STANDISH—Call them gritty, call them tough, call them determined or destined, but when the dust settled Saturday afternoon at Richard W. Bailey Field on the campus of St. Joseph’s College, there was just one thing left to call the Yarmouth softball team.
For the first time.
The Clippers culminated a program-altering, jawdropping, joy-inspiring run after surviving a team with plenty of big-game experience in a nervewracking contest that came down to the final pitch.
Facing defending Class B champion Hermon, Yarmouth played like seasoned champions in its first game on the biggest stage, leading throughout and getting contributions from everyone who participated.
After junior ace Mari Cooper held the Hawks at bay for two innings, the Clippers went ahead to stay in the bottom of the second when junior centerfielder Colleen Sullivan hinted at an epic day to come with an RBI single to score junior first baseman Eleanor O’Gorman, who had reached on an error.
After Cooper worked around a hit and a stolen base in the top of the third, extending Yarmouth’s improbable postseason shutout streak to 24 innings, her teammates gave her some breathing room in the bottom half, as freshman designated player Cate Ralph singled in junior third baseman Cat Thompson and Sullivan, with two outs, ripped a clutch two-run single to bring in O’Gorman and Ralph for a 4-0 advantage.
All good things must end and the Clippers’ shutout streak went by the wayside in the fourth, as Hermon pushed three runs across, but in the bottom half, O’Gorman came up with a huge two-out, well-placed, run-scoring double to score Thompson to make it 5-3.
After Cooper took a line drive off her pitching hand before recording the third out in the top of the fifth, Yarmouth added two more runs in the bottom half, as Sullivan blooped a triple down the rightfield line to score sophomore second baseman Sydney St. Pierre and senior catcher and captain Kallie Hutchinson beat out an infield single with two down to bring home Sullivan for a 7-3 advantage.
The Hawks refused to go quietly, however, and after an error opened the door in the top of the seventh, sophomore catcher Hailey Perry cracked a two-run double with one out to bring the tying run to the plate.
But after coming so far, the Clippers weren’t going to be denied their destiny and after St Pierre slid to her knees to catch a little pop-up on the infield, she completed the sweetest of twin killings by throwing to her twin sister, sophomore shortstop Andrea St. Pierre, to complete the double play which elevated Yarmouth to the pinnacle for the first time.
The Clippers’ 7-5 victory capped a 17-3 season, the best in program history, put Yarmouth softball on the map for good and ended Hermon’s campaign at 17-3 in the process.
“It’s incredible,” said Cooper, who managed to gut out a complete game victory despite her sore index finger. “Everyone in Yarmouth goes to lacrosse games and football and soccer games. No one thought about softball. This is just a huge thing for our school. I couldn’t be more proud of this team. It’s just so great.”
Softball has long taken a backseat to lacrosse in the spring in Yarmouth and even though the Clippers have been competitive most seasons, they hadn’t been able to put together a deep tournament run.
The seeds for this year’s success were planted in agony last June, when Yarmouth let a five-run seventh inning lead slip away in a semifinal round setback at Cape Elizabeth.
Coming into the 2015 campaign, the Clippers knew they could be a special team, but in the preseason, it became clear just how far they had to go.
“At the beginning of the season, we went to New Hampshire for a tournament and we had like 20 errors in one inning,” said Yarmouth senior leftfielder and captain Michelle Robichaud. “I wasn’t very confident. We had to find a way to turn it around.”
The Clippers certainly began the year in high style, going to Cape Elizabeth and somewhat avenging last season’s playoff loss with an 11-4 triumph. After April vacation week, the teams met again, this time in Yarmouth, and again the Clippers prevailed, 11-6.
“Our first two games were against Cape and once we beat them, we knew we could do it,” Sullivan said.
After a 22-0 five-inning win over Freeport (where Cooper nearly threw a perfect game), Yarmouth eked out a 9-7 victory at perennial power Fryeburg Academy and won, 5-1, at Gray-New Gloucester.
The first dose of adversity was administered May 6 when the Clippers were clobbered on their home field by Greely, 12-2. After squeaking past visiting Sacopee Valley, 5-4, Yarmouth won at Lake Region, 12-8, but the next time out at Poland, the team fell apart in a 14-9 loss. The Clippers again responded, beating visiting Wells (10-4), Sacopee Valley (8-0) and Falmouth (8-2), but a 6-1 home loss to York followed. Yarmouth closed the season with three games on the road and took them all: 3-0 at Freeport, 4-0 at Falmouth and 10-5 at Kennebunk to finish 13-3, good for the No. 4 seed in Western B.
