Greely rallies, stuns Fryeburg in opener
CUMBERLAND—If this is what Greely softball fans can look forward to the rest of the way, they'd be well advised to buckle up and perhaps invest in some heartburn medication.
"This" was an Opening Day thriller for the ages Wednesday afternoon when the defending Western Class B champion Rangers welcomed rival Fryeburg and rose from the depths of despair to the thrill of an improbable comeback victory.
Greely junior Miranda Moore matched Fryeburg senior ace Sarah Herriman pitch for pitch early and the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on a wild pitch, but the Raiders bounced back for two runs in the fourth and the game remained 2-1 entering the seventh.
Then, zaniness ensued.
First, Moore was hit in the head by a throw prior to the start of the top of the frame and had to leave the game. Freshman Kayley Cimino, who scored the game's first run, set Fryeburg down in order, then played an integral role in the events of the bottom half.
After senior second baseman Elyse Dinan reached on an error with one out, she scored the tying run on junior Emily Buchanan's one-out base hit. With one down, sophomore pinch-runner Lexi Faietta got to third base and with two down, Faietta raced home with the winning run on a Cimino bunt as Greely prevailed in breathtaking fashion, 3-2.
The Rangers improved to 1-0 and set the tone for what they hope is a title run.
"It didn't look good for us, but these girls, their ability, is unbelievable," said Greely coach Jessica Brady. "I have 11 of them that I can put anywhere. The stars were aligned. It's amazing. I can tell the girls all day how great they are, but something like this is why I tell them they're good. It's exciting."
Greely and Fryeburg have seen a lot of each other in recent seasons, often in June with the season on the line.
Fryeburg won Class B championships in 2008, 2009 and 2011 and got to the state game in 2012. Since the start of the 2008 season, prior to Wednesday, the Raiders had won nine of 11 meetings against the Rangers (see sidebar, below), including both regular season encounters last spring (4-1 in Cumberland and 6-1 at home), but in the game that mattered most, last year's semifinal, Greely went to Fryeburg and came away with a 2-1 victory.
The Rangers went on to the state final for the first time in 11 seasons, but lost to Oceanside, 8-1.
Greely returned almost everyone, save ace pitcher Dani Cimino, and believes that it can finish the job this season, but Fryeburg is one of the teams standing in the way.
Often, regular season openers are boring and have no flow, but this one set the tone for what could be a special and memorable season.
Moore looked strong in the top of the first, getting shortstop Sydney Charles to ground out to short, Mckenzie Buzzell to ground out to third and Harriman to ground out to second.
Harriman was even more impressive in the bottom half, striking out junior leftfielder Haley Felkel swinging, sophomore rightfielder Miranda Eisenhart swinging and freshman shortstop Moira Train looking.
Leading off the top of the second, Raiders first baseman Kylie Locke doubled over Felkel's head. She was stranded at second, however, as Moore got rightfielder Makayla Frost to pop out to second, second baseman Jeannette White to fly to center and catcher Makayla Cooper to ground out to short.
Harriman walked senior first baseman Mykaela Twitchell leading off the bottom half, but with Twitchell running, Dinan popped out to short and Charles threw to Locke to complete the double play. Harriman then caught Buchanan, the designated player, looking at strike three.
Moore worked out of trouble in the top of the third.
She began the inning by walking leftfielder Lexi Cartland, then hit third baseman Kristen Chapman. Moore got Charles to swing and miss at strike three and after the runners pulled off a double steal, Moore got Buzzell to ground to sophomore Sarah Felkel at third. Felkel held Cartland, threw to first for the out and after Cartland broke for the plate, Twitchell's throw home to sophomore catcher Charlotte Benoit was in time for the double play to end the frame.
When Benoit popped out to shortstop and Sarah Felkel fanned to start the bottom of the third, it looked like Harriman was bound for another easy inning, but Cimino managed to single just inside the first base bag.
"We were nervous going into the game," Cimino said. "You have to get used to it in your first at-bat."
Haley Felkel followed with a bunt hit that Harriman threw away, allowing Cimino to take third. Harriman then threw a wild pitch and Cimino dashed home with the game's first run.
Greely couldn't hold the lead, however, as Fryeburg pushed across a pair of runs in the top of the fourth.
Harriman got the trouble started with a deep fly ball to left. Haley Felkel went back and got a glove on the ball, but couldn't hold it and Harriman steamed into second with a double. Dimitra Katsisanais pinch-ran. Locke drew a walk and after Frost struck out, Moore wild pitched the runners to second and third before White laced a single to center to tie the score. Locke held at third, but Cimino's throw home was high and White took second. Cooper then hit a shot to left that Felkel caught, but Locke came home for a 2-1 lead (the inning ended when White was thrown out at third a split second after Locke crossed the plate).
After Train grounded out to Harriman to start the bottom of the fourth, Twitchell singled to right, but Dinan flew out to right and Buchanan struck out to end the threat.
Cartland seemingly started another uprising with a leadoff infield single in the fifth, but Moore got Chapman to ground out to third (Cartland took second on the play), Charles to pop back to the mound and on the play, Moore threw out Cartland trying to advance to third.
Harriman had a dominant bottom of the fifth, getting Benoit to fly out to center, then fanning Sarah Felkel swinging and Cimino looking.
