Strike one, strike two, strike three…Yarmouth can’t solve York ace

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York senior Stephanie Rundlett winds up to deliver a pitch as a helpless Yarmouth batter looks on during Friday’s contest. Rundlett struck out 18 Clippers in a three-hit gem and the Wildcats eked out a 1-0 victory.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

YARMOUTH—Yarmouth batters were left in a fog Friday afternoon and it had nothing to do with the pea soup conditions hanging over the diamond.

The defending Class B champion Clippers were befuddled, frustrated and ultimately beaten by arguably the state’s best pitcher, York senior Stephanie Rundlett, who, before taking her golden right arm to Fordham University in New York City, is wreaking havoc against Western Maine Conference competition.

Yarmouth got a stellar pitching performance from senior ace Mari Cooper, but Cooper did allow back-to-back doubles in the third inning, as sophomore third baseman Wendy Donnell and sophomore shortstop Kiley Blondin came through to produce a 1-0 lead.

And that would prove to be the only run of the game.

That score felt like 10-0 the way Rundlett was dealing.

In the first three innings, the ace faced nine Clippers hitters and struck out every single one.

Yarmouth then turned to its reservoir of championship heart the rest of the game and provided some anxious moments for Rundlett and her teammates.

In the fourth, senior centerfielder Colleen Sullivan got a pop up to fall in for her team’s first hit. She got to third, but was stranded there.

In the fifth, Cooper’s bunt deflected off a fielder and resulted in a double and even though Cooper moved to third with one out on a passed ball, she advanced no further.

In the sixth, Sullivan lined a double down the third base line and stole third, but couldn’t score.

Finally, in the seventh, sophomore catcher Cate Ralph walked with one out, but Cooper attempted to bunt and instead lined into a double play as York survived, 1-0.

Rundlett threw a three-hitter and struck out a mindboggling 18 batters as the Wildcats won their ninth straight game, improved to 9-1 and dropped Yarmouth to 6-3 in the process.

“It’s disappointing that we were able to get a girl to third three times and we weren’t able to score,” said Clippers coach Amy Ashley. “We made adjustments throughout the game and put pressure on at the end. I don’t think we should have allowed that run and I think we should have scored one.”

Dueling gems

As expected, both squads are very much in the title hunt this spring.

Yarmouth started by handling visiting Freeport (15-2, in five-innings), then, after a letting a seventh inning lead slip away in a tough home loss to Fryeburg Academy (4-3), the Clippers won at Traip Academy, 6-3. After falling at Greely, 7-1, Yarmouth found its stride, beating host Lake Region (13-1, in five innings), visiting Poland (12-4) and Wells (11-6) and host Sacopee Valley (7-3).

York, which went 15-1 last season, then was upset by Fryeburg Academy in the quarterfinals, entered the 2016 campaign highly touted and behind Rundlett, hasn’t disappointed. The Wildcats (playing without Rundlett) opened with a home loss to Traip, then rattled off eight straight victories.

Last year, York won in Yarmouth, 6-1.

Friday, amid the drizzle and fog, local fans got to see what all the Rundlett fuss was about and she more than lived up to billing.

In the top of the first, Cooper got Blondin to ground out to second, but she walked senior second baseman Olivia Coughlin on four pitches. Rundlett then grounded back to the mound and Cooper threw to second for the force and she fanned senior catcher Maeve Campbell to retire the side.

Rundlett set the tone in the bottom half, fanning junior second baseman Sydney St. Pierre swinging, Sullivan looking (after she fouled off several pitches) and junior shortstop Andrea St. Pierre swinging on a 3-2 count.

Junior first baseman Sophia Stephens led off the second by lining a shot up the middle but it fortuitously found Cooper’s glove for the first out. After senior leftfielder Terra Pepin struck out, junior designated player Elise Holly beat out an infield single, but senior rightfielder Kelsey Cole grounded out to first for out number three.

Yarmouth had no success against Rundlett in the bottom half, as senior first baseman Eleanor O’Gorman struck out swinging, Ralph struck out swinging and after getting ahead in the count, 3-0, Cooper also struck out swinging.

York then broke through in the third.

Donnell, the number nine hitter, lined a shot to center which Sullivan initially took a step in on, then raced back and tried to catch, but the ball got over her glove for a double. Blondin followed and lined a double down the rightfield line as Donnell scored easily for a 1-0 lead. Coughlin bounced out to second with Blondin moving up to third, but Cooper avoided further damage by getting Rundlett to look at strike three and Campbell to ground out to second.

The bottom third of the Clippers’ order had no luck with Rundlett in the bottom half, as senior designated player Sarah Gleason took a strike on a 3-2 pitch, sophomore third baseman Hannah Merrill went down swinging and sophomore rightfielder Sophie McGrath struck out as well, making it nine batters faced and nine Ks for Rundlett.

In the fourth, Cooper made quick work of York, getting Stephens to ground out to short and striking out Pepin swinging and Holly looking.

Yarmouth finally made contact in the bottom half.

After Sydney St. Pierre struck out swinging, Sullivan hit a little pop fly toward third base. It appeared off the bat to be a foul ball, but when it eluded Donnell at third and hit the ground, it landed in fair territory and Sullivan had a single. Sullivan moved to second on a wild pitch and after Andrea St. Pierre struck out, Sullivan stole third. She was stranded there however, as O’Gorman looked at strike three.

The Wildcats threatened to extend their lead in the fifth, but the Clippers flashed the leather.

Leading off, Cole singled up the middle. Donnell then singled through Cooper’s legs to put runners at first and second. That brought up Blondin, who hit the ball hard, but it was right at O’Gorman at first, who caught it for one out and doubled off Donnell for a second out as Cole stayed at second. Cooper then fanned Coughlin to end the inning.

