Greely bashes its way past Cape in semifinal round upset

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Greely junior Jacob Whiting (17) is congratulated by his teammates after closing out the Rangers’ 8-2 win at Cape Elizabeth in Saturday’s Class B South semifinal. Greely will face top-ranked Wells in the regional final Wednesday.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Greely 8 Cape Elizabeth 2

G- 000 301 4- 8 11 1
CE- 000 002 0- 2 7 1

Top 4th
Neleski singled to left, Butler scored. Miller scored on throwing error. Kiesow doubled to left, Neleski scored.

Top 6th
Sullivan lined out to center, Neleski scored.

Bottom 6th
Sullivan singled to right, Weare scored. Bowe reached on infield single, Murphy scored.

Top 7th
Neleski singled to left, Eisenhart scored. Kiesow doubled to left, Miller scored. Whiting lined out to center, Neleski scored. Lyden singled to center, Kiesow scored.

Multiple hits:
G- Kiesow, Miller, Neleski
CE- Murphy, Sullivan 

Runs:
G- Neleski 3, Miller 2, Butler, Eisenhart, Kiesow
CE- Murphy, Weare 

RBI:
G- Kiesow, Neleski 2, Lyden, Sullivan, Whiting
CE- Bowe, Sullivan

Doubles:
G- Kiesow, Nolin
CE- Ca. Sullivan, Weare

Stolen bases:
CE- Bowe, Murphy, Tinsman

Left on base:
G- 6
CE- 11 

Co. Sullivan, Whiting (6) and Smith; Ca. Sullivan, Bowe (4), Weare (5), Tinsman (7) and Tinsman and Bakke (7).

G:
Co. Sullivan (W, 4-1) 5.2 IP 8 H 2 R 2 ER 5 BB 1 K  
Whiting (Save, 1) 1.1 IP 3 H 0 R 3 BB 0 K

CE:
Ca. Sullivan (L, 5-2) 3.2 IP 6 H 3 R 3 ER 0 BB 2 K
Bowe 1.1 IP 1 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 0 K 2 HBP
Weare 1.1 IP 2 H 3 R 3 ER 0 BB 0 K 2 HBP
Tinsman 0.2 IP 2 H 1 R 1 ER 0 BB 1 K 

Time: 2:14

CAPE ELIZABETH—The calendar has flipped to June and Greely’s baseball team is up to its old tricks.

The Rangers, who struggled for much of the regular season, have once again saved their best for the postseason and now find themselves just one victory from the state final.

That’s because Saturday afternoon at Holman Field, third-ranked Greely rode strong pitching, steady defense and a whole lot of late-inning hitting to a victory over longtime rival, second-seeded Cape Elizabeth in a Class B South semifinal.

The first three innings saw a pair of Sullivans keep the opposing offenses at bay, as Capers senior starter Carson Sullivan allowed just one hit and faced the minimum and Rangers junior Connor Sullivan stranded four runners.

Greely’s offense then roared to life in the top of the fourth, as sophomore shortstop Nick Butler and senior centerfielder Luke Miller both singled and junior first baseman Will Neleski drove in the game’s first run. Another run came home on a throwing error and senior third baseman Eben Kiesow followed with an RBI double for a 3-0 lead.

When the Rangers tacked on a run in the top of the sixth, on a pair of hit batsman and a sacrifice fly by Connor Sullivan, they appeared primed to coast to victory, but Cape Elizabeth made things very interesting in the bottom half.

With two out and none one, the Capers loaded the bases, then got RBI hits from Carson Sullivan and senior shortstop Finn Bowe, bringing up imposing senior catcher Brendan Tinsman to face Greely junior relief pitcher Jacob Whiting with the bases still loaded. Tinsman made solid contact and sent the ball deep to rightfield, but it was caught and Greely took a 4-2 lead to the seventh.

There, the Rangers broke it open, scoring four more times, as Neleski singled in a run, Kiesow doubled in another, Whiting produced a run with a sacrifice fly and junior leftfielder Will Lyden singled in another for a six-run lead.

Greely’s defense turned a double play in the bottom half and Whiting finished off the 8-2 victory.

The Rangers produced 11 hits and improved to 12-6, ended Cape Elizabeth’s season at 12-6 and advanced to face top-ranked Wells (16-2) in the Class B South Final Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

“It’s been a really good rivalry over the years,” said longtime Greely coach Derek Soule. “I love the intensity and the passion that both teams play with. Today, we were fortunate that our bats were hot. Hitting is contagious. One through nine, our lineup was on. They weren’t going to be denied. They played inspiring baseball from start to finish.” 

