Select handful of teams survive wild playoff week-Northern edition

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Yarmouth’s Eva Then scores a goal during the Clippers’ 16-6 win over St. Dom’s in Saturday’s Class B North semifinals. At press time, the undefeated, top-ranked Clippers were two wins from their third state championship in four seasons.

Falmouth’s baseball team shows unrestrained joy after surviving Portland, 4-3, in a nine-inning epic in Saturday’s Class A South semifinals. The top-ranked Yachtsmen meet Cheverus in the regional final Wednesday.

The postseason action came fast and furious last week and left in its wake only a handful of survivors.

With just days remaining in the spring sports season, here’s a look at who’s left and what’s to come:

Baseball

Falmouth and Yarmouth’s baseball teams entered the week still alive in their quest for a state title, while Freeport, Greely and North Yarmouth Academy weren’t as fortunate.

The Yachtsmen were expected to reach the regional final. The defending Class A South champions went 15-1 in the regular season, then, as the top seed, eliminated No. 8 Scarborough, 9-2, in the quarterfinals last Thursday. Max Fortier and Robbie Armitage combined to hold the Red Storm at bay, while Reece Armitage had three hits and drove in three runs and Colin Coyne also had three hits.

Saturday, Falmouth hosted No. 4 Portland in the semifinals for the second year in a row in a game that turned into a marathon and an epic.

Garret Aube led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run to put the Yachtsmen ahead. Coyne homered in the third and Will Blum singled in Fortier in the fourth to seemingly give Falmouth a safe lead, but Reece Armitage couldn’t hold it and after the Bulldogs drew even with two runs in the fifth and another in the sixth, the game went on and on until the Yachtsmen finally won it, 4-3, in the bottom of the ninth when Marcus Cady was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

“The pitch hit me in the shoulder,” Cady said. “I wasn’t thinking much. I walked down to first like any other hit by pitch, but I turned around and everyone was running out. I wasn’t expecting that.”

Falmouth ace Cam Guarino, Maine’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year, earned the win in relief, allowing just one run in 4.1 innings.

“It’s definitely a different approach,” Guarino said. “I didn’t have to throw really hard, just get outs. I had to be perfect every batter, every pitch, every inning.”

“What a great high school baseball game,” Yachtsmen coach Kevin Winship added. “This one had everything. This shows we have the mental toughness to win the tight games.”

Falmouth advanced to battle No. 2 Cheverus (17-1) in the Class A South Final Wednesday afternoon at St. Joseph’s College. The teams had never met before in the postseason.

If the Yachtsmen get to the Class A state game for the second straight season, they’ll either have a rematch versus Bangor (14-4) or face Cinderella Mt. Ararat (11-8) Saturday at 2 p.m., at Morton Field in Augusta. Falmouth lost, 5-0, to the Rams last season in the teams’ lone playoff encounter. The Yachtsmen and Eagles have never met.

While Falmouth’s success was expected, Yarmouth’s has come as a surprise.

The Clippers went 11-5 in the regular season and wound up ninth in Class B South, but last week, Yarmouth won three road games to reach the regional final.

First, the Clippers went to No. 8 Leavitt and rolled, 8-1, in the preliminary round. Gibson Harnett threw a two-hitter and struck out nine, Nate Dealaman had a key two-run single and James Waaler produced four hits.

“I was able to keep my pitch count down,” Harnett said. “Not having any walks takes the pressure off our guys and they’re able to make the plays behind me.”

Yarmouth then went to top-ranked Carrabec/Madison for the semifinals and held on for a 5-4 upset. Chris Romano had a clutch two-run single to put the Clippers ahead to stay. Luke Waeldner earned the win and had a pair of hits and most importantly, threw out the potential tying run at the plate for the game’s final out.

“It was pandemonium,” said Clippers coach Marc Halsted. “Kids and coaches charged the field. I looked like (former North Carolina State men’s basketball coach) Jimmy Valvano running around trying to find somebody to hug. It was a great moment for Yarmouth baseball.”

Saturday, Yarmouth blanked host Cape Elizabeth, the No. 4 seed, 2-0, for its first semifinal round win since 2011. Harnett again sparkled on the mound, throwing a five-hit shutout. Chris Romano had two hits and scored a run and Joe Coyne walked with the bases loaded to drive in the other run. John Thoma came up huge defensively, turning a double play to help the Clippers get out of a bases loaded jam.

“It’s been a fun, but exhausting week,” said Halsted. “Traveling to Leavitt, Madison and Cape Elizabeth took a lot out of our kids and it showed Saturday when we only managed a handful of hits, but we rose to the challenge and pulled off another upset. Harnett was unbelievable. The best part was that we had the big plays defensively at the right times all week.”

