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Playoff thrills continue; state games just days away

Sports

Playoff thrills continue; state games just days away

(For the complete Greely-Yarmouth softball, Yarmouth-NYA boys' lacrosse and Yarmouth-Freeport girls' lacrosse game stories, with additional photos and box scores, please visit theforecaster.net)

The baseball and lacrosse playoffs produced their share of surprise and excitement last week and with the state championships scheduled for Saturday, this week promises to be memorable as well.

Meanwhile, local track and field athletes turned heads at the New England championships.

Here's a look at what happened last week and what's to come.

Baseball

Defending Class B state champion Falmouth was the last local team standing at press time.

The second-ranked Yachtsmen had to scratch and claw, but managed to survive No. 10 Poland (5-4) in the quarterfinals and third-ranked Morse (2-1) in the semis.

Against the Knights, senior ace Thomas Fortier got the win, even though he surrendered five hits and four runs. Fortier did fan nine. In the win over the Shipbuilders, the Yachtsmen entered the bottom of the sixth inning trailing, 1-0. With two outs and no one on, Falmouth was four outs from elimination, but Andrew Emple singled off the leftfield fence, Addison Foltmer walked and Fortier came through with a clutch single to tie the game. Freshman Connor Aube, as he has all season, then came through with another clutch hit and pinch-runner Patrick Lydon raced home with the go-ahead run. Connor Murphy put the finishing touches on his three-hitter and the Yachtsmen had escaped.

"It was exciting," said Falmouth coach Kevin Winship. "We played with fire, but it was an awesome comeback. Connor Murphy really stepped it up as a senior. He's been a leader. He pitched the best game I've seen him pitch in four years."

The Yachtsmen were scheduled to face No. 5 York (14-5) in Tuesday's regional final at St. Joseph's College in Standish, but rain moved it to Wednesday. Falmouth edged the visiting Wildcats, 3-2, May 28, in the teams' lone regular season meeting. The teams had not met previously in the playoffs.

"We're fortunate to be one of the four teams left playing in Class B," Winship said. "York's a solid, excellent team. They have good pitching. They're swinging hot bats, but they have to face Thomas. I like my chances with him on the mound."

Greely was the top seed after a 15-1 regular season and the Rangers had no trouble with No. 8 Fryeburg in the quarterfinals, 11-1, in six innings, as Connor Russell threw a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts over five innings. Pat Finnegan, Drew Hodge and Bailey Train all had multiple hits and Michael McDevitt drove in a pair of runs. Greely wasn't as fortunate Saturday in the semifinals, as it was upset by York, 5-1. Jonah Normandeau had a double and scored the Rangers' run as Greely's season ended at 16-2.

"We ran into a hot team," said Rangers coach Derek Soule. "Their pitcher (Adam Bailey) did a real nice job of changing speeds throughout game. His change-up and breaking ball were very sharp. They played errorless defense as well. Sometimes you just need to tip your cap to your opponent and acknowledge the fact they outplayed you, which they did.

"I really enjoyed the season as a whole. One of the most enjoyable group of players I have ever worked with. I really thought this team had the heart, mentality and skill to win a state title, but you never know in single elimination tournaments.  We went 16-2, including a 14-game win streak, and won a league championship. We certainly can be proud."

The Rangers will be a force again in 2014 as they return four all-conference players, Will Bryant, Connor Russell, Miles Shields and Bailey Train.

Yarmouth was also sent packing by York, in the quarterfinals. The fourth-ranked Clippers lost, 14-1, in five innings to the Wildcats and wound up 10-7.

Softball

Greely's softball team finally slayed its dragon last week as it returned to the regional final.

The Rangers, seeded fourth in Western B, first hosted No. 12 Yarmouth in the quarterfinals. The Clippers were coming off a 13-2 romp at No. 5 Mountain Valley in the preliminary round, but Greely shot to a 5-0 lead and went on to a 9-3 triumph, as Audrey Mann had three hits and drove in three runs, Mykaela Twitchell hit a home run and drove in a pair and Danielle Cimino scattered six hits.

"I felt good at the plate," Mann said. "I just came in positive. It was really important for us to start with a lot of energy."

"We needed good momentum," Cimino said. "It felt good to win it and to play so well. We had good energy all game and everyone was really in it."

"The girls were totally ready for today's game," added first-year Rangers coach Jess Gomez. "Everyone contributed. That was really good to see."

Yarmouth got a home run from Melissa Levinson and finished 9-9.

"The girls exceeded all their expectations and they're really happy," first-year Clippers coach Amy McMullin said. "We're not focusing on this game right here, but our whole season and the accomplishments we made. The season was better than I anticipated. It was a special group, especially the seniors. We came a long way."

