FALMOUTH—The Yarmouth baseball team has gone from a top-flight contender in the hunt for the Western B regional title to a club seemingly in the midst of something very special after collecting three wins on its current five-game streak with late inning heroics.
Along the way, the Clippers have accrued the winning mojo that has a familiar way of showing up when a good team starts to roll downhill and gain the look of a champion.
Yarmouth claimed it latest victim on the road Wednesday afternoon in the cruelest of methods, saving all four of its best swings in the game for the top of the last inning to score five times and sweep the rug clean out from under a Falmouth team that held a 2-0 lead since the third.
The Clippers scored three times with two outs in the top of the seventh, taking advantage of two costly errors to pick up another dramatic victory, 5-2, shocking a Yachtsmen team just one out away from earning a guaranteed trip to the regional tournament.
Nick Whittaker, the Clippers’ hard-throwing senior ace, kept his team close enough to deliver another stun-job in its last at-bat with full command of a live fastball he spotted to retire the side in order four times, dialing it up late as he appeared to get stronger as the game went. With complete faith in senior catcher Nick Proscia, the big righthander used the fastball to gain favorable counts and bothered Falmouth with a cutter he liked to bury in the dirt with two strikes. Whittaker set down eight of the Yachtsmen’s last 12 hitters by way of the K, fanning the side in the fourth and the first two batters in each of the sixth and the seventh innings to finish with 11 over the distance.
“Nick Proscia was the quiet player of the game for us,” said Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted. “He’s a senior and I DH for him most of the time. He’s started all 14 games behind the plate and let up just three passed balls all season. That’s incredible. Today he was out there blocking pitches in the dirt and squeezing third strikes. That was huge for us.”
Yarmouth (second in the latest Western B Heal Points standings) improves to 13-1 to keep pace with top-ranked Cape Elizabeth (13-1). The Clippers won seven straight to start the season, setting up a battle of 7-0 teams that the Capers won, 7-0, May 12 in Yarmouth.
But two wins later, including a 5-4 last inning win at rival Greely, the Clippers went to Cape Elizabeth and returned the favor, winning 8-6, thanks to six two-out RBI. Yarmouth blasted Freeport at home and made it five straight back with the bookend wins over Falmouth. The Clippers stayed home and pounded the Yachtsmen 13-5 just two days after falling to Cape Elizabeth.
Yarmouth’s late-inning heroics on Wednesday wasted a perfectly fine outing on the hill turned in by Falmouth senior Mitchell Beaulieu, the hard-luck loser of record after scattering just five hits over six scoreless innings before disaster struck. The righthander struck out four and protected a two-run lead for three innings pitching to contact and using Falmouth’s solid play in the field to his benefit.
“Mitch Beaulieu was excellent,” said Halsted. “He didn’t give us a lot to hit and deserved better today. Falmouth played great but I’m going to take this win and be happy for the guys. This is the type of game you walk away from feeling good, feeling confident. That’s a good feeling.”
The Yachtsmen (7-6) stranded a pair of base runners in the home half of the first and went down in order on three groundballs to end the second. In the bottom of the third inning, junior Joe Barns chopped to the bag at third and beat the long throw for a one-out single. Falmouth, with its best hitter at the plate in junior catcher Matt MacDowell, was able to move Barns up a bag into scoring position on a breaking ball in the dirt from Whittaker. With a run out there, MacDowell dug in on the left side and delivered a top-spin line drive to right that got down in time to bring Barns in from second with the game’s first run as MacDowell trotted into second with an RBI double. Beaulieu, in the third slot, unloaded on the first pitch he saw and pounded a fastball up in the zone to center on the line, knocking in MacDowell and putting Falmouth on top 2-0 after three complete.
“There were one or two plays out there that defined the game,” said MacDowell. “Unfortunately they didn’t go our way. We’ve struggled all season to get the big hits when we need them. We left way too many guys on base. We stranded 13 at Greely last time out and must have left another seven or eight out there today. That’s sort of how the season has gone for us.”
Back on the bump with a two-run cushion, Beaulieu continued to cruise along with a little help from MacDowell to escape a leadoff bunt single from junior Luke Pierce, a powerful bat at the top of the Clippers’ order. Beaulieu stiffened and set down Yarmouth senior Travis Merrill and Whittaker with a pair of big strikeouts. Pierce stole second base on a close play but was erased for the third out when Clippers junior Aidan Sullivan swung and missed with action on and MacDowell gunned down Pierce at third to escape the top of the fourth. Beaulieu preserved the 2-0 lead in the fifth with help from a double-play ground ball, and Falmouth went to the seventh needing just three outs for the win after Yarmouth went down in order in the sixth.
“Beaulieu pitched a great game against a good team,” said Falmouth coach Kevin Winship. “They got a couple of big hits when they needed them and we had the big error. That was the difference. Both teams played well and it came down to one play.”
In Yarmouth’s dramatic five-run top of the seventh, Pierce singled with two strikes when he went down and lined a fastball on the inner half into right. Beaulieu got the first out when he caught Whittaker staring at a called third strike, but Pierce went to third on a sharply hit ground ball through the infield into center off the bat of Sullivan that put runners on the corners. Yarmouth’s next batter, dangerous junior Campbell Haley, tagged Beaulieu for an RBI double that scored Pierce and replaced him at third with Sullivan. Winship elected to intentionally walk senior Dustin McCrossin to load the bases and did get the second out when Beaulieu fielded a high chopper off the mound toward third and cut down Sullivan at the plate.
With the Yachtsmen clinging to a slim lead, two down and the bases filled with Clippers, Beaulieu watched a game-tying single to center quickly turn into a 4-2 deficit. Senior Reed Wommack lined over the second base bag to easily plate Haley from third and tie the score, but gearing up to come home with the throw, the centerfielder forgot the baseball. By the time he went back to get it, the Clippers had circled the bases as McCrossin and junior Joey King came around to score for a 4-2 lead as Wommack hustled into third. Yarmouth’s next batter, senior Jeff Kuklewicz, bunted toward the third base line and Beaulieu’s throw to first arrived at the same time as the runner and kicked into foul territory behind the bag. Wommack scrambled home on the play to give Yarmouth a 5-2 advantage.
“(Beaulieu) was throwing a lot of strikes out there,” said Wommack. “I swung at the first pitch my first and second times up so I wasn’t waiting around for anything. I was going up there swinging in the seventh but he started me with a breaking ball I took. The next pitch was a fastball I could drive.”
With the tables turned in an instant, Whittaker made Yarmouth’s lead stand up with a pair of strikeouts and a ground ball to short for a big win in a playoff-like atmosphere at the “Jobsite” out back in Falmouth.
“This is a big rivalry for us and today felt more like the playoffs,” said Whittaker. “This team competes hard and will fight to the end. We’re not big on the flashy stuff, but we try and do the little things that make us successful.”
The loss drops the Yachtsmen back into sixth in the Western B standings with three games left to play. After posting a 7-3 mark through 10 games, the Yachtsmen have dropped three straight against the mettle of the conference, losing at home, 8-0, to Cape Elizabeth and on the road at Greely (4-3, in eight innings), before running into the magical Yarmouth tour at home.
Needing to win out and likely get some help along the way in order to reach the playoffs, Falmouth just might do that when they travel to Sacopee Valley, host Fryeburg Academy and close out the regular season with a trip to Wells on June 2.