Falmouth sweeps Greely, earns huge Heal Points
OLD ORCHARD BEACH—Falmouth's baseball team is in a unique situation this spring, knowing it has what it takes to be a force in the Class A playoffs (where it's been assigned due to increased enrollment), but lacking many opportunities to earn critical Heal Points and a high postseason seed due to its Western Maine Conference schedule.
One of those rare opportunities presented itself Saturday night, when the Yachtsmen met powerhouse rival Greely in a doubleheader at The Ballpark and did they ever make the most of it.
Falmouth got a big lift in the opener when freshman pitcher Cam Guarino delivered the performance of his young life, throwing a two-hit shutout in leading the Yachtsmen to a 4-0 triumph.
In the nightcap, senior Addison Foltmer picked up where Guarino left off, blanking the Rangers for six more innings and Falmouth's offense did just enough to manufacture five runs, which proved critical when the Greely offense finally awakened in the seventh, but Foltmer managed to slam the door and the Yachtsmen earned the sweep with a 5-3 victory.
The Yachtsmen improved to 11-2 and shot from fifth in the Western A Heals to first and dropped the Rangers to 10-3 in the process.
"It was a good night for us,' said Falmouth coach Kevin Winship. "I've been here for five years and this is the first time we've beaten Greely. Normally, we only play them once, but tonight we came down here in a playoff atmosphere and the guys were up for it. Everybody contributed today. It shows that we are a good team and we can play with anybody."
Let's play two
Falmouth and Greely were originally scheduled to meet for the first time May 9 in Falmouth, but the game was postponed, setting the stage for an idea to play a twin-bill more than 20 miles from home.
"When we got rained out, (Greely coach) Derek (Soule) and I talked about it and we thought it would be great for the programs to play a doubleheader," said Winship. "There's no homefield advantage here. Playing down here under the lights, with good field conditions, in front of a good crowd was a great idea."
Both squads have been among the best in the state for several years and this spring, Greely and Falmouth have lived up to preseason billing.
The Rangers were a juggernaut in their first three outings, crushing visiting Fryeburg (12-3), Kennebunk (12-5) and Lake Region (18-2, in five innings). Greely then went to Poland and was frustrated, 3-0, but the Rangers got back on track with an 8-1 home victory over Wells and a 5-4 home win over Yarmouth. After the rainout at Falmouth, Greely rewrote the school record books with a 25-2 (five inning) romp at York, beat visiting Cape Elizabeth (6-1), then won at Freeport (11-4), at Fryeburg (12-2, in five innings) and at Gray-New Gloucester Wednesday (12-2, in five innings).
The Yachtsmen avenged a playoff loss by beating visiting York in the opener, 9-2. Wins at Cape Elizabeth (3-1) and at home over Freeport (3-2) and Fryeburg (15-4) followed. After a 2-0 loss at Gray-New Gloucester and a 7-5 setback at Kennebunk, Falmouth beat host Lake Region (14-3), visiting Wells (12-2, in five innings), host Wells (3-2), visiting Kennebunk (5-4) and Yarmouth (12-2).
Entering Friday's contest, Greely had won 16 of 20 meetings against Falmouth dating to the start of the 2002 season, including last year's 5-1 home victory (see sidebar, below).
This time around, in front of a good sized crowd on a chilly, but pleasant night for baseball, the Yachtsmen beat the Rangers for the first time in seven tries, since May 5, 2010 (7-5 in Falmouth), and liked it so much, they did it again.
Falmouth took the lead with a little help in the top of the first.
Junior catcher Connor MacDowell walked against Greely junior pitcher Will Bryant (who struck out 20 against Freeport in his last start) to lead off, then stole second. After sophomore centerfielder Connor Aube struck out looking, a passed ball moved MacDowell to third. It appeared Bryant might escape trouble when he got senior shortstop Will D'Agostino to pop out to freshman catcher Dylan Fried in foul territory (Fried had just switched gloves after his passed ball and it clearly helped), but a sharp ground ball off the bat of senior rightfielder Addison Foltmer wasn't cleanly handled by Rangers senior third baseman Sam Porter and MacDowell came home to make it 1-0.
