Yarmouth Clippers Spring Sports Preview

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Last spring, for the first time, Yarmouth’s softball team was the finest Class B squad in the state. The Clippers have the pieces in place to repeat.

File photos.

Softball wasn’t the only sport to win a championship last spring. The girls’ lacrosse team stunned Kennebunk in an overtime thriller to win its second consecutive Class B title. Could number three await in June?

More photos below.

BASEBALL

Coach: Marc Halsted (10th year, 100-62 overall record)

2015 record: 8-9 (Lost, 4-3, in nine innings, to eventual champion Greely in Western B quarterfinals)

Top returning players: C.J. Cawley (Senior), Joe Defusco (Senior), Andrew Kinsman (Senior), Luke Klenda (Senior), Conor O’Donnell (Senior), Jack Snyder (Senior), Tyler Waaler (Senior)

Pivotal games: April 22 @ Wells, April 25 FREEPORT, May 2 @ Greely, May 9 WELLS, May 13 YORK, May 16 FALMOUTH, May 20 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 23 @ Falmouth, May 31 CAPE ELIZABETH

Coach’s comment: “We have a veteran group with guys like C.J., Andrew, Luke and Jack all playing varsity roles since they were sophomores. Conor was All-Conference last year. We have some other guys who will make a major impact after fighting for roles as younger players. We have a team with a lot of experience, solid pitching depth and an extremely athletic lineup. Competition is at an all-time high around here these days and that will push us further than anything else.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: While its record didn’t reflect it, Yarmouth was its usual competitive self in 2015, giving Halsted his 100th career victory and coming close to stunning eventual repeat champion Greely in the quarterfinals. This time around, look for the Clippers to garner more victories and stay longer in the postseason.

O’Donnell, who will play first base and pitch, is coming off a superb season which saw him lead Yarmouth in runs (13), hits (18) and runs batted in (10), as well as bat .462 and be named a first-team WMC all-star. He’ll make the offense go again. Klenda, a first baseman when he doesn’t pitch, has pop in his bat. He had 13 hits, including two doubles and a home run, last season, while hitting .351, and he was named a second-team all-star. Cawley, an outfielder, also had 13 hits and had an on-base percentage of .377. Waaler, a second baseman and outfielder, had a solid .313 average in 2015. Defusco could become quite a force in the batter’s box as he’s put on weight and turned heads in the preseason.Look for juniors Chris Romano (shortstop) and John Thoma (outfield) to play bigger roles this spring. Seniors Caleb Gray and Noah Pellerin, who have enjoyed success in other sports, will fill holes.

The Clippers should be solid on the mound as well. Klenda, who was also an Underclass All-Star last spring, saw the most work and went 4-2 with a 2.12 earned run average. Kinsman (2-1, 3.50 ERA) and O’Donnell will see the majority of the time on the hill. Defusco, Waaler and junior Gibby Harnett are also in the mix. Snyder (the football standout) is the catcher.

One player Yarmouth isn’t planning on is senior Cody Cook, the three-sport standout, who suffered a knee injury in the football regional final. Cook missed all of basketball and is out until June. It’s possible, but unlikely that he will make it back for the postseason. If he does, that would give the Clippers an enormous psychological lift. Yarmouth has an abundance of athletes and plenty of hunger going into the 2016 season. While Greely and Cape Elizabeth are the favorites, the Clippers will find a way to give those two powers, as well as everyone else on their schedule, fits. Yarmouth has enjoyed an abundance of success in boys’ sports this school year. Don’t be surprised if baseball adds its own special, triumphant chapter.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Amy Ashley (fourth year, 37-19 overall record, one state championship)

2015 record: 17-3 (Beat Hermon, 7-5, to win first-ever Class B state championship)

Top returning players: Mari Cooper (Senior), Eleanor O’Gorman (Senior), Colleen Sullivan (Senior), Andrea St. Pierre (Junior), Sydney St. Pierre (Junior), Cate Ralph (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 FRYEBURG, May 2 @ Greely, May 13 YORK, May 16 FALMOUTH, May 20 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 23 @ Falmouth, May 27 GRAY-NG, May 31 CAPE ELIZABETH