The Clippers opened the playoffs with a 6-0 win over No. 5 Leavitt in the quarterfinals, then ended top-ranked Greely’s title hopes with a 7-0 semifinal round triumph and held off No. 7 Fryeburg Academy, 1-0, in Tuesday’s regional final.
Hermon went 14-2 in the regular season to wind up third in Eastern B, then downed No. 6 Winslow in the quarterfinals (9-3), second-ranked Old Town (9-0) in the semifinals and finally top-ranked and previously undefeated Gardiner by a 4-0 score in the regional final to get back to states.
Hermon won Class B in 1977 (5-0 over Medomak Valley), 2010 (6-1 over Fryeburg Academy) and last spring (6-0 over Wells). The Hawks lost to Oak Hill in the 1994 state game.
Saturday, Hermon didn’t have enough to top the Team of Destiny.
Cooper started strong, getting Hawks sophomore rightfielder Alexis MacManus to ground out and after allowing an infield single to senior second baseman Claire Petersen, she struck out her opposite number, junior pitcher Karli Theberge, and got Perry to fly out to freshman rightfielder Sophie McGrath.
Andrea St. Pierre struck out swinging to lead off the bottom half, but Hutchinson singled to left and moved to second on a wild pitch. She was stranded, however, as Cooper struck out and Thompson grounded back to the mound.
Cooper made quick work of the Hawks in the second, getting senior third baseman Kylie Kennedy to fly to right, junior first baseman Sydney Addessi to chase strike three and freshman designated player Katie Windsor to ground out to second.
Yarmouth took the lead in the bottom half.
O’Gorman reached on an error by Hermon sophomore shortstop Emily Perley and was sacrificed to second by Robichaud. Ralph was hit by a pitch and Sydney St. Pierre reached on a bunt single. That set the stage for Sullivan’s first at-bat and she singled to left to bring home O’Gorman for a 1-0 lead. The Clippers couldn’t add to it though, as Theberge fanned Andrea St. Pierre and got Hutchinson to fly deep to center.
Cooper started the third by striking out Perley. Junior centerfielder Deanna Phipps then blooped a single down the rightfield line and after Cooper struck out MacManus, Phipps stole second, but she advanced no further as Petersen popped out to O’Gorman.
Yarmouth then produced its first multiple-run inning since the semifinals in the bottom of the frame.
Phipps made a nice catch on the run to rob Cooper leading off, but Thompson blooped a single to left, then reached second when O’Gorman’s grounder to Petersen was thrown away (O’Gorman was safe at first on the play). Robichaud struck out, but Ralph, as she has so often this season, came through with a key hit, a single to center, and Thompson came home to make it 2-0. The runners both moved up a base when the throw to the plate was high. Sydney St. Pierre walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases and that set the stage for Sullivan to again play the hero, as she ripped a single to left and both O’Gorman and Ralph scored for a 4-0 advantage.
“If we didn’t jump out in the second and third innings, we wouldn’t have won,” Cooper said.
Andrea St. Pierre struck out swinging, but the Clippers had a seemingly safe lead.
Hermon quickly removed any feeling of security by getting its bats going in the fourth.
Leading off, Theberge lined a sharp single to right. Perry reached on an error when Thompson couldn’t handle her slow roller up the third base line. Kennedy then ripped a single to center and Theberge came home with the Hawks’ first run and the runners moved up on the throw. Addessi followed with a deep fly to Sullivan in center which brought Perry home and moved freshman pinch-runner Laura Zenk to third. Cooper thought she caught Windsor looking at strike three, but it was ruled a ball and with second life, Windsor came through with a single to right to score Kennedy to cut the deficit to 4-3. Cooper made sure Yarmouth stayed ahead by fanning Perley swinging and Phipps looking, but suddenly the game was tight.
The Clippers’ offense needed a spark and appeared to get it when Hutchinson led off the bottom of the fourth by lining a shot over the lead of sophomore Jaelen Albert in left. Hutchinson had an easy double, but Yarmouth coach Amy Ashley waved her to third. Albert’s throw was cut off by Perley, who threw a strike to Kennedy to get Hutchinson in a bang-bang play. When Cooper flew out to center, it appeared Hermon had all the momentum, but Thompson singled to center and after Perry’s pickoff attempt was wild, Thompson moved to second and O’Gorman delivered her with a double just inside the chalk down the rightfield line for a pivotal insurance run and a 5-3 lead.
