CAPE ELIZABETH— Greely’s arch rival Cape Elizabeth staged a dramatic two-out, two-run rally in the bottom of the sixth to upend the Rangers, 6-5, in Monday’s Western Class B showdown.
The Capers’ rally in the bottom of the sixth spoiled a courageous outing on the bump from Greely senior righthander Dan O’Brion. The Capers hit three consecutive two-out singles in the sixth that led to a pair of runs and a small dose of redemption for the home team after being upset by the Rangers in last year’s regional final on the same field.
After a shaky start that saw Cape Elizabeth (5-0) pound out five hits and score three times in the first, O’Brion got tough through the middle frames and hung three straight donuts, retiring the side in order in the second, third and fourth innings.
Trailing 5-3 after the Rangers battled back on the strength of a four-run top of the fourth, the Capers added a run in the fifth on a base-hit and two walks to pull within a run, before taking the lead for good with a pair of runs on a barrage of singles that chased O’Brion after 5 2/3 innings.
The final batter he faced, Cape Elizabeth junior Cam Brown, delivered the game-winning RBI with a hard-hit single to left field that easily plated the run from third.
“This was a typical Greely and Cape Elizabeth baseball game,” said Greely coach Derek Soule. “It was a tough game and both teams battled to the end. We knew coming in that Cape Elizabeth was at the top of our league. On one hand, we’re happy that we hung in there with a young and inexperienced team, but when you get that close and fall short, it’s always disappointing. We couldn’t find a way to finish the game but hopefully we can learn from it and have some things to lean on down the road.”
O’Brion (2-1) struck out 10, allowed six runs, four of them earned, on nine hits and a pair of walks to take the loss, dropping the Rangers (who earlier defeated Lake Region, 10-9, in eight innings, Gray-New Gloucester, 10-1, and Poland, 4-1) to 3-1.
“I’m very proud of how Dan bounced back after the first and how the team bounced back after a rough start,” said Soule. “It’s one thing to bounce back but we still need to finish it out.”
Facing Cape Elizabeth ace senior Conor Moloney, a crafty lefthander, Greely sent only seven batters to the plate in the first two innings. Junior shortstop Matt Labbe was stranded at first after being hit by a pitch with two outs in the first.
The Rangers finally broke through and got on the scoreboard when senior Carter Cyr led off the top of the third with a stand-up double on a long drive that short-hopped the fence in left. Senior Luke Booth then sacrificed Cyr to third with a perfect bunt that hugged the fringe of the infield grass down the first base line.
Sophomore catcher Pete Stauber popped to short right for the second out, but Cyr scored on an error to make it a 3-1 game when sophomore Brad McKenny’s routine grounder to second was misplayed.
O’Brion returned to the hill and set the Capers’ down in order to quickly get the Rangers back in the dugout. Momentum was slowly turning in Greely’s favor.
Moloney was up to the challenge, retiring the first two batters on groundballs to the infield before another infield error opened the flood gates for a four-run fourth inning that produced a 5-3 Greely lead.
With two outs, senior Ben Russell grounded to short but reached on a throwing error. Senior Sam Thompson was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second and Cyr followed with an RBI single to left to make it 3-2.
Booth drew a full-count walk from Moloney to load the bases and Stauber dropped a bloop single over the shortstop to score Thompson from third and Cyr from second. With Booth rounding third, the relay throw to the plate skipped away from Cape Elizabeth senior catcher Ezra Wolfinger and out of play. Booth was awarded home plate and suddenly Greely had a 5-3 lead in the fourth inning.
“O’Brion settled down after the first and pitched great,” said Cyr. “It was nice that we were able to support him with some runs and help him out. We knew they wanted to come out and draw first blood after we knocked them out last year in the regional final. You can’t win them all.”
The Rangers carried a two-run lead into the bottom of the fifth when the Capers got one back to make it 5-4 on a single by Brown, a walk and an RBI single by senior Kyle Piscopo. Brown stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. O’Brion walked senior Sam St. Germain to put runners on the corners with one out and Piscopo grounded into what looked like an inning-ending double-play, but the throw to first pulled Thompson off the bag as Brown dashed home to make it a one-run game.
Moloney was relieved by senior righthander Will Pierce to start the sixth inning. Moloney pitched a four-hitter with three strikeouts, allowing five earned runs, three of them earned. He hit three batters and issued only one walk in five complete but did not pick up the win.
Pierce, in his first varsity outing, retired the side in order in the sixth, setting the stage for the Capers’ two-run bottom of the sixth.
After O’Brion retired the first two batters, Moloney, still in the lineup but now in left field, singled sharply through the hole on the right side of the infield and stole second to start the rally. In a big spot, Cape Elizabeth pinch-hitter A.J. Frustaci grounded sharply into right just past the dive of Thompson at first to score Moloney and tie the game at 5-5.
With Brown at the plate, a pair of passed balls moved Frustraci to third. Ahead in the count, Brown picked out a fastball and singled to left to plate Frustraci with what would ultimately represent the winning run.
Pierce (1-0) went back to work on the mound for Cape Elizabeth and slammed the door in impressive fashion, fanning the Rangers 2, 3 and 4 hitters to preserve the victory.
“It goes without saying that this is a big rivalry and always has been,” said Cyr. “We’re disappointed but will use this as fuel for the next time we see them. We’ve got them in the last game of the regular season at home and we’ll try and turn it around on them.”
Greely looked to get back on track Wednesday at Falmouth and will host Freeport Thursday. Monday, the Rangers visit Fryeburg. They next see Cape Elizabeth June 2, in the regular season finale in Cumberland.