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Greely’s softball team mobs senior pitcher Kelsey Currier at the conclusion of Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Morse in the Class B South Final. Currier threw a one-hitter and led the Rangers into Saturday’s state championship game against Brewer.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
STANDISH—With the greatest pitcher in Greely softball history watching her every move, Rangers senior ace Kelsey Currier went out and pitched arguably the finest game in program history Wednesday afternoon in the Class B South Final at Bailey Field on the campus of St. Joseph’s College.
And now Currier and her teammates are one win away from an absolutely improbable state championship.
Sixth-ranked Greely, a team that was mired with a 5-7 record three-quarters of the way through the regular season, capped a dizzying playoff run with yet another palpitating victory, this one over No. 4 Morse, in a terrific pitcher’s duel.
With University of Southern Maine coach Sarah Jamo, who 16 years ago, as Sarah Bennis, pitched Greely to its lone championship, looking on, Currier, who once took pitching lessons from the erstwhile Rangers star, and Morse sophomore starter Dory Kulis matched zeroes for two innings.
Then, in the top of the third, Greely rode a pair of bloop hits to the game’s lone run, as freshman centerfielder Mollie Obar went all the way to third on a bloop triple and freshman designated player Delia Knox followed with a bloop single to left for the lead.
Currier allowed a walk in the first inning and a single in the fifth and nothing more and she slammed the door on three pitches in the bottom of the seventh inning to close out a 1-0 victory in a mere 84 minutes.
Currier struck out nine, had one of the Rangers’ six hits and came up huge from start to finish as Greely won its eighth game in a row, improved to 13-7, won the regional title for the third time, ended the Shipbuilders’ season at 14-5 and advanced to battle Brewer (19-0) in the Class B state final Saturday at 4 p.m., in Brewer.
“I can’t put it into words, how hard we’ve worked for this,” Currier said. “There was a slight chance in the back of our minds, but I don’t think any of us thought we could get to the state final.”
Not many prognosticators would have picked Greely and Morse in their proverbial tournament brackets, but the Rangers and Shipbuilders did what it took to make it to the big stage.
Greely, which lost to Yarmouth in last year’s quarterfinals, started 5-2 (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories), then went on a five-game skid, but the Rangers righted the ship just in time and won their final four contests to finish the regular season 9-7, good for the No. 6 spot in Class B South.
After ousting No. 11 Spruce Mountain in the preliminary round, 10-4, Greely went to longtime playoff foe Fryeburg Academy, the No. 3 seed, and spring a 7-2 quarterfinal round upset. Saturday, in the semifinals, the Rangers did it again, knocking off second-seeded Gray-New Gloucester, 1-0.
Morse, meanwhile, which won 14 games a year ago and reached the semifinals before losing to Fryeburg Academy, won its first three games, then dropped four of five, before closing on an eight-game surge to wind up fourth in the region. After blanking No. 5 Oak Hill, 7-0, in the quarterfinals, the Shipbuilders upset top-ranked Wells, 3-2, in the semifinals.
The teams entered the game having never met in a countable contest.
Wednesday, on an 82-degree afternoon with threatening clouds overhead, there wasn’t much separation, but the Rangers got the job done.
Greely threatened in the top of the first, as after sophomore shortstop Sawyer Dusch lined out deep to left on the first pitch, Currier crushed a double to left-center. Kulis settled down, however, and blew strike three past both junior centerfielder Taylor LaFlamme and senior catcher Maddie Rawnsley.
In the bottom half, Currier got freshman first baseman Brooke Kulis to ground out to second on an off-speed pitch leading off, but senior third baseman Sierra Wallace walked on a full count. With Dory Kulis at the plate, Brooke Kulis moved to second on a wild pitch, then to third on a passed ball, but Currier blew a 2-2 pitch past Dory Kulis, then kept the game scoreless by getting senior shortstop Marissa Parks to chase a high fastball for strike three.
