Greely sophomore Luke Miller (27) is congratulated by senior Austin Nowinski after scoring the first run of Thursday’s 2-0 victory over Yarmouth in a Class B South quarterfinal. The two-time defending Class B state champion Rangers advanced to meet Freeport in the semifinals Saturday.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
Y- 000 000 0- 0 3 2
G- 001 001 x- 2 4 1
Normandeau grounded to first, Miller scored.
Leeman scored on error.
G- Leeman 3
G- Leeman, Miller
Left on base:
Klenda and Snyder; Twitchell and Fried
Klenda (L, 3-3) 6 IP 4 H 2 R 1 ER 1 BB 2 K
Twitchell (W, 6-0) 7 IP 3 H 0 R 1 BB 10 K 1 HBP
CUMBERLAND—Once again, Greely’s baseball team faced the daunting task of beginning a championship run against rival Yarmouth.
Once again, the Rangers had a difference maker in the powerful presence of junior Ryan Twitchell.
Last spring, Twitchell came on in the ninth inning, held the Clippers at bay, then Greely won in the bottom of the frame en route to a repeat championship.
This time around, Rangers coach Derek Soule gave Twitchell the ball to start Thursday afternoon’s Class B South quarterfinal at Twin Brook Recreation Center and Twitchell never gave it back.
And he didn’t give Yarmouth much life either.
Twitchell blew out of the gate by fanning the side in the top of the first and his teammates got him the only run he’d need in the bottom of the third when senior first baseman Caleb Normandeau’s ground ball scored sophomore rightfielder Luke Miller.
Twitchell didn’t even allow the sixth-ranked Clippers to get a runner as far as third base and in the bottom of the sixth, third-seeded Greely produced a much-needed insurance run when senior second baseman Justin Leeman roped his third hit, then came around to score on an error.
Twitchell was just as strong at the conclusion of the game as he was at its onset and he caught the final two batters looking to give the Rangers a 2-0 victory.
Twitchell allowed just three hits, walked just one and struck out 10 as he stayed perfect on the season and unbeaten all-time in the playoffs, helping Greely improve to 12-4-1, end Yarmouth’s season at 11-6-1 and advance to host No. 7 Freeport (12-6) in the semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. at Twin Brook.
“This time of year, sometimes the first game can be the toughest,” said Rangers coach Derek Soule. “Last year (against Yarmouth), we had a battle. Two years ago, we had a battle. Offensively, on a day like today, you have to put the ball in play with guys in scoring position and we did that.”
Greely has been the Class B gold standard the past two seasons, but before the Rangers got to raise a championship plaque to the heavens, they had to beat their neighbor and rival from Yarmouth in the quarterfinals.
Two years ago, Greely prevailed, 4-0, but last year, the Rangers had to go two additional innings to win. Greely took an early 3-0 lead, but the Clippers rallied to tie the game. The Rangers left 17 runners on base, but finally won, 4-3, when Normandeau’s single ended the 2-hour, 53-minute marathon. Twitchell won the game in relief.
Greely went on to repeat as champion, but the road hasn’t been quite as smooth this spring, as the Rangers stumbled four times and settled for a tie in another game, but their 11 victories gave them the No. 3 seed behind Cape Elizabeth and York in Class B South.
Yarmouth was up and down this spring. The Clippers started 6-0-1, dropped five of six, then closed on a three-game win streak to earn the No. 6 seed. Tuesday, in the preliminary round, Yarmouth had no trouble advancing with a 12-0 (five-inning) home victory over No. 11 Fryeburg Academy. The Clippers scored seven first inning runs to blow it open and senior C.J. Cawley had a triple and home run.
The teams played a memorable game in their lone regular season meeting May 2 in Cumberland. The game was tied, 4-4, through nine innings as darkness loomed. Yarmouth then scored three runs in the top of the 10th, but before the game could be completed and the win made official, the contest was called by darkness, forcing the score to revert back to what it was after nine innings and the teams split the Heal Points (had the Clippers earned that victory, it’s quite likely they would have finished third and the Rangers sixth).
Greely entered play Thursday having won four of six previous playoff meetings against Yarmouth.
This time around, the Rangers made it five of seven as they never gave the Clippers a sniff of an opportunity to pull off the upset on a cool (61 degrees) and extremely gusty (21 mile-per-hour wind out of the west-northwest) afternoon.
Twitchell threw two strikes to Yarmouth senior first baseman and leadoff hitter Conor O’Donnell, then missed twice before getting O’Donnell to swing and foul tip the ball into the glove of junior catcher Dylan Fried to start the game. Twitchell then blew strike three past senior designated hitter Cody Cook and caught junior leftfielder Gibson Harnett looking at strike three to set the tone.
