STANDISH—If the month is June, Greely’s baseball team will find a way to win.
By any means necessary.
Whether it takes seven innings.
Or if it takes even longer.
Tuesday afternoon at Larry Mahaney Diamond on the campus on St. Joseph’s College, the Rangers had to contend with intermittent rain and an early deficit against a talented foe, but for the seventh postseason game in a row, they had the answers.
And as a result, for the second year in a row, Greely will be playing for the Class B championship.
The third-ranked Rangers got everything they could handle from top-seeded Cape Elizabeth in the teams’ first Western B Final showdown since 2004 and the Capers got off to a fast start thanks to the glove, arm and bat of junior pitcher Nate Ingalls.
After Ingalls got out of a jam in the top of the first, he doubled and scored in the bottom of the first to give Cape Elizabeth a 1-0 lead.
The Capers had their chances to add to their advantage, but had two runners thrown out at home, including a play in the bottom of the fourth which saw Greely sophomore catcher Dylan Fried make a scoop and tag that had to be seen to be believed.
The Rangers benefited from two Cape Elizabeth errors in the top of the fifth to pull even and neither team, largely because of the dominance of Greely senior ace Will Bryant, who got stronger as the game progressed, could score from there until the game went to extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Bryant took things into his own hands and led off with a triple. Junior shortstop Cal Soule drove him in with a sacrifice fly and the Rangers made it 3-1 when another run scored on a wild pitch.
Bryant then slammed the door in the bottom half and Greely had its second straight Western B title.
“It feels amazing, better than last year,” said Bryant. “To do it as a senior is awesome. I think this team’s just as good as last year. We’re in the state championship again.”
Cape Elizabeth and Greely are two of the most tradition-rich baseball powers in the state and prior to Tuesday, they’d met 10 times in the playoffs (see sidebar, below), with each winning on five occasions. The Capers prevailed, 9-6, in the 2012 quarterfinals in the most recent postseason encounter.
The teams had played twice before in the regional final, with the Rangers winning, 4-3, in 1999 and Cape Elizabeth winning, 4-1, in 2004 en route to its most recent championship.
Not much was expected of the Capers this spring coming off a 4-12 campaign, but Cape Elizabeth improved its win total by seven, earned the top seed in Western B and held off No. 9 Lake Region, 2-1, in the quarterfinals and ousted No. 5 Lincoln Academy, 6-2, in the semifinals.
Greely was up-and-down in its title defense, but still managed to land the No. 3 seed and as usual, turned its game up for the playoffs, outlasting No. 6 Yarmouth, 4-3, in nine innings, in the quarterfinals, then rolling at No. 2 York in the semifinals, 11-2.
Tuesday’s game was in doubt with rain in the forecast, but the staff at St. Joe’s had the field looking immaculate as usual and the game began amid just a light drizzle.
The Rangers threatened in the top of the first, but Ingalls’ glove, every bit as much as his arm, held them at bay.
Junior second baseman Justin Leeman led off with a bleeder down the third base line. Ingalls pounced off the mound, twirled and fired to first to get the runner by a step. After junior first baseman Caleb Normandeau fouled off several pitches before drawing a full count walk, Ingalls brushed senior centerfielder Miles Shields with a pitch. Bryant came up with a chance to help his cause, but he grounded back to Ingalls, who spun and threw to senior shortstop Tim Brigham for a force and Brigham threw on to first for an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom half, Ingalls showed his bat is pretty potent too as he crushed a Bryant offering to left-center, the opposite field, for a double. Freshman catcher Brendan Tinsman then earned probably his shortest hit of a season, a slow roller up the third base line which Rangers senior third baseman Chaz Reade couldn’t throw to first in time. Ingalls took third on the play and after Tinsman stole second, Ingalls came home when Brigham hit a slow roller to third which Reade threw to first for the out.
Cape Elizabeth could have had even more, but in a frustrating sign of things to come, couldn’t add to its lead.
With senior designated hitter Matt Denison at the plate, Bryant tried to pick Tinsman off second, but his throw was wild and Tinsman took third on the error. Cape Elizabeth couldn’t take advantage, however, as Tinsman tried to score on Denison’s grounder to short, but he was thrown out at home and junior centerfielder Dylan Roberts flew out to left.
Soule lined sharply to junior third baseman Matt Riggle to start the top of the second, but Reade followed with Greely’s first hit, a single to right-center. A passed ball moved Reade to second, but when junior rightfielder Matt Pisini grounded to third, Reade was caught too far off the base and Riggle threw to senior second baseman Aaron Dobieski for the second out. Fried kept the inning alive with a walk, but Ingalls got junior leftfieler Austin Nowinski to line to left where senior Adam Godfry made a nice running catch to end the threat.
