Greely softball rallies to beat Cape Elizabeth
CUMBERLAND—Pitching might be the name of the game in high school softball, but it's sure nice to have a potent offense as well.
Just four days removed from a pivotal victory over a recent nemesis which was sparked by a strong pitching performance from junior ace Danielle Cimino, the Greely Rangers turned to their bats Monday afternoon against Cape Elizabeth.
Greely shot to an early 3-0 lead behind an RBI triple from sophomore first baseman Mykaela Twitchell and a booming two-run home run from Cimino, but the Capers answered and took the lead after a five-run fourth inning.
Undaunted, the Rangers kept the hits coming, scored once in the fourth and went ahead to stay with a four-run fifth. Cimino slammed the door from there and Greely improved to 3-1 with an 8-5 victory, dropping Cape Elizabeth to 2-2 in the process.
The Rangers finished with a dozen hits and got some timely defensive gems as well as they continue to stake their claim as a team to beat in Western Class B.
"It was great how they responded," said Greely first-year coach Sarah Jamo. "We're still trying to erase that one inning and play all the way through for seven innings. We kept putting runs on the board consistently. That was good to see."
Cape Elizabeth was a playoff team in 2011, finishing 10-7 after a loss to Oak Hill in the Western B quarterfinals. The Capers have played well in the early going this spring, downing host Falmouth (4-0) and visiting Freeport (10-0), while losing at home to Gray-New Gloucester (4-2).
Greely also lost in the quarterfinals last season (finishing 10-8 after a heartbreaking setback at Fryeburg). The Rangers returned a lot of firepower and brought back a legend as their new coach. A decade ago, Jamo, then known as Sarah Bennis, enjoyed one of the most dominant pitching seasons in Maine high school history, helping Greely win its lone Class B championship before going on to pitch for the University of Maine.
Jamo and her assistant, former U. Maine teammate Jess Gomez, have quickly made their mark.
"We absolutely love our coaches," Cimino said. "They work well together."
Greely opened by holding off host Lake Region, 11-5. After a 12-7 home setback to Sacopee, the Rangers went to Fryeburg and beat the Raiders for the first time in five tries dating back to the 2007 playoffs, 8-1.
That victory proved to be a huge confidence boost.
"It was massive," Cimino said. "We went into that game knowing we lost to them last year, but we knew we could do it. We wanted it bad and we got it."
"Beating them by that score was huge for our confidence," said sophomore Elyse Dinan. "Going into it, we knew they'd be a hard team."
"The girls were ready at Fryeburg," Jamo added. "They jumped out and got a lot of hits. The great thing was that they kept pushing. Dani pitched great that game. They continued to grind against a very good pitcher and scored eight runs."
Last spring, Cape Elizabeth won both meetings between the longtime rivals, 2-1 in Cumberland and 5-0 at home.
Monday, the Rangers got the job done, but it wasn't easy.
The Capers threatened in the top of the first, as sophomore catcher Elise Flathers singled with one out and senior rightfielder Ali Johnson earned a base hit with two down. Cimino was able to escape the jam by inducing a flyout to center off the bat of sophomore centerfielder Mary Perkins.
In the bottom half, Greely senior centerfielder Katie Whittum reached on a bloop single and stole second, but was stranded as senior second baseman Emma Seymour fouled out, Cimino grounded out to first base and senior catcher Edith Aromando lined out to center.
Cape Elizabeth had a great chance to score again in the second inning as senior leftfielder Lexi Cantara singled with one out and moved to second on a groundout by junior first baseman Shannon Nicholson. Sophomore designated player Emma O'Rourke followed with a sharp single to left, but leftfielder Dinan scooped up the ball and fired a strike to Aromando, who tagged out Cantara, keeping the game scoreless.
"I just did what I was supposed to do," Dinan said. "I was comfortable with it. I didn't think it would make it home, but luckily it did."
"We didn't take advantage," lamented Cape Elizabeth coach Joe Henrikson. "We had four hits the first two innings and no runs."
The hosts made the Capers pay in the bottom of the second as senior third baseman Lindsey Arsenault walked with one out and one out later, Twitchell hit a shot to the right of Johnson, who couldn't get to the ball, which rolled all the way to the wall, scoring Arsenault as Twitchell raced to third with a triple. Senior shortstop Caroline Hamilton struck out, but Greely was up, 1-0.
Cimino appeared to hit her stride in the top of the third, setting Cape Elizabeth down in order and in the bottom half, after Seymour singled to left with one out, Cimino got a hold of a pitch from Capers sophomore Anna Goldstein and launched it well over the wall in left-centerfield, giving the Rangers a 3-0 advantage.
"I saw (the pitch) coming in and I was a little out in front of it," Cimino said. "I kept my hands behind the ball as a long as I could. I swung hard and crossed my fingers running down the first base line and saw it go over. I knew when it was off the bat that I got enough."
Just as quickly as Greely appeared to have control of the contest, Cape Elizabeth wrested the lead back.
Johnson led off the fourth with a double over Whittum's head. After Perkins singled to center to put runners at the corners, senior second baseman Emmy Ham doubled to left-center, scoring Johnson and putting both runners in scoring position. Cantara hit a ground ball to Seymour, who tried to come home for the out, but Perkins beat the tag and the lead was down to one. Nicholson beat out a single to load the bases. Cimino then threw a wild pitch and the game was tied.
