The Yarmouth baseball team wasn’t about to rest on its laurels following a best-ever regular season in Class B.
The Clippers, the second seed in Western B, held off No. 7 Gray-New Gloucester, 8-6, and No. 3 Lincoln Academy, 6-2, in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, setting up a delicious regional final showdown with top-ranked Cape Elizabeth Wednesday night.
Greely almost joined Yarmouth in the regional final. The Rangers, the No. 5 seed, eliminated No. 4 Lisbon, 4-0, in the quarterfinals, then rallied twice at Cape Elizabeth in the semis before dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 decision.
Falmouth, ranked sixth, lost its first outing, 10-7, at No. 3 Lincoln in the quarterfinals.
In Western C, NYA, the No. 4 seed, reached the semifinals for the first time since moving up in class. The Panthers rallied for a stirring 7-2 quarterfinal round win over No. 5 Wiscasset before dropping a hard-fought 3-1 decision at top-ranked Dirigo.
Good times keep rolling
Yarmouth won its first eight games this spring, lost, 7-0, to visiting Cape Elizabeth, then avenged that setback as part of a regular-season ending seven-game win streak.
Last Wednesday, the Clippers met Gray-New Gloucester in the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Yarmouth never trailed behind senior ace Nick Whittaker, but the Patriots never went away either. The Clippers scored in every inning but one and junior Campbell Haley earned the save. Whittaker not only earned his seventh win of the year, he also homered. Haley and junior Luke Pierce both tripled and senior Travis Merrill hit a double, all part of an 11-hit attack.
“Gray-New Gloucester was very tough,” said Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted. “They’ve done a great job this year battling back from an 0-6 start. In fact, we beat them for that sixth loss and they proved they were a much different team on Wednesday. They never let us pull away.”
The Clippers and Lincoln were scoreless into the bottom of the fifth Saturday when senior Reed Wommack had an RBI single and Merrill broke it open with a three-run double. Junior Aidan Sullivan added an RBI hit and Haley was superb on the mound, going the distance, allowing just two runs as Yarmouth improved to 17-1 and advanced.
“Lincoln Academy is always a good club,” Halsted said. “They win 10-plus games every year and they expect to be one of the top four teams come June. They didn’t allow a baserunner for the first three innings, but we got to them in the fourth and fifth. Reed Wommack got us going with an RBI single, but Travis Merrill put the game out of reach with a three-run double. ‘Bull’ Haley pitched very well, struck out six, gave up just a couple of hits and competed for seven innings.”
Yarmouth advanced to its first ever Western B Final and its first regional final since winning the Class C crown back in 1995. The Clippers split with the Capers (17-1) in the regular season, winning 8-6, in Cape Elizabeth on May 20. The teams had no playoff history.
“It’s been a great journey so far,” Halsted said. “We were excited after the win Saturday, but there was a certain calm that we all felt afterwards. We want to accomplish more and we love our situation. Cape is the number one seed, they’re the favorite, they’re supposed to win, they have the pitcher (senior lefty Conor Moloney) who hasn’t allowed an earned run all year. We have nothing to lose. Our kids will be locked and loaded on Wednesday night and anything can happen in a championship game like that.”
If Yarmouth advances, it will face either top-ranked Waterville (17-1) or No. 2 Bucksport (14-4) in the Class B Final Saturday at 11 a.m., at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Not this year
Greely peaked at the right time and went on to win Class B a year ago. After graduation took its toll, the Rangers had an up-and-down regular season, finishing 10-6, but once again, this proud program was at its best in June.
Last Wednesday, at Lisbon, Greely got a three-hit shutout from senior Dan O’Brion (who fanned 11). Senior Mark Dominick’s two-run single broke it open and the Rangers won, 4-0.
That sent Greely to Cape Elizabeth for a rematch of last year’s epic semifinal, which the Rangers won, 1-0, in 10 innings. Cape Elizabeth won both regular season meetings, 6-5, May 3 at home and 5-2, June 2 in a game the Rangers hosted at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.
Saturday, the Capers went up 2-0 on senior Will Pierce’s two-run third inning home run, but Greely responded with a run in the fourth and tied the score with another in the sixth (on senior Ben Russell’s RBI hit). Cape Elizabeth went back on top, 3-2, in the bottom of the inning, but one out from elimination in the seventh, junior Matt Labbe tied the score with a hit and it was on to extra innings. In the top of the eighth, the Rangers squandered a great chance to go ahead and in the bottom half, the Capers pushed across a run to win it, 4-3, ending Greely’s season at 11-7.
“It was a classic Greely-Cape battle,” said Rangers coach Derek Soule. “I couldn’t be more proud of how well we played and how hard we battled from start to finish. It was a great game. No player on either side should have left that field hanging their head. No regrets, we played our hearts out.
“When I reflect on the season, I first think about the fact I was very fortunate to coach this group of kids,” Soule added. “As a whole, they are true student-athletes who work hard in the classroom and on the playing fields. I am also very proud of how far we came. We struggled early-on and in the end we matched the number one seed in every phase of the game. It could have gone either way.”
Look for Greely to be right back in the thick of it in 2011.
“I’m looking forward to another year,” Soule said. “We have some key players back including our 1,2,3 hitters (sophomore Pete Stauber, junior Ben Shain and Labbe), two key pitchers (Shain and sophomore Mike Leeman) and a good group of young talented players coming up through the system.”
Falmouth gave Lincoln a scare in the quarterfinals. The Yachtsmen led 5-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth, but Lincoln scored four times to take the lead for good, added two more in both the fifth and sixth and held off a two-run Falmouth rally in the seventh to win 10-7, ending the Yachtsmen’s year at 10-7.
“It was a tough loss,” said Falmouth coach Kevin Winship. “I thought the boys played well. I have to give credit to Lincoln Academy. They battled back and hit the ball well and made the plays when they needed them.
“It was unfortunate for our seniors to go out so early in the playoffs but it gave our younger guys a taste of what the playoffs are all about. I am looking forward to next year. We have most of our starters returning, along with some younger guys stepping up, I am looking for a return trip to the playoffs next spring.”
NYA went 11-4-1 in the regular year, easily its best mark since moving up to Class C in 2006. The fourth-ranked Panthers then won a quarterfinal round for the first time in Class C, scoring seven times in the bottom of the sixth Friday to beat No. 5 Wiscasset, 7-2.
Senior Dean Darien was the hero, breaking a 2-2 tie with a bases-clearing double and throwing a four-hitter while striking out 12.
“We had a lot of chances early and didn’t score and normally in a playoff game that comes back to haunt you,” said coach Alan King. “We caught a break in the sixth inning and got hits when we needed to. I told the guys to keep their heads up and keep swinging the bats. We knew Wiscasset would be tough.”
At top-ranked Dirigo Saturday, the Panthers could only muster one run and despite a strong pitching effort from senior Sam Hutchinson, fell, 3-1, ending the season at 12-5-1.
“Dirigo was a tough one,” King said. “Nobody expected us to be there. Our goal was get to (the regional final).”
NYA graduates five players, but should make another strong run next spring.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org