(For the complete Falmouth-Portland and Greely-Yarmouth baseball and Yarmouth-Greely softball game stories, with box scores and photos, see theforecaster.net)
The first week of the baseball and softball postseason saw two local teams survive.
One which is consistently in the run for a championship.
One which finds itself in uncharted waters.
Greely’s defending Class B state champion baseball team slipped to the No. 3 seed after an 11-5 regular season, but has once again risen to the occasion in the postseason.
Last Thursday, the Rangers needed nine innings to survive visiting rival Yarmouth, the No. 6 seed, 4-3, to advance.
Greely had a chance to blow the game open early and while it scored a run against Clippers pitcher Luke Klenda in the bottom of the first inning on Miles Shields’ RBI single and tacked on two more in the third on a run-scoring single from Chaz Reade and an RBI double from Matt Pisini, it also left an abundance of runners on base and that allowed the visitors to hang around. Yarmouth finally got to Greely ace pitcher Will Bryant in the fifth, as Cody Cook came up big with a clutch two-out, two-run single and the Clippers drew even in the sixth when Connor Lainey crushed an RBI double.
The Rangers then left a runner on in the sixth, stranded another in the seventh and left one more in the eighth. After Bryant was replaced by Ryan Twitchell in the ninth and Twitchell set Yarmouth down in order, Clippers reliever Andrew Kinsman retired the first two hitters in the bottom half, but Dylan Fried doubled, Austin Nowinski and Justin Leeman drew walks to load the bases and that set the stage for Caleb Normandeau to play the role of hero, blooping a single to left-center to score Fried with the winning run as Greely survived and advanced, 4-3.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the hero,” Normandeau said. “I just tried to put the ball in play. When it hit the bat, I put my head down and started running and hoped for the best.”
“It absolutely was worth the wait,” Bryant said. “We’re really pumped. We came together as a team and that’s what it takes. We’ll carry this through the rest of the playoffs. We know what it takes to win in the playoffs.”
“It’s both relief and exhilaration,” added Greely coach Derek Soule. “It’s a good reminder of how special the high school playoffs can be and why we keep doing it all these years.”
The Rangers made the trip south to No. 2 York for the semifinals Saturday and won with surprising ease, 11-2. Twitchell threw a four-hitter, while Leeman had three hits and four RBI.
Greely (13-5) advanced to meet No. 1 Cape Elizabeth (13-5) in Tuesday’s regional final at St. Joseph’s College in Standish (see theforecaster.net for game story). The teams split this year, with each prevailing on the road (the Rangers won, 5-4, at Cape Elizabeth and the Capers won by a 3-0 shutout at Greely). The teams have met 10 previous times in the playoffs, with each winning five. The most recent meeting resulted in a 9-6 Cape Elizabeth victory in the 2012 quarterfinals.
The winner will face either Winslow (15-4) or Camden Hills (12-7) in the Class B state final Saturday in Standish.
Falmouth and Freeport weren’t as fortunate.
The Yachtsmen earned the No. 4 seed in Western A and ousted 12th-ranked Gorham in the quarterfinals, 5-3, behind Cam Guarino’s seventh victory and multiple hits from Colin Coyne and Connor MacDowell. Falmouth went to No. 1 Portland Saturday for the semifinals. In the first-ever countable meeting between the schools, Yachtsmen lefty Reece Armitage and Bulldogs southpaw Dan Marzilli matched zeroes into the sixth, but Falmouth never could break through against Marzilli or his replacement, Ryan Ruhlin. Portland then struck for four runs in the sixth and although the Yachtsmen played errorless ball and had 10 hits, their season ended at 11-7 with a 4-0 setback.
“It was a great high school baseball game,” said Falmouth coach Kevin Winship. “I really thought that the kids played great. We couldn’t get the momentum going. Everything we did came with two outs. We couldn’t get the big hit. If you’d told me before the game we’d get 10 hits and make no errors, I’d have said we were going to win.