Collision course

It only seems that Cape Elizabeth and Greely meet every June in the playoffs, but that’s not exactly the case. The first encounter came in 1991 and Saturday’s contest was the 13th all-time in the postseason (the Capers’ 5-4 win a year ago in the quarterfinals evened the series, 6-6).

Both teams had their ups and downs during the course of the 2018 season.

Cape Elizabeth started 6-0, then went just 5-5 down the stretch and it had trouble closing out games (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories), but as the No. 2 seed in Class B South, the Capers outlasted No. 7 Yarmouth in a nine-inning quarterfinal round thriller Thursday (6-5).

Greely was just 7-5 after 3-2 losses at Oxford Hills and Yarmouth, but closed by winning three of four to wind up third in the region. Thursday, the Rangers pushed across a run in the bottom of the seventh to beat No. 11 Gray-New Gloucester, 2-1.

On April 23, Cape Elizabeth outlasted host Greely, 4-1, in a 13-inning marathon.

On May 25, the Rangers returned the favor, in just seven innings, winning at the Capers, 7-2.

Saturday, on a rare warm day (70 degrees) where the wind wasn’t blowing in, the game started out as a pitcher’s duel, before Greely’s cranked up its bats and went on to victory.

Carson Sullivan made quick work of the Rangers to start the game, getting Butler to pop out to short, Eisenhart to chase strike three and Miller to ground back to the mound.

Connor Sullivan started the bottom of the first by getting Bowe to fly out to right on a 3-2 pitch, then he walked Tinsman, who stole second. Tinsman moved up to third when senior third baseman Sean Agrodnia grounded out to third, but junior first baseman Alec Riggle’s line drive was hit right at Whiting, who started the game in leftfield, to retire the side.

Neleski led off the top of the second with a ground out to third. After Carson Sullivan caught Kiesow looking at strike three, Whiting bounced out to short for the third out.

In the bottom half, junior rightfielder Jameson Bakke drew a walk, but senior designated hitter Ryan Weare hit a sharp grounder to Butler at short, who threw to Eisenhart at second for one out and Eisenhart threw on to Neleski at first for the double play. Senior second baseman Val Murphy then lined out to second to end the frame.

Connor Sullivan led off the third with the game’s first hit, a single to center, but sophomore designated hitter Jake MacDonald lined out to center, freshman rightfielder Brady Nolin flew out to center and with Butler at the plate, Sullivan tried a delayed steal of second, but Tinsman threw him out.

The Capers had a great chance to go on top in the bottom half, but left the bases loaded.

Senior centerfielder Cooper Hoffman led off with a ground ball up the middle which Eisenhart fielded on the run going to his right before throwing Hoffman out. Carson Sullivan then crushed the ball deep down the leftfield line for a double. Bowe followed with a sharp grounder back to the mound. Connor Sullivan caught Carson Sullivan in a rundown between second and third and tagged him out for the second out. Bowe stole second and Tinsman and Agrodnia both walked on 3-2 pitches, setting the stage for Riggle, who crushed the ball again, but it was right at centerfielder Miller, who made the catch to keep the game scoreless.

Not for long, as Greely’s bats came to life in the top of the fourth and the Rangers built a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

On the first pitch of the frame, Butler lined a single to left. Eisenhart flew out to right, but Miller singled to left, in almost the exact same spot as Butler, also on the first pitch, and Neleski followed by reaching down and poking a single to left to score Butler. Miller raced to third and the throw of senior leftfielder Zachaois Fitts got away, allowing a second run to score, as Neleski moved up to second. Kiesow followed by driving the ball over the head of Fitts for a double and Neleski came home to make it 3-0. Whiting followed with a single to left, but Fitts threw to the cutoff man, Agrodnia, who threw out Kiesow at the plate.

That was it for Carson Sullivan, who was replaced by Bowe, who walked Connor Sullivan before getting MacDonald to fly to center to end the inning.

Cape Elizabeth had a chance to answer in the bottom of the fourth, but after Bakke flew out to right and Weare chased strike three and Murphy reached on an error by Butler at short and Hoffman beat out an infield single, Connor Sullivan fanned Carson Sullivan to keep the score 3-0.

Bowe surrendered a double to deep leftfield off the bat of Nolin leading off the fifth, but he got Butler to fly to center, Eisenhart to line to right, where Bakke made a sprawling catch, and Miller to bounce out to second.

The Capers went meekly in their half, as Bowe lined out to second, Tinsman watched strike three and Agrodnia grounded out to third.

Greely then tacked on a run in the top of the sixth.