Both teams went quickly in the second, as Dory Kulis got junior second baseman Anna Smith to ground out to third, freshman third baseman Lindsay Eisenhart to ground to short on a 3-2 pitch and sophomore first baseman Audrey Boyle to pop to sophomore catcher Paige Faulkingham and in the bottom half, Currier fanned freshman leftfielder Abigail Carpenter, Faulkingham grounded to short and senior centerfielder Micailah Albertson chased strike three.
Greely then needed just two pitches to go on top in the top of the third.
Obar led off by swinging at the first pitch and blooping the ball behind freshman Julia Goddard at second and when the ball landed and bounced away from Goddard and senior rightfielder Madeline Mitchell, Obar raced all the way to third with a triple.
“I thought they’d catch it, but I kept running and was hoping they wouldn’t catch me (at third),” Obar said.
That set the stage for Knox, who also swung at the first pitch and blooped it down the leftfield line fair for a single, allowing Obar to score the game’s first run.
“I was really nervous, but I knew I had to do something because I really wanted to win,” said Knox. “I said to myself that I’d hit it and I swung at the first one and hit it (to the outfield). When I saw other girls were hitting well off the first pitch, I did it too. Her first pitches were good.”
Dusch followed with a bloop single over Parks at second and after Dusch was caught between first and second, Knox went to third and Dusch got back safe at first base. Currier then hit a sharp grounder to third, but Wallace made the stab and threw home to retire Knox for the first out. LaFlamme then walked to load the bases, but Kulis escaped further damage by getting Rawnsley to look at strike three and after falling behind, 2-0, rallying to fan Smith to keep the score 1-0.
In the bottom half, Currier fanned Goddard, caught Mitchell looking at an 0-2 off-speed pitch and got Brooke Kulis to pop back to the mound.
In the top of the fourth, Eisenhart struck out on a 3-2 pitch, but Boyle singled through the hole between third and short. After Obar grounded into a short-to-second force out, Knox struck out to send the game to the bottom of the fourth.
Currier got Wallace to ground out to short to start the frame, but with the count 1-1 on Dory Kulis, Kulis hit a little foul pop up the first base line and Currier went for it, missed it and landed awkwardly. After lying on the ground for a minute (a long, anxious moment from Greely’s perspective), Currier got up, took a warmup pitch, then blew strike three past Kulis before getting Parks to ground out to short.
In the top of the fifth, Dusch grounded slowly to third, with Wallace making a nice play, Currier popped out to third and LaFlamme struck out swinging.
The Shipbuilders finally produced their first hit when Carpenter led off with a ground ball up the middle for a single into centerfield, but after Faulkingham lined out to left, with sophomore leftfielder Hannah Johnston doing a nice job running in to make the catch, Albertson laid down a sacrifice bunt, but after the out was recorded at first base, Carpenter kept going and Boyle threw to Johnston, who came in from leftfield to cover, at third and Johnston ran and tagged Carpenter to end the inning.
Dory Kulis got Rawnsley to line hard to short and Smith to ground out to third to start the top of the sixth, but Eisenhart blooped a single to center before Boyle popped to second to end it.
Currier continued to take care of business in the bottom of the sixth, getting Goddard and Mitchell to chase strike three and Brooke Kulis to squib the ball in front of the plate, where Currier pounced on it and threw Kulis out in a disputed bang-bang play.
Dory Kulis kept the score 1-0 in the top of the seventh, getting Obar to fly to left on the first pitch, Knox to pop to short on the first pitch and Dusch to ground back to the mound on the first pitch.
Currier then went out and ended matters in just three pitches in the bottom half.
Wallace grounded sharply to Boyle at first leading off and Boyle momentarily looked for Smith to cover before racing over to record the out.
Dory Kulis then swung at the first pitch and lined out to first.
That left it up to Parks, who also swung at the first pitch and grounded to the right of the mound. Currier pounced on the ball and threw her final strike of the day, to first base, and 4:51 p.m., Greely had the 1-0 victory and the third regional championship in program history.
