Freeport blanks Yarmouth to sweep season series
YARMOUTH—The resurgent Freeport baseball team made another impressive statement Wednesday afternoon.
The Falcons have already locked up their first winning record and playoff berth in eight seasons and the latest feather in their cap was achieved with a 7-0 victory at Yarmouth, which marked the first time since 2004 that Freeport swept two games in the same season from its neighbor.
The Falcons produced a dozen hits, broke open a close game with a five-run sixth inning uprising and got another stellar effort on the mound from senior Sawyer Williams, who scattered six hits, as they improved to 10-4, dropping the Clippers to 8-6.
"(Yarmouth's) a great team, but to be honest, I think we're better and I think we showed that today," Williams said. "We always battle. We're always fighting."
The 2012 Falcons feature 10 seniors, many of whom have been on varsity since their freshman year. That group has taken its lumps, losing 14, 12 and 11 games respectively the past three seasons, but this spring, as expected, Freeport has made the leap to not just contender status, but to one of the best teams in the region.
The Falcons got off to a terrific start, beating visiting Yarmouth (11-1, in five innings, behind a combined no-hitter from Williams and Josh Weirich), visiting York (5-4, in eight innings), host Cape Elizabeth (7-3) and York (5-3) and visiting Old Orchard Beach (6-5) before finally falling at Gray-New Gloucester, 5-0. Freeport then became the first team to give reigning regional champion Greely a scare before falling in Cumberland, 4-2. The Falcons bounced back with home wins over Traip (11-1, in five innings) and Poland (6-2) before dropping a nine-inning heartbreaker at Falmouth (5-4) and falling at home to Cape Elizabeth (4-2). Freeport then rediscovered its winning ways on the road last week, triumphing at Wells (8-5) and Lake Region (15-2, in five innings).
Yarmouth is coming off consecutive trips to the Western B Final, but expectations were tempered this spring. The Clippers struggled out of the gate with losses to Freeport (11-1) and Wells (4-3), Yarmouth then 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 with a 3-1 loss to Greely at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, which began a roller-coaster ride. The next day, the Clippers dominated host Cape Elizabeth, 14-3, in five innings. They then lost at home to Falmouth, 5-0, but turned around and handed visiting Greely its first loss, 4-3. Twenty-four hours later, Yarmouth couldn't hold a 4-0 lead and lost on a walkoff at Gray-New Gloucester, 6-5. Monday, the Clippers bounced back once more, coming back from 7-2 down to shock visiting Cape Elizabeth, 9-8, in eight innings.
Over the past decade, including the game on April 12, Yarmouth had beaten Freeport in 12 of 18 meetings (please see sidebar), but Wednesday, the Falcons made it feel like it was 2004 all over again.
Freeport came out aggressive as senior catcher Jared Knighton sent Clippers junior pitcher Chester Jacobs' first pitch of the game deep but foul down the leftfield line. Knighton wound up taking a called third strike, but junior shortstop Connor Dietrich sliced a double down the rightfield line and with two down, scored when junior first baseman Nick Cartmell singled to left.
That would prove to be the only run that Williams would need.
He retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the first, but Yarmouth junior shortstop Thomas Sullivan reached on a throwing error. Williams got out of the jam by getting senior third baseman Bryce Snyder to line out to junior leftfielder Cole Harrison.
Jacobs had his best inning in the top of the second, inducing a pair of grounders and a fly ball to right. In the bottom half, with one down, junior catcher Cal Cooper singled, but Williams got junior designated hitter Nick Lainey to fly out to right and senior first baseman Max Grimm to hit into a force play.
In the top of the third, Freeport doubled its lead as sophomore second baseman Niko DiFazio led off by singling down the leftfield line, stole second and with one down, Dietrich beat out an infield hit and an ensuing error allowed DiFazio to cross the plate to make it 2-0.
Yarmouth threatened in the bottom half. Junior rightfielder Mark Brown singled to left-center leading off and junior centerfielder Caleb Uhl hit a pop fly to right that Falcons senior Zach Greene had to dive to catch. After senior leftfielder Eamon Costello hit into a force play, Sullivan singled and both runners stole a base to get into scoring position, but Snyder's line drive to right was right at Greene and the score remained 2-0.
Freeport had a chance to add to its lead in the fourth as junior third baseman Dan Burke was hit by a pitch and one out later, Harrison reached on a throwing error, but Jacobs bore down and got Williams to hit into a force play and DiFazio to fly out.
Cooper beat out an infield hit with one down in the bottom half, but Lainey flew out to center and Grimm grounded out.
Jacobs allowed just a harmless two-out single by Weirich, the centerfielder, in the top of the fifth.
In the bottom half, the Clippers had a golden opportunity to cut into the deficit, but couldn't do so.
Brown led off and was grazed by a Williams pitch. He took second on a wild pitch, then moved up to third on another wild pitch. With no one out, a run seemed certain, but Uhl grounded to Dietrich with the runner holding, Costello took strike three and after Sullivan walked, Snyder grounded out to short to end it.
"We have to get that run in from third base," lamented Clippers coach Marc Halsted. "We're usually more creative about getting that run in."
