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YARMOUTH—Calling Friday afternoon’s marathon a typical Greely-Yarmouth baseball game would be accurate, but wouldn’t begin to tell the story.
The latest chapter of the Clippers-Rangers rivalry lived up to billing and provided countless twists and turns over its 2 hours and 37 minutes.
Undefeated Greely appeared in command, leading, 4-1, behind senior ace Jonah Normandeau entering the bottom of the fifth, but Yarmouth, which always seems to come from behind against the Rangers on its home field, scored four times, twice on squeeze bunts, another on an infield single and the go-ahead run on an error, to take a 5-4 lead.
The Clippers still were up, 5-4, with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Greely somehow rose off the deck, getting four straight hits, including one on an improbable “excuse-me” swing, to go up, 7-5, when junior Mike McDevitt cracked a two-run double.
Yarmouth refused to quit in the bottom half, however, pulling even on consecutive wild pitches, but with the winning run at third, the Clippers weren’t able to complete the rally and seal the game as a squeeze bunt backfired.
Then, in the top of the eighth, with two runners on, Rangers junior Bailey Train ended all doubt with an absolutely colossal home run well over the leftfield fence to put Greely on top to stay. Sophomore Will Bryant slammed the door in the bottom of the frame and the Rangers held on for an epic 10-7 triumph.
Greely got three hits and four RBI from Train as it improved to 9-0, dropping Yarmouth to 6-3 in the process.
“We were very fortunate,” said Rangers coach Derek Soule. “Yarmouth deserved to win this game in seven innings. We benefited from that check swing and got very lucky. Offensively, we showed that we can perform in clutch situations.”
With Yarmouth’s recent resurgence to top contender status in Western Class B, its rivalry with its accomplished neighbor has been ratcheted up several notches (please see sidebar, below).
The teams have met four times in the playoffs this century, with each winning twice. Greely beat Yarmouth 13 consecutive times between the start of the 2003 season and the end of 2008, when the Clippers upset the Rangers, 9-2, in the quarterfinals.
Greely swept the two meetings in 2009, while Yarmouth returned the favor in 2010.
Then, in 2011, each won by a run at home before squaring off in the Western B Final, where the Rangers outlasted the Clippers, 7-5.
Last spring, Greely won at “home,” beating Yarmouth, 3-1, in a game played at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach. The Clippers returned the favor with a 4-3 home victory.
Entering the 2013 campaign, Soule suggested that his team, which lost seven starters to graduation, might struggle to make the playoffs and that Yarmouth might go undefeated, but it hasn’t exactly worked out that way.
Coming into Friday’s showdown, it was Greely which was unbeaten. The Rangers, who were shocked by Cape Elizabeth in last year’s quarterfinal round, opened with a 10-0 (five inning) home win over Fryeburg, needed just five innings to handle visiting Lake Region (12-0) and only six innings to prevail, 11-1, over visiting Gray-New Gloucester. The Rangers then rolled at Poland (9-0) and at home versus Wells (9-1), before holding off visiting defending Class B state champion Falmouth, 5-1, last Friday. Monday brought a 12-4 victory at Freeport and Wednesday, Greely handled visiting York, 10-0, in six innings.
Yarmouth, which was eliminated by Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals last spring, won its first three outings: 5-2 over visiting Freeport, 3-1 over visiting Wells and 8-0 at Lake Region, before being surprised at home by Old Orchard Beach, 7-4, A 6-3 (five inning) victory at Gray-New Gloucester followed, but the next time out, at Poland, the Clippers couldn’t score a run in eight innings and fell to the Knights, 1-0. After getting back on track with a 4-2 home win over Fryeburg Monday, Yarmouth edged visiting Cape Elizabeth Wednesday, getting revenge for last June with a 2-1 victory on a clutch two-out, two-run single from Connor Lainey in the bottom of the seventh.
Friday, both teams showed that while they’re flawed, they also have the heart and character to be special and as a result, the game, which was played amid sprinkles for a few innings, was lengthy and memorable.
The contest actually started calmly as Yarmouth sophomore Jordan Brown, making his first varsity start, set the Rangers down on three ground balls in the top of the first.
In the bottom half, Normandeau worked around a two-out walk to Clippers senior catcher Calvin Cooper, who stole second, by getting senior first baseman Nick Lainey to ground out to third.
Brown retired the first two batters in the top of the second before Bryant, playing rightfield at the time, singled up the middle. Brown got McDevitt, the first baseman, to line out to center to keep the game scoreless.
In the bottom half, Normandeau hit senior designated hitter Ian Grover with two outs, but came back to fan senior leftfielder Mark Brown to end it.
