Falmouth stuns top-ranked SP in quarterfinals

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Falmouth senior pitcher Garret Aube is hugged by sophomore catcher Ike Kiely after the Yachtsmen upset top-ranked South Portland, 4-2, in Thursday’s Class A South quarterfinal. Falmouth goes to Cheverus for the semifinals Saturday.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Falmouth 4 South Portland 2

F- 001 030 0- 4 2 2
SP- 010 010 0- 2 7 3

Bottom 2nd
Owen scored on error.

Top 3rd
Lefevre scored on error.

Top 5th
Cady scored on error. Coffin grounded out, Lefevre scored. Ga. Aube scored on Quiet squeeze bunt.

Bottom 5th
McHugh flew out to center, Johnston scored.

Repeat hitter:
SP- Hasson

Runs:
F- Lefevre 2, Ga. Aube, Cady
SP- McHugh, Owen

RBI:
F- Coffin, Quiet
SP- McHugh

Double:
SP- Owen

Stolen bases:
F- Ga. Aube, Bopp, Lefevre
SP- Johnston, McHugh, Owen

Left on base:
F- 5
SP- 7

Gr. Aube, Ga. Aube (3) and Kiely; Owen, Hasson (6) and Horton

F:
Gr. Aube 2 IP 2 H 1 R 0 ER 0 BB 3 K 1 WP
Ga. Aube (W, 2-3) 5 IP 5 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 1 K

SP:
Owen (L, 6-1) 5 IP 1 H 4 R 3 ER 5 BB 9 K 1 HBP
Hasson 2 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K

SOUTH PORTLAND—In 2016 and 2017, Falmouth’s baseball team was the favorite and lived up to billing by winning Class A South championships.

This spring, the ninth-ranked Yachtsmen, who went .500 during the regular season, weren’t expected to do much of anything in June, but Saturday afternoon, they’ll find themselves playing in the semifinals.

Again.

That’s because Thursday afternoon at Wainwright Farms, Falmouth produced the signature upset of the Class A South playoffs to date, stunning top-seeded South Portland in the quarterfinals.

The Yachtsmen didn’t do it with their bats, but instead with their ability to take advantage of Red Riots’ mistakes.

After South Portland took a 1-0 lead against Falmouth senior Griffin Aube by virtue of an error in the bottom of the second inning, the Yachtsmen got a run of their own in the third against Red Riots sophomore Hunter Owen, also on an error.

Falmouth lost Aube in the process, who left the game with a hand injury, but his brother, senior Garret Aube, came on to pitch and held South Portland at bay.

In the top of the fifth, the Yachtsmen scored three times to go on top to stay and they didn’t exactly pound the ball in the process. After leftfielder Marcus Cady scored on an error, sophomore shortstop Connor Coffin drove in a run with a ground ball and freshman second baseman Connor Quiet squeezed home another to make it 4-1.

Senior second baseman Noah McHugh hit a sacrifice fly for the Red Riots in the bottom of the inning, but despite having ample opportunities to rally in the sixth and seventh, South Portland couldn’t do so and Garret Aube closed out the 4-2 victory.

Falmouth only mustered two hits, but still managed to improve to 10-8, snap the Red Riots’ 11-game win streak, end their season at 14-3 and in the process, advance to face No. 4 Cheverus (12-5) in the semifinals, Saturday at 1 p.m., in Portland.

“The past two years, the pressure was on us, but today, the pressure was on them as the 1 seed,” said Yachtsmen coach Kevin Winship. “We knew if we could get something going, who knows? It worked.”

Not your typical quarterfinal

Falmouth, the two-time defending Class A South champion, which lost just once in the regular season a year ago before dropping an extra-inning heartbreaker to Bangor in the state final, found the going much tougher this spring, winning just eight of 16 games, but as the No. 9 seed, the Yachtsmen outlasted No. 8 Marshwood, 7-5, in Wednesday’s preliminary round, which had been preceded by a rainout Tuesday.

South Portland suffered a couple early hiccups, against Bonny Eagle and Scarborough, but closed on an 11-game win streak to lock up the top seed in the region for the first time since 2014.

Normally, the number one seed has a relatively easy time of it in the quarterfinals, at least on paper, but the Red Riots weren’t exactly looking forward to seeing the Yachtsmen in their first playoff game.

“(Falmouth’s) a good team,” said South Portland coach Mike Owens. “We knew they’d be hard to beat.”

South Portland won the regular season meeting, 4-2, May 23, in Falmouth.

