Greely softball's on fire; Rangers aiming for title

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CUMBERLAND—For those of you who don’t believe in the power of motivation, meet the Greely softball team.

After failing to receive what they felt was their due in the preseason rankings, the Rangers are turning heads on the field and might very well have the last laugh next month.

Greely suffered its first loss of the season last Monday, but has since won three straight, in the process showing off the type of talent that champions are made of.

Following a sloppy 8-6 loss (featuring seven errors) at two-time defending state champ Fryeburg, the Rangers bounced back in a big way last Wednesday, when they hosted preseason favorite Gray-New Gloucester, which entered the contest undefeated.

The Patriots got off to a hot start when Abby Ryan crushed a two-run homer in the top of the first. Greely appeared to be in trouble since it had to face Gray-New Gloucester ace Laura Getchell, but this Rangers team is awesome with the bats and answered with a five-spot. Another Ryan homer led to a three-run Patriots’ rally in the top of the fourth, but again Greely rose to the occasion, getting clutch hits from sophomores Lindsey Arsenault and Emma Seymour, and pushing four runs across to take a 9-5 lead. Gray-New Gloucester would get as close as 9-7, but senior Mary Zambello slammed the door and the Rangers got a pivotal victory.

The win was Greely’s first over Gray-New Gloucester since 2007 and combined with an earlier, streak-ending victory over Cape Elizabeth (the first in nine tries) served as inspiration.

“Gray was a big confidence booster,” Zambello said. “Beating them and Cape together. We haven’t beaten them in a couple years. I’m proud of my team for getting it done.”

Thursday, the Rangers welcomed York, another contender, and this time had no trouble.

After Zambello set the Wildcats down in order in the top of the first, an error, heads-up baserunning by Seymour and an RBI groundout from senior centerfielder Marika Stayte put Greely ahead to stay. After Zambello worked out of a second inning jam, an error and an RBI infield hit by Arsenault made it 3-0 after two.

The Rangers tacked on two more in the third behind a bunt single from Seymour, a stolen base, a single from Statye, who promptly stole second, and RBI ground balls from junior leftfielder Michaela Finnegan and freshman Danielle Cimino.

York pushed across a run in the top of the fifth, but in the bottom half, Seymour singled and stole second, Stayte doubled her in, Finnegan singled to move Stayte to third and took second on the throw and Cimino followed with an RBI single. An error brought in another run to make it 8-1. In the bottom of the sixth, an infield single from sophomore rightfielder Katie Whittum, a steal, an RBI single from Finnegan and an RBI base hit from sophomore Edith Aromando accounted for the 10-1 final score.

A balanced attack (12 hits, including two each from Cimino, Finnegan, Seymour and Stayte), solid defense (only one error and a gorgeous play from senior second baseman Bryce McEwen) and a stellar performance from Zambello (7 innings, 8 hits, 1 run, 2 walks and 2 strikeouts) once again provided a winning recipe.

“We’ve definitely proved people wrong by beating Gray and York,” Stayte said. “We all can hit the ball. I’m very confident. The three feet (with the mound being moved back this spring) definitely helps, but I feel like we’re all focused up there. We watch the pitcher, read the field and know where we’re going to hit it.”

“They’ve been hitting the ball, everyone, top to bottom,” Zambello said. “It’s really relaxing out there knowing even if (the other team) gets a run, they’ll come back. I think we’re continuing to improve in practice. I think we’ll continue to succeed.”

Greely coach Mike Robb had plenty of praise to bestow.

“Our girls all bring their gloves,” he said. “The bats we have up and down the lineup. We have table setters at the top, some sluggers in the middle and everything else in-between. It’s really going well. Hitting’s contagious. When our girls come up with runners on base, they want to bring them in. The offense is a little surprising. We’re like most other teams, but we’re scoring more runs because we hit the ball harder and run the bases better. We don’t try to hit everything over the fence. I call it a balanced attack.

“When the girls get on base, they love to run. We have speed and power. We like the mix. Half the team’s juniors and seniors. The other half is freshmen and sophomores. We have kids like Mary Zambello and (senior) Karlee Biskup who won in volleyball. We like that leadership. This is Marika’s primary sport and she loves it. Mary is a very effective pitcher. Very few walks. She hits her spots, mixes pitches and changes speeds. The fielders know to be ready.”

Saturday, Greely improved to 9-1 with a 9-2 victory at Sacopee. In that one, Zambello (now 8-1) scattered nine hits, while Biskup and Seymour both had multiple hits.

The Rangers (third behind Fryeburg and Lincoln Academy in the latest Class B Heal Points standings) were home with Yarmouth Tuesday, at Wells Wednesday and host Falmouth Monday of next week. Greely (which also has games remaining at home with Traip and Cape Elizabeth and at Yarmouth), could post its best record since 2005 (15-1) and is aiming to reach the regional final or better for the first time since 2007.

Of course, ultimately, these Rangers would like to win the program’s second championship (the first came in 2002).

“It was definitely a confidence boost since Fryeburg,” Stayte said. “We weren’t really on our game when we played. They’re a tough team. We hope to see them again and hopefully play the game we can play.”

“We don’t look past our next game,” Robb added. “Every game we play like it’s the last game. We don’t look any further than that. With the results to date, I’m very happy. At the end of the Fryeburg game, losing that game 8-6, with the type of defense we didn’t play, we almost felt OK. We hope to get another crack at them.

“We have a good group of athletes. There’s a fair amount of them who play summer ball. They’re not learning the game. They’re playing the game. They’re coming together very, very well. It’s fun to see that.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

Greely senior Mary Zambello tags out a Sacopee Valley runner trying to steal home in the sixth inning Saturday, completing a double play. The Rangers won, 9-2.

Greely senior third baseman Karlee Biskup makes a throw to first after a nice stop during the York victory.

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Greely sophomore Emma Seymour slides safely into second during last week’s 10-1 home win over York.

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