Greely broke through in the third.
Junior third baseman Sam Porter led off with a infield single to deep short. After senior shortstop Nick Dunnett sacrificed Porter to second, senior centerfielder Drew Hodge sliced a double to right. Porter had to wait to see if the ball would be caught, so he was only able to take third. It didn’t matter, as a ground ball from sophomore second baseman Miles Shields scored one run and Train came through with a two-out RBI single to center to score Hodge for a 2-0 lead. An error and a hit batter loaded the bases, but Jordan Brown limited the damage by getting Bryant to fly out to center.
Yarmouth got its offense going as well in the bottom half.
Senior second baseman Kevin Haley led off with a single to left. Senior centerfielder Caleb Uhl hit back to Normandeau, who forced Haley. Normandeau then lost the strike zone, walking senior shortstop Thomas Sullivan and Cooper to load the bases. Nick Lainey followed with a bloop single to right to cut the deficit to 2-1, but the Clippers weren’t able to score any more runs as Connor Lainey, the rightfielder, grounded back to Normandeau, who threw home to senior catcher Matt Ames for the force and Ames threw on to McDevitt to complete the timely double play.
Brown quickly set the Rangers down on three ground balls in the top of the fourth and Yarmouth threatened again in the bottom half.
Senior third baseman Matt Highland led off with a walk and Grover singled to right. Mark Brown popped out foul to McDevitt, Haley struck out looking and after Highland and Grover moved up with stolen bases, Uhl also looked at strike three to end it.
Greely added to its lead in the fifth.
Hodge led off by singling to center and moved to second on a bad pickoff throw by Cooper. After Shields struck out, Train singled again to center. Hodge was going to stop at third, but when Uhl couldn’t handle the ball cleanly, Hodge came home to make it 3-1. Normandeau flew out deep to right, but Train stole second, senior leftfielder Pat Finnegan was hit on an 0-2 pitch, Bryant (in a foreshadowing of the game’s pivotal play) beat out an infield hit on an “excuse me” swing and Train came home on an error by Highland for a 4-1 advantage.
But just when it looked as if the Rangers were in good shape, Yarmouth roared back in the bottom of the fifth.
A walk by Sullivan got it started. He was replaced by senior Mike Smith, who raced to third when Cooper sliced a double down the leftfield line.
That would be it for Normandeau, who was replaced by Russell.
Russell promptly walked Nick Lainey to load the bases. Lainey was replaced by senior pinch-runner Chester Jacobs and Connor Lainey laid down a bunt which scored Smith (Russell got the out at first).
If one squeeze bunt was a good thing, two is even better in Yarmouth’s way of thinking and Highland beat out a bunt single, scoring Cooper to make it 4-3. Grover followed by hitting a sharp ground ball off Porter’s glove and Jacobs raced home to tie it. After Russell got a strikeout for the second out, a throwing error on a pickoff throw allowed Highland to score the go-ahead run and the Clippers took a 5-4 advantage to the sixth.
There, Highland came on to replace the very effective Brown and set Greely down on two ground balls and a pop out.
Smith led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, but was erased on runner’s interference on a ground ball and the hosts went quietly.
That sent the game to the seventh, where Yarmouth had a great opportunity to end it, but the Rangers simply refused to lose.
Highland set down Shields on a ground ball to short and Train made out number two when his ground ball down the line was snared nicely by the third baseman.
That left the game up to Normandeau, who sparked the rally with a single up the middle.
Finnegan was next and he almost fell over backwards when his “excuse me” swing resulted in a slow ground ball toward second. Finnegan managed to keep his balance and somehow beat out a hit to move Normandeau to second. Bryant then played the hero, slapping a 1-2 pitch barely over Smith’s glove at short and into centerfield to score Normandeau, making it 5-5.
McDevitt was next and he crushed a ball to deep right-center which fell in for a double, scoring Finnegan and senior pinch-runner Liam Pakulski.
Just like that, Greely had turned it around and led, 7-5.
Bryant then had a chance to play hero on the mound as well as he replaced Russell to close it out.
Not so fast.
After Connor Lainey lined out down the rightfield line in foul territory, Highland sparked another comeback with a single to left. Grover then singled past first and there were runners at the corners. A walk to Mark Brown loaded the bases and a Bryant wild pitch scored Highland to make it 7-6 and put the tying and winning runs in scoring position.
Bryant uncorked another wild pitch and home came Grover to tie the score again.
“We have tough kids,” said Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted. “We’ll hang around and grind it out. So many of our seniors have had varying levels of success. Every one is sacrificing for the program this year. They just want to compete. We have seniors coming off the bench late in games. That’s what you want. Great kids you want to be around who will compete every time they play.”
