Cape survives Yarmouth in nine-inning quarterfinal epic

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Cape Elizabeth’s baseball team mobs senior Carson Sullivan after his game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning of Thursday’s 6-5 victory over Yarmouth in a memorable Class B South quarterfinal. The Capers advanced to face Greely in the semifinals Saturday.

Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 5 (9 innings) 

Y- 000 000 500- 5 6 3
CE- 100 040 001- 6 9 2

* One out when winning run scored.

Bottom 1st
Agrdonia reached on infield single, Tinsman scored.

Bottom 5th
Hoffman and Bowe scored on error. Tinsman scored on Riggle’s squeeze bunt. Weare singled to center, Riggle scored.

Top 7th
Burgmaier singled to right-center, Norton scored. Hickey tripled to left, Caruso, Morrill and Burgmaier scored. Hickey scored on Lainey’s squeeze bunt.

Bottom 9th
Sullivan reached on infield single, Tinsman scored.

Multiple hits:
Y- Hickey
CE- Weare

Runs:
Y- Burgmaier, Caruso, Hickey, Morrill, Norton
CE- Tinsman 3, Bowe, Hoffman, Riggle

RBI:
Y- Hickey 3, Burmaier, Lainey 
CE- Agrodnia, Riggle, Sullivan, Weare 

Double:
CE- Murphy

Triples:
Y- Hickey
CE- Tinsman

Stolen bases:
Y- Hickey
CE- Riggle, Tinsman 2, Bakke, Hoffman

Left on base:
Y- 5
CE- 11 

Morrill, Romano (8) and Waaler; Agrodnia, Sullivan (7), Bowe (9) and Tinsman

Y: 
Morrill 7 IP 6 H 5 R 1 ER 6 BB 3 K 1 HBP
Romano (L, 0-2) 1.1 IP 3 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 0 K  

CE:
Agrodnia 6.1 IP 6 H 5 R 5 ER 1 BB 5 K 1 HBP
Sullivan 2 IP 0 H 0 R 1 BB 0 K
Bowe (W 2-0) 0.2 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K

Time: 2:13

CAPE ELIZABETH—After two painfully close regular season contests, it was no surprise that Thursday afternoon’s Class B South quarterfinal round baseball showdown between No. 2 Cape Elizabeth and No. 7 Yarmouth required extra innings.

It’s how the Capers and the defending state champion Clippers got there that was so remarkable.

For much of the afternoon, Cape Elizabeth senior starter Sean Agrodnia earned everyone’s attention as he chased baseball immortality, retiring the first 13 Yarmouth batters he faced.

The Capers grabbed a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, as senior standout catcher Brendan Tinsman ripped a one-out triple and Agrodnia reached on an infield single, driving him in.

Agrodnia lost his bid for a perfect game with one out in the top of the fifth, hitting senior third baseman Jackson Caruso with a pitch, but a double play ended the frame.

In the bottom half, Cape Elizabeth seemingly put it away, scoring four times, thanks to three Clippers’ errors, a squeeze bunt from junior first baseman Alec Riggle, which scored a run, and senior designated hitter Ryan Weare’s RBI single as well, but on the play, Yarmouth senior centerfielder Jack Romano threw out a runner at the plate, keeping the score 5-0, which would loom large later in the contest.

With one down in the top of the sixth, Clippers sophomore shortstop Aidan Hickey singled to break up Agrodnia’s no-hit bid, but after the visitors loaded the bases, the Capers turned a double play to all but put the finishing touches on their victory.

Except no one told Yarmouth it had to go quietly in the top of the seventh.

And the Clippers, showing the transcendent heart and will that led to an improbable title a year ago, roared back in breathtaking fashion.

With one down and no one on, senior first baseman Ben Norton singled. Caruso followed with a single and Yarmouth senior starting pitcher Dom Morrill walked to load the bases. Junior designated hitter Toby Burgmaier singled in a run and Hickey then made things very interesting, clearing the bases with a triple down the leftfield line.