“I was kicking myself for that horrible call (to send Kallie to third),” Ashley said. “I was trying to be too aggressive. They picked me up. Sometimes coaches make a bad decision.”
Robichaud flew out to right to end the inning.
In the fifth, Cooper got MacManus to line to second and battled back from a 3-0 count to induce a foul pop to O’Gorman off the bat of Petersen, but Theberge blooped a single to left bringing up Perry. Perry made solid contact, ripping the ball right back at the pitcher. Cooper stopped it with her body and managed to throw out the runner to end the inning, but there was immediate concern because she took the ball off her pitching hand with the brunt of it off her index finger.
While Cooper was recuperating, her teammates got her two more big runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Ralph struck out, but Sydney St. Pierre reached on an error at third by Kennedy. Sullivan came through again by blooping a ball to right which dropped in for a hit. When Petersen and MacManus collided, St. Pierre was able to come all the way around and score and Sullivan wound up at third with an RBI triple, her third hit and fourth RBI of the game.
“A couple inches is the difference between a triple and an out,” Ashley said. “Their pitcher is great, but (Colleen’s) batting .400. Most teams wouldn’t keep someone with an average like that batting ninth, but there’s something about her. We love her speed. She can turn the lineup over. She’s kept us going all season.”
Petersen was shaken up, but stayed in the game. Theberge struck out Andrea St. Pierre, but Hutchinson beat out an infield hit to score Sullivan. Cooper lined out to third, but Yarmouth had a 7-3 lead.
Cooper wasn’t comfortable to start the sixth, as she walked Kennedy on five pitches and after getting Addessi to pop to short, she walked Windsor. Cooper hung in there and got Perley to line to McGrath in right and caught Phipps looking at strike three to put the Clippers three wins from victory.
“(The ball) hit my (right index and middle) fingers,” Cooper said. “I use (my index) finger the most. I don’t know how I gripped the ball. I don’t think it did. I had to adjust and use my legs more. I just tried to do it for the seniors and do it for the team.”
Yarmouth went quietly in its half of the inning, as Thompson struck out swinging, O’Gorman grounded to third and Robichaud lined out to center.
The top of the seventh then produced its share of anxious moments before culminating in exhilaration.
MacManus led off with a grounder to Thompson, but Thompson’s throw to first was wild and the leadoff runner was on. Petersen grounded to Sydney St. Pierre, who tagged MacManus going by for the first out. Theberge walked and Perry crushed a pitch into the gap between Sullivan and Robichaud for a double to easily score Petersen and Theberge to cut the deficit to 7-5.
Kennedy then came to the plate as the tying run and hit a little pop up on the infield that initially looked as if it would drop, but Sydney St. Pierre raced in and caught the ball on her knees. Even better for the Clippers, Perry had headed to third and St. Pierre calmly tossed the ball to her sister for the force at second base to complete the double play and at 2:21 p.m., after 113 back-and-forth minutes, Yarmouth was champion of Class B at last by virtue of a 7-5 victory.
“I saw it come off the bat and I just went in as hard as I could,” Sydney St Pierre said, of the final pitch. “I knew Andrea would be there at second, so I flipped to her and we won.”
“It felt amazing. I have no idea why she ran, but she did and it helped us tremendously,” Andrea St. Pierre said. “There are no words. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
“What a perfect way to end the game, for Sydney to make such a defensive play,” Cooper said. “A double play? You can’t get much better than that. I pictured this in the beginning of the season, but I can’t really explain it. It’s the best day of my life.”
“It was nervewracking like we always make it,” Hutchinson said. “We went into the seventh inning with confidence. We were up four and that’s a pretty good lead in softball. There are always some jitters in a state game, but I wasn’t surprised at all when we finished it off. We’ve kept our composure and we did it today. I don’t think I’ve realized we’ve won states. It’s surreal for sure. Trying to keep excitement for softball in Yarmouth is hard enough as it is, so to win a state championship is the most important thing to get that excitement going. We played with heart and I hope teams do that for years to come. Softball’s always been a love of mine. I’ve played since I was little. I never saw it coming this year, but I couldn’t be happier.”
“It’s unbelievable, the best thing I could have asked for,” Robichaud said. “I was so emotional after the game. I started crying. I didn’t think it was possible in the preseason. To see where we got today is incredible.”
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt in my life,” Sullivan said. “I’m so happy. I can’t even put it into words. I’m so incredibly proud of our team. At the beginning of the season, no one thought we’d get here. We were the underdogs. We worked hard at practice all week. When we hit the ball, we get our energy up. It built from there.”
