Yarmouth closes with key win over Freeport

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Yarmouth senior pitcher Luke Waeldner is congratulated by his teammates during the Clippers’ 4-1 home win Monday. Waeldner allowed just four hits and struck out 13.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Yarmouth 4 Freeport 1

F- 000 100 0- 1 4 2
Y- 110 002 x- 4 10 0

Bottom 1st
Norton flew out to left, Waaler scored.

Bottom 2nd
Romano singled to left, Waeldner scored.

Top 4th
Burke doubled to right-center, G. Wagner scored.

Bottom 6th
Romano singled to right-center, Waeldner scored. Norton popped out to second, Waaler scored.

Multiple hits:
Y- Romano, Waaler, Waeldner

Runs:
F- G. Wagner
Y- Waaler, Waeldner 2

RBI:
F- Burke
Y- Norton, Romano 2

Doubles:
F- Burke
Y- Norton

Stolen bases:
F- G. Wagner 5, Salter, C. Wagner, S. Wagner
Y- Hickey, Waeldner

Left on base:
F- 7
Y- 10

S. Wagner and C. Wagner; Waeldner, Romano (7) and Waaler

F:
S. Wagner (L, 3-2) 6 IP 10 H 4 R 2 ER 3 BB 2 K 1 HBP

Y:
Waeldner (W, 3-2) 6.2 IP 4 H 1 R 1 ER 4 BB 13 K 1 HBP 1 Balk
Romano (Save, 3) 0.1 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K

Time: 1:37

YARMOUTH—It’s that time of year again.

Time for Class B South baseball to determine a champion and two squads who have stolen headlines the past two springs by making improbable runs met Monday afternoon on Senior Day at Yarmouth High School.

And it was the defending champion Clippers who suggested they could be in position to awaken the echoes when they got the better of 2016’s darlings, the Freeport Falcons, in the teams’ regular season finale.

Yarmouth senior pitcher Luke Waeldner worked in and out of trouble in the first three innings and his teammates gave him some help with the bats against Falcons junior starting pitcher Shea Wagner.

In the bottom of the first, senior first baseman Ben Norton hit a sacrifice fly to score senior catcher James Waaler.

In the bottom of the second, Waeldner came home on a clutch, two-out RBI single from junior centerfielder Jack Romano.

Freeport, which beat Yarmouth, 4-2, in an earlier meeting, got a run back in the top of the fourth, when senior designated hitter Josh Burke doubled home sophomore first baseman Gabe Wagner, but Waaler threw out the potential tying run trying to steal and the Falcons never seriously threatened Waeldner again.

The Clippers then got some insurance in the bottom of the sixth, when Romano singled home Waeldner and Waaler came home on a pop-up from Norton.

Waeldner, with some late help from Romano, slammed the door from there and Yarmouth closed with a 4-1 victory.

Waeldner allowed just four hits, struck out 13 and Romano and Norton each drove in two runs as the Clippers finished the regular season with a 9-7 record, dropping the Falcons to 10-6 in the process.

“I sure hope it’s the start of something big,” said Waeldner. “We’re gaining momentum as we go. Two weeks ago, we lost to them and today, we played better. Ending with a win against a good team helps going into playoffs.”

Ups and downs

Entering play Wednesday, Yarmouth held an 18-10 advantage in the series dating to the start of the 2003 season (see sidebar, below), but the Falcons prevailed, 4-2, at home on May 16.

That was part of what has largely been a very successful campaign for Freeport, which started by beating visiting Poland (7-4) and Traip Academy (6-5) and host Lake Region (12-6) before letting a four-run seventh inning lead slip away in a 5-4 loss at top-ranked Wells. After bouncing back to win at Greely, 6-2, the Falcons lost at home to Cape Elizabeth (8-2) and dropped a tough 5-4 decision at York. Freeport then hit its stride, winning at Cape Elizabeth (3-0), before the Falcons had their way with visiting Old Orchard Beach (13-2) and host Lincoln Academy (13-0), Yarmouth (4-2) and Morse (2-1). After a 10-1 victory at Poland, the Falcons lost at home last week to Fryeburg Academy (14-12, in eight-innings) and Gray-New Gloucester (4-3). 

