Greely sophomores Will Neleski, left, Evan Wyman and Connor Sullivan celebrate at the conclusion of the Rangers’ 10-2 win at Falmouth Wednesday. Greely handed the Yachtsmen their first loss of the year in the teams’ final countable meeting before Falmouth moves up to the SMAA next season.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
G- 012 005 2- 10 12 1
F- 001 001 0- 2 5 4
Piwowarski doubled to left-center, Eisenhart scored.
Twitchell doubled to center, Brown scored. Neleski singled to right-center, Twitchell scored.
Fortier doubled to left, Coyne scored.
Miller scored on error. Saffian singled to center, Porter scored. Fried hit sacrifice fly to right, Eisenhart scored. Piwowarski scored on error. Twitchell hit sacrifice fly to center, Saffian scored.
Gr. Aube hit sacrifice fly to center, Re. Armitage scored.
Piwowarski singled to left, Miller and Porter scored.
G- Miller 3, Eisenhart, Piwowarski
F- Fortier 3
G- Eisenhart, Miller, Porter 2, Brown, Piwowarski, Saffian, Twitchell
F- Re. Armitage, Coyne
G- Piwowarski 3, Twitchell 2, Fried, Neleski, Saffian
F- Gr. Aube, Fortier
G- Piwowarski, Twitchell
F- Coyne, Fortier
G- Brown 2
Left on base:
Brown, Kiesow (4), Sullivan (7) and Fried; Guarino, Ro. Armitage (6) and Ga. Aube and Kiley (6)
Brown 3 IP 4 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 4 K
Kiesow (W, 3-0) 3 IP 1 H 1 R 1 ER 0 BB 1 K 1 HBP
Sullivan 1 IP 0 H 0 R 1 BB 0 K
* Guarino (L, 7-1) 5+ IP 9 H 8 R 5 ER 1 BB 3 K
Ro. Armitage 2 IP 3 H 2 R 2 ER 2 BB 2 K
* Guarino faced five batters in the 6th
FALMOUTH—All the odds were stacked against them, but Greely’s baseball team likes a good challenge and the Rangers faced a daunting one Wednesday afternoon in an historic regular season finale at longtime rival Falmouth.
Greely had lost five out of six games, the Yachtsmen were undefeated and in Falmouth’s last regular season home game at Croker Field, the Rangers had to go up against Cam Guarino, who was named earlier this week as Maine’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year.
And absolutely none of that mattered in the long run, as Greely saved its best for last and as a result, the Rangers go into the postseason believing that anything is possible.
After sophomore starter Zach Brown struck out the side in the bottom of the first inning, Greely got its bats going in the second, as junior A.J. Eisenhart reached on a bloop single and senior designated hitter Joe Piwowarski followed with a ringing double to break the ice.
The Rangers kept the pressure on in the third, as senior shortstop Ryan Twitchell doubled home Brown and sophomore first baseman Will Neleski followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0.
Falmouth finally got to Brown in the third, as senior rightfielder Max Fortier doubled to score a run, but with the tying runs on, Brown caught junior first baseman Griffin Aube looking at strike three.
After junior Eben Kiesow shut down the Yachtsmen in the fourth and fifth innings to preserve the two-run lead, Greely blew the game open in the sixth with a little help from some shaky Falmouth defense.
The Rangers loaded the bases with no outs and after junior rightfielder Luke Miller scored on an error, senior centerfielder Jack Saffian’s RBI single chased Guarino.
Greely wasn’t done and after Eisenhart scored on a sacrifice fly, a throwing error brought home another run and a Twitchell sacrifice fly extended the lead to 8-1.
Griffin Aube’s RBI got a run back for the Yachtsmen in the bottom of the sixth, but in the seventh, Piwowarski ended any remaining doubt with a two-run single and the Rangers went on to an emphatic, statement-making 10-2 victory.
Brown, Kiesow and sophomore Connor Sullivan combined to hold Falmouth to five hits, Piwowarski paced the offense with two hits and three RBI and Greely finished the regular season 10-6, beat the Yachtsmen for the first time in eight tries, ended their regular season win streak at 33 and dropped Falmouth to 15-1 in the process.
“We felt like we could really relax today,” said longtime Rangers coach Derek Soule. “The pressure was on (Falmouth). They were trying to go undefeated. When that happens, you can start to press. When our guys are relaxed and confident, we’re a pretty good team.”
Falmouth and Greely have been rivals for decades. Soule said that the teams have done battle since at least 1948, when Falmouth won a best-of-three series to capture the old Triple C Conference title.
