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Greely rallies past Falmouth to reach Western B Final

Sports

Greely rallies past Falmouth to reach Western B Final

CUMBERLAND—The rain was constant throughout the Western Class B Western semifinal round showdown between No. 2 Greely and No. 6 Falmouth Saturday afternoon in Cumberland, but the highly anticipated game carried on regardless.

The Rangers and Yachtsmen have one of the most emotional rivalries in the southern Maine area and it was certainly on full display in this matchup.

Greely used a massive sixth inning, with a bunch of walks and hit batters, to rally past Falmouth by a score of 8-3 in a game that contained a little bit of everything, from small ball, to hit batters, to serious trash talking.

Sophomore Jonah Normandeau, Greely’s No. 2 pitcher, got the start on the hill and faced off against Falmouth senior Ben Goffin, who didn’t pitch much this season. Despite both teams not using their aces, the game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning when the Rangers manufactured a run.

“Jonah, going back to Little League, has a history of being a big-game pitcher,” said Greely coach Derek Soule. “He pitched outstanding.”

Ben Shain led off the fourth and reached on an error by second baseman Drew Proctor. Matt Labbe then grounded into a fielder’s choice to move Shain up to second. Mike Leeman then executed a perfect bunt and just beat the throw at first to put runners on the corners with one out. Normandeau then also bunted, but it was not a squeeze play. Goffin fielded the bunt and threw to first, but just as he was throwing the ball, Shain took off for home, putting pressure on first baseman Andrew Emple to catch it and throw it back to home plate for a bang-bang tag play. Shain, although not a speedster, has above average wheels on the bases and was able to slide in safely for a 1-0 Greely lead.

In the top of the fourth, Falmouth had the bases loaded with only one out, but Normandeau induced back-to-back groundouts to squash the threat. With the bases loaded, Emple hit a grounder to third baseman Liam Maker, who fired home to Pete Stauber for the forceout on Joe Barns (who led off the inning and reached on an error). However, Barns’ slide home got a piece of Stauber’s foot. Stauber shook his foot a few times after the contact but was fine. Barns’ slide home, which wasn’t even an dirty play because Stauber’s foot was on the plate, was the very start of some bad blood that would turn a bit uglier later in the game.

The Yachtsmen finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth inning.

Brett Emmertz led off with a full count walk, which prompted Greely coach Derek Soule to pull Leeman out from leftfield so he could warm up his arm with a bullpen catcher. Will McAdoo went to leftfield.

Next for Falmouth was Drew Proctor, who was trying to sacrifice bunt at the beginning of the at-bat. After passing up on a few pitches, he had a quick meeting with his third base coach, head coach Kevin Winship. Proctor then went back to the batter’s box and showed bunt, but at the last second pulled the bat back for a rare slash hit attempt, which he executed perfectly with a line drive to rightfield. Ryan MacDonald then also tried to sacrifice bunt, but ended up striking out on three straight pitches.

Barns stepped to the plate and was hit in the back with the first pitch. For some reason, Barns thought the pitch was intentional, so he stood at the plate and eyed Normandeau and flipped his bat.

Perhaps Barns thought Greely was mad at him for getting a piece of Stauber’s foot with a slide in the previous inning. Regardless, you have to wonder why in a million years would a pitcher intentionally hit a batter to load the bases in a one-run playoff game to bring up dangerous lefty bats in the form of seniors Dillon Dresser and Matt MacDowell?

“It’s a rivalry and it’s a playoff game, so the emotions are going to be elevated that much more,” said Soule. “They obviously wanted to win as much as we did and that’s fine. I’d rather play in an emotional game than one where guys are being quiet.”

So with the bases loaded and only one out, Dresser came up and fell behind 0-2 in the count. A pitch later, he almost struck out on an inside fastball (much to the disappointment of the Greely dugout). After a few more foul balls, Dresser blasted a ground rule double into the right-centerfield gap to score Emmertz and Proctor giving Falmouth a 2-1 lead.

With first base open, MacDowell was intentionally walked. Immediately after the walk, Greely called upon its ace pitcher to come in for relief.

Leeman was thrown into quite the jam with bases loaded and still just one out. Goffin, the Yachtsmen’s cleanup hitter, was first to face Leeman and able to hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Barns easily for a 3-1 Falmouth lead.

Emple was then up with two outs and runners on the corners (Dresser moved up to third on the sacrifice fly) looking to add to the lead. However, Leeman, obviously getting fired up, struck out Emple swinging on a full count. Immediately after the strikeout, Leeman then had some off his own words that he directed towards the Falmouth bench, and more specifically Emmertz.

“It’s a playoff game and it’s Falmouth,” said Leeman. “Big rival. It got a little out of hand.”

Greely came out in the bottom of the fifth inning looking to answer. The Rangers used a walk, a single, and a hit batter to find themselves with bases loaded and two out for cleanup hitter Matt Labbe. However, Labbe grounded out to short to retire the side.

The bottom of the sixth inning was where things got super-crazy in a really short period of time.

Leeman led off and was grazed in the knee by a pitch, which was completely unintentional. Dan McKersie then hit a bloop single to center and that was all she wrote for Goffin.