Coach’s comment: “We’re very excited for the upcoming season, but we know we have the target on our backs this year. Having not been in in this position before, I hope we can put last year’s success behind us and focus on the day-to-day fundamentals we need to work on. We have a solid group returning with experience in big games and we’ll look to them for leadership. We have some holes to fill, but we’re excited about our options and we’ll look to use our scrimmages to finalize our lineup. I’m very pleased with how hard the girls have worked so far, but we need to remain focused at all times. If we can come together and have our own 2016 identity, we’ll be OK. We’ll make mistakes along the way, but we need to stick together and learn as we go. As always, we hope to be playing our best softball at the end of the regular season and set ourselves up for the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The fairy tale ride of last June is still vivid for Yarmouth’s softball program. The Clippers shook off the disappointment of a gutwrenching playoff loss from the year before and behind the pitching brilliance of Cooper, stunned top-ranked Greely in the semifinals, blanked traditional power Fryeburg Academy in the regional final, then, in their first-ever appearance in a state final, won Class B, holding off Hermon in dramatic fashion, thanks to a championship-sealing double play by the St. Pierre sisters. Yarmouth graduated key contributors Kallie Hutchinson and Michelle Robichaud, but has enough firepower back to make a run at a repeat crown.

Cooper cemented her legend last season, coming up huge in the regional tournament, then gutting it out at states after being hit in the hand by a batted ball. She went 15-1 in 2015, posting a 1.93 earned run average and striking out 120 batters in 112.2 innings en route to being named Yarmouth’s Spring Female Athlete of the Year. It’s hard to imagine improving on those accomplishments, but don’t bet against her. Freshman Ceanne Lyon will also see some time on the hill. Freshman Cayte Tillotson will be the catcher this year.

Offensively, the Clippers’ balance will once again carry them far. Sullivan, the centerfielder, batted a robust .431 last spring. Cooper (.359 average, 17 runs batted in, 16 runs scored in 2015), Ralph (.310 average and 17 RBI as a freshman), first baseman O’Gorman (.323 average, 16 runs, 17 RBI) and middle infielder Andrea St. Pierre (18 runs and a team high six doubles last season) are the top returning hitters. Sydney St. Pierre is another key cog in the middle of the infield.

There’s no question that the pieces are in place for another special season. Yarmouth, which is spending April vacation honing its skills in Florida, needs to stay hungry and healthy to keep pace with several good teams in Class B South. The last couple seasons, the Clippers have been at their best in June. If that happens again, another state championship celebration could be the end result.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: David Pearl (fifth year, 43-20 overall record)

2015 record: 12-4 (Lost 7-5, to Cape Elizabeth in Class B state final)

Top returning players: Matthew Beatty (Senior), Ricky Tillotson (Senior), Jack Venden (Senior), Bill Jacobs (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 27 CAPE ELIZABETH, April 30 BRUNSWICK, May 5 FALMOUTH, May 14 @ Scarborough, May 24 KENNEBUNK, May 27 @ Cape Elizabeth

Coach’s comment: “We graduated five defenders, so our defense is young and developing. We hope to spread the scoring around. I think this is a team that could go all the way. I feel very good about how they work hard and enjoy being together. The seniors have been to state finals. They know good lacrosse. Their goal is set on winning.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Yarmouth keeps creeping closer, but still hasn’t been able to solve the Cape Elizabeth juggernaut in the Class B Final. Despite losing some standouts to graduation, this year’s team believes it can finish the job.