“The first inning got me focused and dialed in,” Twitchell said. “If I can dial it in the first inning, that helps me the whole game.”
Yarmouth senior starter Luke Klenda got in immediate trouble in the bottom half, as Leeman crushed a double over Harnett’s head leading off. The Rangers couldn’t take advantage, however, as Normandeau flew to center, senior shortstop Cal Soule flew to right and Twitchell failed to help himself, flying out to senior Noah Pellerin in center.
The Clippers put the ball in play in the second, but has nothing to show for it.
Leading off, senior catcher Jack Snyder grounded out to short. Klenda then hit a squibber to Twitchell’s left, but the pitcher showed his dexterity by bounding off the mound and pouncing on the ball before throwing out his opposite number. Senior third baseman Joe DeFusco followed with Yarmouth’s first hit, a single to right, but Cawley, the rightfielder, lined hard to Miller in right.
Klenda set Greely down in order in the bottom half, getting senior centerfielder Matt Pisini to hit a slow roller to senior Andrew Kinsman at second for the first out, senior designated hitter Brad Spoerri to foul out to Snyder behind the plate and senior leftfielder Austin Nowinski to ground out to short to end it.
After junior shortstop Chris Romano grounded out to short to start the third, Kinsman ripped a double down the leftfield line to seemingly get the Clippers going, but O’Donnell struck out (missing a bunt attempt on strike three) and although Cook reached on an error by junior third baseman Tate Porter, Kinsman continued on toward third and was tagged out by Porter to end the threat.
The Rangers then got on the board in their half.
Klenda battled back from down 3-0 to strike out Fried leading off, but Miller blooped a single to right. Leeman then ripped a single to deep right-center and Miller moved up to third. Klenda got Normandeau to ground to O’Donnell at first. O’Donnell thought about throwing home, but he bobbled the ball and instead, recorded the out at first as Miller scored for a 1-0 lead. Soule then grounded into a force out to end the frame, but Greely had a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Twitchell got a boost from Pisini to start the fourth, as the centerfielder raced in and slid to catch Harnett’s liner. Twitchell then fanned Snyder and Klenda.
Klenda kept the deficit at one in the bottom half, getting Twitchell to ground to short, Pisini to pop to third and Spoerri to ground out to first.
In the fifth, Twitchell struck out both DeFusco and Cawley, but with two outs, the Clippers stirred, as Romano walked and Kinsman singled to center to put runners at first and second.
Normandeau then made perhaps the biggest play of the game, as on a ground ball off the bat of O’Donnell to Porter, Porter’s throw to first was low. If the hop got past Normandeau, the tying run would have scored and the go-ahead run would have been at third, but Normandeau scooped it clean for the final out, preserving the lead.
“Caleb’s scoop was a huge momentum shift,” Derek Soule said. “They could have tied and had someone in scoring position. That made the difference between going out and going on.”
In the bottom half, Nowinski was out on a bunt in front of the plate, as Snyder threw him out, Fried flew out deep to center and after Miller walked, senior courtesy runner Matt Ahearn was picked off by Klenda to end the inning.
Twitchell didn’t allow a runner in the sixth, getting Cook to ground back to the mound on a 3-2 pitch, Harnett to fly to left and Snyder to fly deep to Pisini in center.
Greely then got some breathing room.
Leeman got the uprising started with a single to center.
“I was seeing the ball well,” Leeman said. “I was looking for a fastball each time. I laid off the curveballs. I got my pitch and hit it.”
“I have to give it to Leeman, going 3-for-3 today,” Twitchell said. “He helped the offense stay together.”
Leeman took second when Snyder’s pickoff throw was wild. After Normandeau struck out, Soule grounded to short, but the ball bounced off Romano for an error and Leeman raced home with the second run.
“We play great under pressure,” Leeman said. “That second run was huge. All the momentum came to our side.”
On the play, Soule tried to advance to second was gunned down Pellerin-to-Snyder-to-Romano. Twitchell then flew to left to send the game to the seventh.
Where Twitchell brought the curtain down.
Klenda grounded out to the mound to start the final inning, but Twitchell hit DeFusco with a pitch to bring the tying run to the plate.
It didn’t matter, as Twitchell caught Cawley looking at strike three, then fanned Romano looking to give the Rangers a 2-0 victory in a crisp 85 minutes.
“That second run took 10 pounds off my shoulders,” Twitchell said. “I had to stay dialed in, but I knew that if one run scored, we were still up. The adrenaline stayed with me all game and I kept going. I wasn’t going to come out.”
“This time of year, it’s about pitching, defense and timely hitting,” Derek Soule said. “With the wind blowing in the way it was, I knew it would be low-scoring. Klenda was tough, like he’s been his whole career.”
