Yarmouth does just enough to squeak past Gray-NG

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Yarmouth junior Sophie McGrath is mobbed by her teammates after hitting a go-ahead home run in the fifth inning of the Clippers’ 4-3 home win over Gray-New Gloucester Monday.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Yarmouth 4 Gray-New Gloucester 3

GNG- 200 000 1- 3 6 1
Y- 200 020 x-  4 6 4

Top 1st
Thayer scored on error. Martell scored on wild pitch.

Bottom 1st
McGrath homered to left, A. St. Pierre and McGrath scored.

Bottom 5th
McGrath homered to left, A. St. Pierre and McGrath scored.

Top 7th
Brindley scored on error. 

Repeat hitters:
Y- McGrath, A. St. Pierre

Runs:
GNG- Brindley, Martell, Thayer
Y- McGrath, A. St. Pierre 2

RBI:
Y- McGrath 4

Double:
Y- Tillotson

Home runs:
Y- McGrath 2 (3) 

Stolen bases:
GNG- Martell, Ryan, Thayer

Left on base:
GNG- 3
Y- 5

Martell and Thayer; Lyon and Tillotson

GNG:  
Martell (L, 2-3) 6 IP 6 H 4 R 4 ER 2 BB 4 K

Y:
Lyon (W, 5-1) 7 IP 5 H 3 R 0 ER 0 BB 3 K 

Time: 1:22

YARMOUTH—Yarmouth’s softball team has exceeded expectations so far this spring, but it certainly hasn’t come easily.

And the Clippers’ penchant for overcoming and triumphing was on full display Monday afternoon when Gray-New Gloucester paid a visit.

Yarmouth committed four errors, but also made key defensive plays at key times, got another strong pitching effort from sophomore Ceanne Lyon and rode the booming bat of junior centerfielder Sophie McGrath to a narrow victory.

In the top of the first inning, the Patriots didn’t manage a single hit, but scored twice, thanks to three Clippers’ errors and a wild pitch.

McGrath got the runs right back in the bottom half with a two-run, inside-the-park home run to make it 2-2.

Lyon and Yarmouth’s defense kept the game tied until the bottom of the fifth, when McGrath came to the plate again and crushed a pitch over the fence to put the Clippers up by two.

Yarmouth was one out away from wrapping up the game in the seventh, but Gray-New Gloucester wouldn’t go quietly, as an error cut the deficit to one and the Patriots eventually put runners at the corners. Lyon then unleashed an apparent wild pitch, but Clippers sophomore catcher Cayte Tillotson pounced on the ball and fed Lyon, who applied the tag to bring the game to a stunning end and Yarmouth held on, 4-3.

Lyon allowed just six hits, McGrath drove in all four runs and the Clippers improved to 5-1 and dropped Gray-New Gloucester to 3-3 in the process.

“I was excited to see that we never gave up,” said Yarmouth coach Amy Ashley. “Even if we didn’t like the initial result, we battled and we were able to save a lot of runs and steal that game.”

Pleasant surprise

Yarmouth had some holes to fill entering the season, but once again is a top contender in Class B South.

The Clippers opened by edging visiting York, the defending regional champion, 4-3. After handling visiting Greely, 7-1, Yarmouth won at Poland, 5-3. A gutwrenching 5-4, nine-inning loss at Greely was followed by a 5-1 home win over Fryeburg Academy Thursday in a game which saw McGrath hit a home run.

Gray-New Gloucester, meanwhile, started with a 13-6 loss at Poland, then beat visiting Greely (12-0), host Freeport (8-1) and visiting Lake Region (6-1) before falling at home to Wells Thursday, 4-3.

Last year, Yarmouth beat visiting Gray-New Gloucester, 7-2.

Monday, on an overcast and chilly, but mercifully dry afternoon (at least until the final out was made), the Patriots sought their first victory over the Clippers since a 5-4 home win April 29, 2013, but instead, Yarmouth made it four straight in the series.

By the skin of its teeth.

Lyon struck out senior centerfielder Cara Waltz to start the game, but sophomore catcher Alexa Thayer reached when her grounder to junior third baseman Hannah Merrill led to a throw that drew freshman first baseman Tasha Powers off the bag. Martell then hit a sharp grounder to senior Andrea St. Pierre and the shortstop couldn’t handle the ball for another error, putting runners at first and second. Thayer and Merrill then pulled off a double steal and Tillotson’s throw to third base got away for a third error, allowing Thayer to come home with the game’s first run. With senior shortstop Hannah Dixon at the plate, Lyon threw a wild pitch and Martell scored to make it 2-0. Lyon responded to fan Dixon and got freshman second baseman Izzy Brindley to fly out to center, but the damage was done.

