(Ed. Note: For the complete Cape Elizabeth-Falmouth and Scarborough-Cheverus game stories, please visit theforecaster.net)
One of the most dramatic baseball seasons ever seen in Forecaster Country continued in recent days and Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough continue to make headlines.
The Red Storm, the second seed in Western Class A after a 14-2 regular season, started the playoffs with a splash last Thursday as senior Joe Cronin threw a no-hitter in an 8-0 win over No. 7 Thornton Academy in the quarterfinals. Brendan Hall had three hits and drove in four runs. Saturday, in the semifinals, Scarborough broke open a scoreless game against third-ranked Windham with a six-run fifth inning and prevailed, 7-0, behind Ben Greenberg’s three-hitter and a three-run bomb from Ben Wessel.
That set the stage for Tuesday’s regional final versus No. 4 Cheverus, the defending state champion, which became one of the most dramatic games ever seen in these parts.
Cronin and the Stags’ Louie DiStasio were in control early, but Cheverus went on top 3-2 in the top of the sixth and was one out away from ending the bottom half with the lead when an error allowed Cronin to score the tying run. Nick Bagley then sent a prolific home run over the fence in leftfield to seemingly put the Red Storm in command, up, 5-3.
“I knew I was going to get a hold of one,” Bagley said. “I didn’t know it would go that far though. It was right in my wheelhouse. I swung hoping it would stay fair. It went over the fence. I never hit a home run since Little League.”
The Stags didn’t quit and loaded the bases with two down in the seventh where Cronin appeared to have Harry Ridge struck out on an 0-2 pitch, but the umpire called it a ball, the at-bat continued and ultimately Ridge tied the game with a two-run single.
I (wasn’t happy) when I couldn’t hold it,” Cronin said. “I thought I had strike three before. I threw a good fastball, he just put a great swing out there and got it in. That was clutch.”
That set the stage for the storybook ending.
After Sam Terry walked with one out, Cronin came to the plate with two down and on a 2-2 pitch, turned on a DiStasio fastball. It looked good off the bat, but it wasn’t until the ball cleared the wall near the scoreboard that it was official.
Cronin roared around the bases, took a big leap and landed on home plate, then as the clock showed 8:40 p.m., was mobbed by his teammates.
Scarborough 7 Cheverus 5.
“The first pitch, I was trying to lose it,” Cronin said. “It was a fastball. I tried to put a swing on it, but I was late. (Louie) was jacked up. I took a ball. I took a low strike. I thought it was a ball and that put me in a hole. I thought he might go breaking ball. It was fastball in and I hacked it down the line. He threw another ball. If it was me out there, I’m going to throw as hard as I can. I figured that’s what he would do. If he threw me his best slider, I’m probably out. He just ripped it. I knew he’d put more on it.
“I’ve seen the ball great the last few games. I put a swing on it. When I hit it, I had a feeling right off. I hustled down the line. When I got to first, I saw it dip over (the fence) and it was just awesome. It’s the best feeling. I’ve hit a couple home runs, but nothing in a game like this. It’s not my first home run, but it’s my biggest. It was the best. It’s what you play for. Games like this.”
“I told the boys in 30 years, this is one of the best games I’ve been involved in,” added Scarborough coach Mike Coutts. “It was a fun game. Typical us, we got nothing early, but we kept battling and ground it out. I’m excited for the kids. They worked really hard. It doesn’t get better than that for anybody, me, the kids or the fans. We had last at-bat. We talked about getting Cronin up. Sam Terry’s walk was huge. We were hoping for anything at that point.”
Cronin was an offensive machine, homering, reaching on both a walk and after being hit by a pitch, scoring three times, driving in two runs and stealing a base (adding to the magic of the night, his father, Jim, the former Scarborough coach and current St. Joseph’s College assistant, was watching every pitch from the press box). Then, there was his effort on the hill. He surrendered five runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks in seven innings. He threw a wild pitch, but struck out 11 as he improved to 5-1 on the season.
“I think stuff-wise, that’s the best I’ve had all year,” Cronin said. “I was a little off on location, jacked up, throwing as hard as I could. (Cheverus is) a good hitting team. My arm’s gotten stronger as the year’s gone on.”
“He threw well,” Coutts said. “He got out of some jams when he needed to. Typical Joe.”
Scarborough didn’t have long to bask in the glow. The Red Storm return to Standish Saturday at 12 p.m. to take on Messalonskee in the Class A Final.
Scarborough and the Eagles have no history, but are about to make some. The Red Storm’s only prior baseball state championship came in 1986, when it was known as the Redskins and still played in Class B.
This year’s team is eager and confident it can finish the job.
