Thanks in large part to nearly unhittable senior ace Conor Moloney, the Cape Elizabeth baseball team will play for the Class B state title Saturday.
The top-ranked Capers defeated No. 8 Oak Hill (3-0) in the quarterfinals, avenged last year’s heartache with a 4-3 (eight inning) win over No. 5 Greely, the defending state champion, in the semis, then completed their run to the state game Wednesday with a 5-1 regional final victory over second-ranked Yarmouth.
Cape Elizabeth will square off with Waterville (18-1) Saturday at 11 a.m., at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
The Western A story didn’t have as happy an ending. Despite being the No. 2 seed, Scarborough couldn’t muster any offense in an 8-1 (11 inning) quarterfinal round loss to Biddeford. No. 5 South Portland hoped to beat preseason favorite Westbrook, the No. 4 seed, for the third straight time and second consecutive in the playoffs, but lost, 4-0, in the quarterfinals.
Cape Elizabeth won 15 of 16 regular season contests, losing only an 8-6 home decision to Yarmouth May 20. Moloney went through the whole campaign without allowing an earned run, got plenty of help on the hill and the Capers produced runs in abundance as they earned the top seed in Western B.
Last Friday, Cape Elizabeth beat No. 8 Oak Hill, 3-0, as Moloney threw a five-hit shutout (naturally) and junior Rob MacDonald had a run scored and an RBI. Less than 24 hours later, the Capers hosted No. 5 Greely, a team they beat twice this regular season, but lost to in agonizing fashion, 1-0, in 10 innings, in last year’s semifinal round.
This time, the Rangers took Cape Elizabeth to the brink again, but the Capers had the last laugh and earned a dose of revenge. Senior Will Pierce’s home run gave the hosts an early 2-0 lead, but Greely tied the game 2-2 with a run in the sixth and 3-3 with a run with two outs in the seventh. After the Rangers blew a chance to go ahead in the top of the eighth, Cape Elizabeth won it when senior Kyle Piscopo singled home the winning run, giving the Capers a 4-3 victory.
“That was certainly as close as it gets,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Hayward. “I think that is just about as excited as I have ever been after a game. I couldn’t be happier for (senior) Sam St. Germain after hitting the two-out triple. He felt so bad after the game last year. The success couldn’t go to a more deserving kid, except perhaps Piscopo, who served up the game-winner. He had been struggling a little of late with two-strike hitting, but he fouled off a tough pitch before getting a pitch he could line to right. Fantastic at-bat, made even more fantastic by the enormity of it.”
Wednesday, the Capers and No. 2 Yarmouth met for the first time in the playoffs and it was memorable as Moloney and Clippers senior ace Nick Whittaker matched goose-eggs until the bottom of the sixth where Cape Elizabeth broke it open with five runs, capped by a three-run, bases-clearing triple from junior Kyle Danielson.
“That was probably the biggest hit I’ve ever had,” Danielson said. “Definitely my biggest of the season. Whittaker’s a great pitcher. I had just missed the last couple of times. He left one up and I took advantage.”
Moloney finally gave up a run with two outs in the seventh, but slammed the door and the Capers advanced to the Class B Final.
“I knew this wasn’t going to be easy coming in here,” said Moloney (two walks, two Ks). “I’ve said over and over, Yarmouth is the best hitting team I’ve faced all season. They have bats up and down the lineup. This was not strongest performance. I would say I pitched OK. I have to give all the credit to my teammates. The way they played defense tonight kept the game tied up. Whittaker is a great pitcher. We were both out there just trying to hold each other off. I guess I outlasted him.”
“Both teams had opportunities,” said Hayward. “Good pitching and defense squashed that for both teams. I was much more comfortable being up 5-1 than being 2-1. Connor was one pitch away from going the whole season without an earned run.”
The Capers have no history with Waterville (18-1). They’re seeking their 11th Class B crown and first since 2004.
“We’ve got two days to get better,” Hayward said. “Pierce and MacDonald will be available. Waterville is a good team. We’ve never seen them play, but have heard they have some great players. Their 18-1 for a reason.”
End of the road
Scarborough wasn’t supposed to be a top contender in 2010 after graduating several top-notch players, but the Red Storm won seven of their final eight games to go 12-4 and earn the second seed in Western A.
Last Friday, Scarborough hosted No. 7 Biddeford, a squad it lost to, 6-5, May 17 on the road on a walk-off home run. The first playoff meeting between the schools since 2002 would produce another agonizing setback for the Red Storm and help propel the Tigers to an improbable regional title.
Scarborough got a superb pitching effort from sophomore Ben Wessel, but trailed, 1-0, entering the bottom of the seventh before tying the score when senior Jake Rutt walked, stole second and third and scored on a rare interference call. The Red Storm wouldn’t score again, however, as Biddeford’s Trevor Fleurent dominated. Finally, in the 11th, the Tigers erupted for seven runs and Scarborough couldn’t answer, lost, 8-1, and finished 12-5.
“The bottom line is that that we did not hit,” lamented Red Storm coach Jim Cronin. “The Biddeford pitcher pitched a great game, maybe the best of his career, and picked a good day to do it. We had our opportunities in the seventh and eighth to win it and didn’t get it done. I was proud of the way our players handled themselves. Wessel did an outstanding job on the mound. Too bad we couldn’t push across one more run for him because he pitched well enough to win. High school rules prohibit you from using a pitcher for more than 10 innings in a game but rule or not, he was coming out after the 10th even though he wanted to keep pitching. He is only a sophomore and there is no way I would risk hurting him with such a good future ahead of him.
“We had a good season, exceeding everybody’s expectations, including our own. There were some pleasant surprises with seniors Dan Murphy and Luke Bogdanovich contributing with some key hits during the season and sophomore Conor McCann stepping in behind the plate when (Rutt) was injured just before the season started.”
If it’s any consolation, Scarborough should be very good in 2011.
“I really like how we look for 2011, especially in the pitching department,” Cronin said. “We are very deep and are only losing one pitcher, Andrew Myers. I have other kids who can pitch that didn’t get the opportunity because Myers, Wessel and (sophomore Joe) Cronin did such an outstanding job. Like this year, the offense will be something we have to focus on because we are losing the best bat in the league, as well as Brendan Sullivan and Blake Brubach, both good hitters, but we have a lot of good young players that will be ready to step up and fill the holes left by our six graduating seniors.”
South Portland earned the No. 5 seed in Western A after an 11-5 regular season, which included a 2-0 home win over Westbrook May 27. The Red Riots also upset the Blue Blazes in last year’s quarterfinal round, but had no answer for Scott Heath in this year’s quarterfinal, bowing out quietly, with just three hits, 4-0. South Portland had one good scoring chance, in the top of the third, but couldn’t produce, and Westbrook answered with three runs.
“That was the game right there,” said Red Riots coach Tony DiBiase. “We had to score some runs in that situation. We had our chances early. You’re not going to get many opportunities to put runs up on Heath. We didn’t get the big hit when we needed it and they did. That’s pretty much what happened.
“We were one of the better the teams in the league, but it’s funny. I thought it would be our hitting that carried us. That was never really the case. It was our pitching and defense that ended up being the difference. We pitched outstanding and the defense was great but the offense never really got going.”
Like Scarborough, South Portland looks forward to next year.
“We have a great program and we’ll keep knocking on the door,” said DiBiase.
Eric Carson contributed to this story
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cape Elizabeth baseball team erupts with joy after finally beating Greely, 4-3, in eight innings Saturday in the Western B semifinals. The Capers lost to the Rangers in extra innings a year ago.