The Clippers squared off against No. 2 York (15-3) in Tuesday’s regional final in Standish. Way back on April 24, in the regular season opener, Yarmouth held off the visiting Wildcats, 4-3. The Clippers won two of three prior playoff meetings, but the most recent went to York and decisively, 14-1, in the 2013 Western B quarterfinals.

“We’re feeling confident,” Halsted said. “These are fantastic kids who have a high compete level. York is a gifted and talented team. We stole a game from them, but they’ve certainly grown a lot since then. I don’t think (Trevor) Labonte can pitch, so we’ll avoid the Player of the Year in our league, which gives us a puncher’s chance. The bottom line is that we’re the number nine seed and we’re playing with house money. We’ll fly around, play Yarmouth baseball and have a lot of fun being who we are. We can’t wait to hit the field at St. Joe’s.”

If Yarmouth gets to a Class B state final for the first time ever and to a state game at any level for the first time since winning Class C in 1995, it would meet either defending champion Old Town (15-3) or Erskine Academy (15-3). The Clippers beat Erskine in both prior playoff meetings (7-6 in the 1991 Western C Final and 6-1 in the 1993 Western C quarterfinals). Yarmouth and Old Town have never met.

On the flip side, Freeport, Greely and NYA bowed out last week.

The Falcons, the defending Class B South champions, finished 11th in the region and went to No. 6 Spruce Mountain for a wild preliminary round contest last Tuesday. Freeport fell behind, 7-0, after one inning, but roared back to within 7-6 before the Phoenix finally put it away as the Falcons finished the season 6-10-1.

“We have eight seniors and that has kind of been their four years,” Freeport coach Bill Ridge said. “They are kind of known for putting their backs against the wall and then they come out swinging. They did a good job. It was an overall team effort of just little things that started adding up to comeback. You could sense it was real and right there.”

Greely, the No. 5 seed in Class B South, had to play a preliminary round game for the first time in 12 seasons when it hosted No. 12 Gray-New Gloucester last Wednesday. The Rangers broke open a tie game with three runs in the third and went on to a 6-2 victory behind Zach Brown’s complete game effort. Brown also had an RBI double.

Greely then went to longtime rival Cape Elizabeth for the quarterfinals and immediately fell behind, 4-0, after one inning. The Rangers battled back, however, and tied the game with a four-run fourth. The Capers went back on top in the bottom of the sixth, however, as Ryan Twitchell struck out the final batter, but strike three hit the plate and got away, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Greely couldn’t score in the seventh, and its season ended at 11-7 with the 5-4 setback.

“I’m proud of how the team battled back all year,” Rangers coach Derek Soule said. “We went through a stretch where we dropped five out of six and we turned around and ended Falmouth’s 33-game regular season win streak and prepared ourselves really well for the playoffs. In a one-run playoff game, there are usually a dozen little things that you think about, a play here, a call here, a hit here, that you can point to. That’s just the way it is. There were all sorts of things throughout the course of the game. We had a lot of base runners, but we couldn’t get that key hit. I’m proud of how we came back, but we were unlucky too.”

NYA earned the No. 3 seed in Class D South, but lost its quarterfinal, 8-2, to No. 6 Greenville. The Panthers led, 2-1, going to the fifth inning before giving up five runs. Galen Arnold and Joe Strabley had NYA’s RBI as the Panthers finished the season 7-8.

Softball

Greely, Yarmouth and the Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth co-op softball teams all had their championship dreams denied last week.

The Rangers, seeded fifth in Class B South, blanked No. 12 Poland, 6-0, in the quarterfinals last Tuesday. Kelsey Currier threw a three-hit shutout, Kayley Cimino doubled and tripled and Maddie Rawnsley had the big hit, a grand slam.

Thursday, Greely went to No. 4 Yarmouth, which earned a bye into the quarterfinal round. The teams met in the playoffs for the fifth year in a row and the Clippers avenged a loss to the Rangers in last year’s semifinals with a hard-fought 2-1 victory. Hannah Merrill homered to give Yarmouth a 2-0 lead in the second inning and while Cimino hit a long ball in the fifth, the Clippers held on to prevail, 2-1, and end the Rangers’ season at 10-8.

“We feel it’s not a championship-worthy run if we don’t cross paths with the Clippers,” Greely coach Rob Hale said. “This year’s game lacked the scoring of past games, but not the drama and tension. It was playoff softball at its best. At this time of year, one play can be the difference between going home or moving on. Yarmouth made that one more play than we did.

“In April, we weren’t sure we had enough girls for a team. We turned over some rocks in the hallway and found some warm bodies. In May, the goal of four wins for the season appeared to be one a heck of a challenge. Playoffs were were not on the goal sheet. We started seven girls with zero varsity playing experience. Patience and leadership by our seniors and the stellar pitching from Kelsey kept it from getting ugly and gave the new kids the opportunity to put the work in.”

