3 12 2
B- 002 000 002- 4 11 1

Bottom 3rd
Payne singled to right, Z. Cowperthwaite scored. Fournier grounded out to second, Parke scored.

Top 4th
Griffin Aube scored on fielder’s choice. Blum scored on error.

Top 9th
Coyne flew out to left, Bopp scored.

Bottom 9th
Parke doubled to center, Z. Cowperthwaite scored. Fournier singled to center, Parke scored.

Repeat hitters:
F- Ro. Armitage, Ga. Aube, Blum, Coyne, Kiely
B- N. Cowperthwaite, Z. Cowperthwaite, Misbrenner

Runs:
F-Gr. Aube, Blum, Bopp
B- Z. Cowperthwaite, Parke 2

RBI:
F- Cady, Coyne
B- Fournier, Parke, Payne

Doubles:
B- N. Cowperthwaite, Z. Cowperthwaite, Misbrenner

Stolen base:
F- Fortier

Left on base:
F- 10
B- 10

Guarino, Ro. Armitage (9) and Ga. Aube, Kiley (9); N. Cowperthwaite, Farnham (9) and Fournier 

F:
Guarino 8 IP 8 H 2 R 2 ER 2 BB 2 K 1 WP
Ro. Armitage (L, 0-1) 0.1 IP 3 H 2 R 2 ER 1 BB 1 K 

B:
N. Cowperthwaite 8.1 IP 11 H 3 R 2 ER 2 BB 1 K 1 WP
Farnham (W) 0.2 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K

Time: 1:58

AUGUSTA—Two measly outs.

Two outs from glory.

Two outs from history.

Two outs that never came.

And never will.

Falmouth’s baseball team came agonizingly close to winning its first Class A state championship Saturday afternoon at Morton Field, but the Yachtsmen weren’t able to finish the job in a game that needed two extra innings to produce a memorable conclusion.

Facing Bangor, the reigning three-time state champions and the team which squashed its bid for a perfect season a year ago, Falmouth had a chance to grab the lead in the top of the first inning, but the Yachtsmen squandered that chance against Rams senior starter Nick Cowperthwaite.

The Rams got the jump against Falmouth senior ace Cam Guarino, Maine’s Gatorade Player of the Year, in the bottom of the third, as senior second baseman George Payne singled in a run and another scored on a ground ball for a 2-0 advantage.

After 10 scoreless innings against Bangor in the state final, the Yachtsmen finally got on the board in the fourth, as junior first baseman Griffin Aube scored on a ground ball off the bat of junior leftfielder Marcus Cady and senior third baseman Will Blum came home on a two-out error.

From there, Guarino and Cowperthwaite traded zeroes into extra innings.

In the eighth, both teams left runners at third base.

In the top of the ninth, Falmouth chased Cowperthwaite, as freshman designated hitter Ike Kiely walked and moved to third on a single by junior catcher Garret Aube. Senior second baseman Colin Coyne then greeted new pitcher, senior Gary Farnham, with a deep fly ball that scored the go-ahead run, putting the Yachtsmen on the brink of victory.

In the bottom half, Guarino was replaced by senior closer Robbie Armitage, who struck out the first batter he faced, but never recorded another out.

After sophomore third baseman Zach Cowperthwaite doubled off the rightfield fence, junior centerfielder Tyler Parke, who avoided a serious wrist injury earlier in the game, doubled over the head of Yachtsmen senior centerfielder Reece Armitage to tie the score.

An intentional walk and an error loaded the bases and set the stage for senior catcher Derek Fournier to play the hero.

Fournier fought off a pitch and blooped a single to center, bringing an end to the thriller and giving Bangor a 4-3 victory in nine-innings.

The Rams improved to 16-4, ended Falmouth’s season at 18-2 and won the Class A state title for the fourth year in a row.

“That was a tough one right there,” lamented Yachtsmen coach Kevin Winship. “I thought we had it. We took it on the chin. We gave it everything we had, but that’s a great group over there. It just didn’t go our way.” 

No words

Falmouth was perfect last season until it ran out of gas against Bangor in the state game, losing, 5-0.

The Yachtsmen were nearly perfect this spring too (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories), extending their regular season win streak to 33 games before falling at home to Greely, 10-2, in the finale.

