Falmouth blanks error-prone Greely in battle of aces

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Falmouth senior shortstop Robbie Armitage, left, is congratulated after scoring the third run of the Yachtsmen’s 4-0 win at Greely Tuesday afternoon. Falmouth stayed undefeated on the season.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Falmouth 4 Greely 0

F- 003 000 1- 4 6 0
G- 000 000 0- 0 4 4

Top 3rd
Coyne singled to left, Ga. Aube scored. Coyne scored on error. Re. Armitage singled to left, R. Armitage scored.

Top 7th
Douglas scored on error.

Multiple hits:
F- Re. Armitage
G- Twitchell

Runs:
F- Ro. Armitage, Ga. Aube, Coyne, Douglas

RBI:
F- Re. Armitage, Coyne

Doubles:
F- Ga. Aube, Re. Armitage

Stolen bases:
F- Ga. Aube, Coyne, Douglas, Fortier

Left on base:
F- 4
G- 6

Guarino and Ga. Aube; Twitchell and Fried

F:
Guarino (W, 5-0) 7 IP 4 H 0 R 2 BB 8 K

G:
Twitchell (L, 3-1) 7 IP 6 H 4 R 1 ER 0 BB 12 K

Time: 1:39

CUMBERLAND—The sun was shining, two of the state’s best pitchers were plying their trade and all was right with the world if you were a baseball fan in Maine Tuesday afternoon.

In the final meeting for the foreseeable future at Twin Brook Recreation Center between ancient rivals Falmouth and Greely, everyone knew coming in to the game that with Yachtsmen senior University of New Haven-bound southpaw Cam Guarino going up against Rangers senior University of Rhode Island-bound flamethrower Ryan Twitchell that runs would be at a premium and whichever team that buckled first defensively would likely go down to defeat.

That team would be the host Rangers.

After two scoreless innings, the undefeated Yachtsmen, the defending Class A South champions, got the only run they would need in the top of the third inning and they would wind up tacking on a couple more due to defensive gifts.

With two outs and no one on, Falmouth junior catcher Garret Aube lined a double to right and senior second baseman Colin Coyne singled him home. Twitchell appeared primed to escape the inning on a couple of occasions, but calls didn’t go Greely’s way and Coyne came home to score on an error and senior shortstop Robbie Armitage scored on an RBI single from his twin brother, senior centerfielder Reece Armitage, to make it 3-0.

With Guarino hitting his spots and the Yachtsmen making the plays behind him, that lead proved insurmountable and while the Rangers would produce six base runners, they were all stranded.

Falmouth added an insurance run in the top of the seventh, when another error allowed freshman Brady Douglas to come home, and Guarino made quick work of Greely in the bottom half, closing out a 4-0 victory.

The Yachtsmen got another shutout effort from Guarino and a pair of hits from Reece Armitage, improved to 10-0, beat the Rangers for the seventh straight time and in the process, dropped them to 8-2 on the season.

“This was the first game we’ve had that was over 50 degrees and it wasn’t wet and it was a great high school game to watch,” said Falmouth coach Kevin Winship. “Two college pitchers going against each other. I think it lived up to billing.”

Farewell Twin Brook

Greely has hosted Falmouth in baseball almost annually dating well back into the 20th Century, but with the Yachtsmen primed to join the Southwestern Maine Activities Association and play a Class A regular season schedule next year, Tuesday marked the final time the Rangers would battle their ancient rival on their home field.

Last year, Falmouth swept Greely, winning at home (5-2) and in Cumberland (15-3) to increase its win streak to six in the series, but entering play Tuesday, the Rangers held a 16-10 advantage over the Yachtsmen dating back to the start of the 2002 season (see sidebar, below).

Both teams have excelled as usual this spring, combining for just one loss entering the contest.

Greely started with a 1-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester. After a 4-3 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, the Rangers won at Kennebunk (5-2), at Yarmouth (7-2), at home over Lake Region (7-4), Yarmouth (4-1), Poland (4-0, as Twitchell threw the first perfect game in the program’s storied history) and Sacopee Valley (3-0). Saturday, Greely made it seven straight victories with a 10-4 win at Fryeburg Academy.