That did it for Agrodnia, who was replaced by senior Carson Sullivan, who was greeted by sophomore second baseman Jason Lainey, whose squeeze bunt scored Hickey to bring the Clippers all the way back.

Yarmouth couldn’t take the lead and after the Capers went in order in the bottom half, Riggle made a nice defensive play in the top of the eighth to keep the Clippers off the board.

When senior second baseman Val Murphy hit a one-out double off junior reliever Jack Romano in the bottom half, Cape Elizabeth had a chance to win it, but Murphy would be stranded at third, as Norton made a nice backpedalling catch on a little pop up hit by senior shortstop Finn Bowe.

Yarmouth then came within a hair of taking the lead in the ninth, as Hickey reached on an error and after Bowe replaced Sullivan, Hickey got to third with two outs. Senior leftfielder Luke Waeldner then hit a slow grounder to Sullivan at short which resulted in a bang-bang play at first, but Waeldner was called out, keeping the game tied.

The Capers then finished it off in the bottom half.

Tinsman drew a walk leading off, stole second and moved up to third on an Agrodnia ground out. After Riggle reached on an infield single with Tinsman holding, junior rightfielder Jameson Bakke was walked intentionally to load the bases for Sullivan.

And Sullivan didn’t disappoint, lining a hit off Romano and when the ball landed untouched, Tinsman raced home to win it, 6-5.

Cape Elizabeth won a quarterfinal round game for the fourth year in a row, improved to 12-5, ended Yarmouth’s season at 10-8 and in the process, advanced to battle No. 3 Greely (11-6) in the Class B South semifinals, Saturday at 1 p.m., at Holman Field.

“That was absolutely crazy,” said Capers coach Andy Wood. “It was a well-played game. For them to battle back, you have to feel for them. It was a great game to be a part of. It was a game of momentum. We knew Yarmouth would never give up. They have a great coach (Marc Halsted) and a great program.”

No surprise

Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth were viewed as favorites coming into the season, so a playoff encounter, the teams’s fourth in nine years, didn’t come as a shock.

The Clippers, one year removed from their stirring and stunning run to the Class B championship, had their ups and downs this spring (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories), but wound up 9-7 and seventh in Class B South, two spots better than last year’s team. Tuesday, Yarmouth had no trouble with No. 10 Spruce Mountain in the preliminary round, winning, 10-0, in five-innings.

The Capers won their first six games this season and appeared bound for the top seed, but won just five of their final 10 to wind up 11-5 and second to Wells, which gave them a bye into the quarterfinal round. Three of those five losses came after leading late in the game.

Last year’s 2-0 Clippers’ victory in the semifinals was the third all-time playoff meeting between the schools. Cape Elizabeth won the first two (see sidebar, below).

Thursday, on a 60-degree afternoon, with a south wind blowing at 16 miles per hour, the Capers found a way to prevail, but it took a lot longer than originally thought.

Agrodnia looked sharp from the get-go, bouncing off the mound to pounce on a little squibber from Waeldner before throwing him out leading off the game, getting senior catcher James Waaler to ground out to second and fanning Romano on a 3-2 pitch.

Cape Elizabeth then took the lead in the bottom half.

After Morrill got Bowe to line out to center, Tinsman, the Wake Forest University-bound standout who was honored before the game by the Western Maine Umpires, worked the count to 2-2, then blasted a drive to deep right-center and when the ball rested against the fence, Tinsman turned on the after-burners and raced all the way to third base with a triple. Agrodnia then bounced a grounder off Caruso’s glove for an infield single and Tinsman scored to make it 1-0.

The Capers had a chance to put up a crooked number when Riggle and Bakke both drew walks to load the bases, but Morrill battled back from a 3-1 count to strike out Sullivan on a high fastball before getting Weare to ground out to second.

