Greely baseball the last team standing after thrilling week on the diamond
(Ed. Note: For the complete Yarmouth-Greely softball playoff game, with additional photos and a box score, see theforecaster.net)
The drama came fast and furious on the baseball and softball fields last week, a week which culminated with just one local squad, Greely baseball, still standing.
Greely baseball won 31 combined games in 2012 and 2013, but couldn't get past the semifinal round. This spring, the Rangers are closing in on their first championship since 2009.
Greely went 13-3 in the regular season and wound up second in Western B. Last Thursday, in the quarterfinals, the Rangers hosted No. 10 Yarmouth, which had beaten seventh-ranked Gray-New Gloucester, 5-3, in a preliminary round game last Tuesday (Jordan Brown threw a three-hitter to earn the win and Luke Klenda had three hits).
Greely would eliminate the Clippers, 4-0, and end their season at 9-9, as Will Bryant threw a two-hit shutout and Mike McDevitt, Chaz Reade and Bailey Train all drove in runs.
The Rangers advanced to Saturday's semifinals where they hosted No. 3 Poland, a team which beat them in the regular season, but this time, Greely scored three runs in the first, added two in the fifth and got another shutout, this time from Connor Russell.
"It was a nice humid day, so the arm feels good," Russell said. "I could have gone nine innings."
"Connor was very poised," Greely coach Derek Soule said. "He seemed in control, both emotionally and physically because of the location of the ball with all his pitches. He was as good as he's ever been."
In the first inning, Tom Bucholz started it off with hit and was followed Sam Porter's double. Train singled and scored Bucholz. Porter came home with the second run on McDevitt's single. Reade then smacked a single, scoring Train. The Rangers then put it away in the fifth, as Cal Soule had a key RBI hit.
"From the first inning, we wanted to play with a lot of intensity and fire," Derek Soule said. "It was awesome to see the fire in their eyes in the first inning."
Greely met No. 1 Lincoln Academy (14-4) in Wednesday's Western B Final. The teams don't play during the regular season. The Rangers had beaten the Eagles in all three prior playoff meetings (a 15-8 romp in the 2009 regional final was the most recent).
If Greely can get to the state game, it will play either Caribou (13-6) or Old Town (12-7) Saturday at 11 a.m., in Bangor.
Freeport was ousted in its first playoff game, 8-3, in a Western B prelim at No. 8 Wells. The ninth-ranked Falcons took an early 2-0 lead, but couldn't hold on and finished 7-10.
In Western A, Falmouth made its first foray into a new class' postseason and as the No. 2 seed, won its opener, 6-0, over No. 10 Westbrook, the defending state champion, in the quarterfinals last Thursday. Addison Foltmer threw a six-hit shutout, Connor MacDowell had three hits and Connor Aube doubled.
The Yachtsmen then welcomed No. 11 Windham Saturday for the semifinals and became the third straight upset victim of the Eagles, falling, 4-2. Aube singled and doubled, but it wasn't enough as Falmouth's season ended at 15-3.
High drama and heartache
Yarmouth's softball team saved its best for last this spring and almost shocked the world.
The Clippers, who won their final six games to wind up 10-6 and fourth in Western B, welcomed No. 5 Greely for what proved to be a marathon quarterfinal round game last Thursday. The Rangers had eliminated Yarmouth from last year's playoffs and rallied to beat the visiting Clippers, 5-4, during the regular season, but this time, Yarmouth had the last word.
The Clippers took advantage of 17 Greely walks and five wild pitches, got a clutch relief pitching performance from Mari Cooper, a timely RBI hit from senior Monica Austin and a late three-run home run from Kallie Hutchinson to outlast the Rangers, 15-11, in 2 hours, 45 minutes.
"There was one point where I thought I'd have a heart attack," Austin said. "In the third inning, it was like 6-o'clock already, but we just never give up. It means a ton for Yarmouth in general. We lost to (Greely) in playoffs last year and it's a huge rivalry. It's absolutely amazing."
"I didn't think I'd pitch at all," Cooper said. "Yesterday, I could barely walk. Today, I thought I'd be a last resort. I went out there in the middle of the game and started warming up and felt good, so I kept going. I was willing to do whatever it took."
"This means a lot, especially for the senior class which has held the program together," Hutchinson said. "We have the talent and we have the ability to come back and be scrappy and aggressive and resilient."
"It's huge for the program," Yarmouth coach Amy McMullin added. "It's exciting. We got this far last year and didn't win, so our goal was to get past what we did last year. It was crazy. Not what you'd think for a playoff game."
Greely got three hits apiece from Kayley Cimino and Haley Felkel (who also had a splendid defensive game), but saw its season end at 11-6.
"It was quite a battle," Rangers coach Jessica Brady said. "A really long game. I thought the girls did well to combat the situation we put ourselves in. I always thought we had a chance. I knew we'd get runners on and could score. We just couldn't score enough today. If you'd told me before the game we'd have 11 runs, I would have said that would be great."
While Greely fell short of getting back to the state final, it had its moments this spring.
"I thought we had a great season even with our ups and downs," Brady said. "The conference was so well balanced this year. There wasn't a lot of dominant pitching, so it just depended on the day. We want to keep learning and getting better. The girls have been great. We'll hope to go further next year."
Yarmouth moved on to play at top-ranked, undefeated Cape Elizabeth Saturday in what proved to be one of the most memorable semifinals in state history.
Few gave the Clippers a chance, especially after the Capers beat them, 6-3 and 13-4 in the regular season, but not only did Yarmouth hang tough, it took a five-run lead to the final inning.
Trailing, 1-0, in the top of the fourth, Austin delivered Yarmouth's first hit, a home run, and the game was tied. Hutchinson then singled in Michelle Robichaud to put the Clippers on top, 2-1. Cape Elizabeth rallied to lead, 3-2, but in the top of the sixth, Hutchinson delivered another key hit, a single to score Melissa Levinson and Cat Thompson. After Cooper worked out of trouble in the bottom of the sixth, Yarmouth appeared to ice its win in the top of the seventh, as Abby Nielsen hit a solo home run, Austin crushed a two-run homer and Thompson went deep as well to make it 8-3.
Needing just three more outs for arguably the biggest win in program history, the Clippers could only manage two.
The potent Capers scored two runs, but Yarmouth was just one out away when Cape Elizabeth put two on for standout junior shortstop Ashley Tinsman, arguably the state's most dangerous hitter and Tinsman delivered, with a game-tying home run. Before Yarmouth could recover from that blow, two pitches later, Tess Haller homered and just like that, the game was over, 9-8, and the Clippers' thrilling season was done as well at 11-7.
Falmouth earned the No. 6 seed in Western A, but lost its preliminary round game last Tuesday to No. 11 Marshwood, 8-3, to finish 10-7.
Sun Journal staff writer Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story.