Another memorable chapter...Greely outlasts Yarmouth
CUMBERLAND—Players come and go, expectations rise and fall, but the one thing you can set your watch by in the months of April, May and June is that when Greely and Yarmouth meet on the baseball diamond, down-to-the-wire thrillers are sure to ensue.
Wednesday afternoon at Twin Brook Recreation Center, when at last, it felt more like spring than winter, in the only scheduled meeting of the season between the neighbors and rivals, the Clippers and Rangers put on yet another show.
Early on, Greely junior hurler Will Bryant overwhelmed Yarmouth, retiring the first eight batters he faced. The Rangers then appeared to give him a comfortable lead in the bottom of the third, when senior Mike McDevitt singled in two runs.
But the second time through the lineup, the Clippers were able to solve Bryant and they pushed across a run in the top of the fourth. After Greely answered with a run in the bottom half, Bryant lost the strike zone in the fifth and Yarmouth took a 4-3 lead by virtue of a three-run rally capped by junior Connor Lainey's RBI single.
The Rangers quickly responded, tying the game in the bottom half and after some fits and starts from both teams, the game went to the bottom of the seventh still deadlocked, 4-4.
Then, Greely put a bow on the latest instant classic.
Bryant was hit by a pitch leading off and with two down, senior pinch-runner Corey Brink made his way to third base.
That set the stage for senior Patrick O'Shea. O'Shea, in his prior at-bat, lined into a double play with a bases loaded to end the fifth, but this time, his solid contact produced a sharp ground ball that found leftfield and Brink came home with the run which gave the Rangers a thrilling 5-4 victory.
Greely got solid pitching from not only Bryant, but also senior Alex McAdoo and McDevitt in relief and improved to 5-1, while dropping Yarmouth to 4-2 in the process.
"All we seem to be able to do is have close games with Yarmouth," said longtime Rangers coach Derek Soule. "That makes it fun. It adds to a good border-town rivalry. They have a good group of kids who have had a lot of success at younger levels. They're experienced in big games."
Never a dull moment
When Greely and Yarmouth square off, you never know what to expect and you can throw the teams' record out the window.
This spring, the Rangers appear to have the stronger squad, but both teams entered the game with 4-1 records.
The Clippers, who graduated almost everyone from last year's playoff team, started with a pair of wins over Cape Elizabeth (5-1 away and 4-1 at home), then edged visiting Freeport, 2-1, and outslugged visiting Fryeburg, 16-11, before falling for the first time Monday, 4-1, to visiting Gray-New Gloucester.
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). Friday, Greely went to Poland and was frustrated, 3-0, but it quickly put that loss in the rearview mirror.
"That loss was an eye-opener, absolutely," Bryant said.
Monday, the Rangers got back on track with an 8-1 home victory over Wells.
"The guys didn't get too down (after the loss)," Soule said. "Because of an extended softball game, we stayed on the field an extra hour. We took ground balls and played pepper. We let it all out. I thought that was probably better than anything I could say. We came out refocused and had a good practice Saturday and played a complete game against Wells."
While Greely once owned this rivalry, winning 13 straight meetings between 2003 and 2008 and 15 of 16 in one stretch, Yarmouth has made things much more interesting in recent years (please see sidebar, below).
The Clippers swept the Rangers in 2010 and the teams split two one-run contests in 2011, before Greely prevailed, 7-5, in the regional final. Two years ago, the Rangers won a "home game," played at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, then Yarmouth got a measure of revenge with a 4-3 home victory. Last year, Greely swept, but it wasn't easy. In the first meeting, in Yarmouth, the Rangers won, 10-7, in eight innings on Bailey Train's home run. Then, in Cumberland, Greely eked out a 1-0 decision.
Wednesday, the Rangers made it three in a row over the Clippers, but it sure wasn't easy.
Bryant appeared unhittable early and he caught sophomore shortstop Cody Cook looking at strike three, fanned Brown swinging, then got sophomore leftfielder C.J. Cawley to ground out weakly to third to end the top of the first.
Greely threatened against Brown in the bottom half, but couldn't score.
Junior centerfielder Miles Shields popped out to short leading off, but senior third baseman Will Porter ripped a single to right-center. After Train, the rightfielder, lined out sharply to Yarmouth junior centerfielder Caleb Pineo, McDevitt grounded deep into the hole between third base and short, but Cook made the stab and threw across the diamond to end the frame.
Bryant then struck out both Lainey (the third baseman) and sophomore first baseman Luke Klenda swinging, before getting senior rightfielder Kris Cody to ground weakly to short to end the top of the second.
In the bottom half, the Rangers again threatened to score, but couldn't do so.
Leading off, Bryant was hit by a pitch. he moved to second, as junior designated hitter Chaz Reade grounded out to third, then went to third base on a ground out by junior catcher Reid Howland. O'Shea hoped to play the hero, but he flew out to center to keep the game scoreless.
