Guarino's gem leads Falmouth past Cheverus, back to the state final

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

Falmouth’s baseball team celebrates after the final out of Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Cheverus in the Class A South Final. The Yachtsmen will get another shot at defending champion Bangor in the Class A state final Saturday afternoon.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Class A South Final

Falmouth 4 Cheverus 1

C- 000 000 1- 1 4 1
F- 012 100 x- 4 7 1

Bottom 2nd
Ga. Aube reached on infield single, Gr. Aube scored.

Bottom 3rd
Blum reached on infield single, Re. Armitage scored. Cady walked, Gr. Aube scored.

Bottom 4th
Fortier doubled to left-center, Re. Armitage scored.

Top 7th
J. Casale scored on error.

Repeat hitters:
C- Brooks
F- Re. Armitage, Ro. Armitage

Runs:
C- J. Casale
F- Re. Armitage, Gr. Aube 2

RBI:
F- Ga. Aube, Cady, Fortier, Kiely

Double:
F- Fortier

Stolen base:
F- Re. Armitage 2

Left on base:
C- 4
F- 8

Brooks, J. Casale (3) and McCarthy; Guarino, Ro. Armitage (7) and Ga. Aube, Kiely (7)

C:
Brooks (L, 5-2) 2.2 IP 5 H 3 R 3 ER 5 BB 2 K 1 WP 1 HBP
J. Casale 3.1 IP 2 H 1 R 1 ER 0 BB 2 K 

F:
* Guarino (W, 9-1) 6+ IP 3 H 1 R 1 ER 0 BB 3 K 1 WP
Ro. Armitage (Save, 1) 1 IP 1 H 0 R 1 BB 1 K

* Guarino pitched to two batters in the seventh.

Time: 1:27

STANDISH—All spring, Falmouth’s baseball team has worn the bulls-eye.

And the Yachtsmen have worn it well.

And as a result, Falmouth now finds itself one win from a state championship.

Wednesday afternoon at the Larry Mahaney Diamond on the campus of St. Joseph’s  College, the top-ranked Yachtsmen measured themselves against No. 2 Cheverus in a highly anticipated Class A South Final.

Falmouth stuck with the recipe that’s worked all season, get great pitching, play strong defense and produce timely hitting, and as a result, the Yachtsmen have earned an opportunity to avenge last year’s state game setback.

Falmouth took the lead in the bottom of the second inning, as junior first baseman Griffin Aube was hit by a pitch leading off, found his way to third, then came home on a two-out infield single by his brother, junior catcher Garret Aube.

That lead was more than enough for Yachtsmen senior ace Cam Guarino, the state’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year, who, after surrendering a first inning single, retired the next 16 batters he faced.

Falmouth built on its lead in the bottom of the third, as freshman designated hitter Ike Kiely’s infield single scored senior centerfielder Reece Armitage and Griffin Aube scored on a bases loaded walk to junior leftfielder Marcus Cady.

The Yachtsmen added a fourth run in the fourth, as with two outs, Armitage singled and senior rightfielder Max Fortier doubled him in.

Cheverus couldn’t generate any offense until the seventh, when it finally broke through and chased Guarino when senior Jack Casale scored on an error.

The Stags would load the bases with two outs and had a chance against Falmouth senior closer Robbie Armitage, but Armitage struck out senior third baseman Chandler Hartigan to end it and the Yachtsmen prevailed in a tidy 87 minutes, 4-1.

Guarino spun a three-hit, one-run gem over six-plus innings, as he earned his ninth victory of the season, Robbie Armitage had two hits and earned the save and Falmouth improved to 18-1, ended Cheverus’ season at 17-2 and advanced to meet Northern A champion Bangor (15-4) in a rematch of last year’s state game in the Class A state final Saturday at 2 p.m., at Morton Field in Augusta.

“We tried to downplay the expectations,” said Yachtsmen coach Kevin Winship. “These guys are all competitors. They’ve all played in big games in soccer, football, baseball and hockey. They just come to the park, have fun and play. They want to be the best. We’ve got one more to go.”

The 1 and the 2

Falmouth and Cheverus have both enjoyed superb seasons and each squad had only stumbled once entering play Wednesday (see sidebar, below, for links to previous game stories).

The Yachtsmen lived up to their preseason billing as the favorites, started the year by giving Winship his 100th victory with the program and ultimately stretched their regular season win streak to 33 games before losing to Greely in the finale.

