Guarino, Falmouth deny SP, win first Class A South title

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Falmouth’s baseball team erupts with joy after beating South Portland, 4-2, to win Tuesday’s Class A South Final. The Yachtsmen will meet two-time defending champion Bangor in the state game Saturday.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Falmouth 4 South Portland 2

SP-002 000 0- 2 1 2
F- 103 000 x- 4 6 4

Bottom 1st
Robbie Armitage grounded to shortstop, Connor Aube scored.

Top 3rd
Abramson grounded into force out, Hasson scored. Sam Troiano scored on error.

Bottom 3rd
Connor Aube scored on error. Camelio singled to center, Gee scored. Melchiskey singled to right, Coyne scored.

Repeat hitter:
F- Camelio 3

Runs:
SP- Hasson, S. Troiano
F- C. Aube 2, Coyne, Gee

RBI:
SP- Abramson
F- Robbie Armitage, Camelio, Melchiskey

Double:
F- C. Aube

Left on base:
SP- 2
F- 5

Kelley and N. Troiano; Guarino and Garrett Aube

SP:
Kelley (L, 7-2) 6 IP 6 H 4 R 1 ER 1 BB 2 K 2 HBP

F:
Guarino (W, 10-0)  7 IP 1 H 2 R o ER 1 BB 2 K

Time: 1:24

STANDISH—Regardless of class, Falmouth’s baseball team has no peer.

The Yachtsmen, on the heels of an undefeated regular season, were doubted in some quarters because they didn’t play a Class A schedule, but Tuesday evening at the Larry Mahaney Diamond on the campus of St. Joseph’s College, they culminated a dazzling run through the playoff field by downing defending regional champion South Portland in the Class A South Final.

Thanks in large part to yet another absolute pitching gem.

This time around, it was junior Cam Guarino’s turn to toe the slab and frustrate the opposition, but for the first time in the postseason, Falmouth had to overcome a little adversity.

For the third playoff game in a row, top-ranked Falmouth scored a first inning run, as senior centerfielder Connor Aube led off with a double off South Portland senior ace Griffin Kelley, moved to third on a single by senior leftfielder Tyler Gee and came home on a ground out from junior shortstop Robbie Armitage.

Normally one run would be enough for the Yachtsmen, but Tuesday, they committed four errors, including three in the third inning, as the second-ranked Red Riots took advantage, scoring on an RBI ground out from senior shortstop Drew Abramson and an ensuing miscue to go ahead, 2-1.

Falmouth roared right back, however, scoring three runs in the bottom half of the third to seize control.

With two on and two out, junior second baseman Colin Coyne grounded to short, but Abramson’s throw was low and got away, allowing Aube to come home and tie the game. Then, junior third baseman Chris Camelio, the game’s lone multiple hitter, came through with an RBI single to put the Yachtsmen ahead to stay. Senior first baseman Jesse Melchiskey singled in another run and Guarino had all the cushion he would need.

Guarino retired the final 14 batters he faced and Falmouth went on to a 4-2 victory.

Guarino threw a one-hitter, his second such gem of the postseason and the Yachtsmen’s third one-hitter in the past three games, Camelio had three hits, Aube scored twice and Falmouth remained perfect at 19-0, ended the Red Riots’ season at 16-3 and advanced to meet two-time defending Class A champion Bangor (18-1) in the Class A state final Saturday at 1 p.m., in Standish.

“We faced a little adversity, but this team can battle,” said Yachtsmen coach Kevin Winship. “There are a lot of doubters out there, but there are 20 non-doubters on this team. We knew coming in, we’re a top program. Whether we were Class A or B, we went out and played our schedule and we’ve ripped off 19 straight. That’s awesome.”

We belong

While Falmouth won all 16 regular season games against a Class B Western Maine Conference schedule, there were rumblings that the Yachtsmen weren’t on par with the Class A Southwestern Maine Activities Association squads, but Falmouth has dispelled that myth in the postseason.

In the quarterfinals, Guarino threw a one-hitter at No. 8 Deering in a 4-0 victory. Saturday, against fifth-ranked Portland, a regional finalist a year ago, junior Reece Armitage threw a one-hit gem of his own and the Yachtsmen blanked the Bulldogs, 5-0.