Agrodnia was just as effective in the top of the second, getting Norton to ground out to third, Caruso to chase the first pitch and ground out to first and Morrill to look at strike three on a full count pitch.

Morrill settled down in the bottom half, getting Murphy to ground out to short, where Hickey made a nice throw from the hole, Hoffman to chase the first pitch and line out to Norton at first and Bowe to ground out to second.

Agrodnia started the third by blowing strike three past Burgmaier on a 3-2 pitch, fanning Hickey, then getting Lainey to line softly to Murphy at second to retire the side.

Tinsman led off the bottom half by drawing a walk, but Agrodnia flew out to left and Riggle popped out to second and after Tinsman stole second, Bakke flew out to right to keep the score 1-0.

Agrodnia faced the top of the Yarmouth order for the second time in the top of the fourth and had similar results, getting Waeldner to pop out to short, Waaler to fly to right, where Bakke made a nice sprawling catch, and Romano to ground out to first base unassisted.

In the bottom half, Morrill got Sullivan to pop out to short, but Weare reached on an infield single up the middle, as Lainey dove and made the stop, but couldn’t get off a throw. Murphy then grounded into a force out and Waaler ended the frame by throwing Murphy out trying to steal.

When Agrodnia got Norton to fly out to center leading off the fifth, he’d retired 13 batters in a row, but he let an 0-1 pitch to Caruso get away and hit him, allowing his first base runner. Caruso was quickly erased, however, as Morrill hit a sharp grounder up the middle to Bowe, who threw to Murphy for a force out and Murphy threw on to Riggle at first for the inning-ending double play.

Cape Elizabeth then got plenty of insurance in the bottom half, but as it turned out, not enough.

The trouble started when Hoffman was hit by a Morrill pitch. Bowe then dunked a single to right in front of senior Ben Gleason, who couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly and on the error, Hoffman went to third and Bowe moved up to second. Tinsman was walked intentionally, bringing up Agrodnia, who helped himself with a ground ball to third, which Caruso threw away, allowing both Hoffman and Bowe to score for a 3-0 lead, as Tinsman took third and Agrodnia moved up to second.

Riggle then laid down a squeeze bunt to score Tinsman and when Morrill’s throw to first was wild, the Capers had runners at the corners. Riggle stole second and Bakke drew a walk to load the bases again. Sullivan then missed a squeeze bunt and Agrodnia was out easily at the plate. Sullivan then looked at strike three, giving Morrill a chance to minimize the damage, but Weare bounced a single up the middle to score Riggle. Bakke tried to score too, but Romano threw him out at the plate to keep the score 5-0.

The Clippers’ offense finally showed some life in the top of the sixth, but couldn’t score.

Agrodnia started the frame by catching Burgmaier looking at strike three, but on the first pitch, Hickey singled cleanly through the hole between short and third to end the no-hit bid. Lainey then singled down the leftfield line and Waeldner drew a walk on a full count pitch to load the bases. Waaler made solid contact, but his ground ball up the middle found the glove of Bowe, who stepped on second for one out, then threw on to first for an inning-ending double play, keeping a ‘0’ in Yarmouth’s score column.

Murphy popped out to third to start the bottom half, but Hoffman lined an infield single off Morrill and after Bowe flew out to right, Hoffman stole second and Tinsman was walked intentionally. Agrodnia wasn’t able to add to the lead, however, as he popped out to second and the game went to the fateful top of the seventh.

Romano made solid contact leading off, but lined the ball right to Hoffman in center leaving the defending champion Clippers with just two outs to work with.

And they made the most of them.

Norton followed with a seemingly innocent single to left, but that snowflake started an avalanche.

Caruso followed by singling to left on the first pitch and after falling behind in the count 0-2, Morrill worked it full before drawing a walk to load the bases.

Burgmaier then gave the visitors hope by singling to right-center, scoring Norton with Yarmouth’s first run.

