Greely senior ace Ryan Twitchell throws a strike to his counterpart, Yarmouth senior Luke Waeldner during the rivals’ showdown Wednesday afternoon. Twitchell threw a five-hitter and struck out 12 as the Rangers prevailed, 4-1.
Yarmouth junior Luke Waeldner delivers a pitch early in Wednesday’s contest.
Y- 000 001 0- 1 5 1
G- 000 121- 4 4 2
Miller doubled to left, Twitchell scored.
Neleski doubled to right, Brown and Twitchell scored.
Harnett singled to right, Gleason scored.
Fried grounded out to third, Eisenhart scored.
G- Twitchell 2, Brown, Eisenhart
G- Neleski 2, Fried, Miller
G- Miller, Neleski
Y- Gleason, Harnett, J. Romano
G- Decourcey, Eisenhart, Fried, Miller, Twitchell
Left on base:
Waeldner, Harnett (5) and Waaler; Twitchell and Fried
Waeldner (L, 1-2) 4.1 IP 2 H 3 R 3 ER 3 BB 5 K 1 HBP
Harnett 1.2 IP 2 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 1 K
Twitchell (W, 2-0) 7 IP 5 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 12 K
CUMBERLAND—Whether they’re veteran-laden, or in this year’s case, full of inexperience, Greely and Yarmouth’s baseball teams always bring out the best in each other.
And as has been the case so often the past five seasons, the Rangers find a way to prevail.
Wednesday afternoon at Twin Brook Recreation Center, the rivals met for the second time in six days and after a slow start, the usual wheels were set in motion to produce a memorable contest.
Greely senior ace Ryan Twitchell and Clippers junior left-hander Luke Waeldner didn’t allow a hit in the first three innings and it appeared that one run might just make the difference.
The Rangers got that run in the home half of the fourth inning, when Twitchell drew a walk, stole second base and one batter later, junior rightfielder Luke Miller doubled to left to make it 1-0.
When Greely tacked on two insurance runs in the fifth, thanks to a clutch two-out, two-run double from sophomore first baseman Will Neleski, it appeared Twitchell had more than enough support to slam the door, but as it so often does, Yarmouth refused to go quietly.
The Clippers’ bats came alive in the top of the sixth, producing four hits, but only one run, on an RBI single from senior leftfielder Gibson Harnett. Yarmouth had the bases loaded with two down, but Twitchell returned to form and fanned senior second baseman Joe Coyne to end the threat.
The Rangers got the run right back in the bottom of the frame, as they loaded the bases courtesy an infield single and a pair of walks, and senior catcher Dylan Fried’s ground ball restored a three-run lead.
Twitchell then came on and quickly retired the Clippers in the seventh, with two strikeouts and a meek ground ball, and Greely was able to celebrate a 4-1 victory.
Twitchell allowed five hits, but struck out 12 and the Rangers improved to 5-1, dropping Yarmouth to 3-2 in the process.
“At this point of the season, we’re just happy to win,” said longtime Greely coach Derek Soule, who now has 251 victories with the program. “We have just three regulars back. The bulk of our lineup is still getting comfortable hitting varsity pitching. We’re getting better and making progress. We’re not scoring an extraordinary amount of runs, but I can see it in our confidence level at the plate.”
Greely and Yarmouth tend to produce some of the more memorable baseball games you’ll see and it’s been that way for years.
Last spring, the teams played nine innings in a game that ultimately ended in a 4-4 tie due to darkness.
Then, in the rematch, the Rangers eliminated the Clippers in the quarterfinal round for the third straight season, as Twitchell threw a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 2-0 victory.
This season, both teams have holes to fill, but both have looked good in the early going.
Yarmouth opened with a 4-3 home win over York. After a 7-2 home loss to Greely last Friday, in a game which saw them make eight errors, the Clippers bounced back to beat visiting Fryeburg Academy (4-0) and host Poland (4-2).