Defense was full of question marks at press time, but one certainty is that Venden, a first-team all-star last season, will lead the way. Tillotson, a second-team all-star in 2015, will take faceoffs, as will senior Walter Conrad, the soccer and hockey standout, who returns to lacrosse after playing tennis last spring. Offensively, the production of reigning Spring Male Athlete of the Year Joe Oliva (46 goals, 29 assists last season)) needs to be replaced. Pearl expects big things out of Matthew Beatty (a second-team all-star last spring) and his twin brother, Andrew Beatty, who was sidelined by injury in 2015. Jacobs is a top returning scoring threat and senior Patrick Grant, another soccer and hockey star, has come back to the team this year and will be a matchup nightmare. Replacing second-team league all-star goalie Connor Hoehle won’t be an easy task. At press time, junior Cameron Libby and freshman Liam Harke were vying for the opportunity.

The Clippers, who opened with a 13-4 home win over York Thursday, are again the heavy favorites in their region, but they’re not interested in just making it to the state final. Yarmouth wants to finally solve Cape Elizabeth. It’s been seven long years since the Clippers last won a state title. This team could be the one to end that drought.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Dorothy Holt (12th year, 122-40 overall record, five state championships)

2015 record: 12-4 (Beat Kennebunk, 11-10, in OT, to win second consecutive Class B state championship)

Top returning players: Lauren Bartlett (Senior), Campbell Dorsett (Senior), Emma Glessner (Senior), Sophia Harrison (Senior), Lilly Watson (Senior), Ella Antolini (Junior), Gretchen Barbera (Junior), Mary Kate Gunville (Junior), Cory Langenbach (Junior), Eliza Lunt (Junior), Katie Waeldner (Junior), Molly Wilson (Junior), Meredith Lane (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 4 FREEPORT, May 11 GREELY, May 14 @ Scarborough, May 19 WAYNFLETE, May 24 @ Kennebunk, May 26 CAPE ELIZABETH, June 1 @ Falmouth

Coach’s comment: “We only have five seniors, but they’re showing great leadership. We have quite a few youngsters who are hungry and just need some time. Our scoring will be spread around this year. I’d like for us to start stronger than we did last year, but our schedule is tough. Our team proved last year that every game we came ready. It’s going to be another fun year.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Yarmouth had no shortage of fun a year ago and wound up having the last laugh. Despite struggling at times during the regular season, the Clippers got to the state final for the fourth time in five years, then shocked almost everyone by downing favored Kennebunk in an overtime thriller to repeat as Class B champions. One thing this storied program has never done is win three in a row, so those not taking Yarmouth seriously might be surprised again come June.

Several key players have departed, including all-stars Shannon Fallon, Lane Simsarian and Emma Torres (which means for the first time since 2007, the roster won’t include a Simsarian or Torres), but the Clippers have great depth and athleticism and that will pay big dividends over the course of the season. Antolini, Lane, Langenbach and Lunt will all take draws this spring, trying to gain possession for what should be a potent attack. The scoring threats are myriad and include Antolini, Barbera, Glessner, Harrison, Langenbach, Lunt, Waeldner and Watson, who, as you may recall, scored a pretty big goal in overtime of the state game last June. Yarmouth should be strong on the defensive end too, as Bartlett, Dorsett and Wilson look to lock down the opposition. If worse comes to worse, the Clippers know that the best big-game goalie of the past couple seasons, Gunville, is the last line of defense. She’s made so many big saves the past two years.

Thursday, Yarmouth lost its opener, 8-7, to visiting York (despite two goals apiece from Langenbach and Wilson). It marked the fifth straight year the Clippers lost on Opening Day, but considering what they do from games two through 16, it isn’t cause for concern. Holt has no peer when it comes to developing a team over a season, so Yarmouth will eventually hit its stride. The Clippers remain the heavy favorite in Class B North. If they get to the state game again, a powerhouse like Falmouth or Kennebunk will likely await, but Yarmouth won’t be fazed. After so much success in recent seasons, the stage is set for more glory.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coach: John Rogers (first year)

2015 results:

