Cape perseveres, edges Greely to advance to semis

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Cape Elizabeth’s baseball team celebrates a run early in its 5-4 home win over rival Greely in Thursday’s Class B South quarterfinal. The Capers will host Yarmouth in the semifinals Saturday.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Class B South quarterfinal

Cape Elizabeth 5 Greely 4

G- 000 400 0- 4 6 1
CE- 400 010x- 5 5 2

Bottom 1st
Peterson singled to center, Sullivan and Tinsman scored. Bowe grounded out, Peterson scored. Bakke singled to right, Agrodnia scored.

Top 4th
Miller scored on error. Porter scored on fielder’s choice. Fried grounded out to short, Piwowarski scored. Brown beat out infield hit, Eisenhart scored.

Bottom 5th
Sullivan scored on wild pitch.

Multiple hits:
G- Miller 3
CE- Peterson

Runs:
G- Eisenhart, Miller, Piwowarski, Porter 
CE- Sullivan 2, Agrodnia, Peterson, Tinsman 

RBI:
G- Brown, Eisenhart, Fried
CE- Peterson 2, Bakke, Bowe

Stolen bases:
G- Brown
CE- Bakke, Peterson, Sullivan

Left on base:
G- 9
CE- 3

Twitchell and Fried; Peterson, Sullivan (6), Bowe (7) and Tinsman

G:
Twitchell (L, 5-3) 6 IP 5 H 5 R 3 ER 1 BB 9 K 1 HBP 2 WP

CE:
Peterson (W, 5-2) 5.1 IP 6 H 4 R 1 ER 3 BB 7 K 2 HBP
Sullivan 1 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K
Bowe (Save, 1) 0.2 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K

Time: 1:45

CAPE ELIZABETH—It was the typical, classic Cape Elizabeth-Greely baseball playoff game that we’ve grown to know and love.

The wind was howling, the teams’ fortunes twisted and turned and one run was ultimately the margin of separation.

Thursday afternoon at Holman Field, in a Class B South quarterfinal, the fourth-ranked, host Capers appeared en route to an easy win when senior ace Marshall Peterson retired the fifth-seeded Rangers in order in the top of the first inning and in the bottom half, Peterson hit a two-run single off Greely senior ace Ryan Twitchell, a third run scored on a ground out and sophomore first baseman Jameson Bakke’s bloop single accounted for a quick 4-0 lead.

But to no one’s surprise, the Rangers roared back.

After leaving a pair of runners on base in both the second and third innings, Greely put up a four-spot of its own in the top of the fourth.

Junior rightfielder Luke Miller, who had three hits, scored the first run on an error and senior third baseman Tate Porter came home on a fielder’s choice. After senior catcher Dylan Fried drove in another run with a ground ball, sophomore centerfielder Zach Brown beat out an infield single with two outs to score junior second baseman A.J. Eisenhart to make it a brand new ball game.

Peterson never let the Rangers go ahead and in the bottom of the fifth, after Sullivan walked leading off and got to third base with two outs, Twitchell fanned senior centerfielder Brett McAlister, but the third strike was wild and Sullivan came home for the lead.

After the Capers escaped the top of the sixth by turning a clutch double play, junior Finn Bowe came on with one out in the top of the seventh and after Peterson made a great running catch on a foul ball for the second out, Bowe froze senior designated hitter Joe Piwowarski with strike three to put the punctuation mark on a dramatic 5-4 victory.

Cape Elizabeth evened the all-time playoff series against Greely at six wins apiece, improved to 13-4, ended the Rangers’ season at 11-7 and advanced to host No. 9 Yarmouth (13-5) in the Class B South semifinals Saturday at 2 p.m.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Capers coach Andy Wood. “A Twitchell-Peterson match-up and we had a great fan base. I’m happy to get the win. They’re a great team. We’re always excited to play them. The kids definitely wanted it. We enjoy this matchup.” 

No surprises

Cape Elizabeth and Greely squaring off in the playoffs never comes as a shock. In fact, it’s when the teams don’t meet in June that it’s newsworthy.

Prior to Thursday’s tilt, the Rangers had downed the Capers in six of 11 all-time playoff meetings (see sidebar, below), including the most recent, a dramatic and somewhat controversial 3-1, eight-inning, decision in the 2015 Western B Final.

This season, both squads stumbled at times, but also earned some key victories (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).

Cape Elizabeth was 3-3 at one juncture, then won nine of its final 10 games to earn the No. 4 seed and a bye into the quarterfinal round.

