CUMBERLAND—The Greely baseball team opened its 2011 season Thursday afternoon and it was certainly worth the wait for the home team.
On a windswept afternoon at Twin Brook, the Rangers got a stellar six-inning, 11-strikeout, shutout performance from junior Mike Leeman and their offense came to life in the late innings as they defeated Gray-New Gloucester, 7-0.
Greely took the lead for good when Leeman scored on a wild pitch in the third inning, then added four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to put it away.
“Considering the elements, it was a solid effort, I thought,” said Rangers coach Derek Soule. “It’s not easy to play in temperatures like these.”
Greely reached the Western B semifinals last year, losing in extra innings to eventual regional champion Cape Elizabeth. The Rangers are hoping that their recent run of success in odd-numbered seasons continues this spring. Greely won Class B in 2007 and 2009 and while there are several solid teams in the region this season, it should hang tough.
The Rangers were scheduled to open their season last Thursday at home versus Lake Region, but that game was postponed.
Thursday, Leeman shook off some early cobwebs and sent Greely home victorious.
After retiring the opening hitter, Leeman issued back-to-back walks and with two outs, an infield hit from Gray-New Gloucester catcher Tim Lerette loaded the bases, but Leeman bore down and struck out rightfielder Austin Keenan looking to end the threat.
With one out in the bottom of the first, junior third baseman Liam Maker reached second base on an error and moved to third on a ground out, but freshman rightfielder Bailey Train lined out to right to keep the game scoreless.
Leeman struck out two batters in both the second and third innings and the bottom of the third, the Rangers got the only run they’d need.
Leeman led off and roped a ringing double over the head of Patriots centerfielder Aaron Boulos. After junior catcher Pete Stauber sacrificed Leeman to third, Maker popped out on the infield, but Gray-New Gloucester pitcher Jeff Taylor threw a wild pitch and Leeman raced home to make it 1-0.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, Leeman allowed a single to third baseman Ryan Davala and Boulos reached on an error, but Leeman again ended a threat with a strikeout, this time blowing a third strike past his counterpart, Taylor, to keep it 1-0.
Patriots second baseman Ben Verrill led off the fifth with a walk, but Leeman set down the next three hitters and in the bottom of the inning, the hosts got some breathing room.
Junior second baseman Brad McKenney led off with walk, stole second and went to third on Lerette’s wild throw. A fielder’s choice put runners at the corners and after junior shortstop Will McAdoo (who reached on the fielder’s choice) stole second, Leeman helped himself with a single to right-center, scoring McKenney and McAdoo to make it 3-0.
“I was just trying to drive it the other way and help the team out,” Leeman said.
That was it for Taylor, who was pulled in favor of Adam Healy. Stauber greeted the new hurler with a single on the first pitch. Stauber then stole second and both Leeman and Stauber raced home when Maker singled to right.
Just like that, Greely was in command, up 5-0.
Leeman’s final inning of work on the mound resulted in a fly ball to center and two strikeouts.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Rangers kept the offensive pressure on, scoring twice more as McKenney singled, McAdoo’s fly ball to left-center fell in, a balk moved the runners up, Leeman walked and Stauber delivered a two-run single.
That rally came with two men out and gave Greely a 7-0 advantage.
“I was happy with later in the game how guys were willing to stay back, go up the middle and go the other way,” said Soule. “That’s the approach we wanted to take, but it seemed like it took half the game to really find it. It was nice to see.”
Senior Ben Shain came out to pitch the seventh. With two down, he hit a batter, but regrouped to strike out Gray-New Gloucester leftfielder Kevin Cavallaro to end it.
Leeman wound up allowing just two hits and three walks in his six innings. He struck out at least one batter in every frame and wound up fanning 11.
“I’m trying to be the number one pitcher,” Leeman said. “I don’t know if I am, but I’m trying. It felt good to help the team out. It takes me awhile when I pitch to settle in. Usually two or three innings. I tried not to think about it, but the wind was a big factor. We pulled it out.”
“I’m very happy for Mike Leeman,” Soule added. “He had an injury-plagued 2010. He played last year, but he was never 100 percent. No one worked harder in the winter, in terms of conditioning. You saw today that he was ready to play. He was fired up. After a shaky first inning, he really settled in. That’s what we were hoping for. He was outstanding.”
Offensively, the Rangers got multiple hits from Stauber and Leeman (who had the game’s lone extra base hit, a double) and had nine hits in all.
Greely figures to remain a top contender all season thanks to its balance.
“We have good defense, pitching and pretty good hitting,” said Leeman.
“We have four really good, solid pitchers,” Soule added. “Shain’s one of the them and two youngsters, (sophomore) Jonah Normandeau and Bailey Train, have really good arms too. If we need Stauber, he’s available. It’s a nice blend of returning experience, mostly up the middle, with some good, solid young players.”
The Rangers are back in action Monday when they go to Poland.
Greely senior Sean Ross dives back into second base during Thursday’s victory.
Greely freshman rightfielder Bailey Train races in to make a catch during the fifth inning of the Rangers’ win.
Greely junior Brad McKenney dives safely back into second base in the late innings.
Thursday afternoon’s regular season-opener proved to be the Mike Leeman Show, as the junior hurled a two-hit, 11-strikeout gem, scored a run and drove in a pair as Greely defeated Gray-New Gloucester, 7-0.
More photos below.
GNG – 000 000 0- 0 2 2
Greely – 001 042 x- 7 9 1
Taylor, Healy (5) and Lerette; Leeman, Shain (7) and Stauber
WP- Leeman (1-0)
LP- Taylor (0-1)
Repeat hitters- Greely, Leeman, Stauber