Greely holds off Wells to stay undefeated

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Greely senior shortstop Cal Soule is congratulated by sophomore rightfielder Luke Miller after scoring the go-ahead run in the fourth inning of the Rangers’ 4-3 home win over Wells Friday. Greely, the two-time defending Class B state champion, improved to 3-0.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Greely 4 Wells 3

W- 010 000 2- 3 4 2
G- 001 300 x- 4 8 1

Top 2nd
N. Cousins scored on wild pitch

Bottom 3rd
Leeman singled to right, Fried scored.

Bottom 4th
Soule scored on passed ball. Twitchell scored on error. Fried singled to right, Pisini scored.

Top 7th
Barnard scored on fielder’s choice. L. Bell hit sacrifice fly to center, N. Cousins scored.

Repeat hitters:
W- N. Cousins
G- Fried, Twitchell

Runs:
W- N. Cousins 2, Barnard
G- Fried, Pisini, Soule, Twitchell

RBI:
W- L. Bell, Wrigley
G- Fried, Leeman

Double:
W- N. Cousins

Stolen bases:
W- C. Bell 2, Skeats

Left on base:
W- 5
G- 4

C. Cousins, Miles (6) and Wrigley; Spoerri, Leeman (7), Twitchell (7) and Fried

W:
C. Cousins (L, 0-1) 5 IP 7 H 4 R 3 ER 1 BB 1 K 1 WP
Miles 1 IP 1 H 0 R 1 BB 1 K

G:
Spoerri (W, 1-0) 6 IP 2 H 1 R 1 ER 3 BB 7 K 1 WP 2 HBP
Leeman 0 IP* 2 H 2 R 2 ER 1 BB 1 WP
Twitchell (save, 1) 1 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K
* Leeman pitched to three batters in the seventh

Time: 1:45

CUMBERLAND—When Greely’s baseball team is involved in a close game in the late innings, you just get the feeling that the Rangers are going to find a way to prevail.

That’s exactly what happened Friday afternoon at Twin Brook Recreation Center, when Greely, the two-time defending Class B state champion, did just enough to stay perfect on the young season.

Hosting dangerous Wells, the Rangers fell behind in the second inning when spot starter, senior Brad Spoerri, threw a wild pitch, allowing rightfielder Nick Cousins to score.

Despite making solid contact, Greely was held hitless by Warriors starter Cody Cousins the first two innings, but after a pair of terrific defensive plays in the top of the third, the Rangers parlayed that momentum into the tying run in the bottom half when senior second baseman Justin Leeman went the other way with two strikes and delivered an RBI single to make it 1-1.

Greely continued to take advantage of mistakes and scored three more runs in the fourth, to seemingly seize control, as senior shortstop Cal Soule scored on a passed ball, junior third baseman Ryan Twitchell came home on an error and junior catcher Dylan Fried singled to right to score senior centerfielder Matt Pisini.

That score held until the seventh, when Leeman replaced Spoerri, but he couldn’t get an out, loading the bases.

Enter Twitchell, last year’s state game hero, who capped his solid afternoon by allowing two runs while leaving the tying run at second as the Rangers held on to prevail, 4-3.

Fried and Twitchell had two hits apiece, Spoerri earned his first victory and Greely improved to 3-0 and dropped Wells to 2-2 in the process.

“I have seven guys out there who started on a state championship team,” said Rangers coach Derek Soule. “They can deal with the tough situations. I think it’s a good group. They’re confident and they have high baseball IQs. It’s fun group to work with.”

Model program

Greely continues to set the bar for excellence in high school baseball, repeating as Class B champions a year ago for the first time and looking very strong to start the 2016 campaign.

The Rangers opened with a 15-2 (five-inning) home win over Fryeburg Academy, then beat host Lake Region, 7-1, Wednesday’s home game versus Poland was postponed to May 12 due to a wet field from Tuesday’s snowstorm.

Wells was 10-6 a year ago. This spring, the Warriors opened with a 4-2 (nine-inning) home loss to Yarmouth, then handled visiting Fryeburg Academy (9-1) and Gray-New Gloucester (8-0).

Last year, Wells beat visiting Greely, 9-5.

Friday, on a cool late-April afternoon, the Rangers did just enough to win.

Spoerri, who filled in for senior Caleb Normandeau as the starter, worked out of trouble in the top of the first.

