(Ed. Note: Kyle Danielson, a senior three-sport athlete at Cape Elizabeth, is job shadowing with The Forecaster this week and contributed to this story)
OLD ORCHARD BEACH—Heading into the 2011 season, many felt that the Greely baseball team was a year away.
It’s starting to look instead like the Rangers are ahead of schedule.
Tuesday evening, in a game moved to the Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach due to poor field conditions at Falmouth High, Greely demonstrated its pitching brilliance, strong defense and potent offensive attack as it raced to a 7-0 lead after three innings and cruised to a 9-1 victory over the Yachtsmen.
Junior Mike Leeman was once again dominant on the hill and freshman Bailey Train paced the offense with two resounding triples and three runs batted in as the Rangers improved to 12-1 on the year, dropping Falmouth to 6-6.
“I’m pleased at this point,” said Greely coach Derek Soule. “We’re 12-1 with just two seniors. We’ll take it.”
The weather has wreaked havoc on both teams the past week-plus and the Rangers were happy to come to Old Orchard Beach to play in a setting they were familiar with, after playing at the Ballpark last year.
“It’s a fun atmosphere and we get some fans who can’t normally make day games,” Soule said.
Greely, which lost to Cape Elizabeth in extra innings in last year’s semifinal round, is once again up to its odd-numbered year magic. The Rangers won Class B in both 2007 and 2009 and despite their relative youth, have dazzled this spring, winning 11 of 12 coming in, falling only at home to Cape Elizabeth in nine innings (8-4) back on May 2. Since then, Greely rattled off seven wins in a row, averaging nearly 10 runs per outing.
Falmouth has been up and down in 2011. The Yachtsmen won four of their first six games, then dropped three in a row before winning at Fryeburg and Cape Elizabeth last week.
In 2010, Falmouth and Greely split, each winning at home.
Back on May 7, the Rangers rolled in Cumberland, 13-3 (in six innings).
Tuesday, Greely dominated again.
The Rangers scored once in the top of the first, but could have had even more.
With one down, junior third baseman Liam Maker drew a walk off Falmouth sophomore starter Connor Murphy. A grounder off the bat of senior leftfielder Ben Shain was mishandled at first and Shain reached as Maker moved to third. Senior shortstop Matt Labbe then cracked a single to right-center to put Greely ahead to stay. Shain went to third and Labbe to second on the throw. Leeman then walked to re-load the bases, but Murphy bore down and got junior first baseman Luke Saffian to take a called third strike before inducing a ground out to short off the bat of junior second baseman Brad McKenney.
Leeman set the Yachtsmen down in order in the bottom half, striking out the first two hitters.
Murphy settled down in the second, retiring the Rangers in order. In the bottom half, Leeman again set Falmouth down 1-2-3.
The Rangers broke the game open in the third inning. Murphy got the first two outs, then it all fell apart.
Labbe got it started with a sharp single to right. The next three batters (Leeman, Saffian and McKenney) showed great plate discipline and each earned a walk, with McKenney’s walk bringing home a run.
Then, with a full count, sophomore designated hitter Jonah Normandeau ripped a single in to right field to add two more runs for the Rangers.
The damage wasn’t done yet. The No. 9 hitter, Train, blasted the first of his two triples to dead centerfield to score two more runs. On an attempt to throw him out at third, the Yachtsmen threw the ball away and Train trotted home for a 7-0 advantage.
The inning was still not over as the next batter, junior catcher Pete Stauber drove a double to deep left. He was ultimately left stranded, though the damage was done. The Rangers put up six runs total on just four hits in the frame.
“We got around the order once and it helped us,” said Train. “We’d seen him once, so we jumped on him.”
“There were some great at-bats by the youngsters, Jonah and Bailey,” Soule said. “I thought that was really the key point of the game. We blew it open. A big momentum shift. There was a 3-1 pitch that Normandeau took a halfhearted swing, then he regrouped, stayed back and hit the ball well.”
For Falmouth, the inning just got away.
“I thought that the pitch Connor threw was a breaking ball down and (Normandeau) put a good swing on it and that opened it up,” lamented Yachtsmen coach Kevin Winship. “He just hit it. From there, we got rattled. That’s what’s happened to us this year, one bad inning.”
The Yachtsmen never gave up though.
In the latter half of the third inning, senior shortstop Joe Barns reached on a one-out error by Labbe, moved to third when Leeman’s pickoff throw went awry, then scored on a single to left by junior leftfielder Grayson Beressi.
Greely got a leadoff double by Shain in the fourth, ending Murphy’s outing and bringing sophomore Thomas Fortier on in relief. Labbe grounded out to first to move Shain to third, but he was stranded there when both Leeman (swinging) and Saffian (looking) went down on strikes.