Bryant made quick work of the Capers in the bottom half, getting Dobieski to line to center, Riggle to ground out to short and junior first baseman Bryce Hewitt to ground to first (Normandeau threw to Bryant for the put out).
The Rangers threatened again in the third, as Leeman led off by singling to left, but after Normandeau couldn’t get a sacrifice bunt down, Ingalls caught him looking at strike three. Shields flew to right on the first pitch and on the next pitch, Bryant grounded into a second-to-shortstop force out to end it.
Best led off the bottom half by tomahawking a pitch into left for a single. He took second on a passed ball, but Greely got a break when Best broke for third on Ingalls’ line drive, which Nowinski caught, then turned into a double play. Tinsman popped to second to end the frame.
Greely went quietly in the fourth, as Soule hit a towering pop up on the infield which Ingalls caught, Reade grounded out to short and Pisini flew out to center.
Cape Elizabeth then squandered a golden opportunity in its half of the inning.
Brigham led off with a double to right-center and took third on a wild pitch, but the Capers couldn’t capitalize. First, Denison popped out to short. Roberts then grounded out to Soule. Brigham held initially, but as Soule threw to first for the out, Brigham broke for home. Normandeau’s throw home was low, but Fried did a terrific job digging it out and applying the tag to bring a stunning and sudden end to the inning.
“That’s not something you really work on as a catcher,” Fried said. “It was all instinct. I stuck with it and did what I could do get the ball.”
“That was a momentum swing,” Cape Elizabeth coach Andy Wood said. “In a 1-0 ballgame, I believe you can be aggressive and they made a good play.”
Fried hoped to get something going leading off the fifth, but his fly ball to center was caught by a charging Roberts, who almost overran it. After Nowinski grounded out to short, the Rangers drew even in dizzying fashion, with some help from Cape Elizabeth.
After Ingalls got Fried to fly to center and Nowinski to ground out to short, Leeman hit a sharp grounder to Brigham and the shortstop made a nice backhand stop and apparent throw to first for the out, but Hewitt was called off the bag and Leeman reached on an error.
“I just wish (the first base umpire) would ask for help,” Wood said. “Usually it’s the home plate umpire’s call. He said he left the bag.”
Normandeau singled to center and Roberts over-ran the ball, allowing Leeman to race all the way home to tie the score, 1-1, with Normandeau taking second. Ingalls’ first pitch to Shields was wild, moving Normandeau to third, but he battled back and got Shields to ground out to short to end the uprising.
“The defense kept us around when they seemed to have all the momentum and finally, we caught a break and capitalized.,” said Greely coach Derek Soule. “Once we got the run, we felt we had a shot.”
In the bottom half, Pisini made a highlight reel running, diving catch to rob Dobieski leading off, but Riggle lined a single to right. Sophomore Brett McAlister came on to run and tried to steal second, but Fried gunned him down. Hewitt then struck out.
Greely threatened in the sixth, but couldn’t deliver the go-ahead run.
Bryant drew a walk leading off and was sacrificed to second by Cal Soule. Reade was hit on the foot and replaced by senior Gabe Axelson. Pisini then lined the ball to center, but Roberts made a nice diving catch and Ingalls got Fried to fly to left to end the threat.
In the bottom half, Bryant struck out Best, got Ingalls to fly to left, then got Tinsman to hit a high foul ball which the pitcher caught in foul territory.
Nowinski walked on four pitches leading off the seventh and that was it for Ingalls, who was replaced by Tinsman. Riggle took over behind the plate and Denison went to third. Tinsman was greeted by Leeman and on the first pitch, Nowinski took off for second and appeared to have the bag stolen, but he over-slid second and was tagged out by Brigham. Leeman then flew to left, but Normandeau singled to center. Tinsman ended the frame by getting Sheilds to fly to center.
Cape Elizabeth couldn’t win the game in its half, as Bryant got Brigham to fly to right, Denison to ground to short and Roberts to chase strike three.
Greely then got the run it needed in the eighth.
Bryant led off with a shot that got over Brigham’s head in center and Bryant got all the way around to third with a triple.
“I had two strikes, so I was just looking for something to hit,” said Bryant. “(Tinsman) gave me a middle-in fastball and I drove it. I thought (Roberts would) catch it at first, then it kept going. I was at second when he picked up the ball, so I went for third.”