"Connor got on base and the ball Foltmer hit was smashed," Winship said. "Even if he makes the play, that's a tough play. Foltmer's squared the ball up lately. We took advantage of a mistake. It worked out for us."
After Foltmer stole second, Bryant ended the frame by getting junior third baseman Noah Nelson to ground out to short, with senior first baseman Mike McDevitt making a nice scoop at first base to end the frame.
Guarino hinted at a dominance effort to come by setting Greely down 1-2-3 in the bottom half, getting junior centerfielder Miles Shields to ground out to short, Porter to fly out to right and senior rightfielder Bailey Train to pop to short.
Bryant hit sophomore first baseman Jesse Melchiskey to open the top of the second, but after Melchiskey stole second, Bryant settled down and got junior designated hitter Cal Inlow to pop out foul (with the pitcher making the catch), freshman second baseman Colin Coyne to pop out to short and senior leftfielder Patrick Lydon to pop out to Fried in foul territory.
The Rangers threatened in the bottom half.
McDevitt led off and reached on an error by Nelson. Bryant then ripped a single to right, but junior designated hitter Chaz Reade popped out to D'Agostino in shallow center, senior shortstop Patrick O'Shea grounded out to third unassisted and senior leftfielder Tom Buchholz lined out to center to end it.
MacDowell started the third by ripping a shot to left, but Buchholz made the catch. Aube then flew to center and after D'Agostino beat out an infield single, Foltmer grounded out first to the pitcher.
Sophomore second baseman Calvin Soule blooped a single to center to start the bottom of the third, but after Shields bunted him over and after Porter grounded out to short, Train hit a sharp grounder to Nelson's right and Nelson made a nice backhanded stop before throwing out the runner to keep the score 1-0.
In the fourth, Nelson grounded out to short leading off. Melchiskey then ripped a single to right and was almost thrown out at first by Train, who was playing shallow, but reached safely. With Inlow at the plate and Melchiskey running, Bryant threw a wild pitch. Inlow then struck out and Bryant ended the inning by getting Coyne to line out to center.
Guarino continued to stymie the Rangers in the bottom half, as McDevitt lined out to center, Bryant popped to second and Reade grounded out to short.
Falmouth doubled its lead in the fifth.
Lydon led off by beating out an infield hit and MacDowell sacrificed him to second. After Lydon went to third on a passed ball, Aube walked on a 3-2 pitch and stole second. D'Agostino was intentionally walked and when Foltmer grounded to O'Shea, it looked like Greely might escape, but after O'Shea threw to Soule for a force, Foltmer managed to beat the relay for an RBI. Nelson struck out, but the Yachtsmen were up, 2-0.
After O'Shea lined softly back to the mound to start the bottom half, Buchholz drew a walk on four pitches. Soule bunted in front of the plate and nearly beat it out, but Guarino made the throw to Melchiskey just in time. Shields then grounded to second and Guarino had preserved the advantage.
Falmouth continued to steal and small-ball the Rangers to death in the sixth, as senior lefty Connor Russell came on pitch.
Melchiskey was hit by a pitch leading off, stole second and went to third on a bunt by Inlow. Coyne was hit by a pitch and Lydon then popped a ball foul, but junior catcher Reid Howland (who replaced Fried in the top of the inning) had to go a long way to reach the ball, then couldn't corral it, giving Lydon second life. After fouling off several pitches, Lydon hit a slow ground ball that McDevitt had to dive to stop and not only did Lydon reach with an infield hit, but Melchiskey crossed the plate with run number three.
"When you play a team this good, you can't expect one or two runs to be enough," said Lydon. "We wanted to keep the pressure on and have good at-bats and make things happen. I just wanted to get on. Russell's one of the best pitchers around. I was just trying to put the ball in play any way I could. I just hoped for the best."
"I don't put typical nine guys in the number nine hole," Winship said. "Putting good hitters there helps win games and we proved that again today. Patrick's a great player. He's a senior. He's come up with big hits for us. I was so glad to see him come through and succeed."