That brought up Hickey, who had the Clippers’ first hit and delivered an even bigger one, driving the ball deep down the leftfield line and when it rolled all the way to the fence, Caruso, Morrill and Burgmaier all came home on the three-run triple to make it 5-4, leaving Hickey, the tying run, 90 feet away.

Wood then finally pulled Agrodnia, in favor of Sullivan, as Agrodnia went to third base.

“(That comeback was) the last thing I thought would happen,” Wood said. “I had to put Carson in there.”

With Lainey, the No. 9 hitter at the plate, a squeeze bunt was a distinct possibility and Lainey didn’t disappoint, getting a bunt down in front of the plate. Sullivan gloved the ball and threw home to Tinsman, but Hickey slid in safely and just like that, a five-run deficit had disappeared.

“I kind of knew (the bunt) was coming, but (Hickey) barely had a lead and (the ball) came right back to me, but he got home quick,” Sullivan said. “It was well done by them.”

Yarmouth suddenly had a chance to go ahead and after Waeldner grounded the ball to Murphy, who tagged out Lainey, Murphy threw the ball away, allowing Waeldner to go to second, into scoring position. Waaler drew a walk, giving Romano a chance to deliver a go-ahead hit, but Romano popped the ball foul near the first base visitor’s dugout, where Tinsman gloved it to finally end the inning.

“I’ve been in that situation many times,” Sullivan said. “I just pitched like there wasn’t anyone on.”

Morrill kept the game tied in the bottom of the seventh, getting Riggle to ground out to short on a 3-2 pitch, fanning Bakke and getting Sullivan to fly out to left.

Norton led off the eighth against Sullivan and bid for extra bases by going the other way and lining the ball down the first base line, but Riggle made a highlight reel diving catch for the out. Caruso then lined to left and Morrill bounced out to short.

In the bottom half, the Capers got the potential winning run to third, but couldn’t end it.

Romano came on to pitch and after getting Weare to ground out to short on the first pitch, Murphy drove a ball over Waeldner’s head in left for a double, as he barely slid in safely at second. Hoffman followed with a sharp grounder to Lainey at second, who adroitly handled a bad hop before throwing out the batter with Murphy moving to third. Bowe then had a chance to end it and after fouling off several pitches, Bowe blooped the ball behind first where Norton backpedaled, stumbled, then somehow caught the ball and held on when he hit the ground to send the game to the top of the ninth inning.

There, the Clippers nearly went on top.

Burgmaier grounded out to third leading off. Hickey then worked the count full before grounding to Agrodnia at third, who threw high to first for an error, putting the potential go-ahead run on base. 

Bowe then replaced Sullivan, with Sullivan going to short.

With Lainey at the plate, Hickey did the near-impossible, stealing second base on Tinsman.

“We’re not afraid of anyone,” Halsted said. “(Tinsman’s) thrown out 11 of 12 baserunners this year. Luke Waeldner was the only one to steal on him in the regular season and Aidan did it today.” 

Lainey grounded out to second, moving Hickey to third, leaving it up to Waeldner to get the run home.

He nearly did.

Waeldner hit a slow grounder to short and raced down the line. Sullivan gloved it, then threw to first, where the ball and runner arrived at nearly the same time. All eyes were then on the base umpire, who, to Yarmouth’s chagrin and Cape Elizabeth’s relief, raised his right arm with his thumb upheld, signifying the inning-ending out, keeping the score 5-5.

“I knew it was coming to me,” Sullivan said. “I had to get it immediately and throw. I was pretty sure we got him.”

“That was bang-bang at first base and we were lucky to get the call,” Wood said.

“I thought we had it on the ground ball with Waeldner, one of the fastest players on the field, running down the line,” Halsted said. “As a high school hockey official, I’ll say that the official is always right.”

Having dodged that bullet, the Capers then brought the curtain down on their dramatic victory in the bottom of the ninth.

Tinsman didn’t see a good pitch leading off and he walked on four pitches.

