(Ed Note: For the complete Falmouth-Portland, Freeport-Morse, Freeport-Greely and Greely-Yarmouth baseball and Greely-Yarmouth softball game stories, with box scores and photos, see theforecaster.net)
Last week’s baseball and softball playoffs produced no shortage of thrills for Forecaster Country teams.
One in particular.
Freeport’s baseball team entered the postseason seeking its first playoff victory in 31 years.
The Falcons got it and much, much more.
Freeport, the No. 7 seed in Class B South after an impressive 10-6 regular season, hosted No. 10 Morse in last Tuesday’s preliminary round and after falling behind early on an unearned run, seized control as starting pitcher Josh Burke and catcher Colby Wagner both homered to give the Falcons the lead. In the bottom of the fifth, Freeport got some breathing room, as Caiden Shea beat out an infield single with the bases loaded and Bennett Hight followed with a two-run single to push the lead to four. Burke did the rest, slamming the door on a three-hitter and for the first time ever in Class B and the first time in any class since 1985, the Falcons had a playoff win, 5-1.
“I felt great,” said Burke, who was given a celebratory water bath by his teammates after the game. “I had some great fielders backing me up. I had a catcher calling all the right pitches.”
“This is huge for us,” Wagner said. “We can play with the big teams. We’ve always been the underdog, but this year, we’ve stuck together and shown what we’re all about. We came together and showed we can do anything.”
“It means a lot for the program and the fans,” said standout shortstop/pitcher Jack Davenport. “It gives us life and lets us know we can do amazing things.”
“It’s awesome,” added Falcons coach Bill Ridge. “We’re heading in the right direction. When I started, there weren’t a ton of numbers, so we had to build the numbers. With numbers, we built accountability and with accountability, you can see the product is a lot better.”
Freeport went to No. 2 York for the quarterfinals last Thursday and despite falling behind early, 2-0, continued to impress, as it scored multiple runs in three different innings, spelling a 7-2 victory as Davenport went the distance and also drove in two runs and Max Doughty had four hits.
The biggest step of all came Saturday, when the Falcons went to No. 3 Greely, the two-time defending Class B champion.
The Rangers earned a bye into the quarterfinals, then blanked No. 6 Yarmouth, 2-0, in the quarterfinals Thursday. Ryan Twitchell threw a three-hit, 10-strikeout gem and Justin Leeman had three hits.
“I could throw any pitch whenever I wanted to and I could locate any pitch,” Twitchell said.
“(Ryan) was great,” Leeman said. “I didn’t even get a ground ball (at second base). He was unbelievable. He was dominant.”
“This time of year, it’s about pitching, defense and timely hitting,” Greely coach Derek Soule added. “With the wind blowing in the way it was, I knew it would be low-scoring.
Yarmouth (which had beaten No. 11 Fryeburg Academy, 12-0, in five-innings in the preliminary round, behind a triple and home run from C.J. Cawley and two hits from Conor O’Donnell) wound up 11-6-1 after losing in the quarterfinals.
“We ran into a dominant pitcher,” Clippers coach Marc Halsted said. “I thought we’d eventually get to him, but he stayed strong and finished strong.
“This is the group of kids that I started bringing my son around at the age of two. The other night, some of them came to his T-ball game. That’s why I coach high school sports. I so wanted that group of seniors to have success this year. Hopefully they got a lot out of it. Winning a playoff game was cool.”
Yarmouth will have a very different look in 2017, but hopes to contend again.
“We lose 10 and they all play and we’ll only have two players next year who have a high school hit,” Halsted said. “Our freshmen and sophomores are coming along. We’ll get right back after it. The kids know we won’t expect anything less.”
Greely advanced to host Freeport in the semifinals Saturday, but couldn’t muster a run and the Falcons would be the team advancing.
Davenport hit an RBI single in the third inning and that held up, as Burke threw five strong innings (only surrendering one hit), Austin Langley pitched a scoreless sixth and Josh Spaulding got the save, registering a strikeout for the final out, as the Falcons went wild celebrating their 1-0 victory and the first regional final berth in program history.
“It feels amazing, honestly,” Burke said. “Knocking down the two-time, defending champion.”