As the top seed in Class A South, Falmouth ousted No. 8 Scarborough (9-2) in the quarterfinals, then outlasted No. 4 Portland in an instant classic semifinal Saturday, 4-3, in nine-innings.

Cheverus also went 15-1, losing only to Portland, and as the second seed in the region, the Stags sent No. 10 Deering packing in the quarterfinals (6-1), before eliminating No. 3 Gorham Saturday, 5-1, in the semifinals.

Cheverus and Falmouth had never met on the diamond prior to Wednesday when two aces started, but one stood tall.

Guarino started strong, getting junior shortstop Griffin Watson to fly out to center and Jack Casale, the first baseman, to squib a little grounder to third. After senior starting pitcher Jared Brooks lined a single to right, junior leftfielder Maxx St. John grounded out to first base unassisted.

In the bottom half, the Yachtsmen produced a two-out threat, but Brooks snuffed it out.

Garret Aube grounded out to Casale at first leading off and senior second baseman Colin Coyne followed by grounding out to short, but Robbie Armitage, who began the game at shortstop, lined a single off Brooks and Brooks walked Reece Armitage. That brought up Fortier, whom Brooks struck out swinging to keep the game scoreless heading to the second.

Senior catcher Logan McCarthy led off the top of the second with a deep drive to left-center, but Reece Armitage effortlessly ran it down for the first out. Senior centerfielder Dom Casale lined out softly to first and sophomore second baseman Justin Ray chased strike three.

In the bottom half, Falmouth got the early run it needed for Guarino.

Griffin Aube started the rally by being hit by a pitch. With senior third baseman Will Blum at the plate, Brooks threw a wild pitch, moving Aube to second. Blum then sacrificed Aube to third, bringing up Kiely, who hit the ball sharply to right on an 0-2 pitch, but junior Cam Dube took a couple steps to his left, dove and made the catch for the second out, as Aube had to hold at third.

That brought up Cady, the hero of the semifinals, who fouled off several pitches before a Brooks pitch in the dirt was blocked by McCarthy and the following delivery, on a full count, went for ball four. Garret Aube then hit a slow grounder up the third base line. Senior third baseman Chandler Hartigan tried to field it barehanded, but couldn’t come up with the ball and it went for an infield hit, as Griffin Aube came home for a 1-0 lead. Coyne flew out to center for the final out, but the Yachtsmen had the jump.

“When we get out in front, the momentum carries us the entire game,” Robbie Armitage said.

Guarino protected the lead in the top of the third, setting Cheverus down in order.

Hartigan started by ripping a shot to deep left, but Cady ran it down at the warning track for the first out. Dube then squibbed a ball to third that Blum fielded and threw to first for the out. Watson then bounced out to short to end it.

Falmouth extended its lead in the bottom half.

Robbie Armitage lined a single to center leading off, but Brooks picked him off, throwing to Casale, who fired to Watson, who applied the tag at second base. Reece Armitage followed with a single just inside the leftfield line and as Brooks was fanning Fortier, Armitage stole second. With Griffin Aube at the plate, Armitage stole third base as well.

“Usually, Coach gives us the green light when we see something,” Armitage said. “The third baseman was back and it was a 3-0 count and he wasn’t expecting it, so I just took it.”

After Aube drew a walk, Blum walked on four pitches to load the bases for Kiely.

Kiely took two strikes, then a ball, then chopped the ball slowly to third where Hartigan fielded it, but his throw to first was too late and Kiely’s infield single brought home Armitage for a 2-0 lead.

Cady then worked the count full and took ball four to bring home Griffin Aube and that was it for Brooks’ outing, as he was replaced by Jack Casale.

Casale kept the deficit at three runs by getting Garret Aube to chase strike three, but the Yachtsmen were in control.

“Getting out in front on Brooks was huge,” Reece Armitage said. “We made him feel uncomfortable and got to him early.”

“We didn’t know what to expect with Jared,” Winship said. “We knew he threw hard and he has a really good pickoff move. Unfortunately for him, he got a little erratic in the strike zone and had to come in and we took advantage of that. We got the bats going and hit the ball hard.”

Guarino continued to dominate in the top of the fourth, getting Jack Casale to bounce out to Coyne at second, Brooks to line to right and St. John to bounce softly to short.

Falmouth appeared primed to go quietly in the bottom half, but some two-out magic added a run.

