STANDISH— It was a battle of Class B’s best, and both brought their aces to the table Saturday afternoon in the baseball state final at St. Joseph’s College.
However, it didn’t take long to see who was more dominant. The Greely Rangers, led by masterful and nearly no-hit pitching from senior Sam Stauber, defeated the Gardiner Tigers, 2-0, to reclaim the Class B state title.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Donnie Cray, the starting pitcher and number five batter, broke up Stauber’s no hit bid with a single to leftfield on an 0-1 curveball. Not phased at all by having his no hitter broken up, Stauber went right back to his curveball to get bac- to-back swings and misses in the dirt to strike out Spencer Allen with two runners on to close the book on a phenomenal season and high school career.
Was the no hitter going through his mind while he was out there?
“Yeah I’d definitely say in the seventh inning I started to think about it when I made that first and second out, and after I left that curveball hanging and he drilled into left, I figured ‘all right now I just got to get the out’, which I did,” Stauber said.
Stauber finished the game with 10 strikeouts, one hit, one walk, and one hit batter.
What a perfect time to have the game of your life. The win made the hurler 10-2 on the year, a Greely school record for most wins in a season.
“Stauber has had an unbelievable career,” said Greely coach Derek Soule. “I’m incredibly proud of him. He’s worked year round. He capped off his career with the game of his life. It was extraordinary.”
After their 15-8 slugfest victory over Lincoln Academy in the Western Class B Final, hits were harder to come by for the Rangers Saturday and the defense was sharp for both sides in the state game.
Greely wasted no time and got all the offense it needed in the bottom of the first inning.
Stauber led off with a single to center and was sacrifice bunted to second by senior Leo Paquette. Senior Nate Martin then popped up to first, but senior cleanup hitter Pat Copp followed with a clutch two out liner to left to score Stauber and give Greely a 1-0 lead.
“I just knew I had to get it done,” Copp said. “I knew he was gunna grove me a fastball. I just did all I could to get it out of the infield and get Sam in so we could jump out to a 1-0 lead.”
The Rangers tacked on another run in the third inning on an RBI groundout. Paquette drew a walk, then Martin and Copp both singled to load the bases for senior Kevin Hart. With one out, Hart hit a grounder to shortstop Forrest Chadwick, who flipped it to second to start the 6-4-3 double play, but the hustling Hart beat the throw and senior Josh Bilodeau (pinch running for Paquette) scored from third to make it 2-0 Greely.
But the story was all Sam Stauber.
There were only two innings that he didn’t retire the side in order. He had two strikeouts in the second inning and struck out five in a row over the fifth and sixth innings. It was obvious from the get go that the Tigers were off balanced. Stauber had brilliant command of his three pitches: fastball, curveball, and change up. Greely assistant coach and pitcher caller, Miles Hunt, deserves some credit, too.
“I definitely had all three pitches working for me today,” Stauber said. “Sometimes I only have one or two really. And then today I figured I really had to battle, so I’d need all three of my pitches, and I did. It was awesome. Miles definitely helped me out a lot, obviously. I could easily throw one of my three pitches for strikes, and that was really the key I think. Throw them for strikes and have my defense back me up.”
The Gardiner hitters looked outright foolish at many times, as there were many check swings and quick and unproductive at-bats. Stauber used just 35 pitches to cruise through the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth (where he struck out the side on 11 pitches) innings.
“He was just mixing his pitches up pretty well,” Gardiner coach Jim Palmer said, about Stauber’s outing. “Throwing fastballs in and sliders and curves away, just working in and out, and picking his spots.”
For the Tigers’ ace, pitching wasn’t quite as smooth sailing. Donnie Cray was really working hard throwing numerous pitches to disciplined Rangers. After just three innings, he’d thrown 66 pitches. He finished the game with about 125 pitches through six innings, allowing five hits, five walks, to go with five strikeouts. As the game went on, his curveball progressively weakened, too.
“I worked myself into jams,” Cray admitted. “I just did what I could to get out of the jams. I didn’t try to overpower them at all. I was steering the ball too much, so I wasn’t really hitting my spots and I walked way too many people.”
While he wasn’t as effective as he wanted to be on the hill, he was able to throw a wrench in his counterpart’s no-hitter in the seventh, and spark a little rally. With one out in the seventh, Nick Maschino was grazed by a pitch. Alex Wheelock then flew out to left, but Cray came through with a base hit. With runners on first and second with two outs, a 2-1 pitch hit off Greely catcher Ryan Howland’s glove, allowing the two runners to advance. Stauber shook it off and like he’d done all game, knew exactly what pitch to throw next and where to spot it. Allen quickly became strikeout victim number 10. However, the Tigers were just a mere base hit away from tying the contest.
“We haven’t had too many errorless games,” Soule said. “That was really awesome to see. The errorless game, the dominating pitching, timely hitting. I really felt like they just wanted it and nobody was going to deny them.”
The Rangers and Tigers both played flawless defense. Because Stauber was dealing, the balls weren’t hit hard and the defense wasn’t challenged too much. The Tigers had just four groundouts (one was a comebacker fielded by Stauber) and seven fly or pop outs.
“They had really one loud hit, the rest were just over the infield,” Palmer said. “They got the two runs that they needed and in a game like this that’s all you need.”
It was an exciting way to end it all for the Rangers, who will lose nine seniors, seven of them starters. Next year could likely be a rebuilding year, as the loaded class of 2009 will be impossible to replace.
Copp was the game’s only repeat hitter, going 2-for-2 with an RBI and a walk. He capped off a phenomenal slugging season. Kevin Hart had his RBI grounder, which gave him 29 on the season, tying a Greely record set by Ryan Copp and Brandon Brewer. Martin did not score a run in the game, but tied the Greely record of 30 runs in a season set by Adam Lemieux.
The Rangers last state title was just two years ago in 2007, when they beat Winslow 4-0 highlighted by standout Caleb Jordan’s eight strikeout, three-hitter. Greely also won it all in 1997 and 1999.
In 2007, Stauber was the sophomore starting shortstop watching a senior ace dominate and triumph. Now he was able to do the same and lead his team to victory with his own gem.
“It’s definitely different (2009 compared to 2007),” Stauber said. “I was a lot younger and didn’t really know what it meant to me. Now senior year, having to battle the whole way, it really feels good to finally earn it.”