“It’s unbelievable, just unbelievable,” Ridge said. “We had some high expectations for ourselves this year, coming into it, but I can’t honestly say that anybody was expecting this.”
Freeport (13-6) advanced to meet top-ranked Cape Elizabeth (13-5) in the regional final Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College in Standish (see theforecaster.net for game story). The Capers won the regular season meeting, 10-0, May 4 at Freeport, but the Falcons have become a vastly different team since then. Cape Elizabeth took the lone prior playoff meeting, 4-0, in the 2012 preliminary round.
“I feel really great going forward,” Burke said. “We’ve got Jack pitching (Wednesday), who is one of the best pitchers in the state, in my opinion. I think he can go lights-out. We believe we deserve to be there.”
“We feel confident going into the game,” Ridge said.
If Freeport prevailed and reached the Class B state final for the first time, it would travel to Mansfield Field in Bangor to play either Old Town (17-1) or Hermon (14-4) Saturday at 11 a.m.
In its loss to Freeport, Greely got 12 strikeouts from Caleb Normandeau, but managed only two hits and finished 12-5-1, losing for the first time in the postseason since the 2013 semifinals.
“It was just one of those games where we couldn’t seem to catch a break,” said Rangers coach Derek Soule. “Our hard-hit balls were right at them and they made plays. To win nine playoff games in a row over three years, we got some breaks, but this time, our luck ran out. Freeport is no fluke. I’m happy for them.”
Greely graduates 10 players, including six who were in the lineup regularly, so it will have some holes to fill next spring, but with the likes of Twitchell, catcher Dylan Fried, third baseman Tate Porter and rightfielder Luke Miller returning, the Rangers can’t be written off.
“This is a tough senior class to replace,” Soule said. “We had some elite student-athletes in that class. They have great character. It will be good to have experience and pitcher and catcher next year. We’ll get back after it.”
Freeport wasn’t the only baseball team that reached the baseball regional finals.
Falmouth, the top seed in Class A South, got there as well, in dominant and decisive fashion.
The Yachtsmen built on their perfect regular season with a 4-0 quarterfinal round victory over No. 8 Deering and a 5-0 semifinal round triumph over No. 5 Portland. Cam Guarino threw a one-hit gem against the Rams and Reece Armitage, Robbie Armitage and Tyler Gee all had RBI hits.
Against the Bulldogs, Reece Armitage was every bit Guarino’s equal with a one-hit masterpiece of his own. Armitage allowed an infield single, walked two batters and hit another, but was in command throughout.
The offense featured a run scoring on a wild pitch, an Armitage RBI single, an RBI double from Colin Coyne, an RBI sacrifice fly from Armitage scoring Connor Aube and Garrett Aube’s RBI single.
“Everything was working,” Armitage said. “My curve and my two-seamer. Cam and I) push each other. I saw what he did (Thursday) and I wanted to match it.”
“Reece was into it from the get-go,” Connor Aube said. “He was pounding the zone. We have incredible defense behind him. We have a great infield that works well together. The outfield knows what’s going on and my brother behind the dish has done an outstanding job.”
“For our program to go 18-0 and get to the Western Maine Final in Class A is great,” added Yachtsmen coach Kevin Winship. “We’ve kept it loose all year. We haven’t done anything different this year. That’s how we play our best baseball, stay loose and have fun.”
Falmouth advanced to meet No. 2 South Portland (16-2), the defending regional champion, in the Class A South Final Tuesday evening (see theforecaster.net for game story). The teams had no history, regular or postseason.
“It should be really fun,” Connor Aube said. “We won’t be content with 18-0. We want to be 20-0. That’s the goal.”
“There’s no pressure,” Reece Armitage said. “It’s a new season, four games. We have to keep pounding, early and often.”
“We’ll go out and do the best we can,” Winship added.
In Class D South, North Yarmouth Academy returned to the playoffs as the No. 6 seed, but in last Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, the Panthers dropped a tough 3-2 decision at No. 3 Richmond. Xander Kostelnik had an RBI single and Galen Arnold hit a home run, but NYA fell just short and wound up 7-10.