Bowe hit both Neleski and Kiesow leading off and that ended his day, as he went back to shortstop with Weare coming on to pitch. Weare was greeted by Whiting, who squibbed a ball in front of the plate. Tinsman got to it and threw Whiting out at first, but the runners moved up. Connor Sullivan then helped himself, lining the ball to center, where Hoffman made the catch, but Neleski came home with another run. MacDonald was hit by a pitch, but Nolin lined out to center to keep the score 4-0.

When Riggle lined out to right and Bakke watched strike three to start the bottom of the sixth, Cape Elizabeth was down to its last four outs, but the Capers would rise up and make things very interesting.

First, Weare doubled down the rightfield line and barely beat the throw to second for a double. Murphy followed with a single up the middle to put runners at the corners and after Murphy stole second base, Hoffman drew a walk to load the bases.

Whiting came on to replace Connor Sullivan and was greeted by Carson Sullivan, who barely blooped a single into rightfield, scoring Weare with Cape Elizabeth’s first run. Bowe then hit a little dribbler up the third base line and beat it out for an infield hit, bringing home Murphy.

Suddenly, the one player Greely didn’t want to see up with the game on the line, Tinsman, strode to the plate and the Rangers decided to go at him.

Whiting threw a pitch in the strike zone and Tinsman lashed the ball deep to right, but Nolin was able to get over to it and cradle it to end the frame with Greely still on top, 4-2.

“I was nervous, but I knew I had to just try and work in on him,” Whiting said. “He ended up trying to hit it away, so I got lucky and got out of the jam. That was a big sigh of relief. Coming on in relief is tough, but we had a lead to work with.”

“I was concerned because the rightfielder still had to run a ways,” Soule said. “He’s a freshman and you never know what’s going through their mind.”

“We had the situation we wanted with our guy up,” said Capers coach Andy Wood. “He was aggressive and just missed it. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.” 

The Rangers then effectively ended the competitive phase of the contest in the top of the seventh, scoring four more runs.

Butler popped out to second leading off, but Eisenhart was hit by a pitch, Miller singled to left and Neleski followed with a single to left to drive home Eisenhart on a close play at the plate for a 5-2 advantage

That ended Weare’s outing and Tinsman replaced him, with Bakke moving behind the plate.

Tinsman was greeted by Kiesow, who crushed a drive to deep left. The ball hopped over the fence for a ground rule double to only allow one run to score, putting runners at second and third.

“When I see someone ahead of me get a hit, I go up with more intensity,” Kiesow said.

Whiting was next and lined the ball to center, where Hoffman made a diving catch. On the play, Neleski came home for a 7-2 lead. Lyden, who had been inserted to leftfield in the previous half inning, then drove a single to center to bring home Kiesow. MacDonald struck out, but the Rangers were on top by six.

“I thought the key was obviously getting Tinsman to fly out, then adding to our lead,” Soule said. “Being up 4-2 didn’t feel comfortable. I was very nervous at times when we didn’t add to the lead. They hung around.”

Whiting didn’t have an easy time closing it out in the seventh, but he got the job with some help from his defense.

After Agrodnia and Riggle both walked lading off, Bakke hit a liner right at Butler at short, who then doubled off Agrodnia for the double play. Weare walked and Murphy extended the game with a bunt single to load the bases, but Hoffman’s grounder was right at Kiesow at third and Kiesow stepped on the bag to bring the curtain down on Greely’s 8-2 victory, which took 2-hours, 13-minutes to achieve.

“We had a big defensive play for the double play and that kind of clinched it,” Whiting said. “I wanted to finish.”

“It’s a very good feeling,” Kiesow said. “It’s good to see our team coming along and doing this. All year long, we knew we could compete. We’re a competitive team and we’ve worked hard to get better. Our lineup got a lot more solid. We’re hyper-focused and guys are getting things done. The team is confident.”

“It’s a very balanced group of seniors and underclassmen and that’s a good thing,” Soule added. “A group of players were on state championship teams in basketball, but didn’t have a starting role, so they’re still hungry to win one in a lead role on this team.

“When we were 3-3, we had a lot of question marks. The guys worked really hard. Our coaching staff worked really hard. I’m proud of the players and coaches.”

The Rangers got two hits apiece from Kiesow, Miller and Neleski and had 11 hits overall.

“We were just looking fastball,” Whiting said. “Anything down the heart of the plate, we were mashing. Our approach at the plate, situational hitting, we did anything to get the run across. We sprayed line drives.”

Neleski scored three runs, Miller touched home twice and Butler, Eisenhart and Kiesow also scored runs.

Kiesow and Neleski finished with two RBI apiece, while Lyden, Sullivan and Whiting each drove in one run.

Greely stranded six baserunners.