Leeman returned to his dominating form in the bottom of the fourth, sandwiching strikeouts of senior centerfielder Dillon Dresser and senior designated hitter Ben Goffin around a groundout to second by Falmouth senior catching standout Matt MacDowell.
In the top of the fifth, the Rangers added two more runs to end all doubt.
McKenney walked leading off and with one out, Train hit an even deeper blast to left-center as the ball landed near the 380-foot marker for his second triple (tying a team record), driving home McKenney in the process. A groundout to short by Stauber plated Train and it was 9-1.
Leeman gave up a walk but no more in the bottom half. Shain led off the top of the sixth with an infield single, but Fortier worked out of trouble.
While Leeman was on his game all night, he was also able to get help from his fielders, especially in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Fortier walked leading off, junior pinch-hitter Ryan MacDonald hit a shot to the left-center field gap when out of nowhere came junior centerfielder Jimmy Whitaker to make an amazing diving catch to capture the first out of the inning. Leeman gave up a two-out single to MacDowell, but got junior pinch-hitter Nick Spencer looking to end it.
After Greely went out in order in the top of the seventh, Leeman put a fitting coda on his evening by striking out junior Jeremy Lydick looking, junior Ryan Conley looking and sophomore Seamus Powers swinging to end the 9-1 triumph.
Leeman barely let Falmouth breathe in a two-hit, two-walk, 10-strikeout performance. The lone run he surrendered was unearned as he improved to 5-0.
“It was fun, a good experience,” Leeman said. “I wish I could pitch here more. My fastball, curveball and cutter were all working tonight. I was comfortable.”
“He’s been that way all year,” Soule said. “He was injured a lot last year, but he’s been good all year. Locked in, hitting spots. At times, it was the best breaking ball he’s had all year.”
“Leeman’s 5-0 for a reason,” said Winship.
Offensively, Train led the way with his two big blasts for triples. He scored twice and drove in three.
“I saw my pitches, waited for them and hit the ones I liked,” Train said. “It’s different hitting here. I always expect we’ll be good. We came (into the season) knowing we have Leeman and Normandeau on the hill, so we knew we had pitching depth. We just had to hit.”
Shain and Labbe also had multiple hits. Normandeau drove in two runs, Labbe, McKenney (who scored twice) and Stauber one apiece.
For Falmouth, Beressi had one of the team’s two hits (MacDowell had the other) and the lone RBI. Barns scored the run.
Murphy fell to 0-2 after giving up seven runs (five earned) on six hits, five walks and two strikeouts in his three-plus innings. Fortier threw well in relief, allowing just two runs on two hits and a walk, while fanning five in four innings of work.
“Fortier kept us in the game,” Winship said. “I thought he pitched very well. He got one ball up and they took advantage. Other than that, I thought he pitched excellent. Connor had one bad inning, but threw some good pitches.”
Falmouth is seventh in the latest Western B Heal Points standings and appears to be secure in its postseason quest, but the Yachtsmen can move up if they finish strong. Falmouth has another big test at Yarmouth Wednesday afternoon (see theforecaster.net for game story), hosts Sacopee Friday and Fryeburg Monday, then closes at home with Wells June 1.
We have two big Heal Points games left,” Winship said. “I still think it’s wide open. You have to get into the playoffs and I think anybody can beat anyone on a given day in this league.”
Greely is looking to hold off Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth for the top spot in the region. The Rangers (first as of Wednesday morning) visit Traip Wednesday afternoon and go to the Clippers Friday. Tuesday of next week, at the Ballpark, Greely does battle with Cape Elizabeth in a possible playoff preview.
“We have some tough games ahead,” said Soule. “Being a 1 or 2 seed is nice. We want to host.”
G- 106 020 0- 9 8 2
F- 001 000 0- 1 2 2
Labbe singled to right-center, Maker scored.
McKenney walked, Labbe scored. Normandeau singled to right-center, Leeman and Saffian scored. Train tripled to center, McKenney and Normandeau scored. Train scored on throwing error.
Beressi singled, Barns scored.
Train tripled to left-center, McKenney scored. Stauber grounded out to shortstop, Train scored.
Triples- G, Train 2
Doubles- G, Shain, Stauber
RBI- G, Train 3, Normandeau 2, Labbe, McKenney, Stauber 1; F, Beressi
Repeat hitters- G, Labbe, Shain, Train 2
Runs- G, McKenney, Train 2, Labbe, Leeman, Naker, Normandeau, Saffian 1
Leeman and Stauber; Murphy, Fortier (4) and MacDowell
Leeman (W, 5-0) 7IP 2 H 1 R 0 ER 2 BB 10 K
Murphy (L, 0-2) 3 IP 6 H 7 R 5 ER 5 BB 2 K
Fortier 4 IP 2 H 2 R 2 ER 1 BB 5 K