Falmouth started defense of its regional title by opening with a 3-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester (giving Winship his 100th win with the program) and a 12-2 triumph at Fryeburg Academy. After downing host Cape Elizabeth (2-0), the Yachtsmen blanked host Kennebunk (2-0), beat visiting Cape Elizabeth (11-1 in five-innings, behind a Guarino no-hitter), won at Freeport (14-0, in five-innings) and Lake Region (5-2) and downed visiting Gray-New Gloucester (8-0) and Poland (11-1, in five-innings).

Tuesday, on a glorious 75-degree day with a steady 14 mile per hour wind blowing, both pitchers had their moments, but it would be Falmouth that made enough plays and put enough pressure on Greely to stay undefeated.

Twitchell had a relatively easy top of the first, getting Aube to hit a little bleeder back to the mound to start. Coyne then hit a ball that appeared ticketed to centerfield, but Twitchell got a piece of it and deflected it toward Rangers junior second baseman A.J. Eisenhart, who barehanded the ball and threw Coyne out by a step. Robbie Armitage then grounded out to second on a full count pitch to retire the side.

Guarino started inauspiciously, walking Greely senior catcher Dylan Fried on a full count pitch, but after sophomore shortstop Zach Brown sacrificed Fried to second, Guarino got Twitchell to strike out (he wasn’t able to check his swing in time) and sophomore first baseman Will Neleski to fly deep to centerfield where Reece Armitage ran the ball down to keep the game scoreless after one inning.

In the top of the second, Falmouth produced the game’s first hit, but couldn’t score.

After Reece Armitage grounded back to Twitchell, senior rightfielder Max Fortier singled to right, which ended Twitchell’s incredible run of 29 straight batters retired over three games. Fortier stole second, but junior first baseman Griffin Aube struck out on a full count pitch and Twitchell also blew strike three past Guarino to keep the game scoreless.

“I couldn’t pick up Ryan’s fastball,” Guarino said. “He blew it by me.”

In the bottom half, Guarino struck out Eisenhart leading off, but sophomore designated hitter Connor Sullivan drew a walk on a full count pitch and after junior rightfielder Luke Miller lined out to center, senior third baseman Tate Porter beat out an infield hit. That set the stage for senior leftfielder Jack Saffian to deliver the first run, but Guarino struck him out to keep it 0-0.

The Yachtsmen then got all the runs they’d need in the top of the third, thanks to some two-out magic.

Twitchell started the frame by getting senior third baseman Will Blum to ground out to second and junior leftfielder Marcus Cady to look at strike three. Garret Aube then got all of a high fastball and sent it the other way, over the head of Miller in right, and he raced into second with a double.

“That was an awesome at-bat,” said Winship.

That brought up Coyne, who also made solid contact, grounding a single to left and Aube was able to come home with the game’s first run.

If the damage had ended there, the Rangers would have remained very much in the contest, but it took a long time for them to record the third out.

With Robbie Armitage at the plate, Twitchell appeared to have Coyne picked off, but Neleski dropped the throw. Coyne then stole second and Robbie Armitage’s grounder got through Porter at third for an error and Coyne came home to make it 2-0 as Armitage took second. Reece Armitage, who missed several games to start the season with a leg injury, then lined a single the other way, to leftfield, and Robbie Armitage came home to make it 3-0. On the play, Saffian couldn’t handle the ball cleanly and Reece Armitage went to second. Fortier popped out to short to end it, but Falmouth had a 3-0 lead.

“Coming in, we knew it would be a low scoring game and whoever took advantage of the other’s mistakes would win,” Winship said. “That’s what happened.”

“We thought if we were going to win this game that we’d have to grind it out and we’d have to play defense,” said Greely coach Derek Soule. “Even against Ryan, we knew they’d put it in play enough that we’d have to make plays. We made a couple infield errors and a couple outfield bobbles. We had a missed opportunity on a pickoff. A couple close calls that didn’t go our way. We thought we had strike three twice. We’d like to have a re-do on that inning, but that’s baseball. Bottom line, we have to play better defense.”