“It could have been a better throw,” said Currier, ever the perfectionist. “I thought it was over Audrey’s head, but she stretched and caught it. We knew we were three outs away, but we had to focus and take it one pitch at a time. My sophomore year, we lost (to York in the regional final) in the bottom of the seventh inning, so we had to keep it up.”
“We came together and knew we had to be on our game at all times,” Obar said. “We wanted to put 100 percent effort out there all game.”
“We didn’t hit the ball hard, but we put it in play and had great baserunning,” added Greely coach Rob Hale.
“I’ve had 35 state championships in my career (Hale also coaches Greely’s swim program) and this ranks right up there. It’s a special group. They work hard and they’re cool under pressure. Kelsey’s calm and the rest of them stay calm. We talked about the next pitch, the next play, the next out. Short-term memory and they listened. I told the kids at the beginning of the year I thought we’d be here, then we were 5-7, but we turned it around.”
Currier was the story, facing just one batter over the minimum, retiring all but two of the hitters she faced, giving up just one walk on a 3-2 pitch and a single to a player who was later erased on the basepaths.
She threw a one-hit shutout and fanned nine batters. Currier did throw one wild pitch.
“I tried to take it one pitch at a time,” said Currier, who also doubled. “The girls behind me picked me up. When I went to warm up, I could tell it would be a good day. All my pitches were working. I tried to throw hard and leave it all on the field.”
“Kelsey’s incredible,” Knox said. “She’s worked so hard. We couldn’t have gotten this far without her.”
“Kelsey is so good,” said Obar. “She makes up for everything we mess up.”
“Kelsey likes getting out of jams,” Hale added. “She has icewater in her veins. She didn’t have to throw harder today. We backed her up.”
Obar tripled and scored the lone run and Knox had the RBI.
Knox stole a base.
The Rangers left six runners on base, but it didn’t matter.
Morse left just one runner on and Dory Kulis was the hard-luck loser, giving up one earned run on six hits in seven innings. She walked one and struck out seven.
Greely looks to capture the program’s second championship (2002 was the other) in its third all-time appearance (2013 was the most recent) when it battles undefeated Brewer, making its first-ever Class B state game appearance.
The Rangers outlasted Erskine Academy, 1-0, in 10-innings behind the heroics of Bennis and Steph Ginn back in the 2002 contest (in a game played in Brewer).
For Greely to win a second championship, Currier will have to be strong again, the Rangers will need to play flawless defense and hope that the stardust it’s been kissed by the past several weeks will make one more appearance.
“I’m very proud of how hard we’ve worked to get here,” Knox said. “I hope (Saturday will) be a success. We’re having so much fun.”
“We have to keep giving our all and play our game,” Obar said.
“We have to focus in practice and do exactly what we’ve been doing all playoffs,” Currier said.
“I don’t know anything about (Brewer), but I didn’t know anything about Morse either,” Hale added. “We’ve been on the road for eight games now, so it’s not a big deal. We’ll just try to put the ball in play and get on Kelsey’s back again.”
Greely senior ace Kelsey Currier threw the game of her life Wednesday, allowing just one hit and one walk and striking out nine.
Morse sophomore pitcher Dory Kulis had a very strong effort as well, but was the hard-luck loser.
Greely freshman Mollie Obar, left, is congratulated by sophomore Sawyer Dusch after scoring the game’s lone run, in the top of the third inning.
Greely freshman Lindsay Eisenhart takes a swing.
Greely sophomore leftfielder Hannah Johnston races in and tags out Morse freshman Abigail Carpenter in a rundown to end the bottom of the fifth.
Greely sophomore shortstop Sawyer Dusch throws out a runner.
Greely sophomore leftfielder Hannah Johnston catches a fly ball.
Greely sophomore first baseman Audrey Boyle takes the throw just as Morse freshman Brooke Kulis arrives on the bag and Kulis was called out in a disputed play to end the bottom of the sixth inning.
Greely assistant coach John Eisenhart celebrates with his freshman daughter Lindsay Eisenhart (9) following the victory.
Morse receives the runner-up plaque.
Greely’s players and coaches show off the regional championship trophy.