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Falmouth blanks Yarmouth, improves to 9-0

Sports

Falmouth blanks Yarmouth, improves to 9-0

YARMOUTH—The secret to the success of the 2012 Falmouth baseball team has been simple.

Good pitching, fielding and hitting make for an unbeatable squad.

The Yachtsmen brought their undefeated show to Yarmouth Monday afternoon and the hosts wren't able to do much with Falmouth junior Thomas Fortier, who threw a two-hit shutout.

The Yachtsmen got all the offense they needed when they took advantage of five walks to score three times in the second. Falmouth added a run in the third and another in the seventh.

Mix in a couple timely defensive gems and the Yachtsmen had what it took to improve to 9-0 by virtue of a 5-0 triumph, while dropped the Clippers to 6-4.

"We're just trying to stay relaxed and going out and trying to do little things right," said Falmouth coach Kevin Winship. "Fortunately right now, we're getting good pitching, we're playing solid defense and we're getting timely hits. The things you need to do. We're doing little things right to win games."

Surprisingly excellent

Falmouth had to like its chances to contend this spring, but no one foresaw the program's best start this century.

The Yachtsmen went 11-7 in 2011, upsetting Cape Elizabeth in the Western B quarterfinals before falling to eventual regional champion Greely in the semifinals, 8-3 and have passed every test to date this season.

Falmouth opened with an 8-2 victory at York, then downed visiting Cape Elizabeth (10-5), host Fryeburg (11-1, in six innings), host Gray-New Gloucester (6-0), visiting Lake Region (8-2), host Poland (8-4), visiting Wells (2-1) and Freeport (5-4, in nine innings), in a game played at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach Saturday.

Yarmouth got to the Western B Final for the second straight year last spring, but fell, 7-5, to Greely. After most of the starters from that squad graduated, the Clippers have remained competitive in 2012. After opening the season with losses to Freeport (11-1) and Wells (4-3), Yarmouth put it together and easily handled Lake Region (13-3), Old Orchard Beach (13-0), Gray-New Gloucester (12-2), Poland (15-4) and Fryeburg (6-0). The run ended Friday night with a 3-1 loss to Greely at The Ballpark. Twelve hours later, the Clippers went to Cape Elizabeth and erupted early, leading 10-0 before an out was recorded in the second inning en route to a 14-3 (five inning) triumph.

"We should have gone to Cape and laid down and complained about being awake early, but instead our guys were fired up and angry," said Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted. "We were up 10-0 before an out was made in the second inning. That was a nice character check."

Over the past decade, Falmouth and Yarmouth had met 18 times heading into Monday with the Yachtsmen holding an 11-7 advantage (please see sidebar). The teams split last spring, with the Clippers holding on for a 7-5 win at Falmouth and the Yachtsmen rolling at Yarmouth, 9-1.

This time around, Falmouth had its way, thanks to Fortier's brilliance.

The game started with a bang when Yachtsmen junior second baseman Drew Proctor ripped a shot to dead centerfield, but Clippers junior centerfielder Caleb Uhl went back on the ball, plucked it out of the air and held on to it while falling to the ground.

"(Caleb) does that every day," said Halsted. "He's fantastic."

Clippers senior starer Andrew Turcotte then got junior designated hitter Seamus Powers to hit a foul pop that Clippers junior catcher Cal Cooper managed to hold  on to while toppling to the ground.

A ground ball to third base off the bat of senior centerfielder Grayson Beressi should have ended the inning, but the throw was high. Turcotte managed to get out of the frame, however, when he got junior first baseman Andrew Emple to also ground to third and this time, senior Bryce Snyder (moving to his left) threw out the runner.

Fortier quickly established his dominance in the bottom half, getting Uhl to fly harmlessly to right, then striking out senior leftfielder Eamon Costello swinging and getting junior shortstop Tom Sullivan to look at strike three.

Falmouth got its offense going in the second with a lot of help.

Turcotte walked sophomore shortstop Will D'Agostino leading off and D'Agostino stole second. Senior third baseman Nick Spencer walked as well and the runners were sacrificed up a base by junior rightfielder Connor Murphy. After senior leftfielder Ryan Conley walked to load the bases, freshman catcher Connor MacDowell looked at ball four and D'Agostino came home with the game's first run.