The past few seasons have seen the Yachtsmen have the better of the Rangers (see sidebar, below), but Greely has enjoyed its moments of dominance as well, including pivotal playoff wins in the 2006 and 2011 Western B semifinals.
This season, for the second year in a row, Falmouth hadn’t stumbled once in its regular schedule, while Greely started strong, but struggled down the stretch.
The Rangers started with a 1-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester. After a 4-3 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, Greely won at Kennebunk (5-2), at Yarmouth (7-2), at home over Lake Region (7-4), Yarmouth (4-1), Poland (4-0) and Sacopee Valley (3-0 and at Fryeburg Academy (10-4). A 4-0 home loss to Falmouth May 16 started a stretch of five losses in six games and was followed by setbacks at Wells (9-2), at home against York (4-2) and at Cape Elizabeth (2-1, in eight-innings). After snapping their longest skid since 2002 with a 10-6 home win over Freeport in a playoff rematch, the Rangers fell again Saturday at York (10-7).
The Yachtsmen opened with a 3-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester and a 12-2 triumph at Fryeburg Academy. After downing host Cape Elizabeth (2-0), Falmouth blanked host Kennebunk (2-0), beat visiting Cape Elizabeth (11-1 in five-innings, behind a Guarino no-hitter), won at Freeport (14-0, in five-innings) and Lake Region (5-2) and downed visiting Gray-New Gloucester (8-0) and Poland (11-1, in five-innings). After beating host Greely, 4-0, the Yachtsmen downed visiting Lake Region (8-2), host Yarmouth (13-10), visiting York (8-1) and Wells (5-4) and Tuesday, doubled up visiting Kennebunk (6-3).
Wednesday, Falmouth looked to beat Greely yet again, but the Rangers managed to beat the Yachtsmen for the first time since a 5-1 home decision May 3, 2013.
Greely hinted that it might be a long day for Guarino when senior catcher Dylan Fried worked a base on balls leading off. After Brown sacrificed him to second, Twitchell grounded to senior third baseman Will Blum, who threw low to first and the error put runners at the corners. Guarino was able to work out of the jam by getting Neleski to strike out (with junior catcher Garret Aube holding on to a foul tip on strike three) and Miller to ground sharply to third with Blum throwing across the diamond to retire the side.
In the bottom half, Brown struck out Garret Aube with a high fastball, but senior second baseman Colin Coyne crushed a double to deep left. Brown stranded him at second, however by blowing strike three past senior shortstop Robbie Armitage on a full count pitch and fanning Reece Armitage as well.
“Coach told me I’d only go for a few innings, so I wanted to make the most of the time I had on the mound against a good team like Falmouth,” Brown said. “I was a little worried after that double, but I came back and got the outs and that gave me confidence.”
“I thought (Zach) set the tone for us,” Soule said. “He gave up the double, then came back and struck out two really good hitters. That gave us a boost early.”
The Rangers then took the lead for good in the top of the second.
Guarino got Porter ground back to the mound to start, but Eisenhart blooped the ball behind first and it dropped in just inside the rightfield for a single. That brought up Piwowarski, who crushed a pitch to the wall in left-center for a double and Eisenhart came home standing for a 1-0 lead.
“We knew (Guarino’s) velocity wasn’t super-overpowering,” said Piwowarski. “We worked on going low and away. The ball definitely carried a lot. It surprised me a little bit. We just kept it rolling from there.”
“We haven’t had many balls drop in,” Soule said. “We’ve hit balls hard at guys, but today, we had balls fall in and we hit balls hard too. You could tell by the sound (off Joe’s bat) that it was well hit. I shouted, ‘Go’ (to Eisenhart) because I knew it was well hit.”
Saffian threatened to add to the lead with a line drive, but Robbie Armitage made the catch and doubled off Piwowarski to end the frame.
The Yachtsmen looked to answer in the bottom half as Fortier led off with a single to left and Griffin Aube walked on four pitches, but after Blum sacrificed the runners into scoring position, freshman designated hitter Ike Kiely grounded out to short on a full count with the runners holding and on another full count pitch, Brown escaped the jam by inducing a line drive back to the mound off the bat of junior leftfielder Marcus Cady.
Greely kept the pressure on in the top of the third and scored two more runs.
Fried led off and couldn’t hold up on a swing and grounded out to Guarino. Brown then hit a little dribbler past Guarino and beat it out for an infield single. Brown stole second and Twitchell delivered him with a ringing double over the head of Reece Armitage in center. Neleski then cracked a single to right-center to score Twitchell for a 3-0 lead. Miller followed with a single to right, but Guarino limited the damage by catching Porter looking at strike three and getting Eisenhart to fly out to right.