Moore set Fryeburg down in order in the top of the sixth, which proved to be her final inning, as Buzzell popped out to second, Harriman grounded out to second and Locke hit a pop fly that Dinan chased into foul territory before making a nice lunging catch.
Harriman further frustrated the Rangers in the bottom half, striking out Haley Felkel and Eisenhart and getting Train to line softly to first.
Prior to the start of the seventh, after delivering her final warmup pitch, Moore turned her back to the plate and Benoit's throw down to second hit her in the head. Moore stayed down for several minutes before being helped off the field and Cimino was called into unexpected duty (Moore appeared OK after the game).
Greely could have struggled with its emotions and Fryeburg had a chance to put the game away, but Cimino, living up to the family legacy in a big way, dazzled in her varsity debut. She struck out the first batter she faced, Frost, then got White to line to left and Cooper to ground meekly to first.
"It takes me a little while to get warmed up, but I knew I had a good defense behind me," said Cimino. "I knew I just had to throw strikes. I thought we still had a chance."
"I'm impressed with how the girls rebounded," Brady said. "I wasn't sure how that would go. We haven't had an injury like that in a game or in practice. I told them to take care of the ball. They all backed each other up. They were confident. They were like, 'We've got this, Coach,' which was great. Kayley's really successful after Miranda."
When Harriman struck out Twitchell, perhaps the Rangers' most dangerous hitter, to start of the bottom of the seventh, things looked bleak for the hosts, but they were far from finished.
Dinan followed and lofted a fly ball to left. Cartland came in and got to the ball, but she couldn't catch it and the error allowed Dinan to race all the way to second, giving her team life.
"I wasn't really focused on the overall picture," Dinan said. "I was just trying to make contact and get on. It felt like a pop-up, but I was hoping for the best. I saw I could take two. I tried to take as many bases as I could."
Next up was Buchanan, but before she could swing the bat, Dinan took off for third and barely made it.
"When the throw was coming, I was a bit concerned, but I knew I got there," Dinan said.
Buchanan then came up big-time, lining a shot that a diving White couldn't catch (had she caught the ball, it would have likely led to a game-ending double play) and Dinan came home to tie the score.
Faietta pinch-ran for Buchanan and when Benoit followed with a single to right, Faietta advanced all the way to third.
Sarah Felkel hoped to play the hero, but struck out swinging.
That brought up Cimino, who didn't hesitate, laying down a bunt in front of the plate. With Faietta racing for home, Harriman pounced on the ball and threw it to Cooper, but Faietta got in before the tag and after 92 palpitating minutes, the ballgame was over.
Greely 3 Fryeburg 2.
"Lexi has speed," said Cimino. "Bunting was the plan. I didn't really look at it. I just ran. I was just hoping I did what I was supposed to. I turned around and saw everyone celebrating. It's a good win for us."
"We've been working with Kayley on getting bunts down," Brady said. "She's amazingly fast. She's gotten bunts down in practice, but not in games. She had a perfect bunt and I told Lexi, 'Go!'"
Greely celebrated a little more than most teams would after winning their regular season opener.
"(This win) shows us that even if we're down, we can come back," said Dinan.
Cimino got the win in relief and in the midst of all the seventh inning drama, Moore's strong start was overshadowed. She got a no decision after giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks in six innings. She hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and struck out two.
"Up until this year, Miranda hasn't really pitched a lot of game situations," Brady said. "She pitches in summer league and plays in the winter. She pitched a couple innings last year. She's doing amazing. She put it together and did everything we asked of her."
Greely struggled on offense, but to be fair, the conditions Wednesday were brutal, as the temperature dropped by the inning and a strong wind howled directly in from centerfield. The Rangers did find a way to beat one of the state's best hurlers, however.
"As underclassmen, we were really intimidated by (Harriman), but I've faced her a lot now," said Dinan. "I think everyone on the team, 1 through 9, can hit her."
Harriman wound up the tough-luck loser. She didn't allow an earned run in 6.2 innings and gave up just five hits and one walk while fanning 13.
Fun's just beginning
Fryeburg expects to get in the win column Friday when it goes to Traip.
As for Greely, it hosts Kennebunk Friday.
The Rangers and Raiders will meet a second time, May 19 in Fryeburg, and perhaps a third time in the playoffs.
Greely will build on this win and look to improve.
"It's awesome to get this win to set the tone for the next few games," Dinan said. "We can breathe a little bit now. It's good to have confidence behind us. I don't think we really focus on the pressure. We have pretty much the same team as last year, except Dani. We just try to have fun."
Rest assured, Wednesday was a lot of fun and there's more to come.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Greely-Fryeburg results
Fryeburg 4 @ Greely 1
@ Fryeburg 6 Greely 1
Western B semifinals
Greely 2 @ Fryeburg 1
Fryeburg 11 @ Greely 0
Western B quarterfinals
@ Fryeburg 4 Greely 3
@ Fryeburg 8 Greely 6
Fryeburg 7 @ Greely 0
@ Fryeburg 2 Greely 0
Fryeburg 2 @ Greely 0
Western B semifinals
Greely 6 @ Fryeburg 1
Greely 4 @ Fryeburg 1
Greely 16 Fryeburg 1 (5)
@ Greely 9 Fryeburg 3
@ Greely 10 Fryeburg 3
Greely 5 @ Fryeburg 0