That left just one SMAA hurdle to clear, South Portland, a squad which lost only to Thornton Academy and Portland (in extra innings) during a 14-2 regular season. The Red Riots then won the non-countable SMAA conference tournament and as the No. 2 seed, eliminated No. 7 Marshwood (6-4) in the quarterfinals and ended No. 3 Scarborough’s memorable season with an 8-5 victory in Saturday’s semifinals.

Entering Tuesday’s tilt, Falmouth and South Portland had never met in a countable game, regular or postseason.

The Yachtsmen then went out and proved they were the best team in Southern Maine, regardless of class, schedule or anything else.

South Portland had a chance to make some noise in the top of the first when junior centerfielder and leadoff hitter Sam Troiano worked the count full and drew a walk, but a sharp grounder by senior second baseman Ben Conti was right at Coyne, who threw to Robbie Armitage for one out and Armitage threw on to first to complete the double play. Camelio then made a nice backhanded stab on a grounder from Abramson and threw him out to retire the side.

“I felt confident in the field with Guarino pitching, but nobody was too calm, cool or collected coming into the game,” said Camelio. “We got that play out of the way and went from there.”

Falmouth made noise in the bottom half, as Aube got things started by leading off with a shot to the gap in right-center and he cruised into second base with a double. Gee singled up the middle with Aube holding at third and Robbie Armitage’s ground out to short led to a force out at second, but Aube scored for the game’s first run. Reece Armitage, the rightfielder, flied deep to right and Coyne grounded into a force out to end it.

In the second, Guarino got senior catcher Nick Troiano to ground sharply to Robbie Armitage to short and junior first baseman Matt Crockett to fly out to deep left-center. Sophomore rightfielder Zack Johnson reached on a throwing error by Robbie Armitage, but senior designated hitter Aaron Radziucz popped up to the pitcher to end it.

The Yachtsmen almost doubled their lead in the bottom half, but left a runner at third.

Camelio led off with a single up the middle, but was erased when Melchiskey grounded to Conti at second, who stepped on the base for the force. Conti tried to complete the double play by throwing out Melchiskey, but his throw was wild and Melchiskey wound up at second on the error. Senior designated hitter Hogan Tracy flew out deep to right, putting Melchiskey at third, but sophomore catcher Garrett Aube’s deep fly to left was caught to end the frame.

In the third, South Portland got on the board, as Falmouth gave up runs for the first time in the postseason.

After senior third baseman Alex Livingston was caught looking at strike three, sophomore leftfielder Riley Hasson was awarded first base on catcher’s interference. Sam Troiano then reached when Robbie Armitage couldn’t handle his ground ball. Conti ripped a sharp single up the middle, but Hasson had to hold at third, loading the bases. Abramson got Hasson home by hitting into a second-to-short force out, but Armitage’s throw to first to attempt to complete the double play was low and was trapped by the diving Abramson and Troiano raced home to score as well. Nick Troiano ended the frame with a groundout back to the mound, but the Red Riots had a 2-1 lead.

In the bottom half, Falmouth answered and went on top to stay.

Connor Aube was hit by a pitch leading off and Gee walked on a 3-2 pitch, but Robbie Armitage flew to shallow right with the runners holding and Reece Armitage looked at strike three. Coyne then grounded slowly to short and it appeared South Portland would escape the inning, but Abramson’s throw bounced past Crockett and Aube came home to tie it, as the runners went to second and third.

Camelio followed with a single to center to plate Gee with the go-ahead run, putting runners at the corners.

“I saw the ball really well tonight,” Camelio said. “Kelley is a really good pitcher, but it was just my day. He was giving me first pitch curveballs. I saw him fidgeting with the ball in his glove and I knew it was coming again. I sat back and tried to hit it hard and found a gap.”

“Chris is just electric,” Connor Aube said. “You’ve got to love him. He’s one of my better friends. He’s just a great kid.”

“Chris is an absolute competitor, whether it’s on the ice for hockey or here,” Winship added. “He’s been sensational during our playoff run. Defensively, he’s solid. You hit it to him, you’re out. His bat’s coming alive. He’s attacking pitches and he’s having success.”

Melchiskey then dropped a single over Conti’s glove, scoring Coyne, but Camelio was thrown out Johnson-to-Livingston for the third out.

