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One bad inning dooms Greely in regional final

Sports

One bad inning dooms Greely in regional final

STANDISH—Very little had gone wrong for the Greely softball team this spring, but one painful inning sealed the Rangers' doom Thursday afternoon in the Western Class B Final versus defending state champion Fryeburg on the campus of St. Joseph's College.

Greely had taken a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning on a home run from junior pitcher Danielle Cimino, but the bottom of the frame would be one of which nightmares are made.

The Rangers committed four errors in a three-batter span and the potent Raiders pounced, tying the score on a mad dash from senior third baseman Maggie McConkey, breaking it open on a three-run triple from sophomore designated player Emily Davidson and adding two-run hits from senior rightfielder Maddy Smith and sophomore pitcher Sarah Harriman to post a snowman in the frame and take a commanding 8-1 lead.

Harriman did the rest, retiring nine of the final 10 hitters she faced to slam the door and Greely's fine season came to an end at 16-3 as Fryeburg improved to 18-1 and set up a Class B Final showdown with Old Town (16-4) Saturday.

"I think as a team, we saw that one run on the board and decided to relax a little bit," said Rangers first-year coach Sarah Jamo. "You could see that how we came out defensively in that half of the inning. Two dropped plays. I don't think anything left the infield until that hit. It was more of a mindset coming out. We played not to lose at that point. You could see that in our defensive play. Momentum slipped away a little bit."

Seeds hold

Fryeburg won Class B with an undefeated record last year (its third crown in four seasons) and once again expected to be at the top of the heap in 2012. The Raiders made a statement in their opener with a 20-1 win over Wells, but after blanking Poland, 10-0, Fryeburg hosted Greely and was humbled, 8-1. The Raiders then bounced back and won 13 straight, by a composite 125-4 score, to earn the No. 1 seed in Western B.

Fryeburg handled No. 9 Lake Region, 7-0, in the quarterfinals, then rallied for a stirring 4-3 semifinal round victory over fifth-ranked Gray-New Gloucester, scoring twice in its final at-bat.

Greely, which had its 2011 season ended with a painful 4-3 quarterfinal round loss at Fryeburg, opened 2012 with an 11-5 win at Lake Region, then was upset at home by Sacopee Valley, 12-7. An 8-1 win at Fryeburg started a 13-game run which featured a powerhouse offense. In that span, the Rangers averaged over 12 runs a contest and were only seriously tested in an 8-5 home win over Cape Elizabeth April 30. The run ended with a 3-1 home loss to Fryeburg in the finale and Greely dropped to the No. 2 seed as a result.

After blanking No. 7 Cape Elizabeth, 6-0, in the quarterfinals, the Rangers also had to rally in their semi, wiping out an early 3-0 deficit to third-ranked Leavitt, before squeaking past the Hornets, 4-3, on Cimino's walkoff hit in the seventh.

In addition to last year's quarterfinal, the teams also met in the playoffs in the 2007 semifinals (a 6-1 Greely victory).

Thursday began as a pitcher's duel, but the Rangers' hopes unraveled midway through.

Harriman struck Greely senior centerfielder Katie Whittum out on three pitches to start the contest. Senior shortstop Caroline Hamilton laid down on a bunt on the first pitch she saw, but Harriman did a nice job pouncing on it and threw to get Hamilton by a step. Cimino then popped up the first pitch she saw to end the frame.

Cimino was just as effective in the bottom half, as junior catcher Carla Tripp was thrown out on a bunt attempt, junior centerfielder Maddie Pearson fanned on a changeup and McConkey bounced out to second.

Greely appeared to have something going in the top of the second when sophomore second baseman Elyse Dinan reached on an error, but senior catcher Edith Aromando popped out to first and senior third baseman Lindsey Arsenault grounded to Fryeburg sophomore Sydney Charles at short, who touched second for the force out and threw on to first to complete the double play.

Cimino struck out Harriman to start the bottom of the second inning, then induced a pair of groundouts.

After two, there was no score and only 13 minutes had elapsed.

In the top of the third, Harriman fanned sophomore leftfielder Jordynne Copp looking and sophomore first baseman Mykaela Twitchell swinging and got freshman designated player Miranda Moore to ground out to short.