The damage wasn't done.
O'Rourke grounded to Seymour, whose only play was to first base and home came Cantara with the go-ahead run. When junior third baseman Ellen Best hit a sacrifice fly to right scoring Nicholson, the Capers were on top, 5-3.
The Rangers were staggered, but rose off the canvas and turned to their offense to bring them back.
Greely got one run back in the fourth as Arsenault and senior designated player Emma Brink singled, the girls moved up on a wild pitch and with two down, Whittum beat out an infield single to score Arsenault, making it 5-4.
Cimino returned to form in the top of the fifth, setting down Cape Elizabeth in order.
"I trust my team and I trust my catcher," Cimino said. "I knew we needed to squash it. You have to let it go. Even in the inning, you have to stay composed."
"(Danielle) had some unlucky breaks (in the fourth)," Jamo said. "I had her reset and refocus and continue to mix pitches. That inning, she got away from mixing pitches. I told her to make sure to keep them off balance and keep confident."
The Rangers' bats then did their thing.
Cimino led off the bottom of the fifth by helping herself with a ringing double to left-center. Aromando blooped a single to right to put runners at the corners. Dinan then came up with a clutch single to center, tying the score, 5-5.
"We got a little quiet on the bench, so we tried to pick up our team energy," said Dinan. "That paid off a lot. We've tried to keep good energy all season. I had two bad at-bats before. I just tried to stay confident and make contact and it worked. The coaches have been great with us. Everyone is really confident at bat. There's no one we don't want to be up."
"Elyse has hit very well for us," Jamo said. "She's been a repeat hitter several times. She came alive in scrimmages against some good teams."
After Arsenault reached on an error, the bases were loaded with no one out. Brink then delivered the go-ahead hit, a bloop single to right-center which scored Armonando and re-loaded the bases.
Henrikson made a pitching change, pulling Goldstein in favor of sophomore Katie Rabasca. Rabasca immediately threw a wild pitch to score Dinan and move the runners to second and third. One out later, Arsenault scored her third run of the game on an error and Greely was up, 8-5.
In the top of the sixth, Cantara walked with one out, but Seymour bailed Cimino out by making a superb individual defensive play. Nicholson hit a sharp ground ball at the second baseman and Seymour tagged Cantara going by, then threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
Cimino led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk and Aromando singled, but Rabasca was able to work out of the jam, keeping the deficit at three runs.
In the seventh, Cape Elizabeth's comeback hopes were bolstered by a one-out single by Best, but Cimino slammed the door by getting Flathers to ground out to third and inducing a groundout to shortstop off the bat of freshman shortstop Ashley Tinsman to end it.
Greely finished with 12 hits, as Aromando, Brink, Cimino and Whittum all had a pair.
"We worked very hard in the offseason and the preseason," said Cimino. "We're a hard working team. Coach has helped us with location and timing and adjusting to different pitchers. We've adjusted very well."
"I have kind of a double leadoff with Caroline hitting ninth," said Jamo. "Even Twitchell is kind of a second cleanup hitter. We have tough outs 1 through 9. They had the confidence to know we can score runs and come back at any time. They feed off each other too."
Cimino (who had two extra base hits) and Dinan both drove in a pair of runs. Brink, Twitchell and Whittum also had RBI. Arsenault scored three times. Cimino touched home twice, while Aromando, Dinan and Seymour also scored a run. Whittum had a pair of stolen bases.
Cimino scattered nine hits and a walk while giving up five runs. She struck out one batter and threw a wild pitch.
Cimino credited Jamo for making her a better pitcher.
"She's made me more confident with my pitches," Cimino said. "I love having her as a coach. If I have a bad inning, I can go in and she'll tell me what to do and the next inning it will work. She tells me what to look for."
Jamo, who no-hit Cape Elizabeth the last time she saw Henrikson and the Capers, May 24, 2002, has enjoyed her homecoming.
"It's kind of surreal," Jamo said. "I feel like the coaches and the umpires are the same. It's really fun catching up with everyone."
Cape Elizabeth's lone repeat hitter was Johnson, who also scored a run, along with Cantara, Ham, Nicholson and Perkins. Best, Cantara, Ham and O'Rourke had RBI.
Goldstein fell to 2-2 on the season after allowing eight runs (five earned) on 11 hits and a walk in four-plus innings. She struck out two hitters and threw a wild pitch. In two innings of relief, Rabasca allowed just one hit and a walk.
"We bobbled the ball around a little bit," Henrikson said. "The pitcher didn't keep the ball down. When she did, she was successful. When she left it up, you saw what happened. (Our season) will be determined by our pitching. I think we'll be OK defensively. I don't feel too bad about it. I think we'll be in the mix."
Long road ahead
The Capers look to bounce back Wednesday when they host York. Friday brings a visit from Traip Academy.
As for Greely, it goes to Wells Wednesday and Falmouth Friday. The Rangers have a team capable of accomplishing great things, but they look to keep improving.
"We definitely have a team that can go a long way," Cimino said. "If we play our game, I don't think there's a team anywhere that can beat us."
"The girls have come a long way with their confidence and their level of play," Jamo said. "They're definitely bringing it to the next level, which I'm happy to see. We need to continue to grow our intensity and confidence and make sure we're in it and attack every inning. We really can play with anyone."