Regardless, the Yachtsmen were up, 4-2.

“I wasn’t worried at all (when we fell behind),” Connor Aube said. “We have bats in the lineup 1 through 9, who know what they’re doing. Somebody usually steps up.”

“We responded by getting more confident,” Guarino said. “Everyone picked each other up on the bench. We knew we could do it.”

“The guys don’t give up,” Winship added. “They’ve all been in big games before, whether it’s baseball, hockey, soccer, basketball, football, they’ve all been there. They all have confidence in each other. When one guy’s down, another guy will pick him up in the lineup or defensively.”

In the fourth, Guarino struck out Crockett swinging, got Johnson to fly deep to center and Radziucz to fly to right.

In the bottom half, Kelley also set the side down in order, getting Tracy to ground to second, Garrett Aube to ground to short and Connor Aube to fly out to center.

Guarino set the Red Riots down 1-2-3 in the fifth, getting Livingston to line to right, Hasson to ground to Robbie Armitage, who made a great play going to his left before bouncing the throw to first where Melchiskey fielded it cleanly, and Sam Troiano to hit a lazy fly to right.

Falmouth went in order in its half, as Gee grounded out to short, Robbie Armitage flew out deep to center and Reece Armitage grounded to first, with Crockett making the play himself.

Guarino continued to frustrate South Portland in the sixth, getting Conti to ground to third, Abramson to ground to third and Nick Troiano to line to Aube in center, who raced in to make a sprawling catch to retire the side.

The Yachtsmen had a pair of base runners, but couldn’t add to their lead in the bottom half.

Coyne was hit by a pitch leading off and Camelio followed with his third hit, a single to right. After Coyne avoided disaster and somehow got back to second when he was picked off, Melchiskey sacrificed the runners up, but Tracy looked at strike three and Garrett Aube fouled out to first.

Guarino then finished it off in the seventh.

Crockett led off and grounded out to Camelio at third. Johnson then fouled off several pitches to stay alive before crushing a shot to center which Aube ran down for the second out.

“There’s nothing like Falmouth’s field, but some of those balls would have been out there,” said Aube. “Here, those balls hung up and I was able to go get them.”

Then, at 7:58 p.m., Guarino got Radziucz to ground to Melchiskey at first, who after momentarily bobbling the ball, collected it and stepped on the bag to end the contest in a crisp 1 hour, 24 minutes, as Falmouth advanced, 4-2.

“It feels great,” Guarino said. “I’m just excited to go to states.”

“It’s a feeling I haven’t had,” Aube said. “We got here my freshman year, but we weren’t able to win.”

“As deep as we are, everyone is confident,” Camelio said. “That’s how we roll. I don’t think we needed a loss going into the playoffs. We had some character wins that did the same thing.”

“We were fortunate to come out on the right end of it,” Winship added. “(South Portland’s) a very good team. (Coach Mike Owens is) a good friend of mine. He’s a great coach. He has them fundamentally sound.”

Guarino continued Falmouth’s run of brilliant pitching, improving to 10-0 after giving up two unearned runs on just one hit in seven innings. He walked one batter and struck out two.

“My first couple innings haven’t been my strongest or sharpest, but I build it up and start throwing strikes,” Guarino said. “There were more people here tonight than I was used to. More people heckling me in the stands too, but it didn’t bother me. I don’t think (Reece or I) can explain it, we just have a great defense behind us. That’s it.”

“(Cam and Reece are) unreal,” said Camelio. “You can’t lose with either of them. They make us confident in the infield.”

“Cam and Reece are incredible and they do a great job,” Aube said. “They know what they’re doing.”

“This was the first time I’ve seen Cam with some early jitters, but he settled in and finished strong,” Winship added. “We got him a couple runs and when we do, I’m confident we’ll win.  The pitchers are doing a good job. I have to give a lot of credit to (pitching) Coach Pendleton. Craig is calling great games and those two guys execute. They execute every pitch he calls. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”

Camelio was the game’s lone repeat hitter with three singles. He also had an RBI. Connor Aube scored twice, while Coyne and Gee also touched home. Robbie Armitage and Melchiskey also drove in runs.

Falmouth stranded five runners.