After getting shortstop Liam Bell to ground out to short, Spoerri walked Cody Cousins on four pitches. Centerfielder Charlie Bell followed with a sharp single to right and when sophomore rightfielder Luke Miller bobbled it, Cousins moved up third. Spoerri got second baseman Shawn Ramsey to look at strike three, but first baseman Cameron Cousins walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Leftfielder Tim Barnard hit the ball sharply, but it was right at Twitchell and Greely escaped unscathed.

Cody Cousins set the Rangers down in order in the bottom half, getting Leeman to ground out to first on an excuse-me swing, Normandeau, the first baseman, to ground out to second and Soule to line out to right.

Nick Cousins led off the second with a pop up behind second base, but some defensive confusion allowed the ball to drop untouched and Cousins smartly raced into second with a double. Spoerri then hit third baseman Andrew Skeats with a pitch. After catcher Michael Wrigley couldn’t get a bunt down, he struck out. Liam Bell grounded into a Soule-to-Leeman force out, then stole second. With Cody Cousins at the plate, Spoerri threw a wild pitch and Nick Cousins scored for a 1-0 lead. Spoerri escaped further damage by striking out Cody Cousins swinging.

Greely was frustrated in the bottom half, as both Twitchell and Pisini hit the ball hard, but directly at Nick Cousins in right. Cody Cousins then fanned Spoerri for the third out.

The Rangers’ displayed their defensive brilliance in the top of the third and that turned the tide.

Charlie Bell walked on a 3-2 pitch to start the frame and stole second, but Fried caught him too far off the bag after Ramsey failed to make contact and Fried’s throw to Soule forced Bell to take off for third, where Soule threw to Twitchell for a pivotal out. After Ramsey grounded out to Soule, Twitchell made the play of the game, diving to his right to stab a hard hit ball off the bat of Cameron Cousins. Twitchell then sprang to his feet and threw across the diamond to nip Cousins by a step to retire the side.

Not surprisingly, Greely’s offense came to life in the bottom half.

After Miller grounded out to second, Fried produced his team’s first hit, a single to center. Cody Cousins tried to pick Fried off first, but threw wildly and Fried went to second. After senior leftfielder Austin Nowinski popped out to second, a wild pitch moved Fried to third and Leeman brought him home with a perfectly placed hit over the second baseman’s head to tie it, 1-1. Normandeau grounded out to short to end the uprising, but momentum had shifted.

“Whenever someone makes a big play, we try to capitalize on it on the offensive side,” said Twitchell. “(Defense) got us going with the hits. We knew eventually our bats would come around and produce runs for our pitchers.”

“They had us on the ropes, but Brad worked out of it in the first,” Derek Soule said. “They had us on the ropes again and Twitchell made a big play. We finally got a little momentum going. We took good swings early, but we hit it three straight times at the rightfielder. (Cousins) was working us away and we went with it. I liked our at-bats.”

Spoerri had his best frame in the top of the fourth, getting Barnard looking at strike three and after inducing a fly to right off the bat of Nick Cousins, fanning Skeats.

Greely took the lead in the bottom half.

Soule set the tone by redirecting the first pitch up the middle for a single. Twitchell then singled through the hole between short and third. Pisini laid down a sacrifice bunt down the first base line, but after Cameron Cousins fielded it and realized he didn’t have a play at third, it was too late to record an out at first as well and just like that, the Rangers had the bases loaded with nobody out.

With Spoerri at the plate, Wrigley couldn’t handle a pitch and the passed ball brought in Soule to put Greely ahead to stay. After Spoerri walked to reload the bases, Miller’s ground ball to short was bobbled by Liam Bell and his throw to first was low, allowing Twitchell to score, reloading the bases. Fried added to the lead with a single to right, scoring Pisini and it was 4-1. The Rangers couldn’t put it away, however, as Nowinski popped out to second and Leeman’s sharp grounder to short was turned into a double play.

Spoerri remained sharp in the fifth, striking out Wrigley, getting Liam Bell to ground out to third and fanning Cody Cousins, only to see Cousins reach when strike three was in the dirt and Fried threw wide of first. Fried made up for that, however, by catching Cousins stealing to end the frame.

Normandeau led off the bottom half with a single to right, but Soule’s solidly hit ball up the middle was snared by Liam Bell at short, who stepped on second for one out then threw on to first to complete the double play. Twitchell singled to center, but was thrown out stealing to send the game to the sixth.