(Boys) 5th @ Class C state meet
(Girls) 4th @ Class C state meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Ian Murrin (Senior), Tucker Whitney (Junior), Tahj Garvey (Sophomore), Luke Laverdiere (Sophomore)
(Girls) Emma Egan (Senior), Abby Hamilton (Junior), Anneka Murrin (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “We move from Class C back to Class B this year. I believe our senior leadership and veterans will be instrumental in creating a culture of being consistent in workouts. Our boys will be strong and have depth in throws, sprints, middle distance and relays and we have emerging talent in the jumps. Our relays could score points for us as well. Our girls will score in the jumps and sprints. Overall, we’ll lack depth, but will be heard from in most events.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Yarmouth is coming off a terrific season, the first time ever that both genders finished in the top five of a state meet. This spring, the Clippers welcome Rogers as coach. He’s spent the past five seasons as Yarmouth’s assistant, coaching distance runners. Rogers ran at the University of Florida and qualified for the US Olympic marathon in 1984 and 1988. He inherits some elite frontline talent.

The boys return Laverdiere, who was second in both the mile and two-mile a year ago. After winning the mile indoors, Laverdiere will look to finish the job this time around. Garvey (fourth in the 200 last spring) paces the sprinters. Murrin (fourth indoors in the shot put) is a top thrower, who will contend in the discus, javelin and shot put. Whitney will jump and sprint. He was fourth in the long jump and sixth in the high jump a year ago. Several newcomers add depth. Soccer standouts senior Jon Groothoff and sophomore Luke Groothoff, senior Caelan Pike-Meter and sophomore John Decker, will contend in middle distance races and help the relay teams. Freshmen Noah Eckersley-Ray (throws and sprints) and Caden Middleton (sprints and jumps) are potentially four-year stars. The possibilities for this team are endless. Look for Yarmouth to be very competitive throughout and make a run at another top five state meet finish, even though the Clippers will have to move up in class.

On the girls’ side, Egan leads the way. Yarmouth’s two-time Winter Female Athlete of the Year has already rewritten the record books indoors. She’s hoping to defend her high jump title outdoors and also win in the long jump and sprints. Last year, Egan accounted for 28 points at states. She could easily eclipse that this time around. Hamilton is the other returning scorer. She was seventh in the two-mile last season and holds the school’s indoor two-mile record of 11 minutes, 40 seconds. Murrin could make a mark in both the 800 and mile. Junior Georgia Giese joins the team and will bolster the distance contingent. Freshman Sophie Walsh looks to score in the hurdles and sprints. Big things could be in store for the Clippers between now and June.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Mark Marstaller (18th year, one state championship)

2015 record: 8-5 (Lost, 4-1, to Fryeburg Academy in Western B quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Erik Salmon (Senior), Sam Potter (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 27 @ Waynflete, May 4 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 13 FALMOUTH, May 18 @ Falmouth, May 24 WAYNFLETE

Coach’s comment: “We play Falmouth twice, Waynflete twice and Cape once and when you only have 12 matches, that makes for a tough schedule. I have a great bunch of players who are willing to work. We’ll play out the schedule and hope to make the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The team that Marstaller is fielding is quite different than the one he had in mind.

Likely number one singles player Henry Becker, a second-team all-star in 2015, is playing ultimate frisbee instead of tennis. Walter Conrad, who would have been second singles, is playing lacrosse this spring. Devin Shields-Auble, who could have filled the third singles spot, suffered an injury during basketball season and is sidelined. Regrouping on the fly, the Clippers will turn to Potter and Salmon to lead the way. Senior Victor Wakelin, juniors Max Allen, Matt Clinton, Andrei Lougovtsov and Ravi Patel and sophomore Hunter Harrington are all in the mix for spots as well.

