(Ed. Note: For the complete Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth game story, with additional photos and a box score, please visit theforecaster.net)
Baseball can be a cruel sport, something that both Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough discovered last week.
Everything had gone the Capers’ way entering last Thursday’s Western B Final, as they overcame a 6-8 start, made the playoffs as the No. 9 seed at 8-8, then upset eighth-ranked Freeport, No. 1 Greely and fourth-seeded Yarmouth to set up a showdown with No. 3 Falmouth, a team that beat Cape Elizabeth in both regular season meetings.
The Yachtsmen also upset the Capers in the 2011 quarterfinals.
Offense would be almost non-existent in this one as Falmouth’s Nick Spencer held Cape Elizabeth to four hits, but was overshadowed by Cape Elizabeth junior Sam Kozlowski who didn’t allow a single hit on the night.
Scoring chances were few and far between, but the Capers almost went ahead in the top of the seventh when Kozlowski came to the plate with two down and a runner at first and hit a shot down the leftfield line.
Unfortunately, when it landed just shy of the wall, it was inches foul.
On the next pitch, Kozlowski struck out looking and the game went on.
In the top of the eighth, Cape Elizabeth put two men on with two out, but Chris Robicheaw’s soft liner to center was snared and that set the stage for the Yachtsmen to finally end it.
After Falmouth’s Connor Murphy walked leading off, he was sacrificed to second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Kozlowski got a strikeout for out number two to get to the verge of escaping the jam, but with Drew Proctor at the plate, Kozlowski’s pitch tipped off catcher Seth Dobieski’s glove and Murphy raced home, touched the plate and was mobbed by his teammates.
Falmouth1 Cape Elizabeth 0.
Kozlowski (3-3) threw a no-hitter, but it went for naught. He walked five and struck out seven.
“I settled in after the first inning, got confident and knew I could throw what I wanted where I wanted it,” Kozlowski said. “I’m not too mad right now. We had a good run, you have to be happy with it. No one expected us to get this far. I tried to get a fastball inside on (Proctor). Sneak it by him. I just pulled it down a little bit. It was a little low and inside and it just got him wrong on the mitt. It just bounced off.
“It was a good game. At least it was competitive and we had chances to win it. There were a couple well-hit balls, but our outfield is pretty good. We had the talent to be here. We had trouble putting it together all season. We had a stretch where we lost some games we shouldn’t have lost. We came together as a team and got that energy going and helped each other play our best.”
“Sam was very good,” Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Hayward said. “He kept his head on tight. He didn’t get rattled. He did a nice job.”
Cape Elizabeth’s offense was sparked by two hits from Max Gore. Gore and Kozlowski had stolen bases.
The Capers’ postseason run deserves an abundance of praise.
“I reflect back to what I said in the preseason that we had good pitching and defense and if we got enough offense, we’d be alright,” Hayward said. “Look what we did the last two weeks. That was exactly it.”
Cape Elizabeth (which wound up 11-9) loses Gore, Will LeBlond, Matty Pierce and role players Donald Clark and Timothy Stack, but returns a lot. The 2013 team will be bolstered by this run and could finish the job.
“I think we’ll have a good year next year,” said Kozlowski. “We have some good returning players.”
“We’ll try to reload,” Hayward said. “We do have a dozen kids returning. We’ll have experience. I’m a little concerned about younger grades. We don’t have a Junior Legion team. The kids playing Senior Legion will get experience this summer. We’ll see what happens after that.”
Scarborough enjoyed a 14-2 regular season and as the No. 2 seed in Western A, advanced by blanking No. 7 Thornton Academy (8-0, on senior Joe Cronin’s no-hitter) and third-ranked Windham (7-0) and edging reigning champion Cheverus, the No. 4 seed, in an instant classic in the regional final, 7-5, on Cronin’s walkoff home run.
That set up a state game showdown with Eastern A champion Messalonskee, but things did not go the Red Storm’s way.
Scarborough did continue its momentum from the regional final and took a 2-0 lead behind single runs in the first and second and carried that lead to the fourth behind strong pitching from sophomore Ben Greenberg, but the Red Storm’s worst inning of the season then took place and its championship hopes came tumbling down.
Scarborough committed three errors in the top of the fourth inning and the Eagles scored four times to take the lead for good. Three more errors in the sixth allowed Messalonskee to add two more runs. The Red Storm got one run back in the bottom of the seventh, but could draw no closer and fell, 6-3.
While Scarborough didn’t play good defense, the Eagles did, getting some great catches in the outfield and a mind-boggling play from shortstop Sam Dexter, whose diving stop of a sharp ground ball started a rally-diffusing double play in the fifth.
Greenberg didn’t allow a single earned run, but was the hard-luck loser. His teammates mustered just three hits. The Red Storm ended the season 17-3 and were left to lament what-if.
“We went into the game with 11 errors all year and made seven,” said Scarborough coach Mike Coutts. “To me, the play Sam Dexter made turned the game around and took the wind out of our sails. Instead of having runners and first and second with no one out and Cronin up, we had him up with no one on and two outs. That was a huge play.
“I told the kids it’s disappointing to get to the end and not win, but the journey was our reward. They showed the commitment and dedication of state champions. We had a great year with a lot of highlights. It’s disappointing to lose the way we lost, but that’s baseball. The kids made a mark in Scarborough with the younger kids.”
Coutts praised the work of his seniors, Cronin, Peter Krahe, Conor McCann and Ben Wessel.
“They took us to a different level,” said Coutts. “Their leadership and the way they approached practice and making us a better team was huge. They made a mark on the program. They’re good kids on top of it.”
The Red Storm return everyone else and should be a major factor again next spring.
“Seven of the nine defensive starters (from the state game) are coming back,” said Coutts. “The future is good. The young kids want to be a part of this.”
Coutts’ future with the program is uncertain, but he didn’t rule out a return.
“My wife coaches at U. Maine, but my house hasn’t sold,” Coutts said. “As of right now, I’m planning to come back.”
Cape Elizabeth junior Sam Kozlowski was unhittable in Thursday’s Western B Final, but the Capers still lost a gutwrenching 1-0 eight inning decision to Falmouth.