The Yachtsmen weren't done.

Proctor came to the plate looking for a pitch to handle and he got one, rapping it into rightfield to score Spencer and Conley to give Falmouth a 3-0 lead.

"I was looking for a pitch over the plate," said Proctor. "Rightfield is where I have my power and can drive the ball. I looked for a fastball and that's what I got. I just tried to get my hands out there and drive it."

After Beressi walked with two down to reload the bases, Emple threatened to break it open with a deep fly ball to rightfield, but Yarmouth junior Mark Brown made the catch to end the inning.

Fortier quickly set the Clippers down in the bottom of the second, getting Snyder to ground out to first, senior second baseman Ryan Cody to ground out to second and junior designated hitter Nick Lainey to watch strike three.

The Yachtsmen added a fourth run in the third as D'Agostino reached on an error leading off and came home when Conley ripped a triple to right-center with two outs. Cody prevented further damage by going to his knees on a ground ball from MacDowell and throwing out the batter.

Yarmouth continued to struggle at the plate in its half of the third as Cooper grounded out to second and senior first baseman Max Grimm and Brown both struck out swinging.

Turcotte pitched a strong top of the fourth, setting Falmouth down 1-2-3.

In the bottom half, Uhl popped out to the shortstop leading off before Costello got the team's first hit, a bunt down the third base line. Any hopes of a Clippers' rally were quickly dashed, however, when Fortier picked Costello off first, with Emple firing to D'Agostino to deliver the tag.

"I thought that pickoff was probably the biggest play of the game," said Winship. "I felt a little momentum shift. I know coach Halsted's very aggressive. I knew he'd try to do something. We called for a pickoff, picked him off and that helped with the momentum."

Sullivan managed to walk with two down, but a deep fly ball to right off the bat of Snyder was caught by Murphy, ending the frame.

Turcotte was solid again in the fifth, inducing three straight ground balls.

Yarmouth had a chance to get something going in its half when Cody reached on an error, but Lainey grounded out to short, Cooper popped out to shortstop and Grimm hit a fly ball to center.

With one down in the top of the sixth, a bloop single to center by Conley and a ground ball single by MacDowell created a jam. Turcotte got Proctor to pop out to short, but he went 2-0 on Powers and that was it. Halsted pulled Turcotte in favor of Snyder, who fanned Powers to end the inning.

With one out in the bottom half, Uhl took a pitch square in the back and went to first base, but Costello popped up a bunt attempt, on which Fortier made a pretty sprawling catch in foul ground, and Sullivan grounded out to second.

The visitors scored once more in the seventh. With one out, Emple reached second on a throwing error. Junior pinch-runner Zak Lydick moved to third on a passed ball and scored when D'Agostino flew out to right.

That left it up to Fortier to slam the door in the bottom of the inning.

Snyder led off with a slicing single down the rightfield line, but Fortier wasn't phased. He got Cody to hit a sharp grounder at Proctor, who fielded it, pivoted, threw to D'Agostino for the force and D'Agostino delivered a strike to Emple to compete the 4-6-3 double play.

"It was just hit right at me," said Proctor. "I turned it pretty smoothly and Will, who has a great arm, did the rest."

Fortier then made it official by getting Lainey swinging and Falmouth had a 5-0 victory.

"It's nine straight," Proctor said. "We're playing really well as a team. We're swinging the bats when we need to and we're getting really good pitching. We've played really well. We just have to keep it going."

"We were nervous coming into this game," Fortier said. "Yarmouth's always a good team. Last year, I faced them and it didn't go well. They scored seven in the first inning. They're still a good team this year. We're making plays behind the pitchers. A lot of people are hitting the ball. We just have to keep putting the ball in play. We score early in most games, then fall asleep in the late innings."

Fortier improved to 2-0 with seven shutout innings. He only allowed two hits and a walk and hit a batter while striking out seven.

"He was awesome," said Proctor. "He had his fastball going and when they were sitting fastball, he dropped the curveball. When he throws the curveball for strikes, I can't see a team hitting him hard."