That was a momentary blip on the radar, as Falmouth, ranked first for the Class A South playoffs, eliminated No. 8 Scarborough, 9-2, in the quarterfinals, fended off a mighty scare from No. 4 Portland in the semifinals, 4-3, in nine-innings, then Wednesday beat No. 2 Cheverus, 4-1, in the regional final.

Bangor went 12-4 in the regular season, but again was at its best in the regional playoffs, not allowing a single run in downing No. 5 Hampden Academy in the quarterfinals (2-0), top-ranked Oxford Hills in the semifinals (7-0) and No. 7 Mt. Ararat in Wednesday’s regional final (3-0).

In addition to last year’s win over Falmouth, Bangor had won 11 other Class A state finals (in 19 tries).

The Yachtsmen, meanwhile, had won their other four state game appearances (see sidebar, below), capturing the Class C crown in 1985 (6-0 over Calais), 1996 (6-3 over George Stevens Academy) and 1998 (4-0 over Washington Academy) and the 2012 Class B title (2-0 over Foxcroft Academy).

Last year’s encounter was the only previous meeting between Falmouth and Bangor on the diamond.

Saturday, in the rematch, on a 68-degree afternoon, the teams went back-and-forth for nine innings before the Rams finally broke the Yachtsmen’s heart and won another shiny trophy.

Garret Aube got the game off to an auspicious start when he hit a slow ground ball in front of Zach Cowperthwaite at third base for an infield single. Coyne followed by popping out foul to third, but Robbie Armitage, who began the game at shortstop, lined a single to center and after Nick Cowperthwaite threw a wild pitch, Reece Armitage drew a walk to load the bases.

Falmouth wouldn’t take advantage, however, as senior leftfielder Max Fortier grounded to Zach Cowperthwaite at third, who threw home to Fournier for a force out, and Nick Cowperthwaite followed by getting Griffin Aube to chase strike three to retire the side.

“The first inning was big,” Winship said. “We had them on their heels early. We just didn’t get that big hit.”

Guarino, who threw 66 pitches in Wednesday’s regional final, but was still eligible to start Saturday, got off to a better start, battling back from 3-0 in the count to catch senior rightfielder Peter Kemble looking at strike three, getting Payne to ground out to short and Fournier to do the same.

After Blum flew out to right to start the second, Kiely beat out an infield single to the hole between short and third, but Fournier, seemingly effortlessly from his knees, easily threw out Kiely attempting the steal for the second out. Cady then lined out to center.

In the bottom half, Nick Cowperthwaite led off with a double to deep left-center, but he wouldn’t come around to score, as after sophomore first baseman Noah Missbrenner bunted the runner to third, Guarino got Farnham, the leftfielder, to line out to shortstop and junior shortstop Zach Ireland to line out to right to escape the threat.

Garret Aube flew out to right to start the top of the third. Coyne followed with a bloop single to center (Parke dove and couldn’t catch the ball and appeared to seriously hurt his wrist, but he remained in the game). Robbie Armitage then flew out to right and Reece Armitage grounded out to Missbrenner unassisted at first for the third out.

Bangor got the jump in the bottom half.

Guarino fanned Zach Cowperthwaite swinging leading off (for what proved to be his final strikeout), but strike three got away and Cowperthwaite reached first base safely. Parke followed with an infield single to the hole between short and third on a 3-2 pitch. Kemble sacrificed the runners up and Payne followed with a single past Griffin Aube at first and down the line for the game’s first run, putting runners at the corners. Fournier followed with a ground ball to Coyne at second for an apparent double play ball, but Coyne bobbled it initially, then was only able to record an out at first as Parke came home. Nick Cowperthwaite bounced out to short, but the Rams had a 2-0 lead.

To its credit, Falmouth roared right back in the fourth.

After Fortier bounced out to second, Griffin Aube singled to right-center, Blum dropped a single inside the rightfield line and Kiely singled to left to load the bases.

That brought up Cady, who hit a sharp grounder to Payne at second, who tagged out Kiely, but his throw to first for a double play was off target and Aube came home with the Yachtsmen’s first run. Garret Aube followed by grounding the ball to shortstop and Ireland momentarily bobbled the ball for an error, Aube reached base and Blum came home to tie the score, 2-2.

Coyne had a chance to give Falmouth the lead, but he flew out to center to end the uprising.