Coyne led off with a line shot to center on a 3-2 pitch, but Dom Casale made a nice sliding catch. Robbie Armitage then lined out to Ray at second, but Reece Armitage lined a single in front of Dom Casale in left-center. That brought up Fortier, who whistled a drive past short and into the gap in left-center. Winship didn’t hesitate and waved Armitage in and he beat the throw for a 4-0 lead. Griffin Aube took strike three, but the Yachtsmen were a step closer to victory.

Guarino didn’t allow Cheverus to breathe in the fifth, striking out McCarthy looking on a full count pitch, retiring Dom Casale on a slow roller to Coyne, then fanning Ray looking. 

Falmouth went in order for the first time in the bottom half, as Jack Casale got Blum to ground out to second, Kiely to line to center (where Dom Casale made a nice diving catch on the run) and Cady to bounce out to first unassisted.

Guarino had no trouble with the Stags in the sixth either, getting Hartigan to hit a high chopper back to the mound, Dube to pop out to short and Watson to line out to center.

Jack Casale completed his solid relief effort in the bottom of the sixth, getting Garret Aube to ground out to second, Coyne to pop out to second and after Robbie Armitage reached when Dube couldn’t handle his liner, Casale picked the runner off to end it.

Cheverus refused to go quietly in the seventh and made things very interesting before Falmouth finished it off.

Jack Casale started the seventh by blooping a single over Robbie Armitage at short to end Guarino’s string of 16 straight batters retired and he took second on a wild pitch. Brooks then grounded an infield single to the right of Robbie Armitage at short. Armitage threw to first and the ball got away for an error, allowing Casale to score.

That did it for Guarino, who left having thrown 66 pitches (he started Brooks with 63, meaning he’s eligible to pitch in the state final) and was replaced by Robbie Armitage (Garret Aube moved to short and Kiely took over behind the plate).

St. John grounded back to Armitage for the first out, with senior pinch-runner Rylan Benedict taking second and McCarthy lined out to center, but the Stags kept fighting and Dom Casale beat out an infield single and Ray drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.

Hartigan, who flew out deep to left earlier in the game, had a chance to play the hero, but Armitage wouldn’t allow it, blowing strike three past him at 4:25 p.m., giving Falmouth the 4-1 victory and a repeat Class A South title.

“I was just trying to throw the ball over the plate and get enough on it to make them swing and miss,” Robbie Armitage said. “It feels unbelievable. We’re excited to go back to the state championship game. We’ve worked so hard.”

“I was very confident in Robbie,” Guarino said. “He throws hard. It’s a great win for us.”

“Robbie’s new to the closer position, but he has a good arm for it,” said Reece Armitage. “I was confident with him out there. We didn’t let the expectations get to us this year. We stayed loose all season. (The Greely loss) was a wakeup call and changed our season.”

Guarino won his ninth game of the season (against one loss) after giving up one run on three hits in six-plus innings. He didn’t walk a batter, struck out three and threw one wild pitch.

“They’re a great hitting team, so I just did my best to focus,” Guarino said. “What motivated me the most was Coach telling me if I stayed under 65 pitches, I’d be eligible for states. Once you start to feel it, everything comes into place and every pitch feels great. I threw more change-ups than usual today, but my two-seamer was really working. They hit ground balls and hit it off the end of the bat. We had another solid defensive game. Once we got one run, we kept going and everything came together.”

“Cam threw first pitch strikes and kept his pitch count low,” Robbie Armitage said. “He got ahead of kids and kept them off balance.”

“Cam was just efficient,” Reece Armitage said. “He got ground balls, fly outs, no one could hit him.”

“That’s the best I’ve ever seen Cam pitch,” Winship added. “He was masterful. He just pounded the strike zone and threw his curveball for strikes. Up, down, in, out. It was an awesome performance. We talked earlier in the week and pitching in the state championship game was important to him. We had to win today and he went out and he was at 28 pitches after three innings.”

Robbie Armitage earned his first official save of the season, going an inning and allowing no runs on one hit and a walk with a strikeout. 

“We have a lot of faith in Robbie,” Winship said. “He’s a gamer. He’s been in state championship games with hockey and he’s a competitor. Anytime we give him the ball, we feel confident.” 

Reece Armitage and Robbie Armitage both paced the offense with two hits.

Reece Armitage and Griffin Aube both scored twice.

Garret Aube, Cady, Fortier (who had the game’s lone extra base hit, a double) and Kiely all had RBI.

Reece Armitage stole two bases.

“Having a player of Reece’s caliber at 100 percent makes us that much better,” Winship said. “When Cam’s on the mound, we can play Reece at center and move Max to right. I have to tip my cap to Cady too, who made a big play today going back on the warning track. He’s come up with some big plays. He’s helped us manufacture runs.”