Greely started 8-1, then lost an uncharacteristic five of six games before closing by handing Falmouth its lone regular season loss, 10-2, to move up to the No. 5 spot.

Wednesday, the Rangers rolled the dice in their first preliminary round playoff game since 2005, not pitching Twitchell and going with Brown instead, and Brown delivered in a 6-2 win over No. 12 Gray-New Gloucester.

The Capers beat Greely in two close regular season encounters, 4-3 in Cumberland April 25 and 2-1, in eight-innings, May 22, at home.

This time around, Cape Elizabeth managed to do something extremely difficult, beat a great team and a top rival three times.

And despite what the first inning produced, it certainly didn’t come easily.

Peterson made quick work of the Rangers in the top of the first, getting Fried to ground out slowly to Sullivan at third leading off, catching Brown looking at an off-speed strike on a full count pitch, then blowing strike three past Twitchell, as junior catcher Brendan Tinsman held on to a foul tip.

The Capers’ offense then went to work in the bottom of the frame.

Sullivan led off by reaching base in the most painful way possible, by being hit by a Twitchell pitch in the leg.

“I knew I had to get on and I did whatever I could to do it,” Sullivan said. 

Tinsman then just missed a home run when he crushed a ball down the leftfield line only to see it hook foul before it easily cleared the fence. Tinsman hit the ball hard again and this time it sailed into left-center for a single and when Sullivan raced to third and drew a throw, Tinsman moved up to second.

Three batters into the bottom of the first, Greely coach Derek Soule brought his infield in to cut down the run, but Peterson lined a 1-2 pitch on the ground past Eisenhart, into right-center, and both Sullivan and Tinsman scored for a 2-0 lead.

Junior rightfielder Sean Agrodnia followed with a sharp ground ball to Porter at third and Porter couldn’t handle a tough hop, putting runners at first and second. Twitchell fanned McAlister swinging, but he threw a wild pitch to move the runners up. Bowe then grounded the ball off the glove of sophomore Will Neleski at first base and while Eisenhart got to the ball and threw back to Neleski in time for the out, Peterson came home to make it 3-0. Bakke followed by blooping a single to right in front of Miller and Agrodnia came home with another run. Bakke stole second ,but leftfielder Cooper Hoffman looked at strike to finally end the frame with the Capers seemingly firmly in control, up, 4-0.

Instead of putting their heads down, the Rangers immediately showed fight in the top of the second, even if they ultimately had nothing to show for it.

Leading off, Neleski drew a walk on a full count pitch. Miller then singled to center on a full count pitch, but Peterson regrouped, fanned Porter looking and Piwowarski swinging before getting Eisenhart to ground out slowly to third.

In the bottom of the frame, Cape Elizabeth almost added a fifth run.

After junior second baseman Val Murphy grounded back to the mound, Sullivan dropped a single just inside the rightfield line and took second when Tinsman grounded out to second. Peterson then ripped the ball hard, but it was right at Brown at short who snared it for the final out.

Senior Jack Saffian started the third with a four pitch base on balls and after falling behind in the count, 0-2, Fried battled back and drew a walk as well. Brown sacrificed the runners up, but again Greely would be frustrated, as Twitchell watched a third strike on the outside corner and Neleski bounced out to short.

Twitchell made quick work of the Capers in the bottom half, getting Agrodnia to bounce out to third, McAlister to chase strike three and Bowe to ground out to short.

The Rangers finally broke through in the fourth with a crooked number which tied the game.

Miller started the trouble to grounding a single through the hole between short and third. Peterson then hit Porter with a pitch. Piwowarski bunted to third and as the runners moved up, the first out appeared imminent, but Bakke dropped the throw at first, allowing Miller to score and putting runners at the corners. Eisenhart then grounded to first and instead of getting the sure out, Bakke tried to throw out Porter at the plate, but Porter slid in safely and suddenly it was 4-2.

After Saffian bunted the runners up, Fried’s ground ball to Bowe at short brought home Piwowarski and with two down, Brown grounded the ball into the hole and barely beat Bowe’s throw for an infield single which scored Eisenhart to make it a brand new ball game, 4-4.

Brown stole second, but Greely couldn’t grab the lead, as Twitchell’s grounder to the hole resulted in a bang-bang play at first and the final out of the frame.

Twitchell kept momentum in the Rangers’ dugout by striking out Bakke and Hoffman to start the bottom of the fourth, then closing the inning by inducing a ground out to second off the bat of Murphy.

Greely then had a golden opportunity to take the lead int he fifth, but the Rangers would leave the bases loaded.