“I was nervous, but I tried to stay as confident as I could,” Ashley added. “When Mari threw first pitch strikes, that’s when I was most confident. Sydney St. Pierre just had the game of her life. It was only fitting she came through with the double play at the end. I looked over at my sister (assistant coach Janet Tinker) and I was like, ‘Did we just win?’ It means so much. I’m so happy for the girls. I’m so proud.
“I truly believe in these kids. I want to say I thought this was possible from day one, but that’s not true. I have seen moments all season. It took us awhile to pull it together, but we did it. It took all 13 kids and three coaches to do it. I have the best coaching staff to work with. I get to work with my husband (Richie Ashley) and my sister every day. It’s awesome. We bring different styles and everyone gets coached. It means so much to do it with them.”
To say that Ashley is living a charmed life at the moment would be the understatement of the century. Within the past year, she’s gotten married, led Cheverus’ field hockey team to a surprising, deep playoff run, celebrated a birthday last week, guided Yarmouth to the Promised Land and best of all, is due to give birth to her first child in the fall.
“I feel very blessed,” Ashley said. “Life is very good. I’m very lucky. Hopefully life continues like this because it’s perfect right now.”
The Clippers, who hit so many balls hard but to no avail in their regional final win over Fryeburg Academy, produced plenty of offense Saturday. Hutchinson and Sullivan had three hits apiece and Thompson had two. Yarmouth came into the game being instructed to score six runs to win and Ashley’s prediction proved spot-on.
“We had a goal to score six runs and once we hit that goal, we knew we had it,” Andrea St. Pierre said.
“We knew Hermon would score on us,” Cooper said. “Coach said as long as we score six or more runs we’ll win and we did.”
“We knew we had to score six runs,” Ashley added. “I don’t know why, but that was the number in my head.”
O’Gorman and Thompson both scored twice, while Ralph, Sydney St. Pierre and Sullivan all touched home once.
Sullivan had four huge RBI.
“Colleen is my little munchkin,” Robichaud said. “I call her my ‘Mini-Me.’ For her to come up strong, I love it. For her to come through today was incredible.”
Hutchinson, O’Gorman and Ralph added one RBI apiece. Yarmouth stranded eight runners.
Cooper improved to 15-1 after giving up five runs (two earned) on seven hits and four walks in seven innings. She had seven strikeouts. While it wasn’t her most dominant performance, it was the type of blood-and-guts effort of which legends are born.
“Mari’s amazing,” Sydney St. Pierre said. “Once she got hit (by the ball), I thought we’d go downhill, but she really powered through right to the end.”
“Mari’s the best pitcher I’ve seen in my life,” Sullivan said. “She’s incredible. I’m so happy we don’t have to face her.”
“Mari’s tough,” said Hutchinson. “She works through everything. She keeps her composure. She’s the best pitcher and teammate she can be.”
“I was worried about Mari’s hand, but I looked at her and saw confidence and I knew we had it,” Robichaud said. “After the game, she was the one who made me start crying because she said, ‘I did this for you.’ She played centerfield as a freshman, then her sophomore year, we needed a pitcher. She didn’t want to do it, but she stepped up.”
“Mari’s incredible,” Ashley added. “We got here with her on the mound. I told her if she could stay in there, we’d keep her in there. She’s a competitor. There’s no one I’d rather have.”
Cooper turned to the worst memory of her athletic career as motivation for this season and especially in the biggest spot of all.
“I hate to bring it up again, but Cape kept coming back into my mind and I know that a team can come back,” Cooper said. “This win makes it easy to put that behind us. That’s powered me through all these games. If that hadn’t happened, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Hermon got multiple hits from Theberge, who also scored twice. Perry, Petersen and Zink scored runs as well. Perry had two RBI, while Addessi, Kennedy and Windsor had one each. The Hawks stranded six runners.
Theberge took the loss after giving up seven runs (just one earned) on 11 hits and a walk in six innings. She struck out seven, walked a batter, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
Yarmouth’s 2015 championship wouldn’t have been possible without Hutchinson and Robichaud, who will be missed in ways that can’t be quantified.
“The seniors meant a lot to the program,” Ashley said. “They were here as freshmen before I got here. They lifted the level of play. They’re great leaders. Kallie’s more of a leader by example. There are very few players who run on her. We’ll miss her behind the plate and at the plate. Michelle brings a level of energy. She’s a different type of athlete. She makes incredible plays. You tell her she can’t do it and she goes out and she does it. I wish the best for them.”
