CAPE ELIZABETH—It took the Yarmouth baseball team 10 innings to score a run this season against rival Cape Elizabeth, but once the Clippers got the bats going in the third inning of Thursday’s contest at Holman Field, there was no stopping them.
Yarmouth avenged its only blemish of the season (a 7-0 home setback to the Capers last week) and handed Cape Elizabeth its initial loss, thanks to the gritty pitching of junior Aidan Sullivan and clutch two-out hitting.
Sullivan’s two-out, two-run single in the top of the fifth put the Clippers ahead to stay and they tacked on three huge insurance runs in the seventh on two-out hits from senior Nick Whittaker, Sullivan and junior Campbell Haley. In the bottom of the inning, the Capers scored twice and loaded the bases before senior Reed Wommack came in to get the final out and put out the fire, giving Yarmouth a confidence-boosting and Heal Points-rich 8-6 victory.
“It’s really a big win for us,” Sullivan said. “Cape’s a great team. They really put it to us last week. We needed to come out here and make a statement.”
Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth entered the 2010 season as two of the favorites in Western B and certainly haven’t disappointed.
The Capers passed their first 10 tests, which included victories over top rivals Falmouth (4-2), Greely (6-5), Yarmouth and York (4-1). Monday, Cape Elizabeth outlasted visiting Freeport, 1-0, in 10 innings.
The Clippers were barely tested in their first eight outings, then lost at home to the Capers. Yarmouth bounced back with an impressive 13-5 home victory over Falmouth Friday and a 5-4 win at Greely, the defending state champ, Tuesday, then set out to earn a measure of revenge on a toasty Thursday afternoon.
Early on, it appeared as if Cape Elizabeth was on its way to another victory.
After the Clippers failed to parlay a two-out single from junior shortstop Luke Pierce into a rally in the top of the first, the Capers got the jump when senior second baseman Kyle Piscopo singled, moved to second when senior first baseman Will Pierce beat out an infield hit and after both runners moved up on a Sullivan wild pitch, came home to score the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly from junior designated hitter Kyle Danielson.
With one out in the top of the second, Haley singled to right and stole second base, but he advanced no further. In the bottom half, Cape Elizabeth went ahead 2-0 thanks to a leadoff walk to senior centerfielder Conor Moloney, a sacrifice bunt and with two outs, a flare single down the rightfield line from junior shortstop Cam Brown.
To that point this season, Yarmouth had been outscored 9-0 by the Capers, but things were about to change.
In the top of the third, with one out, senior centerfielder Jeff Kuklewicz reached on an error when Piscopo threw the ball away and raced to third when senior catcher Ezra Wolfinger committed a throwing error trying to nab him at second. With two outs, Luke Pierce delivered the run, ripping a line drive off the body of junior pitcher Rob MacDonald to make it 2-1.
After Sullivan set the side down in order in the bottom of the third, the Clippers drew even in the top of the fourth as Haley singled to right with two outs and advanced all the way to third after junior rightfielder Pat Tyler overran the ball. Junior third baseman Joey King followed with a ringing double to deep right-center and the ballgame was deadlocked.
Cape Elizabeth quickly retook the lead in the bottom half as with one out, Moloney caught up to a Sullivan delivery and drove the ball deep over the wall in dead center to make it 3-2 Capers.
“I left it up a little,” Sullivan said, of the home run pitch. “It was a great piece of hitting. He crushed it.”
Undaunted, Yarmouth rallied again in the top of the fifth and took the lead for good.
This time, the rally started when senior rightfielder Dan Kameisha drew a four-pitch walk. Kuklewicz then executed a perfect hit-and-run single to center, putting runners on first and third. After senior second baseman Travis Merrill grounded into a force out, Luke Pierce again delivered, doubling to deep rightfield to tie the score and put runners at second and third. MacDonald appeared ready to get out of the jam when he induced senior first baseman Nick Whittaker to ground back to the mound, but Sullivan had other ideas, singling to center to score two, making it 5-3 Clippers.
Again, Cape Elizabeth pushed across a single run in the bottom half as Piscopo doubled to deep right-center and Will Pierce followed with an RBI hit to right. Sullivan kept it a 5-4 game when he induced a groundout by Danielson, then fanned MacDonald and junior leftfielder Jack Barber.
A caught stealing short-circuited any possible Yarmouth rally in the top of the sixth and in the bottom half, Sullivan retired the side in order on just five pitches.
Entering the seventh, Clippers coach Marc Halsted implored his charges to get some insurance runs and they came through.