In the bottom half, Guarino gave up a leadoff single to right off the bat of Missbrenner, but Farnham’s attempted sacrifice resulted in an out at second (thanks to a terrific scoop by Robbie Armitage off a low throw from Garret Aube) and after Ireland singled to center, Zach Cowperthwaite hit the ball on the ground to Coyne and this time, Coyne started the double play, throwing to Armitage for one out and the shortstop threw on to first to retire the side.

The Yachtsmen went quietly in the top of the fifth, as Robbie Armitage bounced out to second, Reece Armitage flew out to left and Fortier grounded out to short.

Parke started the bottom half by drawing a walk, but after Kemble missed on a bunt attempt, Garret Aube threw to his brother, Griffin Aube, at first to pick Parke off. Kemble then lined out to Coyne at second on a full count pitch and Payne grounded out to second.

Falmouth threatened in the sixth, but couldn’t score.

Griffin Aube bounced out to first leading off, but Blum singled to left. Kiely was out pitcher-to-first on a squibber, moving freshman pinch-runner Brady Douglas to second, but Cady grounded out to third to end the threat.

Guarino walked Fournier on a full count pitch to start the bottom half, but after Nick Cowperthwaite sacrificed him over, Missbrenner popped out foul to third and Farnham flew out to left to keep the game tied.

The Yachtsmen put a runner on in the seventh, but fine defense by Bangor erased him.

After Garret Aube flew out deep to left leading off, Coyne singled through the hole on the left side, but Robbie Armitage grounded into a short-to-second-to-first double play to give Bangor a chance to win it in the bottom half.

Cady made a nice running catch in left on a liner off the bat of Ireland leading off, but Zach Cowperthwaite reached on an infield single. Parke grounded to Coyne, who threw to Robbie Armitage for a force out, but Armitage’s throw back to first base was high for an error, putting Parke at second as the potential winning run. He wouldn’t score, however, as Guarino got Kemble to ground out to Coyne at second.

Falmouth put the go-ahead run 90 feet away in the top of the eighth, but couldn’t break through.

Reece Armitage led off by lining out to Kemble in right-center. Fortier reached on a bloop single to left, then he stole second, but after Griffin Aube bounced out to short, moving Fortier to third, Blum flew out to right to end the threat.

In the bottom half, Guarino, in his final inning, also worked out of trouble.

After Payne bounced out to second on the first pitch, Fournier lined out to center on the first pitch. Any hopes of a quick inning were dashed, however, as Nick Cowperthwaite singled to right-center and Missbrenner dropped a double the other way, down the leftfield line, to put Cowperthwaite, the winning run at third. He’d be stranded there, however, as Guarino got Farnham to fly out to left on a 3-2 pitch.

The Yachtsmen’s offense finally returned in the top of the ninth.

Kiely got the trouble started by walking on five pitches. After Cady sacrificed him to second, Kiely left for junior pinch-runner Will Bopp. Garret Aube followed with a single to right, which moved Bopp to third, and that was it for Nick Cowperthwaite’s outing.

He’d been replaced by Farnham, who needed to get Coyne to strike out or pop out.

Instead, Coyne made solid contact and crushed a drive to left, where junior Charlie Budd, who came on as a defensive replacement during the pitching change, made a nice running catch. Bopp scored easily, but Falmouth could have had more. 

Robbie Armitage followed with a single to center to put runners at first and second, but Reece Armitage flew out deep to center and while the Yachtsmen had a 3-2 lead, the Rams still had a pulse heading for the bottom of the ninth.

Where they would proceed to prove their champion’s heart one more time.

Robbie Armitage came on in relief of Guarino and when he struck out Ireland swinging, Falmouth was a mere two outs from a celebration.

Zach Cowperthwaite thought he was the second out when he swung and missed at a pitch, but it was only strike two and his at-bat continued long enough for him to drive a pitch over Fortier’s head and off the big wall in right for a double.

The inning then pivoted on Parke’s at-bat.

Parke hit a shot to center, but off the bat, it appeared Reece Armitage would make the play. Armitage kept going back further and further, however, and the ball went over his glove for a double which tied  the score.

“I knew the centerfielder was playing shallow and I put a charge into it,” said Parke.

“I didn’t see his first step, but Reece is one heck of an outfielder,” Winship said. “I have to assume that if it was catchable, he would have caught it.”

Armitage walked Kemble intentionally and Payne’s grounder to Blum at third was misplayed, loading the bases.