“I didn’t think they’d intentionally walk me because they know what I can do on the bases,” Tinsman said. “I thought I’d get at least one pitch to hit, but I’ll take it.”

With Agrodnia at the plate, Tinsman, who wasn’t allowed to win the game with his bat, but with his legs, stole second.

“When (Romano) went to the slide-step, we decided to bunt, but when he went 0-2, we decided to steal,” Wood said.

When Agrodnia grounded out slowly to Hickey at short, Tinsman moved to third.

With the infield in, Riggle hit a grounder off Norton for an infield hit, but Tinsman had to hold at third. Bakke was then walked intentionally to load the bases.

Halsted brought in a fifth infielder to try and record a force out at home, or produce a double play.

It wasn’t to be.

At 5:41 p.m., after 2-hours, 13-minutes of roller-coaster action, Sullivan hit a sharp grounder to Romano’s right and when Romano couldn’t come up with the ball, Tinsman ran home and touched the plate to end it.

“It helped that there was only one out,” Sullivan said. “I hadn’t gotten a hit all game and I knew I had to get one there. I made sure I hit it on the ground and didn’t pop it up. I thought (Romano) had it. I was just hauling to first and I heard the yells.”

“All he had to do was put the ball in play and avoid the double play and he did what he had to do,” Tinsman said.

“He struck out in the first inning and missed a squeeze later, then, he got the big hit,” Wood said. “When they bring the infield in like that, it creates holes and you just have to hit the ball hard on the ground. We missed the squeeze once and we weren’t going to take the chance again. He made a great hit.”

“We did everything we could,” Halsted said. “That ball was smashed up the middle. It was nobody’s fault.”

Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 5.

Exhale.

“We thought about how we played all game and we couldn’t let (giving up the lead) distract us,” Sullivan said.

“It would have been brutal to lose this one,” said Tinsman. “It took us longer than expected, but we dug deep and found a way to win.”

The Capers mustered nine hits, including a pair by Weare, and extra base knocks from Murphy and Tinsman. 

Tinsman scored three runs, including the winner, while Bowe, Hoffman and Riggle also touched home.

Agrodnia, Riggle, Sullivan and Weare had RBI.

Riggle and Tinsman both had two stolen bases, while Bakke and Hoffman each registered one.

The Capers left 11 runners on base, but it didn’t come back to haunt them.

Agrodnia appeared destined for a win, but wound up with a no-decision after surrendering five earned runs on six hits in 6.1 innings. He walked one, hit a batter and struck out five.

Sullivan pitched two hitless, scoreless innings of relief, walking one and not striking out a hitter.

Bowe improved to 2-0 by retiring both hitters he faced.

“Carson threw 33 pitches, so he can go against Greely on Saturday,” Wood said. “Finn, Carson, Ryan Weare, guys like that can go anytime. I talked to the seniors and they were all for putting Finn in and saving Carson for Saturday.”

Valiant

Yarmouth got two hits from Hickey, who also had three RBI, a run scored and a stolen base.

Burgmaier, Caruso, Morrill and Norton also scored runs.

Burgmaier and Lainey had RBI.

The Clippers stranded five runners.

Morrill didn’t earn a decision, giving up five runs (just one earned) on six hits in seven innings of work. He walked six, hit a batter and struck out three.

Romano fell to 0-2 after giving up one run on three hits in 1.1 innings of relief. He walked two.

Yarmouth might have gone down to defeat on the scoreboard, but the Clippers’ comeback was every bit as glorious as last year’s title run, according to their coach.

“This isn’t hyperbole,” Halsted said. “The reason why I coach is because I want to make an impact on these kids in some way. Yarmouth baseball, by and large, makes a positive impact on kids. We were down 5-0 with one out in the seventh and Sean was pitching lights out and we had 20 guys up pulling for the guy at the plate. We put our heads down and came back.