Connor Sullivan was just what the doctor ordered on the mound, improving to 4-1 by allowing just two earned runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings. He walked five and struck out one, but for most of the game, completely flustered the Capers.

Whiting earned his first save, throwing 1.1 scoreless innings of relief, allowing three hits and three walks.

Tough ending

Cape Elizabeth got multiple hits from Murphy and Sullivan, Murphy and Weare scored runs and Bowe and Sullivan had RBI. Bowe, Murphy and Tinsman all stole bases, but the Capers were ultimately doomed by 11 runners left on.

Carson Sullivan finished 5-2 after giving up three earned runs on six hits in 3.2 innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two.

Bowe. gave up one earned run in 1.1 innings of relief, surrendering a hit and a walk and hitting two batters.

Weare gave up three earned runs in his 1.1 innings of relief. Weare gave up two hits and also hit two batters. 

Tinsman gave up a run on two hits in his two-thirds of an inning, fanning one.

“This is where we wanted to be, competing against Greely in front of a big crowd, but we just got outplayed,” Wood lamented. “We left too many runners on. We had big situations, but we couldn’t get a big hit. We hadn’t seen Connor all year and he got the curveball over for strike one and kept us off balance. They hit the ball hard and were aggressive. We kept battling until the final out.”

Cape Elizabeth will be decimated by graduation, as Agrodnia, Bowe, Fitts, Hoffman, Murphy, Sullivan, Tinsman, Weare and Alex Bozek all depart.

“You can’t replace a Brendan Tinsman or Finn Bowe,” Wood said. “Those guys are top-notch kids. It’s been a great group for the past four years. We lose seven starters. We enjoyed being out here every day. It stinks to have nothing to do tomorrow.”

The Capers hope to contend again in 2019.

“We’ll have a different look next year,” Wood said. 

All’s Wells that ends Wells

The top-ranked Wells Warriors are all that stand between Greely and the state final.

The Rangers split two meetings with the Warriors, prevailing, 7-3, at home April 24, then being blanked, 5-0, at Wells May 21. Greely won the only prior playoff meeting, 6-2, in the 2000 Western B semifinals.

The Rangers look to continue their late-season surge and it’s hard to bet against them, based on how they’re playing and of course, history.

“We’ll do whatever we can do to get runs across,” Whiting said. “Pitching and defense will be keys.”

“We’ll be prepared mentally,” Kiesow said. “We’ll keep riding this and keep going. I think we can compete with them. We’re having a lot of fun.”

“We know Wells well,” Soule added. “When we play the way we did today, we’re a tough team to beat.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Greely junior starter Connor Sullivan delivers a pitch.

Cape Elizabeth senior Finn Bowe fires a strike past Greely sophomore Nick Butler.

Greely senior A.J. Eisenhart dives into home as Cape Elizabeth senior Brendan Tinsman arrives too late.

Cape Elizabeth senior second baseman Val Murphy leaps to catch the ball.

Greely senior second baseman A.J. Eisenhart dives for the ball.

Cape Elizabeth senior catcher Brendan Tinsman tags out Greely senior Eben Kiesow.

Cape Elizabeth senior shortstop Finn Bowe takes a throw as Greely junior Evan Wyman dives into second base.

Greely junior Will Neleski rounds third and heads for home.

Neleski gets a hero’s welcome after scoring.

Previous Cape Elizabeth game stories

Cape Elizabeth 4 @ Greely 1 (13)

Freeport 3 @ Cape Elizabeth 0

Cape Elizabeth 2 @ Yarmouth 1 (9)

@ Cape Elizabeth 4 Yarmouth 3

Greely 7 @ Cape Elizabeth 2

Class B South quarterfinal
@ Cape Elizabeth 6 Yarmouth 5 (9)

Previous Greely game stories

Cape Elizabeth 4 @ Greely 1 (13)

Greely 7 @ Cape Elizabeth 2

Previous Cape Elizabeth-Greely playoff results

2017 Class B South quarterfinals
@ Cape Elizabeth 5 Greely 4

2015 Western B Final
Greely 3 Cape Elizabeth 1 (8)

2012 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 9 Greely 6

2010 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 4 Greely 3 (8)

2009 Western B semifinals
Greely 1 Cape Elizabeth 0 (10)

2004 Western B Final
Cape Elizabeth 4 Greely 1

2003 Western B quarterfinals
Greely 7 Cape Elizabeth 3

2001 Western B quarterfinals
Greely 9 Cape Elizabeth 6

1999 Western B Final
Greely 4 Cape Elizabeth 3

1993 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 9 Greely 4

1992 Western B semifinals
Greely 9 Clizabeth 3

1991 Western B semifinals
Cape Elizabeth 9 Greely 7

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.