After MacDowell hit into a force, Aube hit a ball that appeared ticketed for medium center, but the wind brought it back toward the infield and Shields couldn't reach it in time as it fell for an RBI single. D'Agostino then hit a pop up to end the inning, but not before Soule had to battle the wind and run towards home to make the catch (bringing to mind Billy Martin's catch in the 1952 World Series).
Luck wasn't on the Rangers' side in the bottom half, as Porter led off the bottom half with a ground ball that deflected off Guarino's glove right to D'Agostino, who threw him out. Train walked, but McDevitt grounded into a force and Howland looked at strike three.
Falmouth looked for more in the seventh, loading the bases before failing to score.
Foltmer walked and Nelson reached on an error, but Melchiskey looked at strike three and Inlow hit a grounder that appeared heading to right, but it hit sophomore pinch-runner Tyler Gee for out number two. After Coyne singled to left to load the bases, Lydon struck out looking.
Guarino then quickly ended the game in the bottom half.
The lefty struck out Reade swinging, got O'Shea to hit a little pop fly back to the mound and Buchholz to pop out to D'Agostino to end it.
"Our mindset going in was this was big Heal Points for us and it's always nice to knock Greely down a peg," Lydon said. "We're going for a top seed and these games help a ton. It was a great environment. We played some spring ball down at Wide World of Sports in Florida. That was fun, but nothing compares to this. This is amazing."
"I'm happy for the boys," Winship said. "They came together and played well. Beating Greely is a great feeling. We just went out and played the game. It's great for the kids. It's a playoff atmosphere. We talked about having good at-bats, being patient and putting the ball in play. We weren't looking for home runs."
Guarino didn't just throw a two-hit shutout (with two walks and two strikeouts), he also stayed undefeated and has yet to surrender a run.
"It was nervewracking," Guarino said. "They have giant kids. It was scary to go against them. I thought they were going to crank one out. I felt great. I was just hitting my spots really well. I threw hard and my curveball was on point. It was definitely the best I've pitched. I thought I'd go four or five innings, but going the whole way was awesome. My changeup low and away just worked. I was hoping we'd keep scoring. It was a lot of fun to pitch here."
"(Cam) was absolutely incredible," Lydon said. "He's a freshman and this is one of the biggest games he'll ever pitch in his high school career and he pitched a gem. He's pitched well all year. He may not throw the hardest, but he throws strikes and we knew he could do it."
"Knowing Greely and the way they like to swing the bats, they're aggressive at the plate, we knew keeping them off-balance was our best bet to win," Winship added. "Cam is a lefty pitcher, who has an excellent curveball and a changeup he can throw for strikes. He came out as a freshman and shut them down. He's 4-0 with a 0.00 ERA. He's gotten some quality wins. He can pitch. He's excellent."
Lydon was the lone repeat hitter. Coyne, Lydon, MacDowell and Melchiskey scored runs. Aube, Foltmer and Lydon all had RBI.
The biggest key to the offense was six stolen bases, as Melchiskey had a pair and Aube, D'Agostino, Foltmer and MacDowell each had one.
"I went with the philosophy of being aggressive," said Winship. "We started running early, it worked and we kept it going. We wanted to put pressure on them and make them make plays."
Greely only managed two hits in a frustrating performance.
Bryant fell to 2-1 after giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks in five innings. After fanning 20 in his last outing, he only struck out three, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
Russell gave up two earned runs on three hits and a walk in two innings, fanning two and hitting two.
"We were way too over-anxious," Soule said. "We swung at a lot of pitches out of the zone. We didn't stay back. We tried to pull outside pitches. The disappointing thing is we talked about avoiding it and we talked about the approach we wanted to take, but we didn't do it. We had a few close calls that didn't go our way. They didn't have too many hard-hit balls, but that's baseball.
"We have no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We've got to flush it and hopefully get momentum early (in game two). It's going to be critical whether we can plate a run or two early to get our mojo back at the dish."
As the road team, Greely wanted to start the second game on a high note, but ran itself out an opportunity to do so.
Shields grounded out to second leading off, but Porter lined a single the other way. He was then picked off and after a long rundown, tagged out for out number two. Train struck out to end it.