Winship opted for Barns, the shortstop. Third baseman Will D’Agostino then moved to short and Nick Spencer came off the bench to play third. With runners at first and second, Brad McKenney showed bunt, but didn’t bunt the ball. On the bunt attempt, which was probably just a fake actually, Leeman stole third base and MacDowell’s throw went high and into leftfield, allowing Leeman to run home for a 3-2 score.

The leftfielder’s throw home was actually pretty good and allowed MacDowell a chance to at least make a tag attempt. However, MacDowell wasn’t paying attention after the umpire yelled “safe.” McKersie, who was going to just stay at second base because he had to be aware of the cutoff possibility, was very alert and snagged third base without even drawing a throw.

It was a smart play by McKersie and what he did moments later also showed some solid baseball team mentality. With McKenney still at the plate, a Barns curveball got by MacDowell and McKersie was able to run home for a 3-3 tie. Barns went to cover the plate and stood directly on the middle of the plate when in reality there was zero chance McKersie could be tagged out by even a miracle flip from MacDowell. As McKersie was running home, he did a clean slide right on the plate where Barns was and took him out.

Obviously the Falmouth side was not pleased, but it wasn’t a dirty play either. It might have been a little excessive, but the players had elevated emotions, especially with the trash talking earlier and the close score.

You could say that wild pitch, which resulted in Barns getting knocked to the ground, was pretty much the downfall for Falmouth.

After McKersie’s run made it 3-3, McKenney finally walked. Normandeau then sacrifice bunted McKenney to second base for the first out of the inning. Freshman Bailey Train, the No. 9 batter in the order, was then intentionally walked to set up a force. With runners at first and second, a very scary play occurred.

Stauber stepped to the plate and took a curveball right to his eye and cheek area. He tried to avoid it but he actually moved into a little bit. He was down for a few minutes but walked off the field fine. In the moment, it was tough to tell how badly he was hurt. The trainer had him do a few tests and then walked him to the dugout where they applied ice. Stauber is the leader for the Rangers and losing him for any period of time would definitely hamper their chances for victory. Nick Dunnett went in to pinch run. It looked as though Stauber was done for the day for sure.

“He’s a tough kid. It’s pretty crazy,” said Normandeau. “He’s been calling great games all year, he’s been doing a great job and he’s a real tough guy.”

Just how much of a tough guy is Stauber? Tough enough to re-enter the game behind the plate for the seventh inning. Huge bruise on the face? No problem, coach.

Stauber had to pass a few tests before the trainer would let him go back to the field. But surprisingly, Stauber was in decent shape. Thankfully the pitch was just a curveball, so the damage was minimal compared to what it could have been.

“I was passing (the tests), said Stauber. "I didn’t expect to pass them. I felt good, the only pain was just throbbing and I didn’t have much of a headache, so I wanted to get back out there.”

“I can’t say enough about Pete Stauber," Soule said. "He’s caught every inning of every game. He’s a tough kid and he’s played hurt a lot. I would have taken him out if we had to, but the fact of the matter is he’s caught every inning of every game.”

Stauber’s hit by pitch loaded the bases for Liam Maker. Maker drew a walk, which brought in McKenney to give Greely a 4-3 lead. Shain was then hit in the leg with a pitch and quickly flipped his bat and took his base for another run, 5-3.

Shain getting hit was the last straw for Barns on the hill. Winship called upon lefty Thomas Fortier and put Barns back at shortstop.

Labbe, a lefty hitter, was now up with the bases loaded and just one out. After fouling off a bunch of tough pitches, Labbe was able to bloop a curveball just over D’Agostino’s head at third base for an RBI single scoring Dunnett for a 6-3 score. A wild pitch later and the score was 7-3. With runners at second and third, Leeman was then plunked by a pitch to load the bases, which prompted another pitching change. Connor Murphy came on to pitch and soon delivered a wild pitch allowing another Ranger to score for an 8-3 lead.

“I thought it was a great game, just one bad inning,” said Winship. “It’s kind of been our nemesis all year. One bad inning. I thought that we played five-and-a-half fantastic innings of baseball. We just didn’t get the job done.

"It was a great game. Hey, it’s emotional. It’s baseball. It’s Western Maine semifinals.”

“We didn’t press and we didn’t chase pitches and that one big inning good things started to happen,” said Soule. “We got base runners, walks, and hit batters. I think the key was that we kept our composure in that inning and didn’t press.”

Either way, we can just say the game was highly emotional and contained plays and things you would only see in a heated rivalry playoff game, much comparable to the Red Sox and Yankees.

“I have a lot of respect for Falmouth as a team. But I guess they kind of lost their cool, some guys at least,” said Normandeau.

“I think it brings a lot of confidence to us that we can do anything that we put our minds to,” said Stauber. “We can battle and we can achieve what we want.”

Greely batters were hit by pitches five times and walked six times. The Rangers only had four hits on the game. Shain scored twice. Leeman got the win in relief.

Falmouth only had five hits and benefited from three walks and two hit batsmen. Barns took the loss for the Yachtsmen.

The Rangers got the satisfaction they needed with the 8-3 victory and a trip to St. Joseph’s College in Standish for the Class B Western Maine final game Tuesday at 3 p.m., against the winner of the other Western B semifinal. Due to rain, top-ranked Yarmouth's game versus No. 4 Lincoln Academy had to be postponed to Monday at 4 p.m.

Greely and the Clippers split in the regular season. The Rangers didn't face Lincoln this year.