Brown took third on the play and it appeared Yarmouth was going to enjoy a stirring come-from-behind win, but Haley couldn’t make contact on a squeeze bunt on a 3-1 pitch and Brown was hung up. He tried to get back to third and appeared to beat Ames’ throw to junior Patrick O’Shea, but was called out.
“Matt got him in a pickle,” said O’Shea. “(The runner) tried to dive out of my way and I happened to get the tag in. It was up to the ump. I felt I got the tag down. It could’ve gone either way. It was a real sigh of relief. That was a tough situation.”
“He was out,” said a diplomatic Halsted. “I saw the umpire signal out. Bob Esposito’s a fantastic umpire. The throw was ahead of the runner and he didn’t get back. We didn’t think (Bryant) was going to walk (Kevin) 3-1. That’s the gamble we took. I’m wrong sometimes. I’m wrong a lot.”
Haley managed to draw a walk on the 3-2 pitch and stole second, but a ground ball by Uhl to O’Shea resulted in a close play at first where McDevitt made the scoop just in time for the third out.
That sent the game to extra innings, where the Rangers didn’t wait long to settle matters.
Highland got the first out as Dunnett flew out to left, but Hodge beat out an infield hit to deep short and Shields also managed an infield single on a slow roller to short.
That brought up Train and on the first pitch, he delivered.
Train made no-doubt contact and sent the ball soaring deep to left. Even in Yarmouth’s spacious ballpark, this one wasn’t going to be contained and it appeared to be still gaining altitude as it flew over the fence and into the trees to give Greely a 10-7 lead.
“I felt I let my team down a little bit in the seventh inning,” Train said. “I let a few pitches go by I could’ve hit. I got a second chance and was sitting on it. It felt good off the bat. Sometimes you know when it’s gone. I love those situations. You dream about those.”
“Bailey’s a great hitter,” Soule said. “He stays very calm and he’s so strong. It’s tough to get him out. He’s just so balanced. He sat on it. He almost took a tree down. The way it was going, I thought that ball might go through that tree.”
The Clippers didn’t have another comeback in them, as Bryant got Smith to ground out to second, Cooper to bounce to O’Shea at third (he made a nice play going to his knees) and getting Nick Lainey to look at strike three to bring an end to the ballgame at 6:33 p.m.
“We faced a lot of adversity, which was really good for the team,” Train said. “It was a really crazy game. Personally, I think it’s great because the last two times we came here, we lost and I was on the mound both times. It feels great. We beat a good team. They’re a better team than a lot of people might think.”
“It was awesome,” O’Shea said. “A lot of guys stepped up. Bailey crushed that home run. It was fun to watch. It’s a big win.”
Train played the hero with the long ball, but that was just part of his day. He had three hits, scored twice, stole a base and drove in four runs. Bryant and Hodge also had three hits. Hodge scored three times. McDevitt drove in two runs, while Bryant and Shields each had one RBI.
Bryant (1-0) got the win in relief, allowing two runs on two hits with two walks in two innings. He struck out a batter and threw two wild pitches.
Normandeau wound up with a no-decision, giving up three runs on four hits with four walks in his four innings. He did fan four and hit a batter.
“Jonah was supposed to go the distance,” Soule said. “His hamstring kept cramping up on him. I had to get him out of there much earlier than I wanted to.”
Russell allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits with three walks and two Ks in his two innings.
For Yarmouth, Grover (three hits) and Highland (two) sparked the eight-hit attack. Highland scored twice, while Cooper, Grover, Jacobs, Smith and Uhl all touched home plate. Grover, Highland, Connor Lainey and Nick Lainey drove in runs. Cooper, Grover, Haley, Highland and Uhl had stolen bases.
Jordan Brown allowed just two earned runs (four total) in his five inning debut. He surrendered seven hits and hit two batters, but didn’t walk a hitter, while striking out one.
“Jordan does a lot for us,” Halsted said. “Jonah’s probably started 15 high school games in his life, Jordan zero. He’s playing against his Dad”s best friend’s team and his Dad’s high school. He gave us a chance to win.”
“I thought Jordan Brown, a kid making his debut as a sophomore, was outstanding,” Soule said. “He didn’t give in. He kept us off balance enough and gave his team a chance to win.”
Highland (0-1) took the loss, giving up six runs on seven hits in three innings of relief. He struck out a pair and didn’t walk a batter.
“That was a fun game right there,” said Halsted. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. That’s the game. We had a couple great wins earlier this week. This was a great week.”