Falmouth was up to its game one tricks in the bottom half, as MacDowell walked and stole second. Aube struck out and D'Agostino did the same, with MacDowell stealing third on strike three (the Greely cheering section argued vociferously that he was out). That call loomed huge as a passed ball by Howland allowed MacDowell to score the game's first run.
"We just wanted to get quality at-bats and get on base any way we could, because we know we have the speed to hurt them on the basepaths," MacDowell said.
Foltmer eventually walked, as did Nelson, but they were stranded when Melchiskey lined softly to O'Shea.
McDevitt led off the top of the second inning and drew a walk on a full count pitch, but it only resulted in more frustration, as Bryant flew out to left and Reade hit into a 6-4-3 double play, with Coyne making a nice turn at second.
In the bottom half, Train put it all on his shoulders and struck out Inlow swinging, Coyne swinging and Lydon looking.'
Greely again ran itself out of an inning in the third.
After O'Shea popped out to D'Agostino, Buchholz reached on an infield hit, but Foltmer picked him off and then struck out Soule.
Falmouth got it going again in the bottom of the frame as MacDowell beat out a grounder to the hole for an infield hit, stole his third base of the game and after Aube walked on a full count pitch, D'Agostino lined to Bryant, who couldn't hold on to the ball and the bases were loaded. Foltmer came up with a chance to help himself, but struck out on four pitches. Nelson then got down 1-2, but Train threw a wild pitch to score MacDowell. Nelson looked at strike and Melchiskey grounded to third, with Porter making a nice dig and throw to end the inning, but the Yachtsmen's lead was two runs.
Shields flew to right to start the fourth and after fouling off several pitches, Porter looked at strike three. Train then fanned as well.
In the bottom half, the bottom of the order sparked a rally. After Inlow walked, Coyne hit a slow roller to the right of Train. Porter raced in to get it and almost collided with O'Shea and his throw to first was late, as Coyne was credited with an infield hit. Lydon laid down a nice sacrifice bunt to put runners at second and third for MacDowell, but he swung at the first pitch and popped out to McDevitt in foul territory with the runners holding. Aube then came up big, with a single up the middle and Inlow and Coyne scored to stretch the lead to 4-0.
"Connor's by far one of the best players in the state and he's only a sophomore," Winship said. "He's done that all year, come up with big hits. He's great on the bases and defensively."
Train then hit D'Agostino and walked Foltmer to load the bases for Nelson, who walked on a 3-2 pitch to bring in Aube. Melchiskey then hit a deep fly ball to center, but Shields ran it down to finally end the frame with Falmouth on top, 5-0.
"Bailey's one of the best pitchers in the state," Winship said. "He throws really hard. We took advantage of a control issue he was having and we kept being aggressive. We took bases when we could, we bunted a lot and I put hit-and-runs on. We were successful. The guys executed what we wanted to do and we took advantage of their mistakes. That gave us a spark."
McDevitt flew to center to start the fifth, then Bryant hit a shot that appeared headed for the left-centerfield gap, but Aube ran it down for out number two. Foltmer then got Reade to ground back to him to end the frame.
Porter replaced Train in the bottom half and got Inlow to strike out swinging. Coyne reached on an error and went to second on a passed ball. Lydon sacrificed Coyne to third, but MacDowell grounded out to second to end the inning.
Falmouth showed off its defense in the sixth, as freshman rightfielder Reece Armitage ran a long way to catch a foul ball off O'Shea's bat and Foltmer came off the mound to snare Buchholz's bunt and threw him out by a step. Soule singled to center, but Shields grounded out to short.
In the bottom half, Aube led off with an infield single off Porter's glove and took second on a wild throw. D'Agostino struck out, but Foltmer was hit by a pitch. With Nelson at the plate, Aube was thrown out trying to steal third and Nelson struck out.
Things then got very interesting in the seventh.
Senior pinch-hitter Corey Brink drew a walk off Foltmer to start and Train then ripped a shot that ticked off the top of a leaping Coyne's glove (it would have been a double play had he caught it) into right-center for a single. A wild pitch moved the runners up and McDevitt finally broke the ice when he ripped a double to deep right-center which Aube just missed catching with a desperate dive. Brink and Train scored and the deficit was suddenly 5-2.