With only two players graduating, it's likely the Clippers will be even better in 2014.

"We're still young," McMullin said. "This season will do a lot for the future of the program. We hope the freshmen can make the playoffs all four years. It's a bold goal."

Greely advanced to the semifinals, where it had to travel to nemesis Fryeburg Saturday afternoon. The Rangers had lost each of the past two seasons to the Raiders in the playoffs and had dropped 10 of 12 overall to Fryeburg, but they went there confident.

"I think Fryeburg's all in our head," said Twitchell. "If we look at them as a new team, we'll go in and hopefully get a win out of it."

Sure enough, Greely broke through, as Twitchell played the hero, driving in two with a first inning bases loaded single. Cimino allowed just one run on five hits, striking out nine and stranded two runners in the seventh as the Rangers held on, 2-1.

Greely advanced to meet No. 6 Gray-New Gloucester (14-5) in the regional final at St. Joe's, which was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday due to rain. The Rangers held on for a 2-0 home win over the Patriots back on April 24. The teams had met five previous times in the playoffs, with Gray-New Gloucester holding a 3-2 edge. The only prior regional matchup came in 2001, a 1-0 Patriots' victory.

Greely was hoping to advance to the state final for the first time since winning it all back in 2002. The state game is Saturday at 11 a.m., at St. Joe's.

Falmouth, coming off its first winning season since 2005, was the No. 7 seed in Western B, but the Yachtsmen couldn't hold a 4-0 lead against No. 10 Poland and lost, 10-7, in the preliminary round last Tuesday. The Knights rode a 10-run fifth inning to victory. Liz Walker hit a home run for Falmouth, which finished 9-8.

"Our wheels came off a little bit. They just capitalized after that," Falmouth first-year coach Ray Fox said. "We panicked a couple of times."

Boys' lacrosse

Falmouth and Yarmouth were on a potential state final collision as the boys' lacrosse playoffs hit the regional final round Wednesday.

The two-time defending Class B champion Yachtsmen, the No. 2 seed in the West after an 8-4 regular season, handled No. 3 Greely in the semifinals, 16-7, although Falmouth scuffled early. The Yachtsmen were down, 2-0, before roaring to life and they never looked back as I.V. Stucker scored six times and Charlie Fay added four goals.

The Rangers got three goals from Brendan Trelegan as they finished the year 8-5.

"This season was a struggle to put four quarters of a game together and Saturday was no exception," said Greely coach Mike Storey. "We are a no-excuse program that understands that falling short of our goals for the season was self induced. Falmouth is a great team with a tradition of being a contender every year. They were able to put a better product on the field Saturday.
 
"We graduate six seniors from our team. Though we will miss the seniors, we are excited to see our program develop and grow stronger every year. We are excited for the potential of our returning players, our junior varsity players coming up and our incoming freshman. It is our commitment to keep improving and put the best product of the field that we can."

Saturday's win sent Falmouth to Cape Elizabeth for a fifth straight regional final meeting between the powers. The Capers frustrated the Yachtsmen twice in the regular season, 11-10, in overtime, at Falmouth and 9-6, at home, rallying on both occasions. The teams have split the previous four Western B Final encounters.

"Obviously, the key to beating Cape is handling their defensive pressure and we're one of the few teams who can," said Yachtsmen coach Mike LeBel. "We have to possess and control the ball. If we can limit their very good transition, play a lot of 6-on-6 and allow (goalie) Will (Nash) to get a good look at shots, I think we have a good chance. It should be another great game."

In Eastern B, Yarmouth and North Yarmouth Academy met in the playoffs for the 14th time in 16 seasons Saturday in the semifinals and produced yet another memorable chapter to their unique rivalry.

First, the second-ranked Panthers advanced with a 20-1 quarterfinal round win over No. 6 Camden Hills, as Oliver Silverson had four goals and Colton Ackerman, T.J. Daigler, Matt Hawkins and Eliott Wellenbach all added three, while the third-ranked Clippers dominated No. 6 Oak Hill in their quarterfinal, 15-1, behind three goals from Brady Neujahr and Nick Ronan.

Saturday, the Panthers got off to a fast start and led, 4-1, in the second period, but the Clippers came back and the game went back and forth in the second half. Twice Yarmouth went ahead, but twice NYA drew even, the second time on senior standout Jacob Scammon's unassisted goal with 7:40 to play. With two teams this even, it wasn't a surprise the game was decided by a fluky play and sure enough the Clippers benefited when Panthers sophomore goalie D.J. Nicholas had the ball fall out of his basket into the goal with 3:36 remaining to put Yarmouth ahead, 8-7.

