FALMOUTH—While the three-time defending Western Class B champion Fryeburg softball team came away with the victory, its 16th in a row this spring, the host Falmouth Yachtsmen didn’t slink off the field empty-handed on a sizzling Monday afternoon.
The Yachtsmen learned that they can play with one of the state’s elite teams and warned the rest of the league that come playoff-time, they’ll be as dangerous as anyone.
Falmouth got a superb pitching performance from senior hurler Kelsey Freedman, who matched Fryeburg’s freshman left-handed ace Sarah Harriman pitch-for-pitch, but the Raiders scored the game’s lone run in the top of the first inning after their trademark aggressive baserunning led to an error and the Yachtsmen weren’t able to respond as they dropped to 8-7 on the year, with one game remaining.
“That (first inning) was it,” lamented Falmouth coach John Keyes. “They kept us off the bases. We had an even number of hits. They moved a runner when they had to and scored a run. They’re very good. Our kids came today to play. No question about that. I’m very proud of them.”
Fryeburg has been the gold standard in Class B softball since 2008. The Raiders won the state championship that year and again in 2009 and got back to the state final last spring before losing to Hermon.
Senior Charlotte Lewis’ mound heroics led Fryeburg to last year’s championship game, but this spring, she’s moved to second base and gave way to Harriman, who has yet to lose as the Raiders have met every challenge.
Falmouth, meanwhile, fell short of the playoffs in two of the past three years and hasn’t posted a winning season since 2005, but this year, the Yachtsmen have been very impressive, even though their effort hasn’t always translated into victories.
Falmouth started the season 1-2, then won six in a row. A 5-0 loss at Fryeburg May 18 started a four-game slide. The Yachtsmen got back on track Friday with a 3-1 home victory over Sacopee.
Monday, offense was at a premium as Freedman and Harriman were in control throughout in a game that was over in a tidy 70 minutes.
Catcher Carla Tripp did the damage in the top of the first. Leading off, Tripp worked Freedman for a walk and with one down, stole second. Then, with two outs, Tripp broke for third and Falmouth junior catcher Alli Carver’s throw was on target, but sophomore third baseman Maddie Inlow couldn’t get to the bag in time to take it and the ball sailed into leftfield, allowing Tripp to race home to make it 1-0.
“We were fortunate,” said Fryeburg coach Fred Apt. “We saw that she wasn’t covering and we have speed with Carla Tripp and we’ll use it. You just hope that happens. The one chance we had, we took advantage of and it paid off. Alli’s a great catcher. She wants to throw it just like Carla does for us and we have to hope nobody’s covering. You know the throw will be there.”
Only one runner would reach third base the rest of the afternoon.
In the bottom of the first, Harriman struck out the side, but Freedman did single to center with two down.
Freedman retired the Raiders in order in the top of the second. Sophomore leftfielder Sarah Sparks had a two-out single in the bottom half, but Harriman got senior centerfielder Stephanie Gramse to ground into a shortstop-to-second force play to keep it 1-0.
Tripp had a two-out single in the top of the third, but advanced no further as Freedman induced centerfielder Maddie Pearson to hit back to the mound. In the bottom half, with two down, senior shortstop Jessie L’Heureux blooped a single over shortstop, but Freedman popped to rightfield to end the threat.
Harriman worked a two-out walk in the top of the fourth, then was stranded. In the bottom half, Harriman struck out the first two hitters than got a pop foul for out number three.
Fryeburg threatened in its half of fifth as with one out, rightfielder Bri Pelkie singled to left and moved to second when senior leftfielder Sarah Sparks couldn’t handle the ball. With two down, Tripp reached on a bunt single, putting runners at the corners, then stole second, but Freedman got Pearson to ground out to L’Heureux.
Falmouth got a one-out single by Gramse in the bottom of the fifth and senior centerfielder Lauren O’Donnell sacrificed her to second, but Collmus hit back to the mound and the score stayed 1-0.
After both sides went in order in the sixth, the Raiders looked for an insurance run in their half of the seventh.
Lewis led off with a single to center and with one down, was sacrificed to second. Freedman got leftfielder Maddy Smith to line to right, however, and the Yachtsmen were still within a run heading for their final at-bat.
After Inlow flew to center to start the frame, junior first baseman Ashley Collins sent a shot down the first base line, that might have been ticketed for a double or even a triple, but Fryeburg first baseman Ashley Watkins calmly snared it for out number two. Harriman then got Sparks to fly to right to end it.
Harriman allowed just four hits and didn’t walk a batter, while fanning eight, as she improved to 15-0. Offensively, Tripp was the game’s lone repeat hitter, scored the only run and had three stolen bases.
Freedman (now a misleading 5-5) was every bit Harriman’s equal, surrendering the one unearned run on four hits and two walks, with three strikeouts.
“They’re 16-0 and they got a total of seven hits off her in two games,” said Keyes. “She’s the real deal. Her record doesn’t really show how good a pitcher she really is. No question it’s the best team we’ve played, bar none. “
“I thought we’d hit a little better, but (Kelsey) did a great job pitching for them,” Apt said. “She kept us off balance. We couldn’t string hits together or get our speed on. She did a great job against us. Falmouth played a great game.”
Fryeburg’s win Monday clinched a first-ever undefeated regular season.
“We’ve had some pressure, I think,” said Apt. “We’d never been 16-0. We’ve done a lot of things, but we’ve never been 16-0. This is the first. No matter how much you try to squelch the talk, they’re still high school kids.”
The Raiders (who have the top spot in the Western Class B Heal Points standings sewn up) now look ahead to June glory and have to like their chances to win a third state title in four years.
“It’s better to have the bulls-eye than not,” Apt said. “We have good kids and a team mentality. I think caliber-wise, all the way around, we’re very solid. We’re a better hitting team than we’ve been in the past. We didn’t show it today because Kelsey just pitched a great game, but I think it’s the strongest offensive team we’ve had. We’re solid defensively. We haven’t given up runners or big innings all year. Sarah’s come a long way. Charlotte was our pitcher last year. For us to jell, she’s done a great job for us.”
Falmouth still has regular season business to attend to, hosting Wells Wednesday afternoon. The Yachtsmen (currently fifth in Western B) have a playoff spot locked up, but their seeding is uncertain.
“If we bring today’s effort to Wednesday, I think we’ll be fine,” said Keyes. “We’re probably still going to be (fifth or sixth) going into Wednesday. I think we had to win this to move up for a home game. We’ll probably be on the road, but anything’s possible if we put our minds to it. The girls now know they can play with anybody. It’ll be fun.”
Fr- 100 000 0- 1 4 0
Fa- 000 000 0- 0 4 2
Tripp walked, stole second, stole third, scored on error.
Repeat hitter- Fr- Tripp
Run- Fr- Tripp
Stolen bases- Fr, Tripp 3
Harriman and Tripp; Freedman and Carver
Harriman (W, 15-0) 7IP 4 H 0 R 0 BB 8 K
Freedman (L, 5-5) 7 IP 4 H 1 R 0 ER 2 BB 3 K