In the bottom half, Rundlett fell behind Ralph, 3-0, but battled back to strike her out swinging. Cooper then squared to bunt and with Donnell charging, she hit the ball solidly off the third baseman and when the ball rolled into foul territory, Cooper took second with a rarely seen bunt double. A passed ball moved Cooper to third, giving two teammates a chance to bring her in, but freshman pinch-hitter Ceanne Lyon struck out looking and Merrill chased strike three, giving Rundlett 15 strikeouts and keeping the score, 1-0.

Cooper walked Rundlett leading off the sixth, but she fanned Campbell. After Rundlett stole second base, Stephens hit a ground ball off Cooper and instead throwing to first, Cooper fired to Merrill at third, who tagged out Rundlett. Pepin flew out to right to end the frame.

Rundlett continued with her strikeout ways when she got McGrath to chase strike three leading off the bottom half. Sydney St. Pierre then bunted the ball foul and Campbell made the catch for the first Yarmouth out of the game not by strikeout. That brought up Sullivan, who worked the count full, fouled off several pitches, then finally made solid contact, lacing a double down the third base line. Sullivan ran all the way around the bases, but the ball had gone out of play for a ground rule double and she had to go back to second.

“(Rundlett’s) really fast,” Sullivan said. “She’s one of the best pitchers. She’s going D1 on a full ride and it’s pretty incredible. Yesterday, in practice, we cranked up the pitching machine to try to get used to her speed since she’s the fastest in the league.”

“Colleen battled,” said Ashley. “Even when she struck out, she must’ve fouled off six pitches. I wasn’t going to have her bunt because I knew she was due. She got unlucky there. That would have been a triple if it hadn’t gone out of play.”

After Sullivan stole third, Andrea St. Pierre struck out swinging to end the inning.

“It got overwhelming when they got runners in scoring position, but I couldn’t worry about it,” Rundlett said. “I had to keep my cool.”

Cooper made quick work of the Wildcats in the seventh, striking out both Holly and Cole swinging and inducing a shot to deep center off the bat of Donnell, which Sullivan went back on, tipped with her glove, then caught in highlight reel sno-cone fashion for the final out.

Yarmouth refused to go quietly in the bottom half, but the game ended as it began.

With plenty of frustration in the Clippers’ dugout.

O’Gorman looked at strike three leading off, but Ralph drew a walk. That brought up Cooper, who again made solid contact on a bunt, but this time, the ball went right into the glove of Donnell and with Ralph off the bag, Donnell only had to throw over to Stephens at first to complete the double play and slam the door on the Wildcats’ 1-0 victory.

“In hindsight, I probably should have had (Mari) take a pitch and have Cate try to steal second,” Ashley said. “Mari’s a great bunter. We needed someone in scoring position.

“We worked hard in practice yesterday to shorten our swings and put the ball in play, but it took us too long to do that today. I didn’t want to have to rely on the bunt too early. I was hoping the meat of our order could have made better contact. We didn’t attack pitches when we were ahead in the count.”

Rundlett stole the show, improving to 9-0 after throwing a three-hit shutout. She walked one batter and struck out a whopping 18, which isn’t even close to a career high (25 in a 10-inning game versus Kennebunk last year).

“All my pitches worked except my screwball,” Rundlett said. “I don’t throw a fastball. Towards the beginning of the count, I throw a rise, so they can’t bunt. Today was one of my best games for the rise.”

“Stephanie’s very smart,” Ashley said. “She likes to get ahead. Her speed and location, she’s just the full package.”

Donnell also played a big role in the victory, playing strong defense, collecting two hits and scoring the only run of the game. Blondin had the lone RBI.

York stranded five runners.

Yarmouth got two hits, including a double, and a pair of steals from Sullivan, but stranded three runners.

“One of the biggest things Coach tells us is to be resilient,” Sullivan said. “Even in the last inning, we thought we’d win. I wanted it more than anything.”

Cooper was the tough-luck loser and fell to 6-3 after allowing one earned run on five hits in seven innings. She walked two batters and struck out nine.

“It was a battle of pitchers today and I’m very proud of Mari,” Ashley said. “Stephanie’s a great pitcher and to go toe-to-toe with her into the seventh inning just shows she’s a competitor and loves the pressure. I just wish we could helped her.”

Second half

York (first in the Class B South Heal Points standings at press time) goes to Traip Academy Monday, looking to avenge its lone loss.

The Wildcats won’t be content this spring unless they make a deep playoff run, something last year’s team failed to do.

“We’ve got a lot of good things going,” Rundlett said. “Beating the defending champs today feels really good. We’re all really motivated to get to the final step this year. We all know what happened last year and we don’t want that to happen again.”

Yarmouth (currently eighth in Class B South) has a busy week upcoming. The Clippers host Falmouth Monday, then go to Kennebunk Wednesday and Cape Elizabeth Friday. Games at Falmouth and Wells and home tests versus Gray-New Gloucester and Cape Elizabeth close out the schedule.

“This week was a really good week for us,” Ashley said. “We’ve had ups and downs, but more ups than we’ve had all season. We went 2-1 and almost took that third game. I think we’re going in the right direction. We still have work to do and things to accomplish.”

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

Yarmouth junior shortstop Andrea St. Pierre makes a throw across the diamond.

Yarmouth senior centerfielder Colleen Sullivan reaches in vain for Wendy Donnell’s second inning double. Donnell would later score the game’s lone run.

Yarmouth senior pitcher Mari Cooper hurled a stellar game of her own, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out nine.

Yarmouth junior second baseman Sydney St. Pierre fields a grounder.

Yarmouth senior Colleen Sullivan fouls off a pitch. Sullivan had the most success against Rundlett, ripping a double, singling as well and seeing several pitches each at-bat.

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