There, Spoerri got Charlie Bell to ground to first, where Normandeau made a spectacular scoop before recording the out. After hitting Ramsey, Spoerri picked off pinch-runner Matt Morrero. Cameron Cousins then grounded out to Twitchell.

In the bottom half, Cody Cousins was replaced on the hill by John Miles, who worked out of trouble.

Miles walked Pisini leading off, then allowed a single to Spoerri, who hit the ball off the glove of the diving Liam Bell. Miller struck out and Fried hit into yet another 6-4-3 double play to send the game to the seventh.

There, Greely’s intention of quickly wrapping up the victory ran into some complications.

Leeman came on but was greeted by a single to center off the bat of Barnard and a single to right-center by Nick Cousins. A wild pitch put runners at second and third and Skeats drew a walk to load the bases.

That was it for Leeman as Twitchell came on to save the day.

Twitchell got Wrigley to ground out to junior Tate Porter, who had come on to replace Twitchell at third, with Barnard scoring on the play. Liam Bell was next and he lined the ball to center, but Pisini was there to record the out with Nick Cousins coming home to cut the deficit to one. On the play, pinch-runner Ryan Sousa moved into scoring position at second base. With the game on the line, Twitchell made sure he secured the victory, getting Cody Cousins to chase strike three and the Rangers prevailed, 4-3.

“I knew we had a three-run lead, so I just had to get outs,” Twitchell said. “I knew if I threw strikes, my fielders would make plays. We know we have to bear down late in close games and play like we do any other inning. We can’t make errors or let them get extra bases.”

“Wells is a good team,” Derek Soule said. “They’re going to get plenty of wins this year. It was a pretty well-played game overall. It’s good for us to feel those pressure situations late in the game, so I’m pleased.”

Greely’s offense was paced by two hits apiece from Fried and Twitchell. Fried, Pisini, Soule and Twitchell all scored runs. Fried and Leeman had RBI. The Rangers stranded four runners.

Spoerri earned his first win after allowing just one earned run on two hits in six innings. He walked three, struck out seven, threw a wild pitch and hit two batters.

“I think (Brad) did very well,” Twitchell said. “The pitchers just have to locate and if we do that, we’ll be successful.”

“Caleb was supposed to start and his elbow swelled up yesterday, so Brad stepped up and made his first career start,” Derek Soule said. “He pitched well for six innings. He changed speeds well. Once he got settled in the second inning, he got in the groove.”

Leeman didn’t record an out against the three batters he faced. He allowed two runs on two hits and a walk and threw a wild pitch.

Twitchell earned his first save by retiring the side in the seventh. He didn’t allow a hit or a run and had a strikeout.

“I planned to have Justin pitch the sixth and Ryan the seventh, but the way Brad was going, it changed,” Derek Soule said. “They both got to pitch.”

Wells got two hits and two runs from Nick Cousins, who also had the game’s lone extra base hit. Barnard also scored. Liam Bell and Wrigley had RBI. Charlie Bell stole two bases and Skeats had one. The Warriors stranded five runners.

Cody Cousins fell to 0-1 after giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits in five innings. He walked a batter, struck out another and threw a wild pitch. Miles didn’t allow a run in his inning of relief, walking one batter and fanning another.

Bigger challenges

Wells looks to bounce back next week when it hosts Lake Region and Poland.

Greely has a very difficult week ahead. After hosting rival Yarmouth in a playoff rematch Monday, the Rangers visit York Wednesday, then play at powerhouse Falmouth Friday.

“I think we’re just as good as any other team we’ve had,” Twitchell said. “We have a lot of kids returning and everyone knows what to do. We just have to do our thing, go out there, hit the ball, make plays. If we capitalize, I think we’re going to be very tough to beat.”

“We have a good stretch of games upcoming,” Derek Soule said. “Yarmouth seems to always be a close game. We look forward to it. That’s always fun.”

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

Greely senior starter Brad Spoerri throws a pitch.

Greely senior centerfielder Matt Pisini makes contact.

Greely junior third baseman Ryan Twitchell slides home with the Rangers’ third run.

Greely junior catcher Dylan Fried lines one of his two hits.

Greely senior shortstop Cal Soule fields a ground ball.

In the play that turned momentum, Greely junior third baseman Ryan Twitchell dives to stab the ball before throwing out a runner to end the top of the third inning. The Rangers tied the game in the bottom half and went ahead to stay in the fourth.

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