NYA fought tooth and nail to respond and had three great looks in the final minute-plus, but a Scammon bounce shot went high, Clippers senior goalie Sam Landry made a clutch save on a shot by Wellenbach and after a Yarmouth turnover with time winding down, senior Jeremy Sylvain had a great look in front, but his shot hit the post and Yarmouth survived, 8-7, as seniors Ian Edgecomb and Christian Henry led a balanced Clippers' attack with two goals apiece.

"We have such a (great rivalry with NYA)," said Clippers senior defenseman and captain Drew Grout. "Every single game we play them, we come out like it's our last. We have a lot of respect for that program. We knew we had to bring everything today. Coming in here, we knew this game wasn't just about us. It was about all the graduates, everyone who's ever been in the program. It was a great game both ways."

"We knew from the start that this would be a great game," Henry said. "We're two of the top programs in Maine. They respect us. We respect them. Both teams came out and played hard, blue collar lacrosse. It was what we expected and we came out on top today."

"It was very nervewracking," added Yarmouth coach David Pearl. "I've coached against NYA for many, many years. It's a great rivalry. We knew they'd be up. We knew we'd be up. We knew who their players were. They knew who our players were. Our guys made some adjustments to pressure. They keep pulling themselves off the ground. This is an extra sweet win."

NYA's season ended in agony at 9-5.

"These are weird ones because if you win, you keep going like normal, but if you lose, it just stops," Panthers coach Peter Gerrity said. "I thanked the guys for being such a great group. I would've liked to have gone back to (states), but I had a fun season with these guys and couldn't ask for anything more. We had a great year. We just needed one more today."

A lot of talent, eight seniors in all, including all of Saturday's offensive production, is graduating, but don't expect the Panthers to be anywhere but right near the top of the heap again in 2014.

"We have players coming back," Gerrity said. "Defense will be good. Offense, there's some holes to fill, but I'm not worried about that right now. We'll be fine."

Yarmouth advanced to meet top-ranked Gardiner (14-0) Wednesday in the regional final. The Clippers have to go to Gardiner, but they're eager to deliver revenge for a stunning semifinal round overtime loss to the Tigers two years ago.

"We're very fortunate to be in this position," said Henry. "This means a lot, especially to the seniors, after being down the past two years. We're back up at our normal standard. Gardiner's a great team. There's a reason they're undefeated."

The Class B Final is Saturday at 12:30 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Freeport, the No. 8 seed in Eastern B, finished 3-10 after a 9-3 quarterfinal round loss at Gardiner. Sam Farrar had a pair of goals.

Girls' lacrosse

Yarmouth's girls' lacrosse team was the last one standing at press time, as the Clippers were heading for their 10th straight regional final.

Yarmouth, ranked third in Eastern B, went to No. 2 Freeport for a semifinal Friday and avenged last year's agonizing overtime regional final loss with a 12-10 victory. Grace O'Donnell scored three times, including the goal which tied the game in the second half. Ali Merrill put the Clippers ahead to stay with 3:46 left and Emma Torres clinched it with 4.6 seconds to go.

"The redemption is outstanding," defender Abby Belisle-Haley said. "I got pulled up last year and that was my first playoff experience. I remember the sheer sadness. It was awful. To share this experience is amazing."

"Winning in general is great, but coming back here after losing last year and getting revenge was really great," said O'Donnell. "Our team fights until the end. We've been waiting for this game for awhile and we played our hearts out. With our experience, we pulled it out."

"We've been waiting so long," added Yarmouth coach Dorothy Holt. "I wanted this win so badly for them after last year. We had a lot to prove. What showed was the perseverance of this team. We're young, but our upperclassmen stepped up. We won draws. The 50-50 balls went our way a little bit. We started to hold and control the ball a little bit. That's what it took. It's just a happy day."

The Clippers then got a break as No. 4 Morse upset top-ranked Gardiner, allowing Yarmouth to host Wednesday's regional final (which was played at NYA due to Yarmouth's turf field being renovated). The Clippers and Shipbuilders don't play in the regular season. The Clippers beat the Shipbuilders in all three previous playoff meetings, with a 17-4 romp in last year's semifinals the most recent encounter.

"We're going to have to play like we did today," Holt said. "This team is special. We've had state champions, but every team has its special nugget and this team's special nugget is that they're a great group of young women who are incredibly intelligent at school and incredibly intelligent on the field."

If Yarmouth gets to the state game Saturday at 5:30 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium, it will face a daunting task in either defending champion Waynflete (14-0) or Cape Elizabeth (11-3).