Greely graduates program stalwarts Cimino and shortstop Moira Train, but Currier returns and the Rangers will again be in the title hunt.

“Kayley and Moira have been perennial league all-stars, so obviously their athletic ability will be missed,” Hale said. “They both were the finest players at their position in the league for the last four years. Their competitive drive will also be missed. I would take them on my team in any sport, even swimming.

“Next year will once again be tough, as no JV team means no feeder system. I’m very comfortable with the returning starters, but I need to replace two four-year all-star starters and another starting senior, as well as three out four infielders. Yikes. We’ll figure it out because we will have to. Currier and Rawnsley won’t have it any other way.”

Yarmouth went on to face No. 1 Wells in Saturday’s semifinals and despite tying the game in the top of the seventh on a triple from Sydney St. Pierre and a Merrill RBI single, the Warriors pushed a run across in the bottom half to win 2-1, and end the Clippers’ season at 13-5.

“The girls played their hearts out and left everything they had on the field,” said Yarmouth coach Amy Ashley. “For Sydney St. Pierre to lead off the top of the 7th with a triple was amazing. She was fighting for her senior season and that shows leadership. The girls have nothing to be ashamed of and it was really a great playoff game. I love how resilient this team has been all season. They never gave up. We have come so far in such a short time, I am so proud of these girls.

“I’m sad for these seniors that we couldn’t have gone further for them. In looking back at their four years, they have never not made it to the semis and were a big part of the team that won the first ever state championship here at Yarmouth. These seniors just mean so much to us and to this program. They have given us everything they have had since day one, as freshmen. They leave this program in a better place then where they found it and they should be so proud of their careers.”

Lock for Yarmouth to make another run at the top spot in 2018.

“We will return all of our players, except (Sydney and Andrea St. Pierre), which is a nice feeling after losing six seniors in 2016. Filling the holes in the middle infield will be tough as well as losing their great softball IQ and leadership. Ceanne Lyon now has a year of pitching under her belt and our freshman backup, Tasha Powers, also saw time on the mound this year. We had two freshmen and three sophomores in our starting lineup this year, so they got a lot of varsity and playoff experience for being so young. This will only help us in the future and I hope this loss against Wells will only motivate us to work harder next year and to hopefully go deeper in playoffs.”

The first-year Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth co-op squad also qualified for the playoffs and nearly pulled off a stunner in the Class A South preliminary round last week. The 12th-ranked Sea Lions went to No. 5 Noble and took a 5-2 lead to the bottom of the seventh inning, but surrendered four runs and dropped a heartbreaking 6-5 decision. Megan Faucher had three hits and Liberty Ladd doubled twice, but it wasn’t enough and MGA/Falmouth wound up 7-10.

“It was a tough way to lose, but the girls came so far and it was so much fun,” said MGA/Falmouth coach Tim Eisenhart. “Bringing two groups of girls together couldn’t have gone more smoothly. The coaches and the kids didn’t want the season to end. We got a lot of support from the parents and we had a blast. It was a special experience.”

The co-op team is expected to return again in 2018.

“As far as I know, we’ll have Falmouth kids again next year and we’ll be together for one more season,” Eisenhart said. “We lose five seniors, but we return a lot of young kids.”

Eisenhart paid tribute to the Falmouth members of team.

“The Falmouth kids played big roles,” Eisenhart said. “Megan was a force to be reckoned with and Liberty is an outstanding athlete. The other girls all played key roles too. They kept us alive in the playoffs.”

Boys’ lacrosse

Falmouth and Yarmouth’s boys’ lacrosse teams were still dreaming championship dreams at press time and it’s distinctly possible they’ll square off in the Class B state final for the second year in a row.

The defending Class B state champion Yachtsmen earned a bye into the semifinals Saturday and had no trouble with No. 3 York, 16-4, Saturday afternoon. Devin Russell and Jack Scribner both had five goals.

Falmouth (12-1) advanced to its highly-anticipated regional final showdown at No. 1 Cape Elizabeth (12-1) Wednesday evening (see theforecaster.net for game story). The teams split this spring, with the Yachtsmen rallying for a 9-8 victory April 26 in Cape Elizabeth and the Capers returning the favor, 8-5, May 20 in Falmouth.

The teams have met in the past eight regional finals, with Cape Elizabeth winning five, but last season, the Yachtsmen sprung the 7-5 upset.

Yarmouth, the four-time defending Class B North champion, is seeded sixth in the region this year, but handled No. 3 Erskine Academy (17-2) in the quarterfinals, then downed No. 7 Maranacook/Winthrop (11-1) in Saturday’s semifinals. Bill Jacobs and Henry Venden had three goals apiece in the quarterfinals. Against the Black Bears, Remi Leblanc had four goals. The 8-6 Clippers advanced to play at No. 1 Gardiner (14-0) in Wednesday’s regional final. The teams didn’t meet this spring. Yarmouth has taken five of the previous six playoff encounters, including a decisive 16-0 win in last year’s semifinals.