“Once he gets going, he’s hard to stop,” Derek Soule said. “He’s like a freight train out there. No way I was going to hold him up at second. No way I even thought of holding him up at that point.”
Cal Soule then got the job done, as you’d expect a coach’s son to do, as he hit a deep fly to center and Bryant came home easily for a 2-1 lead.
“I just relaxed and took a deep breath,” Cal Soule said. “I thought back to the Yarmouth (quarterfinal round playoff) game when I had a chance to win it and I failed, so I used that as motivation. I had a pretty good feeling I hit it well enough. I knew I had to elevate it and it felt good off the bat.”
“That’s a great spot to hit,” said Derek Soule. “Winning run on. Be aggressive and get something you can drive. He did that. He almost got it over the centerfielder.”
After Reade walked, Tinsman wild pitched him to second and he was pulled for Hewitt, who was greeted by Pisini, who grounded to second with Reade taking third. With Fried at the plate, Hewitt gave the Rangers a gift with a high pitch which Tinsman couldn’t snag and Reade came home on the wild pitch for a 3-1 advantage.
After Fried walked, he was thrown out stealing and that set the stage for Bryant to slam the door in the bottom half.
Bryant got Dobieski to ground to short and even though Soule’s throw was high, Normandeau was able to leap and record the out. Riggle then popped out to short. Hewitt walked on a 3-2 pitch to keep hope alive, but Best grounded back to the mound and Bryant underhanded to Normandeau to end it and after two hours and five minutes, Greely was Western B champion again.
“It feels great,” Cal Soule said. “It’s a little bit of a surprise this year. We had some phenomenal plays. It was a great team win. We were frustrated early. We lined out a few times, but Will got the huge hit. You’re always nervous, but I have faith no matter what that we’ll bounce back.”
“It’s great, special, especially to do it in extra innings,” Fried said. “You have to find a way to win. You have to do whatever you have to do. Everyone worked as a team to win. We just had to keep doing our jobs and stay positive.”
“It was a great high school sporting event to be a part of,” Derek Soule added. “Hats off to Cape. They made great plays too. We hit balls hard and they had guys making diving plays. It was two rivals going head-to-head, extra innings, a trip to the state final on the line. It was another Forecaster instant classic.”
The Rangers only managed five hits and stranded eight runners, but did enough to prevail. Normandeau was the game’s lone repeat hitter. Bryant, Leeman and Reade scored Greely’s runs. Soule had the team’s only RBI.
Bryant improved to 6-1 after giving up just one run on five hits and a walk in eight innings. He struck out three and threw a wild pitch.
“I’m usually a little flat in the first inning,” Bryant said. “In the Yarmouth game, I felt best in the eighth inning and today, I felt best in the eighth inning.”
“There are nerves on the big stage, the big mound, and you have to adjust,” Fried said. “He settled in. He’s been great for us all year.”
“Where there’s a will there’s a way, Will Bryant that is,” Derek Soule said. “He’s done it his whole career. He’s 15-2 now.”
Greely’s defense ultimately stole the show.
“This was hands-down the best defensive game we’ve played all year,” said Bryant. “All the guys picked me up. They were amazing. We take the momentum from defense and use it on offense.”
“We’ve done it in a lot of different ways this year,” said Derek Soule. “Today, it was a grind it out, great defensive effort. They had momentum early, but our defense kept us in it. We cut two runners down at the plate. We had a diving catch in right, a catch in left that led to a double play and Caleb made a great play on a high throw.”
Cape Elizabeth got its lone run from Ingalls and its RBI from Brigham. The Capers left two runners on. They only managed two baserunners the final four innings.
“The past two days at practice, we simulated throwing as hard as we could,” Wood said. “We didn’t have many strikeouts. We got our bat on the ball, but they made plays. We had our chances.”
Ingalls allowed just one unearned run on three hits in six-plus innings. He walked four, hit two, threw a wild pitch and struck out one.
“He did a hell of a job pitching for someone who hasn’t really been out there the past couple weeks,” Wood said. “For him to hold them to one run was incredible. I felt comfortable with him.”
Tinsman fell to 2-2 after giving up two runs (both earned) on two hits and a walk in 1.1 innings. He also threw a wild pitch.
“Tinsman’s a freshman and he went out there and he battled,” Wood said.
Hewitt got the final two outs. He walked one and threw a wild pitch.
When the sting of this loss dissipates, Cape Elizabeth can look back on a tremendous year.
“All our senior leaders stepped up big,” Wood said. “They’re a great group. We played some good baseball this year. I’m happy the way we played. We just ran into a more experienced team today.”