With one out, Merrill was hit by a pitch in the back. He stole second, moved to third on a groundout, then scored when Whittaker singled to center. Senior pinch-runner Conor Costello then raced home on a double to deep left-center off the bat of Sullivan and Haley followed with a double over Moloney’s head to make it 8-4.
“Our bats came alive,” Sullivan said. “We have big guys in the middle of the order. We were patient. That was the key for us. The two-out hits were big. Coach Halsted really prides us on getting the two-out hits. We did that really well I think. Those three runs were huge. We need a cushion against these guys. They’re always capable of coming back.”
“(Two-out hitting’s) great to see,” Halsted added. “It wasn’t just the big name guys. Going first to third like we do helps. Little things, like Conor Costello scoring from first on that double.”
Cape Elizabeth wasn’t about to surrender its unbeaten status without a fight.
Brown and Piscopo singled to open the bottom of the seventh. After Sullivan struck out Will Pierce and Danielson, MacDonald singled to load the bases. The game could have ended on a ground ball to short off the bat of Barber, but a bad throw by Pierce scored two runs, put runners at first and second and brought the dangerous Moloney to the plate.
Halsted then came to pull Sullivan (6.2 innings, 9 hits, 6 runs, 4 earned, 3 walks, 6 Ks and 2 wild pitches).
Enter Wommack, who’s earning a reputation for killing rallies with the game on the line.
Wommack didn’t waste any time locking up the victory as he got Moloney to hit a harmless fly ball to Kuklewicz and Yarmouth had improved to 11-1 with the 8-6 victory.
“I really wanted that last out, but it’s alright,” Sullivan said. “Reed came in and did a good job. I felt good. I knew I didn’t have my best stuff, but the guys made the plays behind me. It’s always nice to beat a good team, especially at their place. We have good team camaraderie. We never get too down.”
“(Aidan) still wasn’t his best,” Halsted said. “At one point, he fell behind seven of 16 hitters, but he buckled down. He didn’t give up many hits. It was nice to have Reed, a Presidential Scholar, one of the smartest kids you’ll ever meet, with the confidence to close it down.”
The Clippers finished with 12 hits, nine of which came with two outs. Haley, Pierce (two runs batted in) and Sullivan (three RBI) each had three hits, including one double apiece.
“I’ve never won here,” said Halsted (It was Yarmouth’s first victory in Cape Elizabeth since May 22, 2002, a 6-0 win). “Cape’s well-coached and has a good baseball culture. They do the little things right. To win here is great for confidence. We just wanted to play good baseball.”
Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Hayward felt his team did itself in.
“We’ve been playing with fire, that’s for sure,” Hayward said. “Intensity in games and practices hasn’t been what it needs to be. It’s a learning process. That’s the most runs we’ve given up in a game all year. (Yarmouth’s) a good team.”
The Capers made three errors behind MacDonald, who went the distance, allowing 8 runs (6 earned) on a dozen hits, a walk and one hit batter. He did fan three.
“Rob’s been much more efficient lately and has been much better with his off-speed pitches, so we’re very happy with that development, but we made errors behind him,” Hayward said. “Mental and physical errors won’t beat the best teams.”
Offensively Cape Elizabeth got nine hits, including three from Piscopo and two from Brown. Piscopo and Pierce doubled, while Moloney went deep.
There’s a good chance the Capers (10-1) and Clippers could square off again in the postesason, but both powers still have work to do before the regular season ends to lock up optimal playoff positioning and up to two home games.
Cape Elizabeth faces another test Friday, at Falmouth. The Capers have home tilts remaining versus Lake Region and Wells and also face trips to York and Greely.
“We have five hard games still,” Hayward said. “We’ve probably won enough games to get in. We want to stay in the upper half and see what we can do.”
As for the Clippers, who have already guaranteed themselves of their highest regular season win total since 1998 (12) and are enjoying their finest season since moving up to Class B at the beginning of the decade, they have a home tilt with Freeport tomorrow, then go to Falmouth, host Greely and welcome Western C contender North Yarmouth Academy in their remaining contests.
“With all due respect to the rest of the league, with our ‘rivals,’ York, Falmouth, Falmouth, Greely, Greely, Cape, Cape, if you go 4-3, you’ve done a great job and we’re 4-1 so far,” Halsted said. “We’ll try to go out next week and finish the job.
“We just talked about avoiding a letdown against Freeport. (Falcons coach Hank Ogilby has) done such a good job with those kids. They’re playing good baseball. It won’t be easy.”
If Cape Elizabeth and Yarmouth do meet again next month, it could be a classic.
“We’ll ready for them to come back hard at us in the playoffs,” Sullivan said.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com