This is a group that wants to succeed and will work hard to improve. Despite the notable absences, Yarmouth will hold its own against a tough slate and could be very dangerous when the postseason rolls around.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Ann Harradon (20th year, four state championships)

2015 record: 6-8 (Lost, 3-2, to eventual state champion Greely in Western B semifinals)

Top returning players: Liz Clark (Senior), Morgan Hamre (Senior), Danielle Laverdiere (Senior), Abbi Smith (Senior)

Pivotal matches: April 27 WAYNFLETE, April 29 YORK, May 4 CAPE ELIZABETH, May 6 @ NYA, May 13 @ Falmouth, May 17 NYA, May 18 FALMOUTH, May 20 @ Greely

Coach’s comment: “I do have an outstanding freshmen, Lana Mavor. The team and I are excited to have her join the team. I’m sure the girls will learn a lot from her. As always, our goal is to make the playoffs, then to take each match as it comes, trying not to get ahead of ourselves.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Yarmouth made it 27 postseason trips in 28 seasons a year ago, but it’s now been a dozen years since the Clippers have won a championship. That could change in the weeks to come, as an experienced core is joined by some exciting youngsters.

Freshman Lana Mavor’s arrival has caught the notice of those inside and outside of Yarmouth. She’s ranked first in New England in her age group and 33rd in the country ages 14 and under. She’ll get a lot of attention in the first singles spot this spring. Hamre, a second-team all-star last spring, projects to play second singles, while Laverdiere, a captain, is in the third singles spot. Clark, a captain, and Smith are in the doubles mix. Several other players are looking to make their mark.

As always, the Clippers will face a daunting regular schedule against powerhouses from three classes. When the postseason rolls around, Yarmouth might just be the team to beat, especially with two-time Class B champion Greely suffering several departures. The Clippers are primed for a deep playoff run, perhaps all the way to the pinnacle.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Senior Conor O’Donnell was a league all-star a year ago. He’ll be a leader on a Yarmouth baseball team that has what it takes to be one of the last squads standing.

Senior Luke Klenda will be an elite pitcher this spring.

Senior Andrew Kinsman is another strong arm on a deep pitching staff.

To say pitcher Mari Cooper had a postseason to remember last spring would be an epic understatement. She’ll have a tough time producing an encore, but she and her teammates are eyeing another title run.

Senior Eleanor O’Gorman is a top returning hitter and fielder.

Cate Ralph had no shortage of key hits as a freshman. She’ll help the Clippers score runs again this spring.

Junior Andrea St. Pierre, along with her twin sister, Sydney, will anchor the middle of the infield. The sisters memorably turned a championship-clinching double play last year.

Junior Sydney St. Pierre will help her team with her bat and glove.

Senior centerfielder Colleen Sullivan batted .431 last season and will help pace Yarmouth’s attack again this spring.

Senior Matthew Beatty was an all-star a year ago and this spring, he’ll play a key role on a Yarmouth boys’ lacrosse team seeking to get over the hump and win a state title.

Junior Bill Jacobs will be a top scoring threat for the Clippers this spring.

Senior Ricky Tillotson will again look to spark the offense by winning faceoffs.

Junior Ella Antolini will take draws and likely score plenty of goals for Yarmouth’s girls’ lacrosse team this season.

Senior Lauren Bartlett will help anchor the defense this spring.

Senior Campbell Dorsett is an experienced returning defender.

There’s been no bigger big-game goalie in the state the past two years than junior Mary Kate Gunville.

Junior Cory Langenbach will play a much bigger role in Yarmouth’s offense this spring.

The speed and skill of junior Eliza Lunt will make life miserable for the opposition.

Senior Lilly Watson scored one of the biggest goals in program history last spring, the eventual game-winner in overtime. She’ll be a scoring threat again.

Sophomore Tahj Garvey is a top sprinter for a Yarmouth boys’ outdoor track team that should turn heads in the weeks to come.

Luke Laverdiere was runner-up in Class B in both the mile and two-mile as a freshman. This spring, he’ll look to move up a spot.

Junior Tucker Whitney will compete in the jumps and sprints this season.

Senior Emma Egan is already a track star without peer. She’ll look to close out her high school career by winning a few more state titles and setting more records in the process.

Junior Abby Hamilton holds the school two-mile record indoors and is hoping to dominate during the outdoor season as well.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.