Greely started with a 1-0 victory at Gray-New Gloucester. After a 4-3 home loss to Cape Elizabeth, the Rangers won at Kennebunk (5-2), at Yarmouth (7-2) and at home over Lake Region (7-4).
The Rangers have had the better of the Clippers over the past five years, entering play Wednesday having gone 9-0-1 in the past 10 meetings (see sidebar, below), including last week’s win, which featured senior Sam Cloutier earning his first victory and junior second baseman A.J. Eisenhart delivering a key hit.
Wednesday, on an afternoon which featured everything from rain at the start to sun to plenty of wind and even flying bugs that would have given Joba Chamberlain nightmares, Yarmouth sought its first win over Greely since a 4-3 home triumph May 17, 2012, but instead, the Rangers got the job done again.
Twitchell made quick work of the Clippers in the top of the first, getting Waeldner to look at strike three, senior shortstop Chris Romano to ground out first base to the pitcher and catching Harnett to stare at strike three.
Waeldner, who took the loss in the teams’ meeting last week, retired Greely in order in the bottom half, as he got Fried to pop out foul to senior first baseman John Thoma, sophomore shortstop Zach Brown to fly deep to right and Twitchell to pop out to first.
Yarmouth sophomore centerfielder Jack Romano worked a full count leading off the top of the second, but Twitchell got him to ground out to short. Junior third baseman Jackson Caruso then chased a high fastball for strike three and Coyne struck out as well to retire the side.
Waeldner had to work out of a self-induced jam in the bottom half, as he walked Neleski on a full count pitch and after getting Miller to fly deep to left, he hit Eisenhart. Waeldner relied on his curveball to escape, however, as he caught both junior designated hitter Eben Kiesow and senior third baseman Tate Porter looking at strike three.
The Clippers produced their first threat in the top of the third, thanks to some Greely generosity.
Junior catcher James Waaler led off and struck out, but strike three landed in the dirt and Fried’s throw to first was high for an error, allowing Waaler to reach. After junior designated hitter Ethan Belesca sacrificed Waaler to second, Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted sent the runner with Thoma at the plate, but Thoma lined out to Neleski at first. It appeared a double play would ensue, but Neleski’s throw to Brown at short was wild and Waaler got back to second as the inning continued. That brought up Waeldner with a chance to help his cause, but he popped out foul to Brown behind third base to keep the game scoreless.
In the bottom half, Waeldner continued to frustrate the Rangers, catching senior leftfielder Jack Saffian looking at strike three, getting Fried to ground to short (with Thoma making a nice scoop) and Brown to strike out swinging.
Chris Romano led off the fourth with the game’s first hit, a single off the glove of diving senior centerfielder Eric Kinkead, but Harnett was hit by the ball after attempting a sacrifice bunt and was called out, Jack Romano popped out to second and after Chris Romano stole second, Caruso popped out foul to first to end the inning.
Greely then took the lead for good in the bottom half.
Twitchell got the rally started by drawing a walk. He then stole second. Neleski followed by making solid contact and chasing Jack Romano all the way back to deep right-center where he made the catch, but Twitchell moved up to third. Miller then crushed a ball to left and it would up sailing over the head of Harnett for a double as Twitchell scored easily for the game’s first run. Eisenhart drew a walk and the runners moved up on a perfectly executed double steal, but Waeldner escaped further damage by getting Kiesow to line out softly to first and striking out Porter.
Twitchell struck out the side in the top of the fifth, fanning Coyne looking and Waaler and Belesca swinging.
In the bottom half, the Rangers got two more runs to seemingly open it up.
Waeldner fanned Saffian to start the inning, but Fried singled off Caruso’s glove at third and stole second. Brown walked on a full count pitch and Halsted pulled Waeldner in favor of Harnett.