"(Getting out of that jam) built our confidence and took theirs down," said Dietrich. "It took away their comeback spirit."
Freeport then put it away, killing Yarmouth softly.
Senior Chris Farley pinch-hit to start the sixth and beat out an infield hit. Senior Kaleb Farmer pinch-hit and hit into a force play before Harrison singled to left-center, bringing Williams to the plate.
The pitcher had a great opportunity to help himself and he did so by placing a perfect bunt down the third base line, which loaded the bases.
"I was a little surprised (coach) called me to bunt, since I don't bunt too often," said Williams. "I knew I had to get it down. I ran hard to first and I saw those people on base with me, it felt fantastic. That's probably the best bunt I've ever laid down. A lot of us are able to put a bunt down in clutch situations. I'm glad he called it in that situation."
DiFazio followed with a single to left, scoring Farmer to make it 3-0, reloading the bases in the process.
Next it was Knighton's turn and he singled down the leftfield line for another run.
Dietrich walked to force home Williams.
DiFazio scored on Weirich's ground out and run number seven came home on an error.
Clippers senior second baseman Ryan Cody started the bottom of the sixth with a single to center, but Cooper hit into a DiFazio-to-Dietrich-to-Cartmell double play. Lainey walked and Grimm singled, but Brown popped back to the mound to end the frame.
With Sullivan now on the mound, the Falcons threatened to add to their lead in the top of the seventh when Farmer led off with a double to deep left and one out later, junior pinch-hitter Brian Rhea was hit by a pitch, but senior pinch-hitter Caleb Emerson-Mains flew out to deep left and Knighton popped out to keep it a seven-run contest.
Williams set down Uhl (on a fly to center) and Costello (on a disputed play at first after a bunt). Sullivan kept hope alive by reaching on an error, but Snyder grounded out to DiFazio and that did it.
Freeport 7 Yarmouth 0.
"Late in the season, it's really important to get any win you can," said Dietrich. "That's what we did today. We came out and we won. It's always good to beat a rival. It's good to beat a good team. It shows we're a good team too. These pitchers threw strikes. We knew Chester would put the ball over. We came in with the plan to attack and that's what we did. Sawyer's a good pitcher. If he's hitting his spots, he's tough to hit."
"Sawyer did a fabulous job," Falcons coach Hank Ogilby said. "I liked how aggressive our lineup was all the way through. Sometimes we get lulled as the season goes on, but we stayed aggressive today. I felt like we were aggressive and if we kept swinging the bats, something good would happen. That aggressive edge, wanting to swing the bats, was our mountain to climb and we did that today."
The Falcons got multiple hits from Dietrich, DiFazio and Weirich. DiFazio scored twice. Cartmell had two RBI, Dietrich, DiFazio and Knighton one apiece. Dietrich had the lone extra base hit. DiFazio stole a base.
Williams improved to 4-1 after allowing seven hits and two walks in his seven strikeout innings. He also threw a pair of wild pitches and hit a man, but was in control throughout.
"I felt in command for the most part," Williams said. "I felt like I had great control. I took my time and slowed down and hit spots."
"Sawyer Williams, in (11) innings against us, has given up one cheap run and a handful of hits," Halsted said. "He should be commended. He went out and did what he had to do."
Yarmouth got a pair of hits from Cooper and steals from Costello and Sullivan, but could never produce a run.
Jacobs fell to 3-2 after allowing seven runs (five earned) on 11 hits, a walk and a hit batter in six innings. He did strike out four. Sullivan allowed a hit and hit a batter, while fanning one in his inning of work.
"Our compete level wasn't very good after the third inning," Halsted said. "We had nice BP, good pregame. We were on them early. Five of our first nine guys hit the ball hard, but from there on out, our compete level wasn't good. We've gone win-lose for five games now."
Yarmouth (now seventh in the tightly contested Western Class B Heal Points standings) can move up Friday when it goes to Falmouth. The Clippers close the regular season Wednesday of next week at home versus York.
"Friday there will be very little said pregame time," said Halsted. "It's a gutcheck."
Freeport (now sixth in Western B) can match the program-best number of wins from this century (11, set in 2002 and 2003) with a win in either Friday's home game versus Fryeburg or Saturday's home tilt against Falmouth.
These Falcons keep setting the bar higher and aren't done yet.
"I wasn't part of that senior group that was really rebuilding," said Dietrich. "I came up as a freshman. We went through some tough times. Through tough times, you learn things. Even during this season, there have been struggles, but we've pushed through them. So far, so good. We're looking to finish off strong."
"A lot of our players have played varsity for four years," Williams said. "Even having losing seasons, we realized we can play. There are a lot of players who know what has to get done this year. We know we can make a statement in playoffs. Our first win over (Yarmouth) put a target on our backs. It made us work really hard. I'm not afraid of who we play. I know we can play with anyone."
"These guys got beat up for their freshman and sophomore years, but they kept working," said Ogilby. "They stayed with the program. Nobody quit. They kept working and learning and now, they're getting what they deserve. We'll take it one game at a time. We won't think too far ahead. We focus on the game at hand and on having fun. It's a lot of fun. It's a fun team. The kids have a good time and everyone's playing together."