Yarmouth, meanwhile, held off visiting York in the opener, 4-3, then blanked host Poland (12-0). After falling in five-innings at Greely (13-2), the Clippers downed visiting Poland in five-innings (13-2) before losing at Wells, 7-3, and at home in nine-innings to Cape Elizabeth (2-1). Yarmouth then turned things around with a 6-0 victory at Lake Region and went on to enjoy home victories over St. Dom’s (9-3) and Greely (3-2) before losing at Freeport, 4-2. After edging visiting Gray-New Gloucester (2-1), the Clippers lost at Gardiner, 3-1 and Cape Elizabeth (4-3) and at home to Wells (9-3) before getting back in the win column Thursday at Fryeburg Academy, 10-4.

Monday, on a chilly afternoon (56 degrees at first pitch), Yarmouth managed to finish strong, thanks to a solid team effort.

Waeldner started the game by getting senior shortstop Jack Sawicki to ground out to short before blowing strike three past Shea Wagner, his opposite number. Senior catcher Colby Wagner lined a single up the middle on the first pitch he saw, but junior third baseman Toby Holt looked at strike three for the third out.

The Clippers then grabbed the lead in the bottom half.

Waeldner led off with a single to left-center and Waaler followed by beating out an infield single to third, but when Waeldner tried to move up to third, Holt threw to Sawicki, who tagged out Waeldner. Romano then hit a sharp grounder to Sawicki and the ball went through his legs for an error, putting runners at the corners. Yarmouth took advantage of the opportunity, as Norton hit a fly ball to medium-deep left for a sacrifice fly, as Waaler raced home to beat the throw from senior leftfielder Caleb Salter for a 1-0 lead.

Senior third baseman Jackson Caruso then singled to right and senior designated hitter Dom Morrill walked on four pitches to load the bases, but Shea Wagner got junior rightfielder Toby Burgmaier to fly out to right to avoid further damage.

Waeldner ran into some wildness in the top of the second, but Freeport couldn’t capitalize.

After junior rightfielder Finn Johnston popped out to second leading off, Gabe Wagner drew a walk, then stole second base standing up. With Salter at the plate, Wagner stole third standing up as well and Salter drew a walk before pilfering second base himself. Burke had a chance to deliver a run, or even two, but he watched strike three and after sophomore second baseman Heath Cockburn drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch, Sawicki struck out swinging to leave the bases loaded.

The Clippers tacked on another run in their half of the second.

After Shea Wagner battled back from 3-0 to catch sophomore shortstop Aidan Hickey looking on a 3-2 pitch, Lainey bounced out to short, but Waeldner reached on an error by Sawicki, stole second and took third on a single to left by Waaler on a 3-2 pitch. Romano then came through with an RBI single, ripping the ball on a hop just past Holt at third to score Waeldner to make it 2-0. Norton grounded into a short-to-second force out, but the damage was done.

Waeldner hit Shea Wagner with a pitch to start the third and after Colby Wagner lined out hard to Romano in center, Shea Wagner stole second and moved to third on a balk, but Waeldner settled in and struck out both Holt and Johnston to escape the jam.

Yarmouth threatened to score again in the bottom half, but came up empty.

Caruso grounded out to first leading off, but Morrill drew a walk and Burgmaier singled to left, but Hickey grounded into a second-to-short force out and after Hickey stole second, Lainey hit a deep drive to left, but Salter ran it down to retire the side.

The Falcons did manage to break through in the top of the fourth, but they couldn’t erase the whole deficit.

Gabe Wagner led off and hit the first pitch to center, where Romano made a great diving effort, but couldn’t hold on to the ball and Wagner reached on a single. He stole second and after Salter struck out looking, Wagner stole third as well. Burke then delivered the run with a deep drive to right-center which landed for an RBI double. Junior Eriksen Shea came on to run and after Cockburn struck out looking, Shea tried to steal third, but Waaler threw him out to keep the score 2-1.

“James threw that guy out at third and that was huge for momentum,” Waeldner said.

In the bottom of the frame, Waeldner led off by lining out to Sawicki. Waaler was hit by a pitch, but was erased trying to steal second. Romano kept the inning alive by drawing a walk and Norton went the other way, doubling down the rightfield line to put two runners in scoring position, but Shea Wagner kept the deficit at one by getting Caruso to fly out to left.