Twitchell greeted the new pitcher with a sharp ground ball to Harnett’s left, but Harnett dove to stab it, then threw to third base for the force out. With Neleski at the plate, Harnett then threw a wild pitch to move the runners up and with senior rightfielder Tommy Fallon shaded to right-center, Neleski went the other way and dropped the ball just inside the rightfield line for a double that scored both runners to make it 3-0.
“(Waeldner) froze some of our guys early, but eventually, we got him out of the game, then we started getting some hits,” said Neleski. “I saw when Ryan was at bat, that (Harnett) started him off with a couple curveballs, so I let them go by. I found my pitch and I took it to rightfield. Teams like playing me to pull. I showed them I can go the opposite way. It’s exciting. It’s a lot different from last year. I’m starting to settle in and feel good. Having experienced guys around gives me confidence to do my job.”
“Guys are stepping up getting hits when we need them,” Twitchell said. “Hopefully we keep it going.”
“Will has stepped right in,” Soule added. “He’s a competitor. He loves baseball. He’s a guy who’s played a lot coming up through. He’s been a pleasant surprise, how much he’s contributed early offensively.”
“It was a great pitch by Gibby and (Neleski) just dropped it in there,” Halsted said.
Miller grounded out to third to end it, but Greely was in command.
Or so it seemed.
Back roared the Clippers in the sixth as Twitchell suffered through a rare difficult inning, before he finished it in style.
Thoma got the uprising started by grounding a single past the glove of the diving Neleski. Junior Ben Gleason came in to run and he stole second and moved to third when Waeldner singled to left. After Chris Romano couldn’t check his swing and struck out, Harnett came through with a single to right to score Gleason to cut the deficit to 3-1. Yarmouth then shot itself in the foot on the basepaths as with Jack Romano at the plate, the trail runner, Harnett, took off for second and Waeldner, after a moment’s hesitation tried to steal third, but Fried gunned him down, as it appeared a hit-and-run was botched. Romano managed to draw a walk and Caruso singled to right to load the bases, but after a visit from pitching coach Miles Hunt, Twitchell fired strike three past Coyne to end the inning with Greely still on top, 3-1.
“I just lost control of all my stuff that inning,” Twitchell said. “I gave up that leadoff hit and then it went downhill from there. I had to stay composed on the mound and do what I do. Coach told me to calm down. I was rushing things. I wasn’t staying balanced. I had mental focus right there. I had to bear down.”
“Ryan left some balls up and you have to give Yarmouth credit, they’re a young team too and facing a tough pitcher, they put good swings on him,” Soule said. “They made the adjustment. We were fortunate to get out of that inning with only one run.”
The Rangers promptly responded in the bottom half, as Eisenhart led off with an infield single off Caruso’s glove and after Kiesow flew out to right, with junior pinch-hitter Nathan Cyr at the plate, an error on a pickoff attempt allowed Eisenhart to move to second and he was wild pitched to third. Cyr drew a walk and after senior pinch-runner Logan Decourcey stole second, senior pinch-hitter Joe Piwowarski drew ball four to load the bases. That brought up Fried, who grounded out slowly to Caruso at third, whose lone play was a throw to first for the second out as Eisenhart came home with the run. Brown struck out, but Greely took a 4-1 lead to the seventh.
Where Twitchell squashed any remaining Clippers’ hopes.
Twitchell struck out Waaler to start the frame and got junior pinch-hitter Reece Hall to fan as well. Coyne then made contact, but grounded out to Eisenhart at second and after 1 hour and 44 minutes, that brought the curtain down on the Rangers’ 4-1 victory.
“I was frustrated with the sixth inning and decided to bear down in the seventh and got them 1-2-3,” Twitchell said.
Twitchell improved to 2-0 after giving up one earned run on five hits and one walk in seven innings. He struck out 12.
“I haven’t pitched much because of the new pitch count rule,” said Twitchell. “It’s nice to get some work in.”