"He was excellent," said Winship. "One of the two hits was a bunt single early. I thought he pitched great. He was out of the zone the whole game. He elevated, hit his spots. I thought he kept them off balance. I thought his velocity was up. He's throwing a lot harder than he has been. He struggled the first couple innings with his breaking ball. I thought he could be in trouble, but he threw it hard enough to blow it by the bottom of the order. He got control of his breaking ball and that made his fastball look that much faster. He spot started and was more of a relief guy last year. He's working with our pitching coach, Craig Pendleton, who's a lefty. They're working hard. He's establishing himself as one of the better pitchers. As long as he hits his spots, he has really good stuff."

Even Yarmouth had to tip its cap.

"Fortier was fantastic," said Halsted. "He stayed ahead of hitters when it mattered most. We didn't have a guy get to second base all game. That tells you everything you need to know."

Fortier struggled with his curveball, but got by.

"My curveball wasn't on today," he said. "I'm not getting enough flick on the ball. I have to find that arm slot. Usually if that's on, my fastball's off.

Not too shabby for a one-time left-handed catcher in middle school.

"When I was a sophomore and coach Winship came, he told me to sell all my gear, that I'd never be behind the plate, even if I was one of the better catchers," Fortier said.

Winship has the luxury of turning to an abundance of arms this spring.

"I'm fortunate to have five guys who are all the same," Winship said. "We rotate them through and get them innings and they're all pitching well now. With the rainouts, we're spot starting guys and figuring out what kind of rotation we want to have."

There wasn't much offense for the Yachtsmen Monday, but they produced enough to prevail. Conley was a repeat hitter, Spencer doubled, Conley tripled and D'Agostino had a steal. Spencer scored twice, while Conley, D'Agostino and Lydick all touched home once. Proctor had two RBI, Conley, D'Agostino and MacDowell one apiece.

For Yarmouth, Turcotte fell to 0-2 after giving up four runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks. He also threw a wild pitch, but got better as the game progressed.

"He walked five out of 10 guys at Freeport, he went to Florida and walked six out of nine guys in his appearance down there and since then, he's thrown five bullpens, including a live simulated game, and I still didn't know what to expect, but I thought he was great," said Halsted. "When he gets it going, he has a fastball that has side-slinger action and cuts in on righties. They had a tough time with him."

Snyder gave up an unearned run and a hit while striking out two in his 1.1 inning stint.

Yarmouth only mustered two hits.

"Today, we got beat by a really nice pitcher," said Halsted. "Our guy pitched well enough to compete, but it's pretty tough when you can't score. I think (Falmouth) might be one of the better hitting teams in our league. I like the swings they took. When we play them in Junior Legion, they have eighth and ninth graders. We beat them up pretty bad, but that's because his sophomores and juniors are on Senior Legion. I haven't seen that group. They're a very good team. They play good defense. The double play at the end. Their centerfielder had to make two catches that weren't easy. Read it, track it and get to the spot."

Big stretch

Yarmouth's crucible continues Wednesday when Greely pays a visit. The Clippers (now eighth in the Western Class B Heal Points standings) are at Gray-New Gloucester Friday. Next week, they host Cape Elizabeth and Freeport and go to Falmouth.

The Yachtsmen host Poland Wednesday, go to Traip Friday, then have a home showdown versus Greely Saturday at high noon. Falmouth still has to go to Freeport and Cape Elizabeth before closing the season at home against Yarmouth and Gray-New Gloucester.

"I feel like we can play with anyone when we pitch and play well," Proctor said. "We just have to keep this train rolling. (Greely's) a huge game, but we can't look forward to that. Anything can happen in this league. We just have to keep it going and play well."

"We're just taking it game by game," Winship said. "We're just having fun playing baseball

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

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth senior Andrew Turcotte suffered through one rough inning, walking five batters in the second, and took the loss.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Falmouth sophomore Will D'Agostino slides safely into second as Yarmouth senior Ryan Cody takes the throw. D'Agostino's steal led to Falmouth's first run.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Falmouth freshman Connor MacDowell gets to third safely despite the best efforts of Yarmouth senior Bryce Snyder.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Yarmouth junior rightfielder Mark Brown makes a catch.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Falmouth sophomore Will D'Agostino reaches first base safely on an error as Yarmouth senior Max Grimm leaps for a high throw.