Freeport got four goals from its senior standout, Jocelyn Davee, in the loss to Yarmouth as it finished 6-7.

"I felt like we played the whole game," Kurry said. "I'm pretty excited about that. Four years ago, we'd get killed by Yarmouth. To have two years in a row where we're within a goal either way, I'm happy. The girls played with heart. They became athletes."

Freeport will miss its seniors, but has shown it's a legitimate contender and looks to remain near the top of the standings in 2014.

"We're young still," Kurry said. "We only have three seniors. We thought we had holes to fill after last year. Hopefully we respond as well next year as we did this year."

In Western B, Falmouth and Greely both dropped their first playoff games.

The Yachtsmen, seeded fifth, went to No. 4 York for the quarterfinals last Wednesday and played a back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire affair. Falmouth took first half leads of 4-1 and 7-4, but the Wildcats came back to lead late in regulation. The Yachtsmen didn't quit and tied the game with 1:38 left on Alex Bernier's goal, but York came right back with a goal and held on, 12-11, ending Falmouth's season at 7-6.

Bernier bowed out with five goals and four assists, while Sabrina Smithwick had three goals and Angie Mallis a pair.

"It was frustrating, but it was an exciting playoff game," said Yachtsmen coach Robin Haley. "We had an up-and-down season. We hoped for a little more. It just didn't work out that way. Class B is quite strong."

Falmouth will say goodbye to several key seniors, but should remain in the hunt next spring.

"No doubt the seniors have been integral to the success of the program,' Haley said. "They're significant losses. They did a lot for lacrosse in Falmouth. They put us on the map and made us a competitive program. Hopefully, they've inspired the younger kids. We do return talent that should improve during the course of next season."

Greely finished third in Western B, but had to go to No. 2 Cape Elizabeth for the semifinals Saturday. A slow start doomed the Rangers, who found themselves down, 11-4, at halftime. Greely played better in the second half, but couldn't catch up and went down to a 17-10 defeat, ending its strong season at 9-4. Cameron Keefe and Teal Otley both scored three times.

"You always know heading to Cape's turf means you have a tough game ahead," said Greely's first-year coach Becca Koelker. "But going into the game on Saturday, we felt prepared and ready. However, in the first half, we didn't step up to the challenge. Our defense had trouble with their high-pressure drive and our attack had a difficult time keeping possession. I felt it was the one half this season where our team neither played up to its potential nor did we play like the team we had been all season. Unfortunately, a playoff game and a talented opponent don’t leave much room for error, and that first half of the game cost us.

"There is a huge learning curve for any first year coach, but my team and this community made this season enjoyable and fun. Throughout the season, I asked the girls for more commitment than they had given in the past, and they responded. At the start of the season, my goal was to go 8-4. Though we never got that decisive win we needed, the team ended at 9-4. Maybe next year I should ask for a 13-0 record!"

The Rangers will be heard from again in 2014.

"Our seven seniors contributed much to make this season’s team what it is," Koelker said. "They led us on both ends of the field and since we had a completely new coaching staff, their leadership was equally important off the field. I believe that we’ll see that same type of leadership from our current junior class. I think next year will be more about fine-tuning the concepts than teaching the concepts. I hope to only improve on where we left off this year and I can’t wait to get started."

Track

At the New England track and field championships held Saturday in Connecticut, Greely's Gwen Sawyer was the top local finisher, coming in sixth in the shot put (39 feet-10.5 inches). Teammate Kirstin Sandreuter was eighth in the mile (5 minutes, 5.21 seconds).  Falmouth's Charlotte Cutshall was 11th in the long jump (16-10.5) and placed 32nd in the 100 (13.44 seconds). NYA's Muriel Adams was 13th in the discus (110-4). Freeport's Lexi Dietrich came in 26th in the 200 (26.94). Teammate Kelsey Grant was 28th in the 100 hurdles (17.29). Yarmouth's Megan Smith tied for 32nd in the pole vault (9-0).

Falmouth's 400 relay team (Maggie Seitz, Emma Van Wickler, Jillian Rothweiler and Cutshall) came in 27th (52.48).

On the boys' side, NYA's Jake Burns came in 13th in the 300 hurdles (40.82). Yarmouth's Ben Decker came in 17th in the two-mile (9:42.5). Freeport's Harrison Stivers was 22nd in the 400 (52.53) and 26th in the 800 (2:02.58). NYA's 400 relay team (Burns, Michael McIntosh, El Tayeb Dahia and Dean Walters) came in 28th (45.32).

Several Falmouth senior boys qualified, but chose to skip the event to take part in school graduation activities, according to coach Danny Paul.

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