The Yachtsmen won the only prior playoff encounter, also by a 4-2 score, in the 2016 Class A South Final.

This time around, on a chilly, breezy afternoon, Falmouth did enough to get out of town with a big upset win.

Owen made quick work of the Yachtsmen in the top of the first, fanning Garret Aube, getting Coffin to look at strike three and Griffin Aube to watch strike three as well.

In the bottom half, Griffin Aube fanned sophomore rightfielder Dillan Bolduc swinging, got McHugh to pop out to Garret Aube, who started the game at shortstop, and after senior shortstop Riley Hasson reached on an infield single, Griffin Aube fanned senior third baseman Zach Johnson.

Freshman centerfielder Sam Kidder walked to start the top of the second, but Owen picked him off. Sophomore catcher Ike Kiely then chased strike three, as did junior designated hitter Garrett Tracy, but South Portland junior catcher Caden Horton couldn’t corral strike three and Tracy reached safely. It proved to be a moot point, as rightfielder Will Bopp struck out looking to end the frame.

In the bottom half, senior first baseman Jake Poole looked at strike three and Horton grounded out to second, but Owen came through with a double and senior leftfielder Khem Johnston followed with a ground ball to Garret Aube that resulted in an error, allowing Owen to score the game’s first run. Griffin Aube escaped further trouble by getting sophomore centerfielder Anthony Perron to fly out to left.

Falmouth got the run back in the top of the third. After Owen fanned Cady, he walked third baseman Josh Lefevre and Garret Aube.

“We came in with a plan to take a strike and hope for the best,” Garret Aube said. “We wanted as many walks as we could get.”

Owen then hit Coffin to load the bases for Griffin Aube, who hurt his hand (reports from the field said it was broken) and was replaced by Ben Keller, who missed on a bunt attempt, but Horton made an error on the play, allowing Lefevre to come home to make it 1-1. Keller struck out and Kidder grounded out to second for the third out.

Garret Aube came on to pitch in the bottom of the third and after walking Bolduc on a 3-2 pitch, Bolduc moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by McHugh, but he was thrown out trying to steal third by Kiely. That loomed huge, as Hasson reached on an infield hit, but Johnson flew out to center to keep the game tied.

“It wasn’t how I diagrammed it,” Winship said. “The first couple innings it was a pitcher’s duel. Griff battled Hunter, then the next thing you know, he broke his hand, so I had to put Garret out there. I didn’t think I’d have to use him in the third. The sixth or seventh maybe, but not the third.”

Owen had a strong top of the fourth, getting Kiely to fly out to right, Tracy to chase strike three and Bopp to pop out to second.

In the bottom half, Poole led off with a single to center, but Horton’s line drive found the glove of first baseman Sam Manganello, who doubled up Poole. Owen then grounded out to third to send the game to the fateful top of the fifth inning, where the Yachtsmen would score three times.

Cady got things started with an infield single to the right side. After a passed ball, Lefevre bunted back to Owen, who committed an error, allowing Cady to score the go-ahead run and Lefevre to reach base.

“We bunted the ball,” Winship said. “We didn’t think we’d put many balls in play swinging the bat, so if we got guys on base, we’d bunt them around hoping the 1 seed would play tight and good things happened.”

Garret Aube then walked and after a double steal, Coffin’s ground ball to second resulted in an out at first, but Cady came home for a 3-1 lead with Aube going to third. Quiet then came up big, squeezing home Aube for a three-run advantage. Kidder walked, but was thrown out trying to steal second to bring an end to the frame.

“I think we beat ourselves, but they forced the issue,” Owens said. “Teams have tried to (bunt) against Hunter before, because they don’t have a ton of success hitting him. Falmouth’s fast and aggressive and they forced us to make mistakes.”

The Red Riots got a run back in the bottom half, but could have had more.

Johnston led off with an infield hit and after Perron struck out, Johnston stole second and Bolduc singled to left with Johnston going to third. McHugh then flew out to center with Johnston coming home to make it 4-2, but Hasson grounded out to first to end the threat.

Hasson came on to pitch in the top of the sixth and got Kiely to ground back to the mound, Tracy to chase strike three and after Bopp singled, Bopp stole second and tried to pilfer third as well, but Horton threw him out.

South Portland had a great chance to rally in the bottom half, but stranded two runners in scoring position.

Lefevre couldn’t handle Johnson’s ground ball and the error put the leadoff runner on second. Johnson moved up to third when Poole flew out deep to center, but Horton grounded out to first and Johnson had to hold and after Owen walked and was replaced by sophomore runner Kody Hammond-Daniels, who stole second, Johnston grounded out to Quiet at second to end the threat.