Bryant got two quick outs in the top of the third, as he got Pineo to squib a ball in front of the plate, which Howland pounced on before throwing to first, and induced sophomore catcher Ryan Nason to pop to second. Sophomore designated hitter John Snyder than suggested that Bryant wasn't immortal, as he singled to right. Cook grounded out to short to end the frame.
In the bottom half, Greely finally broke through.
Sophomore second baseman Calvin Soule grounded out to short, but Shields singled to right, was balked to second and when Porter ripped a single to left, runners were at the corners. Brown appeared primed to get out of the jam when got Train to chase an off-speed pitch for strike three, but Porter stole second and McDevitt followed by slamming a single to center, scoring both runners for a 2-0 lead. Bryant grounded out to end the inning, but the Rangers appeared to have a safe lead.
Not so fast.
Brown ripped a line drive to left leading off the top of the fourth, but senior Tom Buchholz snagged the ball just before it hit the ground for out number one. Cawley was next and he singled to left. Cawley stole second, then took third on a passed ball. After Lainey walked, with Klenda at the plate, a wild pitch allowed Cawley to score to put Yarmouth on the board. Klenda then struck out and Cody looked at strike three and Greely took a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the fourth.
Where the Rangers promptly added to their lead.
Leading off, Reade ripped a single to left-center. Sophomore Matt Pisini pinch-ran and stole second. Buchholz's sacrifice bunt moved Pisini to third and after senior Joe Saffian struck out looking, Shields singled to left for a 3-1 advantage.
Bryant looked to preserve the advantage in the fifth, but wasn't able to do so.
After Pineo grounded out to third to start the frame, Nason went the other way and doubled over Train's head. Snyder walked and both runners moved up on a double steal. On the play, Howland threw wildly and Nason came home to score. Snyder moved to third on a passed ball and with Cook hitting, Snyder broke for the plate as Bryant's pitch was wild and Snyder came home to tie the score.
Cook then drew a walk and Brown was hit by a pitch. Cawley grounded out to short, but Lainey cracked a single to right, scoring Cook to give Yarmouth a 4-3 lead and putting runners at the corners.
That was it for Bryant, who was replaced by McAdoo.
McAdoo kept it a one-run game by getting Klenda to ground out to second.
Greely bounced right back in the bottom of the fifth.
Train slammed a single through the box leading off. McDevitt then drew a walk and Bryant did the same to load the bases. The Clippers got the first out of the inning when Reade grounded to Lainey at third, who threw to Nason, who tagged out Train. Brown wasn't able to stem the tide, however, walking Buchholz to score junior pinch-runner Gabe Axelsen with the tying run.
The Rangers were poised to take the lead, but O'Shea's line drive was right at Yarmouth sophomore second baseman Andrew Kinsman, who made the catch, then threw to Cook for the double play which ended the inning with the game tied, 4-4.
After Cody grounded out to lead off the top of the sixth, Pineo singled to center and moved up to second on a ground out by Nason, but he was picked off to end the inning.
Greely threatened again in the bottom half, as Soule singled to left, ending Brown's stint on the mound.
Nason took the mound in relief and got Shields to pop back to the mound on a bunt. He then struck out Porter, but strike three landed in the dirt and Soule took off for second. He arrived safely and went on to third as the throw from Snyder (who had taken over as catcher) went awry. The go-ahead run stayed put, however, as Train was walked intentionally and McDevitt grounded to the hole where Cook made a play on a tough hop before throwing out the batter.
The Clippers looked to go ahead in the seventh, but McDevitt fanned Snyder looking and got Cook to fly to center. After Brown singled down the leftfield line and was replaced by sophomore pinch-runner Ben Pineo, McDevitt got Cawley to ground to third, where Porter made a nice play before throwing across the diamond to set the stage for the fateful bottom of the seventh.
Nason stirred up trouble by hitting Bryant leading off.
"I got hit in the foot," Bryant said. "I usually get up pretty close to the plate. I think I've been hit by eight balls so far this year. Two this game. That got us going."
Reade laid down a nice sacrifice bunt and Bryant was replaced by Brink. Nason got close to escaping the inning when he induced Buchholz to ground back to the mound and that brought O'Shea to the dish.
O'Shea didn't work the count, pouncing on the first offering he saw and his one-hopper got past Lainey and went into leftfleld, scoring Brink with the winner.
"I just wanted to get the bat on the ball and make up for the last time when I lined into a double play," said O'Shea. "I got my feet set and hit it pretty good. It felt good."
"(Pat) came through," Bryant said. "He had a great hit and it scored the winning run. That was awesome."
"I pinch-hit for him early, but his next at-bat, he came in and looked very determined," Soule added. "He lined out, but he was right on it. I felt good that he'd come through. It's one thing to get a walkoff with no outs or one out, but two outs is pretty cool."
After a dramatic 2 hours and 18 minutes, Greely prevailed, 5-4.
"Yarmouth is always a scrappy team," said O'Shea. "No matter what they have skill-wise, they come out to play, especially against our team. We're big rivals."