Waeldner had his first 1-2-3 inning in the top of the fifth, striking out Sawicki on a 3-2 pitch, getting Shea Wagner to ground to third (with the pitcher covering) and Colby Wagner to ground back to the mound.

Yarmouth went in order as well in the bottom half, as Morrill looked at strike three on a 3-2 pitch, junior pinch-hitter Caleb Brown grounded out to short and Hickey popped back to the mound.

Waeldner struck out the side in the top of the sixth, fanning Holt swinging, Johnston looking and after walking Gabe Wagner on a 3-2 pitch and having Wagner steal second, blowing strike three past Salter.

The Clippers finally gave their pitcher some breathing room in the bottom half, as Waeldner played a big role.

After Lainey led off with a single to left-center, Waeldner blooped a single down the leftfield line. Waaler tried to bunt the runners up, but Shea Wagner threw to third for a force out. That set the stage for Romano, who came through big time, singling to right-center to score Waeldner and move Waaler to third.

“I had a feeling I was maybe coming in to close, so I wanted to make it a little easier,” Romano said. “I was just looking for a good pitch to hit. (Wagner had) been throwing first pitch strikes all day, so early in the count, I wanted to put on a good swing. I waited back and put it into right-center. It felt good to give Luke that run. He certainly deserved it.”

“We weren’t getting the huge hit at the right time,” Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted said. “That might have been something that was a feel-good moment for us. We need that to start happening.” 

Norton was next and popped out to very short right-center. Cockburn went back and caught the ball, but stumbled and Waaler took off for home and beat the throw to make it 4-1. Caruso grounded back to the mound to send the game to the seventh.

Waeldner hoped to go the distance he started the final frame by striking out Burke swinging and getting Cockburn to fly to center, but after Sawicki was able to check his swing on a 2-2 delivery, Waeldner walked him on a 3-2 offering and surpassed the 110-pitch count threshold in the process.

“I wanted to finish really bad,” Waeldner said.

Romano came on to close and he got Shea Wagner to hit a sharp grounder to second, where Lainey made a tough play on a tricky hop before throwing to first to bring the curtain down on the Clippers’ 4-1 victory.

“I just wanted to throw strikes and be relatively quick to the plate,” Romano said. “Jason helped me out and got his body in front of it. Just getting his body in front of it was great. It was a team victory today and that really represented it.”

“In two years, we’d only upset two teams ahead of us in the standings, so in 32 regular season games, this is only the third time we’ve done that,” Halsted said. “Our guys needed to know that feeling, to beat a team ahead of us. Freeport is obviously a top five team in the league, so it means a lot.”

Waeldner improved to 3-2 by allowing one run on four hits in 6.2 innings. He walked four, hit a batter and balked, but more importantly, fanned 13.

“I just trusted James and his calls and kept it in the zone,” Waeldner said. “My defense made plays.”

“It’s easy to feel confident behind Luke’s pitching and sometimes we settle into that mindset,” Romano said. “He’s so good at changing speeds and eye levels. His breaking balls can disappear on you. His fastball has tail on it. It’s interesting to watch, especially from centerfield, how off-balance he can make batters.”

“Luke was over 80 percent first pitch strikes and struck out 13 and like he always does, he competed his tail off and gave us a chance to win,” Halsted added. “That’s the greatest compliment to him. He wants it. He’s won multiple soccer and baseball championships. He understands what it takes to be a winner and today was a great example of that against a really good team.”

Freeport tipped its cap as well.

“(Waeldner) did a good job,” Ridge said. “He did a good job the first time we faced him too. He’s tough because he’s a lefty and we’re a heavy-lefty order. He threw his curveball for strikes, he got ahead of hitters, he did the little things a pitcher needs to do to be successful.”

Romano retired the only batter he faced for his third save.

Offensively, Yarmouth managed 10 hits. Romano, Waaler and Waeldner all had a pair.

Waaler and Waeldner both scored twice.

Norton and Romano each had two RBI.

Hickey and Waeldner had stolen bases.

The Clippers stranded 10 runners.

Freeport got an RBI from Burke and a run from Gabe Wagner, but only managed four hits.

The Falcons did manage to steal eight bases (Gabe Wagner had five of them), but they left seven runners on base.

Shea Wagner fell to 3-2 after giving up four runs (just two earned) on 10 hits in six innings. He walked three, hit a batter and struck out two.