Twitchell improved to 6-0 on the season and 4-0 all-time in the playoffs (lest we forget, he threw a five-inning no-hitter in last year’s state final) by throwing a three-hit shutout. He walked one, hit a batter and fanned 10.
“I could throw any pitch whenever I wanted to and I could locate any pitch,” Twitchell said.
“(Ryan) was great,” Leeman said. “I didn’t even get a ground ball (at second base). He was unbelievable. He was dominant.”
“Twitchell had as good stuff as any pitcher I can remember,” added Derek Soule, who has coached countless stellar hurlers over the past two decades. “He was pounding the strike zone. He was living on the corners with some serious stuff.”
Leeman had three of Greely’s four hits and scored a run, as did Miller. Normandeau had the lone RBI.
The Rangers stranded two runners.
Yarmouth only mustered three hits, two by Kinsman, and stranded five runners.
Klenda was the hard-luck loser, falling to 3-3 after giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out two.
“Luke has probably volunteered 40 or 50 hours to Yarmouth Little League,” said Clippers coach Marc Halsted. “He’s one of the best citizens I’ve ever coached. I’m so happy to see how he developed. He had a fantastic career. He’s a fantastic kid. He’ll graduate ranked second to Nick Whittaker in most of our pitching categories in what we call the ‘modern era,’ since we’ve joined Class B.”
Ultimately, Yarmouth just couldn’t solve Twitchell and as a result, the season is over.
“We ran into a dominant pitcher,” Halsted said. “I thought we’d eventually get to him. We have a lot of seniors who have played a lot of high school baseball, but he stayed strong and finished strong. There was never a moment that I doubted we could do it. I thought we’d get a couple guys on and score, but we never got a runner to third base.”
The 2016 Clippers only got as far as last year’s squad, but there were plenty of memories made.
“This is the group of kids that I started bringing my son around at the age of two,” Halsted said. “The other night, some of them came to his T-ball game. That’s why I coach high school sports. I so wanted that group of seniors to have success this year. Hopefully they got a lot out of it. Winning a playoff game was cool.”
Yarmouth will have a very different look in 2017, but hopes to contend again.
“We lose 10 and they all play and we’ll only have two players next year who have a high school hit,” Halsted said. “We start Junior Legion on Sunday. Our freshmen and sophomores are coming along. We’ll get right back after it. We’ll keep building and working and try to find a way to win enough games to make the playoffs. The kids know we won’t expect anything less.”
Thanks to Freeport’s upset win Thursday, Greely will get to stay home for the semifinals Saturday when it meets the Falcons for just the second time in the postseason (the Rangers won, 1-0, in the 2004 Western B preliminary round). On May 17, Greely lost, 3-1, at Freeport, its first loss to the Falcons in at least 30 years.
This time around, the Rangers will be looking for a different result and since the calendar reads June, you have to like their chances.
“We’re confident and we have a lot of momentum,” Leeman said. “I think we just need to come in with the same approach, stay back, shoot it the other way, line drives. We’ll look for revenge from losing in the regular season. It’ll be a fight.”
“This team has as much grit and determination as any team I’ve played for,” Twitchell said. “We keep our heads up. We know we can do it. We’ll come out guns going and show them what we have. It’s always fun playing at home. The community loves the team and helps us get through the game.”
“We have six seniors who have part of (championship teams) since their sophomore years and a couple juniors as well who help control the emotions and focus in high-pressure situations,” Derek Soule added. “Freeport is playing well. Their pitchers keep you off balance and they make defensive plays. They’re having a special season. It’s going to be a really tough game.”
Greely junior ace Ryan Twitchell throws a strike. Twitchell was dominant to the tune of three hits allowed and 10 strikeouts as he improved to 4-0 all-time in the postseason.
Yarmouth senior starter Luke Klenda delivers to the plate. Klenda only allowed one run, but was the hard-luck loser.
Greely junior Ryan Twitchell connects with the ball.
Greely senior leftfielder Austin Nowinski catches a fly ball.
Greely senior Cal Soule makes contact.
Greely junior third baseman Tate Porter applies the tag on Yarmouth senior Andrew Kinsman for the third out in the top of the third inning.
Yarmouth senior Andrew Kinsman applies a tag on Greely senior Justin Leeman as Leeman tries to get back to the bag in the third inning.
Greely senior Cal Soule is tagged out by Yarmouth senior Andrew Kinsman at second base in the sixth inning.
2015 Western B quarterfinals
@ Greely 4 Yarmouth 3 (nine innings)
2014 Western B quarterfinals
@ Greely 4 Yarmouth 0
2011 Western B Final
Greely 7 Yarmouth 5
2008 Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 9 @ Greely 2
2006 Western B quarterfinals
@ Greely 12 Yarmouth 2 (six innings)
2002 Western B preliminary round
Yarmouth 8 @ Greely 5 (eight innings)