Greely and Yarmouth’s softball teams entered the playoffs full of optimism and to no one’s surprise, wound up meeting in the semifinals.
The Clippers, the defending Class B champion, closed the regular season on a seven-game win streak to earn the No. 2 seed in Class B South. Yarmouth then overcame a sluggish start to eliminate No. 7 Leavitt, 8-2, in the quarterfinals last Thursday. Colleen Sullivan homered, Hannah Merrill and Cate Ralph both had three hits in the game and Mari Cooper earned the victory, allowing just four hits.
The Rangers, ranked third, ousted No. 6 Fryeburg Academy, 4-1, in its quarterfinal. Pitcher Kelsey Currier had three hits, scored two runs, drove in another and if that wasn’t enough, threw a five-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
Saturday afternoon, with a light rain falling, Greely and host Yarmouth met in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and unlike the past two seasons, it would be the Rangers prevailing, with Currier again playing a lead role.
After Currier got out of a 2nd-and-3rd, no outs jam in the bottom of the first without surrendering a run, Greely got all the runs it would need in the second inning, as Miranda Eisenhart singled home Kayley Cimino and Currier crushed a grand slam. Cimino doubled in a run in the third and after Sullivan tripled and scored on a Ralph ground out in the bottom half, Evan Carrell put it away for the Rangers with a two-run homer in the fifth as Greely went on to an 8-1 victory.
“I just tried to keep my hands inside the ball,” said Currier, of her third home run this spring.”It helped that there were three people on base. I knew as soon as I hit it, that it was out. It felt really good.”
“We got our bats going today,” Carrell said. “That felt good. We typically warm up after a few innings.”
“We hit the ball pretty well,” Rangers coach Rob Hale added. “That’s the best all-around game we’ve played all year, offensively and defensively.”
Greely advanced to battle top-ranked York (17-1) in the Class B South Final Wednesday. The Rangers lost, 5-4, at York May 4. The teams had no playoff history.
“We’re peaking,” Currier said. “We just have to stay positive and pick each other up. We have to focus in practice and have confidence at the plate.”
“This win gives us momentum,” Carrell said. “We’ll approach it like any other game. We’ll come in with nervous excitement and carry it through.”
“We want to go through number one to be number one,” Hale added. “We’ll be the underdog in seeding, but we’ll go in very confident.”
If Greely gets to the Class B Final for the third time ever and the first time since 2013, it will meet either Winslow (17-1) or Old Town (15-3) Saturday at 4 p.m. at Brewer High School.
Yarmouth’s season ended at 14-4 with the loss to Greely.
“(Greely) made all the plays,” said Ashley. “It seemed like we hit the ball hard, but it was right at them. It’s tough to lose, especially when you don’t play your best. Take away two pitches and it’s a different game. We didn’t talk a lot about (last season) this year because there are four girls from last year who aren’t here. Once you have it, it’s hard to lose prior to the championship game because the feeling is amazing. We still accomplished a lot this season.
“These seniors were freshmen when we came in, so it’s like losing a piece of you. We’ve accomplished a lot together. They’re like family. I love them so much. I’m very proud of them, but sad to see them leave.
Don’t sleep on the 2017 Clippers. This spring’s disappointment will serve as fuel down the road.
“The returning players learned a lot from the seniors about hard work,” Ashley said. “They got a taste of it and hopefully next year, we’ll feel like we have unfinished business, which will only help us in the future.”
Falmouth pitcher Reece Armitage shows off his dominant one-hit form during Saturday’s 5-0 win over Portland in a Class A South baseball semifinal. The Yachtsmen advanced to meet South Portland in the regional final.
Freeport’s baseball team erupts with joy after ending Greely’s two-year reign as Class B champion with a 1-0 victory in a Class B South semifinal Saturday afternoon. The Falcons moved on to the first regional final in program history, against Cape Elizabeth.
Greely’s Kelsey Currier prepares to launch a game-altering grand slam home run during Saturday’s 8-1 win at defending state champion Yarmouth in a Class B South semifinal. Currier also earned the win on the mound as the Rangers advanced to meet top-ranked York in the regional final.