Falmouth had a great chance to erase the deficit in the bottom half, but only managed to score one run.
Garret Aube popped out foul to Neleski wide of first to start, but Coyne drew a walk. Robbie Armitage then hit a deep fly ball to left, but sophomore Evan Wyman made the catch for the second out. Reece Armitage hit a sharp single to right and Fortier followed with a deep drive to left that got over Wyman’s head and bounced just short of the fence for an RBI double to score Coyne. Reece Armitage had to stop at third, however, and Brown kept the score 3-1 by catching Griffin Aube looking at strike three.
“In my opinion, the momentum change was when Max came up a few inches short of hitting a three-run homer,” Falmouth coach Kevin Winship said. “The ball landed inside the fence and we only got one run.”
Guarino returned to form in the top of the fourth by getting Piwowarski to ground out to third, Saffian to pop to first and Fried to pop out to second on a full count.
Kiesow came on to pitch in the bottom half and struck out Blum swinging before getting Kiely to line to short and Cady to pop to second.
Greely went in order again in the fifth, as Brown looked at strike three, Twitchell grounded slowly to third and Neleski popped out foul to first.
In the bottom half, Kiesow got Garret Aube to fly to right, Coyne to fly to left and Robbie Armitage to line out to right.
The Rangers then ended Guarino’s day and broke the contest open in the top of the sixth.
Miller led off by ripping a single past Guarino up the middle. Porter then bunted in front of the plate where Guarino fielded the ball and tried to throw out Miller at second, but the throw was a split second late and both runners were safe. Eisenhart couldn’t get a sacrifice bunt down, but with two strikes, he beat out an infield single to third to load the bases. That brought up Piwowarski, who didn’t crush the ball as he did earlier, but he did plenty of damage by hitting a slow roller that Guarino fielded and with Miller racing home, Guarino tried to flip the ball to Garret Aube for the force out, but the ball sailed high, Miller scored for a 4-1 lead and the bases were loaded again.
Saffian made matters worse for the hosts by blooping a single to center to score Porter for a 5-1 advantage and at that point, Winship came out to replace Guarino with Robbie Armitage.
Fried greeted Armitage with a fly ball to right. Eisenhart scored easily, but when the throw home sailed away for an error, Piwowarski also came home and Saffian took second. A wild pitch moved Saffian up and after Brown walked and stole second, Twitchell’s deep fly ball to center scored Saffian for an 8-1 lead. Neleski grounded out to second, but the game had gotten out of hand.
The Yachtsmen tried to rally in the bottom half, as after Reece Armitage was hit by a pitch, Fortier singled to right to put runners at the corners and Griffin Aube’s fly ball to center scored Armitage. Kiesow limited the damage by getting Blum to ground into a third-to-second force out and Kiely grounded out to third to keep the score 8-2.
Greely got that run back, plus another, in the seventh.
Miller led off with a single to left and Porter walked. Junior Nathan Cyr pinch-hit and singled to right on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases, bringing up Piwowarski, who came up huge again with a two-run single down the leftfield line. Saffian then looked at strike three, Fried flew out to right and Brown struck out, but the Rangers were up, 10-2, heading for the final half-inning.
There, Sullivan came on and slammed the door.
After Cady bounced out slowly to Twitchell at short, Garret Aube walked and took second when Fried threw a pickoff throw away, but Coyne lined out to center and after Aube moved up to third, Greely appealed that he had left early and it was upheld for the game’s final out, slamming the door on a 10-2 victory.
“We really had nothing to lose,” Brown said. “We were underdogs and we came to play. We’ve been on a losing streak. We knew it would be a big win and would be good momentum going into the playoffs. Yesterday in practice, we worked on middle-outside, driving the ball. That really helped us out today.”
“We had a good bounce-back win after a bad performance against York,” Piwowarski said. “We have a lot of heart. We came out and played well. We have a lot of team chemistry. We’re a tight group and we have a great coaching staff.”
“Calling the last two weeks a gut check doesn’t describe what we’ve gone through, but the guys have kept good attitudes and have worked harder than they ever have,” Soule added. “I’m really pleased with the bats the past three games. That’s really important because we had been struggling. To do it against a pitcher of Cam’s caliber, a Gatorade Player of the Year, is uplifting.”
The Rangers produced 12 hits on offense, led by three from Miller and two apiece from Eisenhart and Piwowarski.
Eisenhart, Miller and Porter all scored twice, while Brown, Piwowarski, Saffian and Twitchell touched home once apiece.
Piwowarski had three RBI, Twitchell added two and Fried, Neleski and Saffian had one apiece.