“The ball was hit to a freshman, Connor Quiet, in a big game and he made the play,” Winship said.

Hasson hit Cady with a pitch to start the top of the seventh, but Lefevre’s bunt resulted in a force out at second, Aube grounded into a force out and Coffin grounded out as well to send the game to the bottom of the seventh.

Where Aube slammed the door.

Perron provided some hope leading off, when he reached out with one hand and blooped a single to center, but Bolduc lined sharply to Kidder in center, McHugh grounded to Coffin at short, who bobbled the ball momentarily before throwing to second for the force out, and Hasson grounded to first and despite a dive, was out, giving Falmouth the 4-2 victory.

“We wanted to go out, have fun and see what happened,” Garret Aube said. “We knew Yarmouth was the 9 seed (in Class B) last year and won states, so we wanted to come out and give our all.”

“Going down to Marshwood, having a rainout, having to beat a good team yesterday, then coming here today, we knew it would be tough,” Winship said. “It was different for us. We’re used to having a bye, but I told the kids instead, of winning four games, we’d have to win five.”

Lefevre scored two of the Yachtsmen’s runs, while Garret Aube and Cady also touched home.

Coffin and Quiet had RBI.

Aube, Bopp and Lefevre registered stolen bases.

Falmouth stranded five runners.

Griffin Aube had a no decision, lasting just two innings before leaving with injury. Aube gave up one unearned run on two hits. He struck out three and threw a wild pitch.

Garret Aube improved to 2-3 with five solid innings of relief. He allowed just one run on five hits, walking two and fanning one.

“(Griffin getting hurt) was a shock, but everyone stepped up,” Aube said. “I took it one pitch at a time. I had to stay focused and not over-think it.”

Disappointment

South Portland got two hits from Hasson, runs scored from McHugh and Owen, an RBI from McHugh and stolen bases from Johnston, McHugh and Owen, but stranded seven runners.

Owen suffered his first loss in seven decisions this spring, surrendering four runs (three earned) on just one hit in five innings. He walked five, fanned nine and hit a batter.

Hasson threw two scoreless innings of relief, allowing one hit and striking out one.

“I had confidence that we’d come back,” Owens said. “We hit some balls hard right at guys and they made plays. We just didn’t hit enough today. You can’t expect to win 2-1. We didn’t get hits when we needed to.”

The final game will soon be forgotten and South Portland can remember what a terrific season it had.

The 2019 Red Riots figure to be a force to be reckoned with as well.

“I’m so proud of this group,” Owens said. “We had 11 seniors who put in a lot of work and we relied on them for leadership. After a few days, we’ll realize how special a run this was and how special a group this was.

“We have a lot of young guys we relied on coming back, especially pitchers. They understand the work it takes and hopefully, we’ll come out on top next time.”

Showdown Saturday

Falmouth will look to continue its run Saturday at a red-hot Cheverus squad, which has now won nine games in a row after handling No. 12 Deering, 11-1, in six-innings, in its quarterfinal Thursday.

On May 1, the Yachtsmen downed the visiting Stags, 3-1. The teams met in last year’s regional final, a 4-1 Falmouth victory.

The Yachtsmen aren’t done shocking the world just yet.

“It’s very exciting,” Garret Aube said. “We’ll keep battling Saturday.”

“We’ll go over to Cheverus and see what happens,” Winship said. “There’s no external pressure, only internal pressure. Who knows?”

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

Falmouth senior Garret Aube, who replaced his injured brother on the mound in the third inning, throws a strike.

South Portland sophomore starter Hunter Owen shows his form.

South Portland senior third baseman Zach Johnson tries to come up with a low throw. The ball got away and Falmouth senior Marcus Cady came home to score.

South Portland senior second baseman Noah McHugh fields a ground ball.

South Portland senior third baseman Zach Johnson tags out Falmouth’s Will Bopp.

Falmouth’s Marcus Cady is congratulated by Garret Aube after scoring a run.

Falmouth’s Ben Keller is mobbed by his teammates after failing to lay down a bunt on a play in which a run scored anyway.

Previous Falmouth game stories

Portland 7 @ Falmouth 4 (8)

Falmouth 5 @ Deering 4

Previous South Portland game stories

@ South Portland 7 Noble 0

South Portland 4 @ Portland 1

Previous Falmouth-South Portland playoff result

2016 Class A South Final
Falmouth 4 South Portland 2

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