If Falmouth and Yarmouth meet Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (that time is subject to change) in the state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium it would mark just the second-ever postseason encounter. The Yachtsmen took last year’s state final, 13-9. Falmouth won both regular season games this spring, 16-6 May 3 at home and 13-5 May 30 in Yarmouth.

Falmouth and Gardiner have no history.

Yarmouth is 3-9 all-time against Cape Elizabeth in the playoffs. The most recent contest was the 2015 Class B Final, won, 7-5, by the Capers.

Girls’ lacrosse

Falmouth and Yarmouth were also on a possible collision course for the Class B girls’ lacrosse state final when this edition went to press.

The Clippers rode a perfect regular season to the top seed in Class B North and had no trouble beating No. 8 Winslow (20-2) in the quarterfinals. Yarmouth raced to a 15-1 halftime lead and never looked back. Meredith Lane had five goals and Greta Elder added three.

“We have an X on our back, but we have that going into the playoffs every year,” Elder said. “We’re used to the pressure. We came out early and put them away.”

“Now we’re 1-0,” Clippers coach Dorothy Holt said. “We don’t look at the regular season anymore. The girls had to settle their jitters. All the girls got to play and they took care of business.”

Saturday, Yarmouth got more of a test from No. 5 St. Dom’s, failing to score for nearly 10 minutes and falling behind, 2-0, but the Clippers went on an 8-0 run to end the first half and pulled away for a 16-6 triumph behind four goals from Eva Then and three more from Ella Antolini.

“Sometimes it takes us a few minutes to get going, but we picked it up,” Then said. “We communicated more on attack. We moved the ball around well. No one is in it for themselves. Everyone’s in it for the team.”

“I liked the pressure at the beginning,” Holt said. “I was proud of the girls. This is the first time we’ve played in the sun and the girls showed at the end that they could have run for another hour. I can’t say enough about our team. We’re working really hard and I think it shows that we’re just getting more cohesive and this is the time to do it.”

Yarmouth advanced to Wednesday’s Class B North Final where it hosted No. 3 Oceanside (12-2). The teams didn’t play this year. The Clippers won the lone prior playoff meeting, 20-1, in the 2015 Eastern B quarterfinals.

“We still have to refine some things,” Holt said. “It’s fun to play at home right now. Last year, we weren’t home for the regional final. Next Saturday is the goal, but it’s one game at a time.”

Falmouth finished second in Class B South and earned a bye into Saturday’s semifinals, where the Yachtsmen were pushed to the limit by No. 6 Lake Region before holding on, 13-12. Devon Sarazin led the way with six goals.

Falmouth (10-3) advanced to face No. 1 Kennebunk (11-2) in Wednesday’s regional final. The Rams won the regular season meeting, 9-5, May 23 in Falmouth. The teams have played in the past two regional finals with Kennebunk taking both, including last year’s 8-3 decision.

If Falmouth and Yarmouth meet in the Class B state final Saturday at 6 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium, it would mark the first-ever postseason encounter between the teams. The Clippers closed the regular season with a dramatic 9-8, come-from-behind win at the Yachtsmen June 2.

Freeport was ranked seventh in Class B North and gave No. 2 Morse a scare in the quarterfinals, but lost in overtime, 10-9, to finish 4-9. Taylor Rinaldi led the Falcons with four goals.

Track

Several local standouts competed at the outdoor track New England championship meet in Norwell, Massachusetts Saturday.

Falmouth’s Adelaide Cooke was the top finisher, coming in third in the girls’ discus (130 feet) and 10th in the shot put (38-4). Sophie Marcotte came in 25th in the 200 (26.69 seconds). Emma Harrington was 24th in the discus (101-5).

On the boys’ side, Falmouth’s Ben Rudnick finished 17th in the pole vault (13-3). Matt Polewaczyk came in 19th in the 200 (23.07). Douglas Cooke was 22nd in the 400 (52.53). The Yachtsmen’s 4×100 relay team (Rudnick, Ethan Ali, Kyle Bouchard and Polewaczyk) finished 23rd (45.12).

Greely’s Katherine Leggat-Barr came in 12th in the girls’ mile (5 minutes, 3.24 seconds). Maggie McCormick tied for 17th in the pole vault (9-0). Elizabeth Brown didn’t score in the high jump.

Yarmouth’s Luke Laverdiere came in sixth in the boys’ mile (4:17.18). Tahj Garvey was sixth in the boys’ 400 (49.88).

Sun Journal staff writers Tony Blasi and Eric Maxim contributed to this story.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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