Brown stole two bases.
Greely stranded seven runners, but scored more than enough runs.
Brown improved to 3-0 after allowing one earned run on four hits in three innings. He walked two and struck out four.
“I felt good,” Brown said. “I was excited with how I pitched.”
“The plan was nine batters for him, but I got away from the plan,” Soule said. “I wanted to show their lineup different looks and different arm slots each time, but he looked so good and so confident. This was his third career start. He played year-round basketball last year, but it’s great to have him.”
Kiesow also allowed just one earned run on one hit in his three innings. Kiesow didn’t walk a batter, hit one and struck out one.
Sullivan walked one batter in his one inning of work.
“Eben offers a contrast from Zach,” Soule said. “Velocity, arm slot. Sullivan came back and changed the velocity too.”
Falmouth got three hits and an RBI from Fortier, but not much more in the way of offense. Reece Armitage and Coyne scored runs and Griffin Aube also drove in a run.
The Yachtsmen left six runners on base.
Guarino suffered his first loss in eight decisions this spring (and just his third in 32 career decisions in high school) after giving up eight runs (five earned) on nine hits in five-plus innings. Guarino walked one and struck out three.
Robbie Armitage surrendered two earned runs on two hits and two walks in two innings. He struck out two.
“I didn’t draw it up like this, but tip your cap to (Greely),” Winship said. “They came in with a game plan. They pitched by committee, they kept us off-balance. Defensively, he had their guys playing as deep as they could and they caught everything we hit. That’s baseball. They came ready to play. I won’t say we didn’t, but they executed and got the job done and we didn’t. They had big hits.They hit Cam well. It’s probably the eighth time some of those guys have seen him. They put the ball in play.”
Falmouth still has the inside track on the top seed in the Class A South Heal Points standings, but nothing is official until all games are played. Regardless, the Yachtsmen will look to use the lessons of Wednesday’s loss to be at their best when the postseason begins next week.
“This gets some kids’ attention,” Winship said. “I won’t say it’s a good loss, but it’s good it was a regular season loss. The positive is that it wasn’t a playoff game. We’ll move forward. (Winning 33 in a row) was fun, but now, it comes down to can we win four? All the teams in the SMAA are good teams and we’ll have to come ready to play and hopefully good things will happen for us.”
Greely likely avoided the fate of playing a preliminary round playoff game for the first time since 2005. The Rangers were fourth in Class B South at press time.
Regardless of where Greely winds up, it appears the perennial title contenders will be at their best in June once more.
“Falmouth was going for two undefeated seasons in a row, so to beat them, that gives us confidence that we can beat anyone,” Brown said. “We’re ready to make a run.”
“Coming out here with a big win, we’ll be much more confident heading into playoffs,” Piwowarski said. “I think we have a run in us.”
“I think it gets us out of a prelim, but it’s tough to say,” Soule added. “We’d be fine playing a prelim if we had to. If we can beat Falmouth and Cam on their field on their seniors’ last regular season game, that’s impressive and we have to feel like we can beat anyone. We have to keep building on it and take it into the real season.”
Greely junior Eben Kiesow goes into his delivery. Kiesow threw three strong innings in relief and earned the victory.
Falmouth senior starter Cam Guarino throws a pitch. Guarino suffered his first loss of the season.
Falmouth senior centerfielder Reece Armitage tries in vain to catch the ball.
Greely junior second baseman A.J. Eisenhart forces Falmouth senior Max Fortier.
Falmouth junior Griffin Aube makes contact.
Falmouth senior shortstop Robbie Armitage forces Greely junior Luke Miller.
Greely senior Joe Piwowarski lines one of his two hits.
Greely senior Tate Porter races home with a fifth inning run.
Greely senior Joe Piwowarski is congratulated by sophomore Will Neleski, left, junior Luke Miller and senior Ryan Twitchell after scoring a run in the fifth inning.
@ Falmouth 5 Greely 2
Falmouth 15 @ Greely 3
Falmouth 7 @ Greely 1
@ Falmouth 10 Greely 1
@ Falmouth 7 Greely 5
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 3 (8)
Greely 9 @ Falmouth 3
@ Greely 10 Falmouth 9
Falmouth 8 @ Greely 5
Greely 12 @ Falmouth 8
@ Greely 7 Falmouth 2
Greely 5 @ Falmouth 1
Greely 2 @ Falmouth 1
Falmouth 5 @ Greely 4 (8)
Western B semifinals
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 2
@ Greely 4 Falmouth 3 (8)
@ Falmouth 3 Greely 2 (8)
Greely 5 @ Falmouth 1
@ Greely 10 Falmouth 8