Yarmouth was done in by five errors, something which Halsted expects to turn around immediately.
“I don’t have to tell a single guy what they have to do,” Halsted said. “These are veteran players who know what to do.”
The teams meet again Wednesday in Cumberland.
First, Yarmouth will look to get back on track Monday, but it won’t be easy as it plays at Falmouth.
“The fun thing is that this year, we’re so excited every day because every day is highly competitive,” Halsted said. “We’re excited to get back at it Monday against Falmouth. Class B baseball is fantastic. I can’t name a team that’s really bottom tier. We haven’t blown anybody out.”
Greely travels to Lake Region Monday.
“We have to keep playing well,” Train said. “Walks killed us today and we know that. We still need to fine tune.”
“We have to learn from the many mistakes we made and move forward,” Soule said. “It’s uncharacteristic for us to walk that many guys. We have a lot of tough games coming up and a lot of games on the road. Traditionally, this is a place we haven’t played well. We’ll just be happy with this win. There’s still work to do.”
Yarmouth sophomore Jordan Brown throws a pitch in his first varsity start. Brown threw a strong five innings.
Greely senior starting pitcher Jonah Normandeau throws a strike.
Yarmouth senior Matthew Highland slides safety into third as Greely junior Sam Porter takes the throw.
Yarmouth seniors Caleb Uhl (4) and Kevin Haley nearly collide while going for a fly ball. Haley made the catch.
Greely senior shortstop Nick Dunnett looks to throw to first to complete a double play as Yarmouth senior Kevin Haley slides into second base too late. The throw to first was not in time.
Greely senior catcher Matt Ames throws to first to complete a pitcher-to-home-to-first double play to end the bottom of the third inning.
Yarmouth rightfielder Connor Lainey lunges for a ball which drops in for a hit.
Greely senior Drew Hodge takes a rip.
Yarmouth senior Mark Brown takes a swing.
Greely 3 Yarmouth 1 (@ OOB)
@ Yarmouth 4 Greely 3
Greely 8 @ Yarmouth 7
@ Greely 6 Yarmouth 5
@ Greely 6 Yarmouth 5
Greely 11 @ Yarmouth 3
Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 9 @ Greely 2
Greely 7 @ Yarmouth 4
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 9 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 0
Western B quarterfinals
@ Greely 12 Yarmouth 2 (6)
@ Greely 8 Yarmouth 1
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 1
Greely 9 @ Yarmouth 1
@ Greely 8 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 6 Yarmouth 5
Greely 4 @ Yarmouth 3
@ Greely 11 Yarmouth 11 (tie)
Western B preliminary round
Yarmouth 8 @ Greely 5 (8)
Yarmouth senior shortstop Thomas Sullivan tries to apply a tag on Greely senior Drew Hodge, but Hodge is called safe during Friday afternoon’s marathon. The Rangers scored three times in the eighth inning to beat the Clippers, 10-7.
More photos below.
G- 002 020 33- 10 14 1
Y- 001 040 20- 7 8 5
Shields grounded out to shortstop, Porter scored. Train singled to center, Hodge scored.
N. Lainey singled to right, Uhl scored.
Hodge scored on error. Train scored on error.
Smith scored on C. Lainey squeeze bunt. Highland beat out bunt single, Cooper scored. Grover beat out infield single, Jacobs scored. Highland scored on error.
Bryant singled to center, Normandeau scored. McDevitt doubled to right-center, Finnegan and Pakulski scored.
Highland scored on wild pitch. Grover scored on wild pitch.
Train homered to left, Hodge, Shields and Train scored.
G- Bryant, Hodge, Train 3
Y- Grover 3, Highland 2
G- Hodge 3, Train 2, Finnegan, Normandeau, Pakluski, Porter, Shields 1
Y- Highland 2, Cooper, Grover, Jacobs, Smith, Uhl 1
G- Train 4, McDevitt 2, Bryant, Shields 1
Y- Grover, Highland, C. Lainey, N. Lainey
G- Hodge, McDevitt
Y- Cooper, Grover, Haley, Highland, Uhl
Normandeau, Russell (5), Bryant (7) and Ames; Brown, Highland (6) and Cooper.
Normandeau 4 IP 4 H 3 R 3 ER 4 BB 4 K 1 HBP
Russell 2 IP 2 H 2 R 1 ER 3 BB 2 K
Bryant (W, 1-0) 2 IP 2 H 2 R 2 ER 2 BB 1 K 2 WP
Brown 5 IP 7 H 4 R 2 ER 0 BB 1 K 2 HBP
Highland (L, 0-1) 3 IP 7 H 6 R 6 ER 0 BB 2 K