The Capers will be among the favorites when the 2016 season commences.
“We’ll be pretty good next year with (pitching standout Marshall) Peterson, Ingalls, Bryce Hewitt and Roberts coming back,” Wood said. “I’m excited. We hope to get back here next year.”
Greely has a storied history, but has never repeated as state champion. The Rangers did go to consecutive state games in 1994 and 1995, but lost both.
Saturday, Greely will meet Camden Hills (13-7), which made a run from the No. 6 seed to the regional title, capped by Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over No. 5 Winslow in the Eastern B Final.
The Rangers beat Camden-Rockport in the 1999 Class B Final (3-2, in eight innings).
Saturday, Bryant will likely take the hill with a chance to give Greely consecutive championships. The way this team is playing, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against them.
“I’m not sure yet if I’ll pitch,” Bryant said. “I’ll contribute how ever I have to. Hopefully we can pull it off.”
“I have high hopes,” Cal Soule said. “We have great chemistry. We can go far with that. We’re confident.”
“I’m happy especially for this group of seniors,” Derek Soule added. “We graduated a lot and these seniors always believed we’d get back here. They’ve been great role models for the younger players. They’ve been very focused all year. I’m thrilled for the whole team, but I’m really happy the seniors get to play on the big stage one more time. I hope we have one more in us.”
Greely senior ace Will Bryant throws a strike, Bryant went all eight innings to earn the victory.
Cape Elizabeth junior starter Nate Ingalls delivers a pitch.
Cape Elizabeth senior shortstop Tim Brigham soars over Greely senior Miles Shields en route to turning a first inning double play.
Greely sophomore catcher Dylan Fried tags out Cape Elizabeth senior Tim Brigham at home in the fourth inning to keep the score 1-0.
Cape Elizabeth senior second baseman applies a tag on Greely sophomore Dylan Fried
Cape Elizabeth senior Matt Denison takes a cut.
In a pivotal and controversial play in the fifth inning, Cape Elizabeth first baseman Bryce Hewitt appears to record an out on Greely’s Justin Leeman, but Hewitt was ruled to be off the bag. Leeman then scored the tying run.
Greely junior Justin Leeman slides across home plate to tie the game in the fifth inning.
Greely junior second baseman Justin Leeman applies the tag on Cape Elizabeth sophomore Brett McAlister on a stolen base attempt.
Greely junior first baseman Caleb Normandeau applies a tag on Cape Elizabeth senior Aaron Dobieski.
Greely junior Austin Nowinski tries in vain to hold on to second before being tagged out on a steal attempt by Cape Elizabeth senior shortstop Tim Brigham.
Greely junior Matt Pisini makes contact.
Cape Elizabeth junior Dylan Roberts takes a swing.
Cape Elizabeth senior Will Bryant (center) is congratulated by senior Gabe Axelsen and assistant coach Miles Hunt after scoring the go-ahead run.
Greely senior captains (from left) Will Bryant and Chaz Reade show off the regional championship trophy.
2012 Western B quarterfinals
Cape Elizabeth 9 @ Greely 6
2010 Western B semifinals
@ Cape Elizabeth 4 Greely 3 (eight innings)
2009 Western B semifinals
Greely 1 @ Cape Elizabeth 0 (10 innings)
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 @ Cape Elizabeth 3
1991 Western B semifinals
@ Cape Elizabeth 9 Greely 7
Greely’s (from left) Justin Leeman, winning pitcher Will Bryant, Cal Soule and Caleb Normandeau jump for joy following the final out of Tuesday’s 3-1 eight-inning win over Cape Elizabeth in the Western Class B Final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
G- 000 010 02- 3 5 1
CE- 100 000 00- 1 5 2
Brigham grounded out, Ingalls scored.
Leeman scored on error.
Soule flew out to center, Bryant scored. Reade scored on wild pitch.
G- Bryant, Leeman, Reade
CE- Brigham, Ingalls
CE- Denison, Tinsman
Left on base:
Bryant and Fried; Ingalls, Tinsman (7), Hewitt (8) and Tinsman, Riggle (7), Tinsman (8)
Bryant (W, 6-1) 8 IP 5 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 3 K
Ingalls 6 IP 3 H 1 R 0 ER 4 BB 1 K 2 HBP 1 WP
Tinsman (L, 2-2) 1.1 IP 2 H 2 R 2 ER 1 BB 0 K 1 WP
Hewitt 0.2 IP 0 H 0 R 1 BB 0 K 1 WP