The Clippers will win more titles, but no one else can say they were the first and that makes the end of this season bittersweet.
“We’ll have a hard time letting go of each other,” Ashley said. “I wish we could keep practicing.”
Yarmouth will start the 2016 season in a strong position, but they’ll have to deal with the pressure of expectations as they make a run at what could be, if all goes well, another title.
“We’ll be strong again next year,” Andrea St. Pierre said. “We just have to make sure we prepare because there will be really good teams.”
“We’ll be down two amazing players, but I’m excited,” said Sydney St. Pierre.
“There’s no reason not to do it again,” said Cooper. “We’ll have some adjustments to make. We’ll miss (Kallie and Michelle) terribly, but we’re excited about next season.”
“I’m already ready to go,” Ashley added. “We’ll work hard. The target will be on our back next year. It wasn’t this year. We’ll have to play with pressure. We’ll see how we do.”
Yarmouth junior ace Mari Cooper delivers a strike. Despite taking a line drive off her right hand in the middle of the game, Cooper stayed in the game and culminated her transcendent postseason, leading the Clippers to the pinnacle.
Yarmouth coach Amy Ashley gives encouragement to sophomore shortstop Andrea St. Pierre before an at-bat.
Yarmouth senior leftfielder and captain Michelle Robichaud lays down a second inning sacrifice bunt.
Yarmouth junior third baseman Cat Thompson hits a single in the third inning and the fun was just beginning…
Thompson then reaches second safely on a throwing error which gets past Hermon senior second baseman Claire Petersen…
Thompson comes home to score on freshman Cate Ralph’s RBI single to make it 2-0.
Yarmouth senior catcher and captain Kallie Hutchinson is tagged out at third by Hermon senior third baseman Kylie Kennedy in the fourth inning.
Yarmouth junior centerfielder Colleen Sullivan had three hits Saturday, but her third, this opposite field triple in the fifth, produced a key insurance run and gave her four RBI.
Yarmouth senior catcher and captain Kallie Hutchinson beats out an infield single to drive home the Clippers’ final run in the fifth.
Yarmouth junior first baseman Eleanor O’Gorman can’t get to a wild throw and Hermon sophomore Alexis MacManus reaches on the error to start the top of the seventh.
With the scoreboard telling the story in the background, winning pitcher Mari Cooper and her battery-mate, catcher Kallie Hutchinson, share a moment of celebration.
Yarmouth junior Eleanor O’Gorman is all smiles in the postgame ceremony
Following the win, Yarmouth junior Mari Cooper leans over a fence to receive some love from her fans.
After receiving the championship trophy for the first time, all the Clippers wanted to get an up-close view of it.
Yarmouth senior Michelle Robichaud and her teammates show off the championship trophy to fans and loved ones after the win.
Yarmouth senior captain Kallie Hutchinson beams as she hugs junior Colleen Sullivan (7) and senior captain Michelle Robichaud (2) gets a hug from junior Cat Thompson after the Clippers’ 7-5 win over Hermon in Saturday’s Class B softball state final. Sullivan had three hits and four RBI and Yarmouth won a championship for the first time in program history.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
H- 000 300 2- 5 7 4
Y- 013 120 X- 7 11 2
Sullivan singled to left, O’Gorman scored.
Ralph singled to center, Thompson scored. Sullivan singled to left, O’Gorman and Ralph scored.
Kennedy singled to center, Theberge scored. Perry scored on Addessi sacrifice fly. Windsor singled to right, Zink scored.
O’Gorman doubled to right, Thompson scored.
Sullivan tripled to right, S. St. Pierre scored. Sullivan scored on Hutchinson infield single.
Perry doubled to left-center, Petersen and Theberge scored.
Y- Hutchinson, Sullivan 3, Thompson
H- Theberge 2, Perry, Petersen, Zink
Y- O’Gorman, Thompson 2, Ralph, S. St. Pierre, Sullivan
H- Perry 2, Addessi, Kennedy, Windsor
Y- Sullivan 4, Hutchinson, O’Gorman, Ralph
Y- Hutchinson, O’Gorman
Left on base:
Theberge and Perry; Cooper and Hutchinson
Theberge (L, 17-3) 6 IP 11 H 7 R 1 ER 1 BB 7 K 1 WP 1 HBP
Cooper (W, 15-1) 7 IP 7 H 5 R 2 ER 4 BB 7 K