Davidson watched strike three to start the bottom of the frame. Charles got ahead in the count, 3-1, then popped foul to Twitchell. That brought up the dangerous Smith, who walked on a 3-2 pitch to set the stage for one of the more memorable at-bats of this or any other year.

Tripp got down in the count 0-2, but fouled off pitch after pitch after pitch, taking three balls along the way. Finally, on the 21st pitch, she took ball four and reached.

"Nothing really went through my mind," Tripp said. "I just wanted to help my team out. When I was up there, I knew none of those pitches were the one I wanted. I wanted to keep battling until I got the one I wanted. She was pitching me inside and trying to change up and I didn't like them. I was hoping she'd get tired being out there longer. I took a deep breath, relaxed and was up there confident."

On a hot day, that effort had to take a little out of the pitcher, even though the Rangers would escape the inning.

Pearson then grounded to Hamilton at short, who couldn't handle the hop, seemingly loading the bases, but Smith was called out for runner's interference, delighting the exhausted Cimino and her teammates, while exasperating the Raiders.

Harriman retired the first two hitters in the top of the fourth, but Cimino, as if saying 'No way I'm going back out there just yet,' crushed a shot to deep left-center which cleared the fence to give Greely a 1-0 lead.

it didn't last.

McConkey walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth and would use her daring baserunning to turn the game once and for all.

More wackiness ensued as Harriman laid down a sacrifice bunt.

After the ball just missed the discarded bat, Aromando got to it and threw it to first, but the throw was dropped.

McConkey raced for third and the throw was wild, allowing McConkey to dash for the plate. She and the ball arrived at the same time, but McConkey managed to stretch her hand on to the dish before Aromando's tag and the game was tied.

"I didn't know if would be fair or not," said McConkey, of the bunt. "When it was fair, I ran to second and glanced to third and noticed no one was there. I went right to third. When I got to third, I noticed home was open and I decided to go for it. I had no hesitation. It was easy to get to home. It was close. Good thing I was safe or it would have been embarrassing."

"It doesn't bother us when we're down," Tripp said. "We know we just have to work harder to come back. It was a big boost since (Maggie's) not the fastest player on the team. If we get one little thing, it gets us going."

"I think the inning before when Carla had 21 pitches was huge," added Fryeburg coach Fred Apt. "I think Danielle got a little tired that inning. They scored a run. We haven't been down that much. We got fired up. We wanted to get one and Maggie hustled one in for us. That was all her. I wasn't really happy when she kept going from third, but we'll take the end result. This team just battles."

Locke then grounded to third, but Arsneault couldn't come with up it with for another error. Pelkie bunted to Arsenault and her throw to Hamilton for the force at third base was on time, but wasn't held and the bases were loaded still with no one out.

Up came Davidson and there went Greely's hopes when she cracked a three-run triple to right-center, scoring sophomore pinch-runner Makayla Frost, Locke and Pelkie, making it 4-1.

"(Emily) had been struggling, but we never gave up faith in her," McConkey said. "For her to get that triple, that really sparked us. She was pumped. Everyone else was pumped. It was a big motivator."

"I put her in the lineup the last minute," said Apt. "She got a new bat yesterday and she felt good. She came through for us."

Senior pinch-hitter Abby Brown drew a walk and Charles came back in to run. She stole second and Smith grounded a single past a diving Hamilton as Davidson and Charles came home to make it 6-1.

Tripp was hit by a pitch and Pearson completed the batting around merry-go-round by walking to load the bases.

That brought up the player who started all the trouble, McConkey, who looked to completely end all doubt, but her fly ball was caught by Whittum, who threw out the runner at the plate.

That only delayed the inevitable as Harriman laced the first pitch she saw for single down the rightfield line, scoring two more runners to put it out of reach, stretching the lead to 8-1.

Cimino finally got out of the frame by getting Locke to pop out, but Fryeburg had scored eight times on just four hits, with the help of four errors.

Harriman squashed any Rangers' comeback hopes in the top of the fifth, setting them down 1-2-3.

Cimino returned to form in the bottom half, setting Fryeburg down in order.

