CUMBERLAND—When the Greely Rangers (who entered the game ranked third in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) and Yarmouth Clippers (No. 2) face each other in baseball, there is always an extra fire burning inside the players to elevate and come out victorious.
The mist, light rain, and wind was steady throughout at Twin Brook in Cumberland on a dreary Tuesday afternoon, but nothing could stop these teams from having a classic midseason duel.
The Rangers rode the arm of pitching ace Mike Leeman as long as they could and avoided a Yarmouth seventh inning rally to come out with an exciting 5-4 victory. Leeman went 6.1 innings scattering eight hits, allowing just two earned runs and racking up eight strikeouts for his fourth win of the season. Ben Shain was called on o earn the save in an absolute pressure-cooker situation and was able to get the job done.
“We have to go in all those games (against rivals like Yarmouth, Falmouth, and Cape) with the idea that you’re going to win and you’re going to come out on top and I think all of us went into this game fired up and we’re going to try to keep that fire going,” said Shain.
The Clippers called upon senior Chris Lawlor, who is in his first varsity season, to make the start against the potent Rangers. Lawlor used more curveballs than fastballs throughout the contest and struggled early.
When asked about Lawlor’s high frequency of curveballs, Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted responded, “Did he even throw any fastballs? That works though, he’s got a nice little curveball.”
Greely got out to a quick lead by scoring two unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning with two outs. Shain, the designated hitter, hit a routine grounder to second baseman Dustin McCrossin, but the throw slipped out of his hand and Shain took second easily. Next was shortstop cleanup hitter Matt Labbe, who roped a line drive to rightfield plating Shain. Labbe advanced to second as the throw arrived late and high to the catcher. Leeman promptly helped his own cause and sliced a liner just over the first baseman’s head to score Labbe and put the Rangers ahead 2-0.
Leeman, despite the wet conditions, was able to spot his fastball and for the most part overpower Yarmouth hitters. His curveball wasn’t on, but that didn’t faze him.
“I felt good,” Leeman said. “My fastball and cutter were working. The changeup wasn’t working; I didn’t even throw any. Curveball didn’t really work either, but I just worked off my fastball and cutter.”
The Rangers added two more runs in the second inning with back-to-back RBI singles from Pete Stauber and Liam Maker. Brad McKenny led off the inning with an infield single and Jonah Normandeau followed with a hard line out to right. Bailey Train then took a walk and Stauber promptly hit the first pitch to the left-center gap plating McKenny. Moments later, Maker also hacked at the first pitch, tomahawk style, smashing a single to leftfield scoring Train for a 4-0 lead. A weak groundout by Shain, an intentional walk to Labbe, and a called third strike on a borderline curveball to Leeman ended the inning as Greely left the bases loaded, but it looked as though the Rangers were in the driver’s seat at their home field.
The Clippers didn’t get on the scoreboard until the fifth inning. With one out, Eamon Costello hit a grounder to third, but the throw across the diamond was just wide and got past first baseman Luke Saffian, allowing Costello an extra base. Ryan Cody then hit a tapper back at Leeman, who fired to first, but Saffian couldn’t handle it and Costello scampered home to make it 4-1 while Cody advanced to second on the error. Campbell Haley then flew out to left, but with two outs, lefty batter Luke Pierce ripped a double down the rightfield line to bring in Cody cutting the lead to 4-2.
The Yarmouth runs were certainly aided by some poor defensive plays from the Greely defenders.
“A lot of those plays we should make, we would normally make and unfortunately we let them back in the game a bit with our defense,” said Greely coach Derek Soule.
Greely picked up another run in the fifth inning as Lawlor’s accuracy with his curveball began to rapidly decline. Leeman led off with a walk. He promptly stole second, advanced to third on a curveball wild pitch, and then scored on another curveball in the dirt to make it 5-2 Rangers.
Leeman was cruising on the mound for the most part. Although his curveball wasn’t at its best, his fastball was certainly there.
Leeman was on his way to a complete game until the Clippers put the ball in play in the seventh inning to make things very interesting.
Nick Proscia led off the frame with a slow roller toward the second baseman that literally died in the wet infield grass. Brad McKenny tried to adjust to the ball but couldn’t make the play and Proscia was aboard at first base. Leeman bore down and struck out Costello looking with a heater. Next up was Cody, who hit a routine grounder to shortstop Labbe, but the ball stayed down and slipped under his glove, opening the floodgates for the Clippers.
Haley then roped the first pitch he saw into right field to load the bases with one out. Pierce stepped to the dish looking to do some damage. He flared the first pitch softly into shallow centerfield dropping perfectly in-between every Greely defender in the area, scoring Proscia to make it 5-3 Greely with the bases still loaded. Aiden Sullivan then worked a walk for an RBI plating Cody to bring it to 5-4.
Leeman had thrown 100+ pitches and couldn’t quite finish the game.
“Leeman is in great shape. He worked very hard in the offseason,” said Soule. “I wasn’t worried about him going deep into the game.”
However, Leeman had reached his pitch limit and Soule made the call to the bullpen.
Leeman said his goal was to go the distance, but unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out that way. It all worked out in the end though, as he picked up the win and improved to 4-0.
The Rangers called upon the reliable Shain to come off the bench and shut the door with bases loaded and one out. In one of the most tense situations a reliever could be in, Shain pitched masterfully. He was able to get ahead in the count to Dustin McCrossin and strike him out with a check swing on a curveball in the dirt. However, Shain fell behind next batter Bryce Snyder 2-0 in the count, but battled back and got Snyder to hit a weak flare near the first base coach’s box and Saffian made the play to seal the victory.
“Mike threw a great game up to that point and we got in a tight situation,” said Shain. “You have to go in there with confidence and can’t let that pressure get to you.”
“That’s about as tough as a position I have put a reliever in in a long time,” said Soule. “I’m very pleased with Ben Shain. He just went out there and pitched aggressively, coming off the bench in a cold game.”
“The attitude is we didn’t lose, we ran out of time,” said Halsted. “We respect Greely and we look forward to competing with them again.”
There is never a dull moment when Greely and Yarmouth face off. With the victory, Greely jumps Yarmouth in the standings and is now second, while the Clippers fall to third.
The two rivals will meet again May 27 at Yarmouth. The Rangers are back in action Wednesday at home versus Wells. The Clippers are back in action tomorrow against visiting Cape Elizabeth.