After Peterson got Neleski to look at strike three, Miller singled up the middle, Porter reached when his grounder hit the third base bag for a single and Piwowarski reached on an error at first. Eisenhart had a chance to deliver the go-ahead run, but he struck out looking and Peterson escaped by inducing a pop out to short off the bat of Saffian.

Cape Elizabeth then retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth.

Leading off, Sullivan drew a walk.

“He maybe batted .150 all year, but I had a feeling about him and put him in the leadoff spot,” Wood said. “He got on three times. He got it going for us.”

Tinsman then skied a foul ball wide of the third base line and Twitchell came running off the mound, well into foul ground before catching it for the first out. Peterson followed with a line drive to center that Saffian slid for but couldn’t corral and the single put runners at first and second. Twitchell caught Agrodnia looking at strike three, but Sullivan and Peterson pulled off a double steal. It didn’t seem to matter, however, as Twitchell struck out McAlister swinging, but strike three bounced off the plate, past Fried and to the backstop and Sullivan came home with the run that made it 5-4 Capers.

“I was in my secondary (lead) and once I saw the ball get away, I decided to go,” Sullivan said.

“Ryan looked like he was in good shape to finish,” Soule said. “He had strike three, but it hit the plate.” 

Bowe grounded out back to the mound to end the frame, but the Rangers were again on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

As was the case in innings two through five, Greely put runners on in the sixth, but this time, Cape Elizabeth’s defense made the difference.

After Fried was hit by a pitch leading off, Brown bunted down the first base line and Peterson grabbed the ball and tagged him out with Fried moving to second. Twitchell followed with a sharp single off McAlister’s glove in center to put runners at the corners.

That ended Peterson’s time on the mound and he was replaced by Sullivan, as Peterson moved to first.

Neleski came up with a chance to tie the score as long as he didn’t strike out, pop out or hit into a double play.

He would do the latter.

Neleski hit a slow roller to Murphy at second, who threw to Bowe to short and Bowe made a perfect turn and fired a strike to Peterson at first to nip Neleski by a step for the highlight-reel, inning-ending double play.

“Val made a great throw to me,” Bowe said. “Luckily, I could catch it and get it over to Marshall in time. That was a huge play, a big momentum shift. They could have tied the game, but we were fortunate to turn it.”

“I had to locate and throw strikes and make sure not to give (Neleski) something to hit,” said Sullivan. “I was trying to keep it outside and was hoping he’d do exactly what he did.”

“Carson hasn’t pitched that much, but he came in and got that double play,” Wood added. “It makes a coaching staff look genius when you get a double play like that.”

Twitchell got his team back in the dugout my making quick work of the Capers in the bottom half, getting Bakke to strike out swinging, Hoffman to bounce out to third and Murphy to look at strike three.

Sullivan started the seventh and on the first pitch, he got Miller to hit a soft liner that one-hopped to Bowe at short and Bowe threw on to first for the first out.

Sullivan then fell behind Porter 2-0 and Wood had seen enough, pulling him in favor of Bowe, who entered in a most difficult spot.

Bowe worked the count back full, then got Porter to hit a twisting fly ball foul down the rightfield line where Peterson chased it down and caught it with a dazzling dive for the second out.

“I just tried to throw strikes,” Bowe said. “That’s what Coach said to me. That’s all I was thinking, don’t walk anyone, and let the defense make plays. That was an incredible play by Marshall.”

That left Greely’s season up to Piwowarski, who took a couple strikes, then fouled off multiple pitches before Bowe caught him looking at strike three and after 105 palpitating, exhausting minutes, Cape Elizabeth got to celebrate a 5-4 victory.

“It was tough, but I knew eventually, I’d get one by him or he’d ground out or pop up,” said Bowe, who is best known for his brilliance on the basketball court. “It felt great. It’s my first time closing a game in varsity. A great time to do it. 

“We made errors and they had some trickles. It was devastating they came back in one inning, but we kept our composure. The seniors helped us out.”

“It’s really big for us,” Sullivan said. “We always compete with Greely and it’s usually a tough battle. We had to do what we could to win. Finn came in and threw strikes and we made the plays.”

“There’s nobody I’d rather have at the foul line than Finn Bowe,” Wood joked. “He came in and threw strikes. He started pitching maybe a couple games ago. He’s a competitor.”

Peterson improved to 5-2 with a gutsy effort, allowing four runs (just one earned) on six hits in 5.1 innings. Peterson walked three, struck out seven and overcame two hit batters.

“We put up the four runs, then the momentum switched to their side,” Wood said. “We gave them great situations, but Marshall competed and gave us a chance to win. If it was anybody else, he may have come out, but he’s a senior and there’s no one else I wanted on the mound.”