“We worked hard in practice every day because we knew it would come down to the end of the season,” Bagley said. “The hard work paid off. We haven’t seen (Messalonskee). We don’t know what to expect. We’ll go at them, expecting them to be a good team, and we’ll bring our best.”
“The kids know it, they keep saying, ‘One more,'” said Coutts. “We know it’ll be a battle. Our sights have been on June 16 all year. We have to go play. It’s nice going in knowing we’ve got Cronin and we’ve got Greenberg.”
Tuesday’s hero had the final word.
“We’re just going to play the way we play,” Cronin said. “We might have to feel them out, but we’ll go out there and battle. I’d love the ball, but Greenberg’s more than capable. He was absolutely dealing against Windham. I’m confident either way. I can’t wait for Saturday. It’s going to be awesome.”
Cape Elizabeth was 6-8 at one point this season, but won its final two contests to earn the No. 9 seed in Western B. After a 4-0 win at No. 8 Freeport in the preliminary round, the Capers went to No. 1 Greely, the reigning regional champion, for the quarterfinals. Cape Elizabeth had lost the regular season meeting, 8-0, but was at its best in the rematch, racing to lead of 2-0, 6-1 and 9-3 before holding on for the shocking 9-6 triumph. Sam Kozlowski had three hits and two RBI and earned the win with help from Tim Brigham in the seventh.
“It was really Sam’s day,” said Capers coach Chris Hayward. “He had two two-out hits to score runs. We had the bases loaded in the sixth and they made a pitching change and we decided it was a good time to drop a squeeze. Kozlowski again came through with a perfect squeeze to get the run home and a throwing error ensued and the other runs scored. With Kozlowski on third, the pitcher had a slow delivery so I whispered to Sam and he listened and stole home and scored. In the seventh, we scored on a ground ball and a passed ball.
“Greely stormed back. Sam ran out of gas in the seventh inning. We planned on using Charlie Laprade to finish the game, but we went with Tim Brigham because Charlie’s leg was tightening up on him. Tim’s a freshman who we’ve used in varsity games. We told him to throw strikes and trust his defense. Connor Maguire made a tremendous play for the first out. The next batter, Laprade made a very, very good play for a force. Then, Liam Maker hit a fly ball to second base. I’ve seen higher pop-ups before, but never one that took so long to come down. It seemed like it took forever to come down in Matty Pierce’s glove and the celebration began.”
Saturday semifinal at No. 4 Yarmouth was equally dramatic and surprising. This one was a pitcher’s duel as senior Will LeBlond hung tough through 10 innings, allowing a mere run. The problem was, the Capers only managed on of their own (on a Pierce sacrifice fly). After Maguire made the defensive play of the season, a diving catch with the winning run heading home in the bottom of the ninth, Cape Elizabeth came alive in the top of the 10th, scoring six times to go on to a 7-1 victory. Kozlowski scored the go-ahead run on a Maguire infield single.
“It was an emotional roller-coaster,” Hayward said. “A lot of ups and downs. We had chances. They had chances. We sniffed out a couple squeezes. Will picked off a couple runners. Connor made the great catch in the ninth and we finally executed in the 10th. It was another feel-good day. Will threw 108 pitches. I was ready to take him out after the fourth, but he kept saying, ‘I’m good.'”
Cape Elizabeth was supposed to take on No. 2 Falmouth (15-3) in the regional final Wednesday night, but rain pushed the game back to Thursday. The Capers lost 10-5 at Falmouth on April 25 and 4-2 at home on May 23, but that setback proved to be the team’s turning point.
“After that loss, I knew I had to do something so I said, ‘We’re starting a winning streak right now and you don’t have to shave,'” Hayward said. “They guys said that was the best speech and we haven’t lost since. Everybody’s scruffy.”
The Capers, who were upset by Falmouth, 2-1, in last year’s quarterfinals, were ready for the challenge.
“The goal was to play our best baseball at the end of the season,” Hayward said. “We’ll play our hardest. Falmouth’s solid up the middle. We have to execute when we have opportunities. I hope they hit it at us since they hit it hard. We’ll throw Sam and have Will in reserve. I have confidence in Sam. He’s pitched well. This is what you play for.”
Cape Elizabeth catcher Seth Dobieski tags out Yarmouth’s Bryce Snyder to preserve a critical run during Saturday’s marathon Western B semifinal. The Capers erupted for six runs in the 10th and earned an improbable regional final berth, 7-1.
Scarborough senior Joe Cronin leaps on home plate after his seventh inning home run beat defending champion Cheverus, 7-5, Wednesday in the Western A Final and sent the Red Storm to Saturday’s Class A state game versus Messalonskee.