The Yachtsmen left eight runners on base.

A year to hail

Cheverus got two hits from Brooks, a run from Jack Casale and stranded four runners, three in the seventh.

Brooks fell to 5-2 after giving up three runs on five hits and five walks in 2.2 innings. He hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and had one strikeout.

“Jared didn’t have his command today,” said Stags coach Mac McKew. “He was pitching behind in the count.”

Jack Casale had a strong relief stint, allowing one run on two hits in 3.1 innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two.

“That was typical Jack, he’s going to compete, whether it’s football, basketball or baseball,” McKew said. “He wanted to get out there even though he threw 87 pitches Saturday. He’s athletic enough to bounce back and stem the tide.” 

Ultimately, Cheverus just couldn’t generate enough offense, but there was a good reason for that.

“We have to tip our cap to Cam,” McKew said. “He was basically unhittable. We hit a couple balls hard, but they were positioned well and made the plays. We never got any offense going until it was too late. There may have been some better decisions we could have made defensively. Playoff baseball is about pitching and defense and today they were better. You get behind 4-0 and you start pressing and have weaker at-bats, but Guarino made the difference. He’s very savvy. He’s always around the plate. He’s probably the best pitcher we’ve faced this year. We kept battling and that’s one thing about this team, we didn’t win 17 games by not fighting to the end.

“Obviously, there’s disappointment today, but we had a great season. I’m very proud of these guys. It was probably our best regular season since the 1960s. We won a couple playoff games and got to the regional final.”

The Stags will lose many key contributors from this year’s team, including Brooks, both Casales and McCarthy, but enough talent returns in 2018 to suggest Cheverus will be back in the hunt.

“We lose 11 seniors and six are starters,” McKew said. “They’re special. There’s an opportunity for some younger guys to step in and some junior varsity guys and even freshmen to move up, but we’ll reflect on that later.”

Bangor…again

One step remains between Falmouth and its first Class A state title (the Yachtsmen won Class C crowns in 1985, 1996 and 1998 and another in Class B in 2012), but it’s a big one Saturday afternoon.

Bangor lost four times in the regular season and was just the No. 4 seed for the Class A North tournament, then beat fifth-ranked Hampden Academy in the quarterfinals, upset top-seeded Oxford Hills in the semifinals and blanked upstart No. 7 seed Mt. Ararat, 3-0, in its regional final Wednesday.

Falmouth won its first 19 games in 2016, but lost to Bangor in the Class A state final, 5-0, in the teams’ only previous meeting.

Saturday, the Yachtsmen get another crack at the Rams.

They’re primed to finish the job.

“We have to hit,” Guarino said. “That’s the key to winning games.”

“The seniors are ready,” Reece Armitage said. “Coming off of last year’s loss in the state final, we have unfinished business, a chip on our shoulder. None of us are satisfied after this game. We still have one more. Last season we were happy to be there. This year, we’re experienced. We have a deep team and we’re ready to go.”

“We have a lot of character and our senior class is so tight,” Robbie Armitage said. “We want to win it for each other. We’ve played together for so long.”

“We know we’ll get good pitching and we’ll get good defense,” Winship added. “We need timely hitting. Can we get the big hit? We have everyone available to pitch. That’s a luxury. We’ll see what happens.”

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

Falmouth senior Cam Guarino shows the form that saw him dominate for six innings. Guarino earned his ninth win of the season.

Cheverus senior starter Jared Brooks throws a pitch.

Cheverus junior shortstop Griffin Watson tags out Falmouth senior Robbie Armitage on a pickoff play in the third inning.

Falmouth freshman designated hitter Ike Kiely takes a swing.

Falmouth senior shortstop Robbie Armitage catches a pop fly.

Falmouth senior Reece Armitage steals second as Cheverus sophomore second baseman Justin Ray awaits the throw.

Falmouth’s captains show off the championship plaque.

The 2017 Class A South champions.

Previous Falmouth stories

Season Preview

Falmouth 3 Gray-New Gloucester 0

Falmouth 2 Cape Elizabeth 0

Falmouth 4 Greely 0

Greely 10 Falmouth 2

Falmouth 4 Portland 3 (9)

Previous Cheverus stories

Season Preview

Cheverus 5 Windham 3

Cheverus 4 South Portland 0

Cheverus 7 Deering 0

Portland 3 Cheverus 1

Cheverus 8 Biddeford 1

0
Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.