Not this year

Last spring, South Portland found a way to prevail in close games during the regional playoffs and got to the state game for the first time in 24 years. This time around, the Red Riots met their match in Guarino.

“It’s tough to win when you only have one hit,” Owens said. “I thought we had very good swings against Cam. We hit the ball hard at some guys. We just couldn’t find gaps and he doesn’t make mistakes, so we couldn’t string anything together against him. He’s so good at staying down and away and around the knees and he can bust you in. He throws three pitches. He’s really a polished high school pitcher. You don’t see many guys who have an understanding of how to get guys out the way he does.”

Offensively, Conti had the lone hit and RBI and Hasson and Sam Troiano scored runs. The Red Riots left two runners on.

Kelley fell to 7-2 after giving up four runs (just one earned) on six hits in six innings. He walked a batter, hit two and struck out a pair.

“I thought Griffin pitched very, very well,” Owens said. “He kept them off-balance enough. I really thought we didn’t make plays behind him today. We kind of let him down. We knew we’d have to play a perfect game and we didn’t quite do that today. We just made some untimely mistakes. That’s a really good team over there.”

Owens said that in retrospect, South Portland achieved more than even he envisioned.

“I’m really proud of this group,” Owens said. “Honestly, if you told me we’d win 16 games, I’m not sure I’d have taken that bet. It’s just a great group. They’ve been together a long time. They play the game the right way. They came to practice every day wanting to be there. They made it fun for me. I had a very enjoyable season. Getting here two years in a row says a lot about these kids.”

The Red Riots graduate eight seniors, but Crockett, Hasson, Johnson and Sam Troiano lead the group of returners.

South Portland has become accustomed to playing deep into June and the 2017 squad should be able to do the same.

“The future is bright,” Owens said. “I hope the younger guys got a taste of it and we can have a good summer and come back next year and compete again. We have good depth. We should be right back in the mix.”

Coronation time?

Falmouth will seek its first Class A crown, to go with Class C titles in 1985, 1996 and 1998 and a Class B championship in 2012, when it does battle with Bangor, a team which has won 11 crowns, including each of the past two. The teams have no playoff history.

Winship wouldn’t commit to which of his aces he’ll hand the ball to Saturday, but regardless of his choice, it doesn’t appear he can go wrong.

“I hope to get the ball,” Guarino said. “We’ll have confidence. We hope to end Bangor’s run.”

“They’ll both be available,” Winship said. “Coach Pendleton and I will sit down and talk with Cam and Reece and discuss our options and go with what we think will be best for the team.”

The Yachtsmen are one win from history and from quieting the doubters for good, but it won’t be easy.

“We have to do what we do best, hit and make the easy plays,” Camelio said. “We’ve played a game on this field, which is huge. We’re fired up. There are no words to describe it.”

“We have to keep the ball rolling and we won’t back down,” Aube said. “We’ll go in with confidence and we should keep it going. Everybody wants to go out on top as a senior. I have that opportunity.”

“I don’t know a lot about Bangor,” Winship added. “I’ll put some feelers out to get a scouting report. They have good pitching too. We have to get good pitching, timely hitting and play good defense. We’ll do the best we can.”

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

Falmouth junior ace Cam Guarino throws a strike. Guarino allowed just one hit in earning his 10th win of the season.

South Portland senior Griffin Kelley delivers a pitch. Kelley only allowed one earned run, but took the loss.

Falmouth senior Connor Aube, right, is congratulated by Chris Camelio after scoring a run.

South Portland senior third baseman Alex Livingston tags out his opposite number, Falmouth junior Chris Camelio.

Falmouth junior shortstop Robbie Armitage makes a throw for an out.

South Portland senior catcher Nick Troiano takes a swing.

Falmouth junior Colin Coyne dives safely back into second base as South Portland senior second baseman Ben Conti applies the tag too late. Coyne was picked off but somehow danced his way around Conti and back on to the bag.

South Portland junior Matt Crockett lunges in vain to reach a foul pop as senior second baseman Ben Conti arrives too late to help.

Falmouth senior centerfielder Connor Aube races in to catch a line drive.

South Portland senior Ben Conti carries the runner-up plaque following the loss.

Falmouth shows off the championship plaque.

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