In the top of the sixth, Twitchell struck out leading off and Moore hit a little pop up near second base that Pelkie made a nice catch on, ranging far to her right. Whittum tried to beat out a bunt, but Harriman got to it and threw her out on a bang-bang play.

Smith singled to left to start the bottom half and Tripp, naturally, worked the count full before popping out to Hamilton. Pearson hit a sharp grounder up the middle that Hamilton nicely stabbed, leading to a force and Smith was picked off ending the frame.

Greely's last chance ended quickly in the seventh.

After Hamilton flew out to left, Cimino beat out an infield single, but Dinan popped out to first and Aromando lined to second and after Pelkie dropped the ball, she picked it up and threw to first to end it and give Fryeburg its fifth straight regional crown, 8-1.

"It's really special," McConkey said. "Not many players can say they've won even one of these. To win four is special. I'm glad to be part of it. I'm happy my senior year to have the underclassmen help us out."

"Some people thought we'd be here, but we didn't have a leader (early in the season)," said Apt, who won his 150th career game Thursday. "Honestly, we've come a long way. I'm proud of all my teams, but this team has really worked to get here. (Saturday's comeback against Gray-New Gloucester) helped. Carla came in and said, 'You know something? You guys wanted to play softball. Let's play a game.' I didn't have to say a word. We believe in each other. We beat a good team. Danielle had just one bad inning."

Harriman was solid throughout, improving to 18-1 by allowing just one run on two hits with no walks in seven innings. She fanned four batters.

"I think Sarah pitched a similar game as she did at Greely," Apt said. "She hit her spots well. They hit one ball hard."

The Raiders' offense was paced by three RBI from Davidson, two runs batted in by Harriman and two hits and two RBI from Smith, the team's secret weapon in the No. 9 hole.

Fryeburg now looks for a fourth Class B title in five seasons when it travels to Brewer Saturday.

You have to like the Raiders' chances.

"We have one more in us," McConkey said. "Definitely."

"We'll go up to Brewer and we'll be ready to play," Apt said. "I'm sure (Nokomis) will be too. I don't know anything about them, but they must be good to get through that bracket."

Great run

While disappointed, Greely had much to be proud of this spring, its first under Jamo, the former Rangers pitching standout, who. as Sarah Bennis, hurled Greely to the 2002 championship.

Thursday, the Rangers could only muster two Cimino hits. Cimino didn't allow a single earned run, but fell to 15-2 on the season after allowing eight runs on five hits with four walks and a hit batter in six innings. She struck out five.

"We continued to fight," Jamo said. "We made good contact, but not in the places we wanted to. We had balls in play, but not where we wanted. We tried to make adjustments the first time we saw (Harriman) and I think we swung the bats really well. The second time we saw her, we got stifled a little bit. This time, I think we came out more aggressive, swinging at better pitches. We made better contact, just not the contact we needed.

"I've really enjoyed my first year. This is a team that's had three coaches in three years. They've been awesome, buying into what we try to do. They worked hard. I pushed them and they did everything I asked them do. I really appreciate that. We need to stay hungry. It's been really enjoyable and a lot of fun. The seniors were really easy and receptive. There were some culturally different things, but everyone bought in and went with it. That made it a lot of fun."

Greely graduates five seniors, starters Aromando, Arsenault, Hamilton and Whittum, as well as Jenna Brink, but will have Cimino back on the mound next spring, along with several other key returners.

Look for the Rangers to get back to this game soon and to take the next step.

"I told them to remember this and use this as motivation," Jamo said. "We're starting to build Greely softball and I hope that this isn't the last time we'll be here. We've been here too few and far between."

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

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Greely sophomore Elyse Dinan makes contact.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Greely sophomore Jordynne Copp takes a swing.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

In one of the pivotal plays in Thursday's game, Greely shortstop Caroline Hamilton can't handle a throw and Fryeburg loads the bases. The next batter cleared them with a triple, putting the Raiders ahead to stay.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Greely senior shortstop Caroline Hamilton makes a throw across the diamond.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Greely junior Dani Cimino beams as she nears home after hitting a fourth inning home run. The blast gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead, but Fryeburg answered with eight in its half.