“We stranded runners in scoring position in the first four innings,” Ridge said. “We were one hit away. Aggressiveness on the basepaths takes us a long way, but it can also hurt us because we get a little overzelous at times. Shea tiptoed out of some trouble and made good pitches to do that. We didn’t have a particularly strong day in the field and that allowed too many base-runners. Those base-runners allowed them to turn over the order in the bottom of the sixth and they finally broke through.”

Playoffs

Freeport posted a 10-6 record for the second time in three years, but the Falcons, who defeated longtime powers Cape Elizabeth, Greely and Yarmouth in the same season for the first time, weren’t happy with how they got there.

“This is the worst feeling 10-6 ever,” Ridge said. 

Freeport was sixth in the Class B South Heal Points standings at press time, but could drop. The Falcons are hoping to finish in the top eight to host a preliminary round contest Tuesday of next week.

“These guys have short memories,” Ridge said. “They’re good about one guy making a good play then it being contagious and I expect that to be the case in our first playoff game. The captains just stood up and said, ‘If we show up, we can beat anyone. We know we can beat the best teams out there, so we have to beat everyone else too.’ They know they can do it. Hopefully we get to play one at home.”

Yarmouth wound up with a winning record for the third year in a row and for the ninth time in Halsted’s 12 seasons. The Clippers were seventh in Class B South at press time, but could drop to eighth, or even ninth, which of course is the spot from which they embarked on their magical run to glory last June.

“This was huge for us to start building momentum going into playoffs,” Romano said. “It’s great to know we can beat a top team. We’ll use the time until playoffs fine-tuning any gaps we have. We’ll be competitive.”

“We have to focus on playing better small ball like we did last year,” said Waeldner. “Come playoffs, that will be important. We have a bunch of athletes and we have fun playing.”

“Now it starts all over,” Halsted added. “Everybody is 0-0. It’s a totally different team from last year. It depends how good a coaching job we do over the next seven days to get the kids ready and if the kids have the mentality to want to get better. If they do, we’ll have another good run. We still have a huge ceiling.”

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

Freeport junior starter Shea Wagner throws a pitch. Wagner went the distance, but took the loss.

Yarmouth senior Luke Waeldner throws a strike.

Yarmouth senior James Waaler slides in safely with the game’s first run in front of Freeport senior captain and catcher Colby Wagner.

Yarmouth senior Luke Waeldner steals second base as Freeport second baseman Heath Cockburn leaps to take the throw.

Yarmouth sophomore second baseman Jason Lainey reaches for the ball as Freeport senior Colby Wagner reaches base safely.

Freeport senior shortstop Jack Sawicki forces Yarmouth junior Toby Burgmaier.

Yarmouth junior centerfielder Jack Romano can’t quite make a diving catch.

Recent Freeport-Yarmouth results

2018
@ Freeport 4 Yarmouth 2

2017
Yarmouth 7 @ Freeport 5

2016
@ Yarmouth 4 Freeport 1

2015
@ Yarmouth 7 Freeport 3
@ Freeport 4 Yarmouth 0

2014
@ Yarmouth 2 Freeport 1
Yarmouth 6 @ Freeport 3

2013
@ Yarmouth 5 Freeport 2
@ Freeport 10 Yarmouth 6

2012
@ Freeport 11 Yarmouth 1 (5)
Freeport 7 @ Yarmouth 0

2011
@ Yarmouth 16 Freeport 7
Yarmouth 3 @ Freeport 1 (8)

2010
Yarmouth 7 @ Freeport 0
@ Yarmouth 9 Freeport 2

2009
@ Yarmouth 15 Freeport 0 (5)
@ Freeport 5 Yarmouth 3

2008
Yarmouth 14 Freeport 3 (6)
@ Yarmouth 10 Freeport 0 (6)

2007
Yarmouth 7 @ Freeport 6
@ Yarmouth 10 Freeport 3

2006
@ Yarmouth 14 Freeport 4 (6)
Yarmouth 5 @ Freeport 4

2005
@ Freeport 3 Yarmouth 2
@ Yarmouth 7 Freeport 1

2004
Freeport 12 @ Yarmouth 7
@ Freeport 9 Yarmouth 8

2003
Freeport 4 @ Yarmouth 3

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