“I had no clue how good we were going to be this year. To win 11 games and lose a great game in the Western Maine semifinals that could have gone either way was a great season for us. I look forward to next year. We’ll be starting from a good place.”
Freeport was ranked seventh in Western B and took 10th-ranked Gray-New Gloucester to extra innings in a preliminary round contest last Tuesday but lost, 1-0, in nine innings, and finished 8-9.
Yarmouth’s softball team almost got to the regional final last year, but suffered an agonizing loss at Cape Elizabeth in a game which saw the Clippers let a five-run seventh inning lead slip away.
This spring, Yarmouth went 13-3 and earned the No. 4 seed. Last week, the Clippers blanked No. 5 Leavitt in the quarterfinals (6-0), then upset top-ranked Greely (7-0) in the semifinals for the program’s first ever semifinal round since joining Class B.
Against the Hornets, ace pitcher Mari Cooper threw a three-hitter and struck out nine and Cate Ralph, Andrea St. Pierre and Colleen Sullivan all had a pair of hits.
In the win over the Rangers, the Clippers got the jump when Michelle Robichaud drew a bases loaded walk in the first inning. In the second, Yarmouth got a run on an RBI groundout from Andrea St. Pierre, another run came home on an error and Cooper made sure the potent Rangers never produced a threat. In the fourth, a two-run double from Robichaud provided even more insurance and Cooper helped her own cause with a two-run single in the top of the seventh. Then, in the bottom half, Cooper and her teammates exorcised their demons by setting Greely down in order, thanks in large part to a terrific running catch from freshman Sophie McGrath, and slammed the door on a 7-0 victory.
Cooper allowed just two hits, added two hits, two runs scored and two RBI on offense and Robichaud drove in three runs.
“I’m overwhelmed right now,” Cooper said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. I think it’s the highest point in my life so far. I’ve never felt so happy. I’ve never been prouder of this team.”
“It feels incredible,” said Robichaud. “It’s what I’ve wanted. I’ve never won a high school state championship and we’re one step closer.”
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Yarmouth coach Amy Ashley added. “I was confident today. It means a lot for this program and it means a lot for us as coaches.”
The Clippers, who won a semifinal for the first time since residing in Class C back in 1996, advanced to meet seventh-ranked Fryeburg Academy (13-6) in the Western B Final Tuesday (see theforecaster.net for game story).
Yarmouth downed Fryeburg Academy, 9-7, way back on May 1 in Fryeburg. The teams had no playoff history.
If the Clippers advanced to their first-ever state final, they would play either Gardiner (18-0) or defending state champion Hermon (16-2).
“I knew we had the potential and I think we have even more potential which hasn’t been reached,” Ashley said.
Greely’s season ended at 14-4 with its loss to Yarmouth. The Rangers only mustered two hits.
“We took a lot of first pitch strikes, which is something we don’t usually do,” Greely coach Rob Hale said. “We’ve come back, but in a playoff game, it’s tough.”
Despite Saturday’s setback, the Rangers still had a solid 14-win campaign.
“This wasn’t indicative of our season,” Hale said. “We had the same record (as Yarmouth). We just had four Class A wins and that put us number one. We had 14 kids contribute in some way this season. We lose three starters, but we’ll be very solid next year.”
Falmouth was the No. 7 seed in Western A and won a playoff game for the first time in eight seasons when it downed No. 10 Marshwood, 4-0, in last week’s preliminary round. Julie Treadwell threw a one-hitter and had a two-run double. The Yachtsmen then lost, 8-6, at No. 2 Thornton Academy, the defending Western A champion, in the quarterfinals. Maddie Rouhana had three hits, but it wasn’t enough as Falmouth finished 10-8.
Yarmouth senior Kallie Hutchinson is all smiles after scoring during the Clippers’ 7-0 win at Greely in Saturday’s Western Class B semifinal.
Greely sophomore catcher Dylan Fried holds the ball for the umpire to see, but Yarmouth sophomore Gibby Harnett is called safe at the plate after diving around the tag during the teams’ marathon Western B quarterfinal last week. The Rangers won in the bottom of the ninth, 4-3.