“We have to support Ryan when he’s on the mound,” said Neleski. “When he’s out there, we always have a chance to win. He had all his pitches going. He started with fastballs, then hit them with breaking balls.”
Offensively, Twitchell scored twice and Brown and Eisenhart each touched home once. Neleski drove in two runs, while Fried and Miller had one RBI apiece.
Miller and Neleski both doubled and Decourcey, Eisenhart, Fried, Miller and Twitchell all had stolen bases.
Greely stranded seven runners.
For Yarmouth, Gleason scored the run and Harnett had the RBI. Gleason, Harnett and Jack Romano had stolen bases.
The Clippers left five runners on base.
Waeldner fell to 1-2 after giving up three earned runs on two hits and three walks in 4.1 innings. He struck out five and hit a batter.
“(Luke) hit spots and changed speeds and eye levels,” Halsted said. “That’s the book on a crafty lefty. You had two pitchers who were totally different dominate early. They’re both highly competitive.”
“Waeldner has a tough combination to adjust to, a big, slow breaking ball and his fastball, which looks quicker,” Soule said. “He had a better breaking ball than he did last time we faced him.”
Harnett gave up a run on two hits and two walks in 1.2 innings of relief. He struck out one.
“We got five hits today,” said Halsted. “We hit the ball hard six, seven, eight times, which is hard against a great pitcher. We leave here with more confidence than we entered with seven first-time starters. Most of these kids had never faced a high-quality pitcher. This is how we’ll get better. When you have two kids on the entire roster that ever had a high school baseball base hit and we still started off 3-2, I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Both teams have a busy stretch upcoming and are hoping that Mother Nature will cooperate.
The Clippers look to bounce back Monday when Gray-New Gloucester pays a visit. After hosting Lake Region Wednesday, Yarmouth goes to Fryeburg Academy Thursday and defending regional champion Freeport Friday.
“We have competitive kids who are smart,” Halsted said. “We’re learning from every game. It’s a great experience. We just need practice time. This has been one of the worst years I can remember. I think we’ve had just five outdoor practices.”
The Rangers are home with Poland Monday and Sacopee Valley Wednesday before going to Fryeburg Academy May 13.
“We have to keep practicing hard,” Neleski said. “We have to get in some good practice time before it rains again.”
“To be 5-1 with a bunch of guys with little varsity experience, I’m really pleased,” Soule said. “At the same time, the more you win, the more you think how far you can go. We’re 5-1, but we have a ton of room to improve and grow.”
Greely 7 @ Yarmouth 2
Greely 4 Yarmouth 4 (9-inning tie)
Class B South quarterfinal
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 0
Greely 11 @ Yarmouth 2
Western B quarterfinal
@ Greely 4 Yarmouth 3 (9)
@ Greely 5 Yarmouth 4
Western B quarterfinal
@ Greely 4 Yarmouth 0
Greely 10 @ Yarmouth 7 (8)
@ Greely 1 Yarmouth 0
Greely 3 Yarmouth 1 (@ OOB)
@ Yarmouth 4 Greely 3
@ Greely 5 Yarmouth 4
@ Yarmouth 6 Greely 5
Western B Final
Greely 7 Yarmouth 5
Yarmouth 5 @ Greely 4
@ Yarmouth 4 Greely 2
@ Greely 6 Yarmouth 5
Greely 11 @ Yarmouth 3
Western B quarterfinals
Yarmouth 9 @ Greely 2
Greely 7 @ Yarmouth 4
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 9 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 2 Yarmouth 0
Western B quarterfinals
@ Greely 12 Yarmouth 2 (6)
@ Greely 8 Yarmouth 1
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 1
Greely 9 @ Yarmouth 1
@ Greely 8 Yarmouth 0
@ Greely 6 Yarmouth 5
Greely 4 @ Yarmouth 3
@ Greely 11 Yarmouth 11 (tie)
Western B preliminary round
Yarmouth 8 @ Greely 5 (8)