CAPE ELIZABETH—After pounding their way to 18 straight victories a year ago, little has come easily for Cape Elizabeth’s softball team this spring.
But the Capers are still finding ways to come out on top.
Friday afternoon was a perfect illustration as Cape Elizabeth dug a quick 3-0 hole against visiting Kennebunk behind some shaky defense, but fortunately for the Capers, their bats showed up and it wasn’t long before that deficit was erased.
After scoring twice in the bottom of the first, the Capers took a 5-3 lead with three runs in the third, but the Rams tied the game with single runs in the fourth and fifth.
Cape Elizabeth wouldn’t be denied, however, and went on top to stay in the bottom of the fifth on a sacrifice fly from senior centerfielder Michaela Pinette. The Capers added two more, including a fluky run when a routine throw from Kennebunk’s catcher to the pitcher went awry, but the Rams refused to quit.
Kennebunk pulled within 8-7 in the sixth, but senior Lily Jordan relieved freshman Madeline Bauman and escaped the jam.
Cape Elizabeth then seemingly broke the game open with a four-spot in the bottom half, aided by three Rams’ errors, but the visitors refused to go quietly in the seventh, scoring two more runs before the Capers finally closed out their 12-9 victory.
Junior designated player Sam Feenstra led the offense with three hits and junior catcher Nikki Penley and senior rightfielder Hannah Saturley added two apiece as Cape Elizabeth improved to 6-5 on the season, dropping Kennebunk to 2-8 in the process.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a win,” said longtime Capers coach Joe Henrikson.
Cape Elizabeth has been up-and-down in 2015, going loss (11-4 at home to Yarmouth), win (10-9, in nine innings at Kennebunk), loss (11-6 at Yarmouth), win (15-3 at Falmouth), loss (6-4 at home to York) and win (8-1 at Traip) before finally repeating a result (prevailing at home over Freeport (16-2, in five innings). After losing at Fryeburg Academy (15-3, in five innings), the Capers beat host Gray-New Gloucester (14-5), but Wednesday lost decisively at home to Greely (13-0).
Kennebunk, meanwhile, had won just two of nine games entering play Friday.
The Rams got off to a fast start, however, against Bauman and pushed three runs across in the top of the first, thanks to a passed ball, a hesitation by an outfielder, an RBI double from freshman catcher Brittany Gregoire and a fielder’s choice.
Cape Elizabeth bounced right back in its half with two outs. After Pinette struck out and junior third baseman Tess Haller grounded back to the mound, senior shortstop Ashley Tinsman walked, Saturley walked and after a wild pitch moved the runners up, freshman first baseman Anna Torre walked to load the bases. Feenstra then came through with a two-run single to center to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Bauman allowed a single to junior second baseman Malori Cole with one out in the second, but after Cole stole second and sophomore third baseman Allie Gregoire drew a walk, Bauman fanned junior shortstop Gabby Harrison and got freshman first baseman Lindsey Gregoire to fly out to right.
In the bottom half, Penley beat out an infield hit and Pinette walked, but the Capers’ two best hitters couldn’t produce a run, as Haller struck out and Tinsman popped up to the second baseman.
After Bauman pitched her best inning in the top of the third (only allowing one player to reach, via an error), Cape Elizabeth went on top in the bottom of the frame.
Saturley started the uprising with a double to right-center. She moved to third on a wild pitch and came home to tie the score on a single to center off the bat of Torre. After Torre moved up on a grounder, senior second baseman Rachel Garrity singled her in. Garrity took second on the throw and moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored on an RBI groundout by sophomore leftfielder Kelly O’Sullivan for a 5-3 lead.
Kennebunk got a run back in the fourth, as junior leftfielder Emily Moore blooped a single to left, Cole reached on an error and with two down, a pair of Bauman wild pitches chased home Moore to make it 5-4.
In the bottom half, Tinsman beat out an infield hit, but that was all Cape Elizabeth could muster.
The Rams drew even in the top of the fifth, as with one out, senior designated player Meaghan Dube doubled off the wall in left-center and one out later, Moore blooped a single to center to make it 5-5.
Undaunted, the Capers roared right back in their half with three runs.
Leading off, Feenstra singled to right. Garrity was hit by a pitch and O’Sullivan laid down a bunt and all the runners were safe to load the bases. Penley struck out, but Pinette lined out to right for a sacrifice fly and an RBI, Haller came through with a bloop single to right to score Garrity and with Tinsman at the plate, a normal throw back from Brittany Gregoire to King got away and O’Sullivan smartly raced home to make it8-5.
Again, Kennebunk didn’t go quietly in the sixth, as sophomore third baseman Allie Gregoire and Harrison both singled and Gregoire came home on an error. That was it for Bauman, who was replaced by Jordan.
Jordan gave up a single to center off the bat of Lindsey Gregoire, which brought home Harrison. Haller then went to her knees to field a grounder off the bat of King and threw to second for a force out. That loomed large as Brittany Gregoire singled to right and after Dube flew out to deep left, junior Haley Morias singled to load the bases. Jordan then escaped and preserved the lead by getting Moore to ground back to the mound.
Cape Elizabeth then seemingly put it away with four runs in the bottom of the sixth.
After Saturley singled, Torre walked and Feenstra beat out an infield hit to load the bases. Garrity struck out looking, but O’Sullivan’s bunt scored Saturley just before a force was registered at home. Torre came home on an error and with two down, a wild throw allowed two more runs to score, making it 12-7 Capers.
Cape Elizabeth couldn’t make quick work of Kennebunk in the seventh and things got very interesting.
With one out, Allie Gregoire singled. One out later, Lindsey Gregoire doubled and King followed with a two-run double to deep left-center, chasing home two runs. Had Brittany Gregoire been able to reach, the Rams could have gotten the tying run to the plate, but Gregoire popped out to second and that gave the Capers a hard-fought 12-9 win.
“I honestly don’t know what to expect,” Henrikson said. “Some days we come out and play awesome. We hit, pitch well and run a country mile to catch a fly ball. Other days, I don’t know.”
Bauman (seven runs, three earned, on eight hits, with three walks, two strikeouts and three wild pitches) got the win and Jordan earned the save after giving up two earned runs on six hits. She fanned two.
King took the loss for the Rams.
Kennebunk (15th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, where only 12 teams make the playoffs) is back in action Saturday at home versus Falmouth. The Rams host Freeport Monday and Fryeburg Academy Wednesday.
Cape Elizabeth was 10th in Western B at press time. Only 10 teams qualify for the postseason, so the Capers need to go out and win some games.
After hosting Lake Region Monday, Cape Elizabeth is at Poland Wednesday, has home games against Falmouth and Wells, then closes at Greely.
“I would not want to have to play us in the playoffs,” Henrikson said. “We can make the plays. We’ll hit most of the time. This has been one of the most challenging years I’ve ever coached, but we have potential.”
K- 300 112 2- 9 14 3
CE- 203 034 X- 12 12 2
K- A. Gregoire, B. Gregoire, L. Gregoire, King
CE- Feenstra 3, Penley, Saturley
K- Dube, B. Gregoire, L. Gregoire, King
CE- Penley, Saturley
King, DeFeo (4) and B. Gregoire; Bauman, Jordan (6) and Penley