Guarino protected that advantage in the bottom half, getting Fried to fly to center, striking out Brown swinging and after Twitchell beat out an infield hit, Neleski bounced to short for the third out.

Twitchell returned to form in the top of the fourth with a dominant frame, getting Cady to strike out swinging, Guarino to look at strike three and Blum to line out to center.

Eisenhart started the bottom half by beating out an infield hit off the glove of a diving Coyne, but he never advanced, as Sullivan lined out to short, Miller flew to center and Porter bounced out to second.

Twitchell didn’t allow the Yachtsmen to breathe in the fifth either, as Cady bunted out to third and Garret Aube and Coyne both chased strike three.

Guarino had his best inning in the bottom half, getting senior pinch-hitter Joe Piwowarski to look at strike three before inducing Fried to ground out to short and Brown to line to right, where Fortier sprawled to make a highlight reel catch.

After Robbie Armitage struck out to start the sixth, Reece Armitage doubled down the rightfield line.

“We needed quality at-bats to get used to (Twitchell) and adjust to his fastball and curveball,” Reece Armitage said. “We started off slowly with the bats, but we’re coming alive. Seeing a pitcher like Ryan today, it’s pretty convincing that we were able to hit like that.”

“Reece had a big day today,” Winship said. “He’s been lights out coming off his injury. Having a Division I player in your lineup helps a lot.”

Twitchell then appeared to have Armitage picked off, but the Rangers botched the rundown and he got back to second base safely. Twitchell then threw a wild pitch, moving Armitage to third, but he couldn’t score, as Twitchell struck out Fortier and Griffin Aube to end the threat.

Twitchell hoped to spark a rally in the bottom half, leading off with an infield single, but after Twitchell took second on a ground ball to short off the bat of Neleski, Guarino struck out both Eisenhart and Sullivan.

The Yachtsmen added a fourth run in the top of the seventh, their third unearned run of the game.

Junior pinch-hitter Will Bopp struck out leading off, but Blum singled between first and second and Douglas, who pinch-ran, stole second after Cady lined out to right. Garret Aube then grounded to short for what should have been the third out, but Brown couldn’t come up with the ball and Douglas came around to score. Aube then stole second, but on a full count pitch, Coyne struck out to keep the score 4-0.

Guarino didn’t waste any time closing it out in the bottom half, as he got Miller to fly out to left, Porter to fly out to right, with Fortier making another nice sliding catch, then catching junior pinch-hitter Eben Kiesow looking at strike three to end the game in 1 hour, 39 minutes.

“I was looking forward to this for a very long time, to face Greely and get some nice weather to pitch in,” Guarino said. “I figured it would be a close game. We had some timely hitting and I trusted our defense. I was so happy when we got three runs. I was jumping up and down in the dugout. I know when we get the first run we can win. This is definitely our biggest win this season. To hit this well off Ryan Twitchell is big for us.”

“That was a big win,” added Winship. “Anytime you face a pitcher of Twitchell’s caliber and you can win, it’s good for the team. We have an ace too. It was a good matchup and we came out on top. They’re a good team. They’ll go far. I thought we did OK against Twitchell. Good things happened when we put the ball in play. We capitalized.”

Guarino wasn’t his most dominant self Tuesday, but still improved to 5-0 on the season (and a mindboggling 27-2 with a 0.36 earned run average in his high school career) with a four-hit, shutout effort. He walked two and struck out eight.

“Early in the game, I was trying to blow it by people, but I didn’t throw that hard,” Guarino said. “I just didn’t have it today. I relied on my defense more. I tried to pick at the corners and jam them inside. They rolled over on the ball and hit ground balls.”

“(Cam) was hitting his spots, getting ground balls, lazy fly balls,” said Reece Armitage, an ace in his own right. “He struggled a little early on, but he battled back nicely. He’s really good at adjusting.”

“Cam is just effective,” Winship added. “He was trying at the beginning to figure out where the strike zone was and he nibbled a little bit and they got a couple runners. Then he settled in and did a really good job coming down the stretch. He kept them off balance.”

Offensively, Falmouth got two hits from Reece Armitage, runs from Robbie Armitage, Garret Aube, Coyne and Douglas and RBI from Reece Armitage and Coyne. Garret Aube and Reece Armitage had extra base hits and Garret Aube, Coyne, Douglas and Fortier all stole bases.