“The whole point about (our motto) ‘Row the Boat’ is that you don’t know where you’re going, but you just believe in who you’re with and you row. Beyond my children and my wife, that’s what I live for right here. Teaching and coaching. It’s the greatest blessing in the world. State championships are the greatest thing because you end on a great note, but to lose like that, that’s second-best.

“We can only tip our cap. Good luck to (Cape), but this was about us. Our juniors and our seniors, they won just two games in eighth grade. They end their high school careers with 45 wins, a state championship and a 10-8 season this year. That’s credit to Luke Waeldner, James Waaler, Dom Morrill, kids like that. They came together the last four years. I’m so honored to coach these guys. We care about each other, try to add value to each other’s lives. That’s the lesson we want to leave them going forward.”

While Yarmouth will certainly be hurt by graduation, don’t write off the Clippers in 2019. The likes of Burgmaier, Hickey, Lainey and Romano will lead the way and some younger players will quickly make a mark.

“I had two freshmen in the outfield in extra innings,” said Halsted. “Remember the names Will Cox and Will Dickinson. We had our best freshman class ever.” 

Greely, again

Cape Elizabeth knew that the road to a title wouldn’t be easy and wouldn’t come without showdowns against top rivals. After surviving the Clippers, the Capers now face another longtime rival, Greely, which advanced Thursday with a 2-1 quarterfinal round win over No. 11 Gray-New Gloucester, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The Capers split with the Rangers this year, winning a marathon 13-inning decision (4-1) April 23 in Cumberland, then losing the regular season finale to Greely, 7-2, May 25 in Cape Elizabeth (see sidebar, below, for links to game stories).

The teams have split a dozen previous playoff meetings dating back to 1991. Last year, the Capers held on for a 5-4 victory in the Class B South quarterfinals.

Cape Elizabeth expects another battle that will require seven innings, if not more.

“This gives us a good driving force going into the next game,” Sullivan said. “It’s a good learning experience. We have to pitch well again and make plays. We can’t give them any free outs.”

“I’m hoping that it’s not a battle,” Tinsman said. “Last time was a tough loss. Hopefully we’ll string hits together and score runs and win the game. We’ll get a big crowd out here Saturday.”

“We’re lucky to keep on playing,” Wood added. “We’re just happy to have practice again tomorrow. Greely will come to compete. We’ll create an exciting environment.”

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

Cape Elizabeth senior pitcher Sean Agrodnia delivers a strike. Agrodnia was perfect into the fifth inning and didn’t allow a hit until the sixth, but wound up with a no-decision.

Yarmouth sophomore second baseman Jason Lainey tags out Cape Elizabeth senior Val Murphy on a steal attempt to end the bottom of the fourth inning.

Cape Elizabeth junior rightfielder Jameson Bakke dives to record an out.

Cape Elizabeth senior second baseman Val Murphy forces Yarmouth senior Jackson Caruso before throwing on to first base to complete a fifth inning double play.

Cape Elizabeth senior third baseman Carson Sullivan and senior second baseman Val Murphy celebrate after the inning-ending double play.

Yarmouth senior catcher James Waaler tags out Cape Elizabeth junior Jameson Bakke to end the bottom of the fifth inning.

Yarmouth erupts after tying the score in the seventh inning.

Cape Elizabeth senior Carson Sullivan delivers the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Previous Cape Elizabeth game stories

Cape Elizabeth 4 @ Greely 1 (13)

Freeport 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

Cape Elizabeth 2 @ Yarmouth 1 (9)

@ Cape Elizabeth 4 Yarmouth 3

Greely 7 @ Cape Elizabeth 2

Previous Yarmouth game stories

Cape Elizabeth 2 @ Yarmouth 1 (9)

@ Freeport 4 Yarmouth 2

@ Cape Elizabeth 4 Yarmouth 3

@ Yarmouth 4 Freeport 1

Previous Cape Elizabeth-Yarmouth playoff results

2017 Class B South semifinals
Yarmouth 2 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

2012 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 7 @ Yarmouth 1 (10)

2010 Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 5 Yarmouth 1

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