Northern edition Spring Coaches of the Year

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Boys’ team:

Bill Ridge, Freeport baseball

To say Freeport’s baseball team made history and stole headlines this spring doesn’t properly convey just how magical the Falcons were. Freeport won its first regional title, united RSU5 and earned a legion of new fans.

None of that would have been possible without the leadership of Bill Ridge, who at the ripe young age of 28, not only built a competitive program, but along with his talented and determined players, found lightning in a bottle this June.

Now that the dust has settled, he deserves his due. For spearheading an inspirational playoff run that had baseball fans buzzing, Bill Ridge gets The Forecaster’s nod as our Northern edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a boys’ team.

Ridge grew up in South Portland and played baseball at Cheverus. He coached Brunswick three seasons, then inherited the Falcons in 2014. Freeport was competitive and made the playoffs in each of his first two seasons, but lost in the preliminary round both years.

This spring, the Falcons had higher aspirations, but no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined how high this team would soar.

Freeport won its opener behind senior ace Jack Davenport, then bonded on an April vacation week trip to North Carolina. Upon returning to Maine, however, the Falcons lost three games in a row. Sitting at 2-4 on May 7, Davenport threw a no-hitter at Old Orchard Beach and after a one-run loss at Fryeburg Academy, Freeport came to life. Sparked by their first win in at least three decades over perennial powerhouse and two-time defending Class B champion Greely, the Falcons won seven straight games and the secret was out, this team was good.

Freeport lost its finale, however, in extra innings at Traip Academy, and was relegated to the No. 7 seed for the playoffs. A preliminary round win over Morse, the program’s first in any round in any class since 1985, would have served as a nice cherry on the sundae for most teams, but the Falcons were just getting started. Davenport pitched Freeport to an upset win at York in the quarterfinals. Davenport’s RBI single and a gem from Josh Burke (with relief help from Austin Langley and Josh Spaulding) produced a stunning 1-0 victory at Greely in the semifinals. Davenport then pitched and hit the Falcons to a 3-1 win over Cape Elizabeth on the campus of St. Joseph’s College and Freeport celebrated its first-ever regional title. Midnight finally struck in the state final in Bangor, where the Falcons lost to Old Town, 12-2, but the magic and emotion of those two playoff weeks will never be forgotten.

“It really was unbelievable,” Ridge said. “That’s the best word for it. It was unreal how gracious and warm the whole town was. The team got hot and they jumped on our backs and they were with us every step of the way.”

Davenport, who was named Freeport’s Spring Male Athlete of the Year, said that Ridge deserves a big chunk of the credit for the team’s success.

“(Coach) knows his stuff,” Davenport said. “He sure knows how to coach. He’s knowledgeable and knows what to do in the right situations.” 

Ridge, who also coaches the Freeport varsity boys’ basketball team and works as a special education teacher at Freeport Middle School, will have his work cut out next year as he has several key players to replace, but he has shown quite clearly what he can do.

Bill Ridge, our Northern edition boys’ team Spring Coach of the Year, has already established himself as one of the best around.

Previous winners:

2015 Derek Soule (Greely baseball)

2014 Geoff Arris (Freeport lacrosse)

2013 David Pearl (Yarmouth lacrosse)

2012 Kevin Winship (Falmouth baseball)

2011 Bob McCully (Falmouth tennis)

2010 Marc Halsted (Yarmouth baseball)

2009 Mike LeBel (Falmouth lacrosse)

2008 Casey Abbott (Greely lacrosse)

2007 Derek Soule (Greely baseball)

2006 Chris Carpentier (Freeport lacrosse)

2005 Chris Mazzurco (NYA track)

2004 Craig Curry (Yarmouth lacrosse)

2003 Bruce Poliquin (NYA baseball)

2002 Hank Ogilby (Freeport baseball)

Girls’ team:

Rob Hale, Greely softball

Greely’s softball team came into the season hopeful of doing big things, but it faced several question marks.

By the time June rolled around, the Rangers had answered those questions and found themselves one run shy of playing for a state title.

The team’s success was due to the brilliance of ace pitcher Kelsey Currier (Greely’s Spring Female Athlete of the Year) and team-wide contributions at the plate and in the field, but behind the scenes, pushing all the right buttons, was Rob Hale, a man best known for being a swim coach without peer.

He deserves some accolades for his ability on the diamond too and in light of the Rangers’ strong season, The Forecaster is naming Rob Hale our Northern edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.

Hale was previously named Winter Coach of the Year for swimming in 2010 and 2014.

Hale grew up in Cumberland and was a swimming standout for Greely, Exeter, Colgate and the University of Maine.

He was long involved with softball as an assistant to several Greely coaches, including being part of the 2002 state championship team.

Hale finally took over the head coaching job in 2015 and led the Rangers to 14 wins and the top seed in Western Class B, but they were upset by eventual state champion Yarmouth in the semifinals.

This spring, Greely would beat the Clippers twice en route to the regional final. 

The Rangers won their first three contests, then stumbled three times in five games. With the region wide open, Greely knew it had a chance to make noise and the second half of the season saw the team hit its stride. A 9-7 win over Poland sparked an eight-game win streak to conclude the year and the Rangers finished 13-3 for the second season in a row and wound up third behind York and Yarmouth in Class B South.

After downing traditional powerhouse Fryeburg Academy, 4-1, in the quarterfinals, Greely rode a gem and a grand slam from Currier to end Yarmouth’s reign, 8-1, in the semifinals. The Rangers went up against York and its ace, Stephanie Rundlett, in the regional final and were confident entering the game. Greely grabbed an early 2-0 lead, but the Wildcats rallied to go ahead, 3-2. Down to their final out in the top of the seventh, the Rangers tied the score, but in the bottom half, York pushed across a run to end Greely’s season.

 “We certainly enjoyed the journey, it just wasn’t the destination we had planned,” Hale said. “We didn’t expect anything less than a regional title.I could not have asked for a finer bunch of athletes to coach. They love to compete and have fun.”

Hale, who credited his co-coach, John Eisenhart, for much of the team’s success, is now in his third decade coaching Greely’s powerhouse swim program and works as an ed tech at the high school. He’s got the softball program primed to make another run at the top spot next season.

Rob Hale, our Northern edition girls’ team Spring Coach of the Year, is one of a kind, and Greely is the ultimate winner for being associated with him.

Previous winners:

2015 Amy Ashley (Yarmouth softball)

2014 Ben Caswell (Greely tennis)

2013 Sandra Stone (Falmouth tennis)

2012 Karin Kurry (Freeport lacrosse)

2011 Sara Dimick (Greely lacrosse)

2010 Julia Sterling (NYA lacrosse)

2009 Sandra Stone (Falmouth tennis)

2008 Julia Littlefield (NYA lacrosse)

2007 Robin Haley (Falmouth lacrosse)

2006 Dorothy Holt (Yarmouth lacrosse)

2005 Sandra Stone (Falmouth tennis)

2004 Ann Harradon (Yarmouth tennis)

2003 Julia Seely (NYA tennis)

2002 Julia Littlefield (Yarmouth lacrosse)

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.