The Yachtsmen left four runners on base.

Twitchell was the hard-luck loser and fell to 3-1 on the year (and suffered just his third high school loss) after surrendering four runs (just one earned) on six hits in seven innings. He didn’t walk a batter, struck out 12 and threw one wild pitch.

“Ryan had good enough stuff today, but we had to score for him and play better defense and we didn’t,” Soule said. “When Ryan takes the ball we always feel like we have a chance to win even against a pitcher like (Guarino).”

Twitchell also paced the offense with two hits.

Greely stranded six runners.

“Their centerfielder and rightfielder made athletic plays when they ran down balls,” Soule said. “Their rightfielder made two diving plays. Armitage in center made it look easy running down a ball in the gap. They were more athletic and more solid defensively than we were.”

Strong finish

The teams will meet one final time, in the regular season finale, May 31, in Falmouth.

“The first part of my coaching career here, we went 18-4 against Falmouth, now we’ve lost seven in a row,” Soule said. “We’ll have one more shot at them. I always looked when the schedule came out to see who we played first and when we played Falmouth. It will feel strange next year not looking at the schedule to see when we play Falmouth.”

“Derek and (assistant coach) Bobby Anthoine and (pitching coach) Miles (Hunt) do a great job,” Winship said. “They have those guys ready to play. We face them again in a couple weeks. We have one more to go. We hope to keep having their number.”

Both squads have work to do first.

Greely (second to Carrabec/Madison in the Class B South Heal Points standings) goes to Wells Thursday, hosts York Friday and visits Cape Elizabeth Monday. After hosting Freeport on Senior Day, May 24, the Rangers go to York, then close at Falmouth.

“We have no choice but to bounce back,” Soule said. “We have a really tough stretch. The second half of our schedule is really tough. We have to flush this away and get back to work tomorrow.”

Falmouth (second to Cheverus in Class A South) is back in action Wednesday at home versus Lake Region, then goes to Yarmouth Friday. After hosting York in a makeup game Saturday, the Yachtsmen host Wells and Kennebunk, then close at home against Greely.

“I think overall we’re doing really well,” Guarino said. “Our defense is solid. Baserunning is something we still need to improve on.”

“At this point, (today) was our biggest win of the year, but we still have a long way to go,” Winship said.

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

Falmouth senior ace Cam Guarino delivers a strike. Guarino improved to 5-0, allowing just four hits and striking out eight.

Greely senior Ryan Twitchell was the hard-luck loser Tuesday, fanning 12 and allowing just one earned run.

Falmouth senior rightfielder Max Fortier goes all out to make a catch.

Falmouth senior shortstop Robbie Armitage makes a throw.

Greely sophomore shortstop Zach Brown takes a swing.

Falmouth senior centerfielder Reece Armitage lines one of his two hits.

Recent Greely-Falmouth results

2016
@ Falmouth 5 Greely 2
Falmouth 15 @ Greely 3

2015
Falmouth 7 @ Greely 1
@ Falmouth 10 Greely 1

2014
(doubleheader played @ OOB)
Falmouth 4 Greely 0
Falmouth 5 Greely 3 

2013
@ Greely 5 Falmouth 1

2012
Greely 2 @ Falmouth 1

2011
@ Greely 13 Falmouth 3
Greely 9 Falmouth 1 (@ OOB)
Western B semifinals
@ Greely 8 Falmouth 3

2010
@ Falmouth 7 Greely 5
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 3 (8)

2009
Greely 9 @ Falmouth 3
@ Greely 10 Falmouth 9

2008
Falmouth 8 @ Greely 5
Greely 12 @ Falmouth 8

2007
@ Greely 7 Falmouth 2
Greely 5 @ Falmouth 1

2006
Greely 2 @ Falmouth 1
Falmouth 5 @ Greely 4 (8)
Western B semifinals
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 2

2005
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 3 (8)

2004
@ Falmouth 3 Greely 2 (8)

2003
Greely 5 @ Falmouth 1

2002
@ Greely 10 Falmouth 8

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