Sullivan pitched one scoreless inning and Bowe retired both batters he faced to earn his first save.

Peterson had a pair of hits.

Sullivan scored two runs and Agrodnia, Peterson and Tinsman had one each.

Peterson drove in two runs, while Bakke and Bowe had one RBI apiece. Bakke, Peterson and Sullivan stole bases.

Cape Elizabeth stranded three base runners.

Fight to the finish

Greely was paced offensively by three hits from Miller.

Miller also scored a run, as did Eisenhart, Piwowarski and Porter.

Brown, Eisenhart and Fried had RBI.

Brown stole a base.

The Rangers left nine runners on.

Twitchell was the hard-luck loser in his final game in a Greely uniform, falling to 5-3 after giving up five runs (three earned) in six innings. He walked just one, struck out nine, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches.

“I’m proud of how the team battled back all year,” Soule said. “We went through a stretch where we dropped five out of six and we turned around and ended Falmouth’s 33-game regular season win streak and prepared ourselves really well for the playoffs.

“Today, we got down, 4-0, and Marshall came out and was on fire. It looked like it would be a tough day for the Rangers, but like we’ve done all year, we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and came back.

“In a one-run playoff game, there are usually a dozen little things that you think about, a play here, a call here, a hit here, that you can point to. That’s just the way it is. There were all sorts of things throughout the course of the game. We had a lot of base runners, but we couldn’t get that key hit. I’m proud of how we came back, but we were unlucky too.

“I thought we were in good shape for the playoffs because we had seen so many aces and good teams in the second half of the season. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We were producing more runs and we had a solid win yesterday, but we were unlucky today.”

The Rangers have to part with Twitchell (who will pitch at the University of Rhode Island next year), Fried, Piwowarski, Porter, Saffian and three other seniors.

“It’s been a good senior class,” Soule said. “Hard working, a fun group to be around. Quite a few of them just love the game. It’s been fun to work with them for four years. They’ll be missed.”

Despite the seniors’ departures, Greely will, as always, remain a top contender in 2018.

“We’ve got a good group of hungry younger players who are ready for their opportunity,” Soule said. “We’ll be back next year.”

Here come the Clippers

Yarmouth did Cape Elizabeth a favor Thursday, upsetting top-ranked Carrabec/Madison, 5-4, and allowing the Capers to host Saturday’s semifinal round.

On May 27, Cape Elizabeth rallied from an early 4-0 deficit to beat visiting Yarmouth, 5-4.

The Capers have taken both previous playoff meetings, 5-1 in the 2010 Western B Final and 7-1 (in a 10-inning marathon) in the 2012 Western B semifinals.

Cape Elizabeth finds itself one win away from another trip to the regional final

“We have to keep competing and not give away free outs,” Sullivan said.

“It would be tough to end the season this early,” Bowe said. “I think we’re one of the better teams around. We think we can go far. We’re psyched for Saturday.”

“We’re excited to still be playing and practicing,” Wood added. “We’re getting our bats hot at the right time. We need to make the plays.”

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

Cape Elizabeth senior starter Marshall Peterson throws a strike. Peterson earned the victory.

Greely senior ace Ryan Twitchell went the distance in his final appearance in a Rangers uniform.

Greely sophomore Zach Brown lays down a bunt.

Cape Elizabeth junior catcher Brendan Tinsman fires the ball to second base.

Greely junior A.J. Eisenhart takes a swing.

Cape Elizabeth junior Carson Sullivan steals a base.

Cape Elizabeth’s Cooper Hoffman makes contact.

Previous Cape Elizabeth stories

Season Preview

Falmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 0

York 8 Cape Elizabeth 3

Previous Greely stories

Season Preview

Greely 4 Yarmouth 1

Falmouth 4 Greely 0

Greely 10 Falmouth 2

Previous Cape Elizabeth-Greely playoff results

2015 Western B Final
Greely 3 Cape Elizabeth 1 (8)

2012 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 9 Greely 6

2010 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 4 Greely 3 (8)

2009 Western B semifinals
Greely 1 Cape Elizabeth 0 (10)

2004 Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 4 Greely 1

2003 Western B quarterfinals
Greely 7 Cape Elizabeth 3

2001 Western B quarterfinals
Greely 9 Cape Elizabeth 6

1999 Western B Final
Greely 4 Cape Elizabeth 3

1993 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 9 Greely 4

1992 Western B semifinals
Greely 9 Clizabeth 3

1991 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 9 Greely 7

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