That set up Fournier to play the hero and he wasted no time, making contact on the first pitch he saw and blooping a single to center in front of Reece Armitage to score Parke, bringing a stunning end to the contest at 3:58 p.m. with Bangor on top, 4-3.

“It’s easily the best way to finish,” said Fournier. “You want to end on a winning note, but to win four in a row on a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth inning, that’s awesome. (The pitch) tailed toward me, so I got the handle on it and just fisted it into centerfield. I put all of my power into it and got it into the outfield.”

The Rams wound up with 11 hits, as Nick Cowperthwaite, Zach Cowperthwaite and Missbrenner all had a pair. 

Zach Cowperthwaite and Parke both scored two runs.

Fournier, Parke and Payne had RBI.

Both Cowperthwaites and Missbrenner doubled for the game’s lone extra base hits.

Bangor stranded 10 base runners.

Nick Cowperthwaite didn’t get a decision, giving up three runs (two earned) on 11 hits in 8.1 innings. He walked two, struck out one and threw a wild pitch.

“I knew they were a good-hitting team, but the defense came up with big plays to get us out of a couple of innings,” Cowperthwaite said. “We did it as a team.”

Farnham earned the victory in relief, giving up no runs on one hit in two-thirds of an inning.

Agonizing end

Falmouth’s offense featured multiple hits from Robbie Armitage, Garret Aube, Blum, Coyne and Kiely.

Griffin Aube, Blum and Bopp scored the runs.

Cady and Coyne had RBI.

Fortier had the game’s lone stole base.

The Yachtsmen left 10 runners on.

Guarino capped his stellar high school career by giving up two runs on eight hits in eight innings. He threw 106 pitches, walked two, threw a wild pitch and fanned a pair.

Robbie Armitage was the hard-luck loser in relief, giving up two runs on three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning. He struck out one.

“We battled,” Winship said. “It was a great game. We went all those innings with no runs, then we finally got one and they came back and got two. They had good swings all day long. They just hit it. It was a clean, good high school game. Cam got us where we wanted to be, then we brought Robbie in. That’s how we mapped it out on the way up. It just didn’t work out. Still, I’m so proud of these guys.”

Is 2018 the year?

Falmouth will face a new set of challenges next spring.

For starters, the Yachtsmen have to part with nine seniors, including such college-bound standouts as the Armitage twins (who are bound for Marist College) and Guarino (University of New Haven).

“Most of the starters have been with me four years,” Winship said. “It’s a tough group to lose. It will be sad to let them go. It’ll been my pleasure to coach them.”

Falmouth will play exclusively in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association next spring, so no longer will the Yachtsmen face ancient rivals Cape Elizabeth, Greely and Yarmouth in the regular season. Instead, Falmouth will do battle with the teams it faces in the playoffs, storied programs such as Cheverus, Deering, Portland and South Portland.

And the Yachtsmen will look to finally take that elusive last step.

The one they were denied in head-spinning, heart-rending fashion Saturday afternoon.

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

Falmouth senior Cam Guarino delivers a strike. Guarino threw eight strong innings as he capped his sensational high school career.

Falmouth senior centerfielder Reece Armitage prepares to field a base hit.

Falmouth senior second baseman Colin Coyne throws out a Bangor base runner.

Falmouth junior first baseman Griffin Aube records an out on Bangor sophomore Zach Cowperthwaite.

Falmouth freshman pinch-runner Brady Douglas heads to third base as the final out of the top of the sixth inning is recorded.

Falmouth junior Will Bopp crosses home plate with the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth.

Falmouth senior Robbie Armitage, who came on to close the game in the bottom of the ninth, delivers a pitch. 

Bangor celebrates its fourth consecutive state title.

Photo by Terry Farren / Bangor Daily News.

Previous Falmouth stories

Season Preview

Falmouth 3 Gray-New Gloucester 0

Falmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 0

Falmouth 4 Greely 0

Greely 10 Falmouth 2

Falmouth 4 Portland 3 (9)

Falmouth 4 Cheverus 1

Previous Falmouth state games

2016 Class A
Bangor 5 Falmouth 0

2012 Class B
Falmouth 2 Foxcroft Academy 0

1998 Class C
Falmouth 4 Washington Academy 0

1996 Class C
Falmouth 6 George Stevens Academy 3

1985 Class C
Falmouth 6 Calais 0

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