After McDevitt was replaced by sophomore pinch-runner Matt Pisini, Bryant grounded out to short, with Pisini moving to third. Senior Joe Saffian then flew to left with Pisini coming home to make the score 5-3.
When O'Shea walked, Buchholz came to the plate as the tying run and Winship decided to keep Foltmer in the game.
"They have good hitters, but (Addison's) a senior and he threw really well tonight," Winship said. "He deserved to finish. We sent (pitching coach) Craig (Pendleton) out to check on him and he said he was getting a little tired. I yelled out that this was his last batter. He deserved to finish."
O'Shea was replaced by junior pinch-runner Gabe Axelsen and Buchholz never had a chance to keep the inning going, as Axelsen, who wasn't held on by Melchiskey, took off for second and MacDowell threw him out to end it.
"They weren't holding him on so (the steal) should have been automatic," Soule said. "(The first baseman) was playing 15 feet back. Unfortunately, a young baserunner didn't get the lead he should. When you're not being held on, you should be able to steal standing up."
"I'm always on my heels for a steal," MacDowell said. "I just threw it. It was a great way to end it."
"I just wanted to make sure I got (the hitter) out," Foltmer said. "(Connor) had a great throw to end it. He called a great game."
"I was surprised they sent (the runner)," added Winship. "I'm happy they did. We'll take it."
Falmouth had its sweep.
"It feels great," Foltmer said. "We were just looking to play good baseball. We were lucky enough to come out with two wins. It was a great team effort. After Cam won the first one, we knew getting the second one would be huge and we did it."
"This whole atmosphere under the lights with our parents in the stands felt like the playoffs and had us ready to go," MacDowell said.
Foltmer improved to 2-1 after giving up three runs (all earned) on five hits and three walks in seven innings. He struck out four and threw a wild pitch.
"Addison was on point," MacDowell said. "He hit all of his spots. I couldn't have asked for much more. We knew we had a cushion at the end."
Aube was the Yachtsmen's lone repeat hitter. MacDowell scored twice, while Aube, Coyne and Inlow each touched home once. Aube drove in two runs, while Nelson also had an RBI.
Falmouth stole three more bases and MacDowell had all of them.
For Greely, Train fell to 2-1 after giving up five runs (three earned) on three hits and seven walks in five innings. He fanned seven and also hit a batter.
"It's a huge mound here," Soule said. "Our guys seemed to have a lot more trouble adjusting to it than they did. Not only is it a big mound, but it's a hard mound. Bailey just didn't feel comfortable with it."
Porter threw a scoreless sixth, giving up one hit and hitting a batter, while striking out two.
Brink, Pisini and Train scored runs, while McDevitt had two RBI and Saffian one.
"We needed to break the ice much earlier," Soule said. "If we did, things might have been much different. In high school baseball, things have a habit of steamrolling, positively or negatively. Guys felt the pressure. We finally broke the ice after 13 scoreless innings, but at that point, we dug too deep a hole."
Greely (now third behind Poland and Lincoln Academy in the Western B Heal Points standings) can't dwell on the sweep for long and appears to have just the medicine it needs when York pays a visit Wednesday in the home finale. The Rangers then close the regular season with games at Kennebunk Friday and Cape Elizabeth June 2.
"The positive of today is that we had some weaknesses exposed that haven't been," Soule said. "We can go back and work on them."
Falmouth welcomes Cape Elizabeth Wednesday in its home finale. The Yachtsmen then finish at Yarmouth Friday and Poland June 3
Falmouth hopes to stay atop the Western A standings, but even if it wins out, it will depend on what happens with the teams in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association. Regardless of the Yachtsmen's playoff seed next month, they know they can beat anyone, anywhere.
"The Heal Points from this are huge and knocking Greely off feels awesome," MacDowell said. "I feel great about us. This was a statement win. We just need to keep it going. We still have a long way to go."
"Playing in the A tournament, we need as many Heal Points as we can get," Winship said. "Greely's worth a lot. My goal at the beginning was just to get in the playoffs. Now, we're in and we just need a high seed. We're just playing baseball and having fun and believing in each other."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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Western B semifinals
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