"It was a tough battle," Bryant said. "We battled hard and got the win, but they're a very good team. It's a great rivalry."
"I thought it was great to have a close game and give these guys experience in a big game and let them work through the pressure," added Soule. "We didn't execute well defensively. We gave up a few runs. Yarmouth runs the bases really well. You can't give them base runners. We've got to play seven innings of defense, which we haven't done yet."
The Rangers' offense pressed the whole game, not going 1-2-3 a single time, in producing nine hits (Porter and Shields both had two). Axelsen, Brink, Pisini, Porter and Shields all scored. McDevitt had two RBI, while Buchholz, O'Shea and Shields also drove in run.
Bryant didn't earn a decision, but struck out six in his 4.2 inning stint. He allowed four runs on four hits with three walks. He hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches.
"I was feeling good all day," Bryant said. "When I started warming up, I felt great. It was the warmest day all year. I started off well, but toward the later innings, I got tired and couldn't find the strike zone."
"Will got tired," Soule said. "He didn't have as good a fastball as he had the previous game, but he still was pretty dominant the first time through the lineup. He started missing up and walked a few and they got some hits too."
McAdoo retired the only batter he faced and McDevitt improved to 1-0 with two shutout innings. McDevitt allowed two hits and fanned one.
"The pitching's been great," Bryant said. "Alex McAdoo did a great job and Mike shut it down. I have no worries when anyone is on the mound."
"We have a lot of trust in our pitching staff," said O'Shea. "Anyone can step up at any time."
"We have three senior relief pitchers who are really good," Soule added. "You saw two today, Alex and Mike. They'd be starters for a lot of other teams. Sam Porter closed the last game. It's probably the best bullpen I've ever had."
Yarmouth didn't have a multiple hitter and Lainey was the only Clipper with an RBI. Cawley, Cook, Nason and Snyder all touched home.
Brown didn't get a decision after giving up four runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings. He struck out a pair, hit two batters and had a balk.
"Jordan has at times, been absolutely untouchable this spring," Clippers coach Marc Halsted said. "He wasn't perfect today, but he emptied the tank for us. He made big pitches in big spots. That's Jordan Brown. He'll empty the tank for you and I love that."
Nason fell to 0-1 after giving up one run on one hit in 1.2 innings. Nason walked one, struck out a batter and threw a wild pitch.
Yarmouth was disappointed with the result, but emboldened by its effort.
"We refuse to talk about youth and inexperience, but today we can because we played a varsity baseball game the way you're supposed to play a varsity baseball game," Halsted said. "The guys have the highest expectations for themselves. I have the highest expectations for them. We expect to get it done. It doesn't matter how old you are. We expect to win. Mentally and emotionally, our guys got locked in and stepped up. I'm so proud of them.
"Since Junior Legion ended last summer, I didn't know what to expect. I knew Connor Lainey was our third baseman. I thought Cody Cook was at short. I thought Caleb Pineo was in center. Everything else was wide open. The kids have made each other better. Every backup pushes the guy in front of him every day because he thinks he should be playing."
Greely and Yarmouth won't meet again this spring, unless it's in the playoffs.
Both will have their hands full in the days to come.
The Clippers return home Monday to face Lake Region. Poland then pays a visit Wednesday.
Yarmouth expects to bounce back.
"We'll be just fine," said Halsted. "Tomorrow at practice, kids will come with energy, with high enthusiasm. We'll keep moving forward. All we care about is the next day, not what happened. We'll always be entertaining. Get your popcorn. We'll take everybody to the brink. That's what we're all about. We'll never quit."
The Rangers' road only gets more challenging, as they go to Falmouth Friday.
"Falmouth's another game that's always good," said Soule. "We love the border town rival games. We get good crowds.""
Greely then has a playoff rematch at York Monday. Traditional rival Cape Elizabeth pays a visit Wednesday.
The Rangers still have work to do.
"We know we won't beat everybody, but so far, so good," Bryant said. "We need to be more consistent. We're hitting the ball hard. We need to find gaps and score more runs."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Greely-Yarmouth meetings
Greely 10 @ Yarmouth 7 (8)
@ Greely 1 Yarmouth 0
Greely 3 Yarmouth 1 (@ OOB)
@ Yarmouth 4 Greely 3
Greely 8 @ Yarmouth 7
@ Greely 6 Yarmouth 5
@ Greely 6 Yarmouth 5
Greely 11 @ Yarmouth 3
Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 9 @ Greely 2
Greely 7 @ Yarmouth 4
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 9 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 0
Western B quarterfinals
@ Greely 12 Yarmouth 2 (6)
@ Greely 8 Yarmouth 1
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 1
Greely 9 @ Yarmouth 1
@ Greely 8 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 6 Yarmouth 5
Greely 4 @ Yarmouth 3
@ Greely 11 Yarmouth 11 (tie)
Western B preliminary round
Yarmouth 8 @ Greely 5 (8)