Yarmouth got the runs right back in the bottom half.

Andrea St. Pierre atoned for her error by leading off with a single into the hole between shortstop and third. Senior Sydney St. Pierre bunted her twin sister to second and after Andrea St. Pierre moved up on a wild pitch, McGrath hit the ball past third and down the leftfield line. Sophomore leftfielder Chelsea Davis couldn’t get to the ball and ran after it as McGrath circled the bases. Ashley waved McGrath in and she touched home with a non-conventional, inside-the-part home run to tie the score, 2-2.

“(The ball) kept rolling and I knew what to do,” McGrath said. “I saw the outfielder run after it, so I kept going.”

“At the pregame conference we talked about how if the ball gets past the fence and if the outfielder goes after it, it’s all (the bases) you can get and if they put their hands up, it’s a double,” Ashley said. “(Sophie) just kept going. She’s continued to work. She’s hit the ball hard.”

Tillotson looked at strike three and Powers grounded out to third to end the inning.

Sophomore rightfielder Mikaela Ryan led off the top of the second by beating out an infield single and stealing second base, but Lyon got freshman first baseman Jordan Grant to ground back to the mound and senior third baseman Grace Kariotis to hit the ball to Powers, who tagged out Kariotis before catching Ryan off third base. Powers threw to Merrill at third, who threw to Tillotson, who threw back to Merrill, who got the ball to Lyon, who applied the tag on Ryan to end the threat.

In the bottom of the inning, Lyon lined out to right and after Merrill walked and was sacrificed to second by sophomore leftfielder Lydia Guay, freshman rightfielder Adriana Whitlock’s bid for a go-ahead single was robbed by Brindley, who made a nice stab going to her left, to keep the game tied.

Lyon set the Patriots down on four pitches in the top of the third, getting Davis to ground out to third on the first pitch, Waltz to pop up a bunt to Powers on the second pitch she saw and Thayer to pop out to short on the first pitch she faced.

Andrea St. Pierre’s second single into the hole started the bottom half, but she’d wind up stranded. Sydney St. Pierre struck out swinging, McGrath just missed a hittable pitch and popped up to short and Tillotson chased strike three when Martell pulled the string.

Lyon was very economical again in the fourth, getting Martell to ground back to the mound, fanning Dixon and getting Brindley to line out to right.

Yarmouth threatened again in the bottom half, as Powers reached on a bloop single down the leftfield line and moved up to second when Lyon grounded out to first. When Merrill met on a throwing error by Kariotis, the Clippers appeared poised to take the lead, but  Guay struck out and Whitlock popped out to short.

Lyon set Gray-New Gloucester down in order in the fifth, getting Ryan to ground out to short, catching Grant looking at strike three and getting Kariotis to ground out to short on a full count.

Yarmouth then broke through, thanks to a mighty clout, in the bottom of the frame.

Once again, Andrea St. Pierre got the fun started, battling back from down 1-2 in the count to draw a walk. After Sydney St. Pierre dropped another textbook sacrifice bunt, that brought McGrath to the plate. After making solid contact the first time, but keeping the ball on the ground, and just missing a pitch her second time at the plate, McGrath left no doubt, pouncing on a Martell heater and lofting it deep to leftfield. The ball rose and sailed over the fence and just like that, the Clippers had a 4-2 lead.

“We’ve worked a lot on hitting,” McGrath said. “(Assistant coach Sandra) Sanford is an amazing hitting coach. She’s really helped us this season. I’ve been more confident at the plate. Especially after all the work I’ve put in. I saw it in the air and I knew. It was awesome. I could feel it off the bat.”

“It’s so nice to see (Sophie) hit,” said Lyon. “She has so much more confidence. She can do anything.”

“That first home run was great, but that second one was absolutely crushed,” Ashley added.

When Tillotson followed with a booming double to the centerfield fence, it appeared Yarmouth was poised to tack on even more, but after sophomore courtesy runner Marie LeBlanc moved up on a wild pitch, Martell got Powers to ground out to Dixon, who threw out LeBlanc at the plate, and Lyon to ground out to short as well.

Lyon quickly got the first two outs in the sixth, as she got freshman pinch-hitter Lydia Espling to ground out to second, then got a fabulous defensive play from Whitlock in right, as she raced in and dove to rob Waltz’s bid for a hit. Thayer beat out an infield single and Martell followed by ripping a single to left. That brought up Dixon, who grounded the ball toward the hole. Merrill dove to stop the ball, seemingly loading the bases, but Thayer didn’t stop after rounding third and Merrill threw home to Tillotson, who tagged Thayer out to end the inning, keeping the score 4-2.

That play would loom huge.

Martell had her easiest inning in the bottom of the sixth, as she got Merrill to pop out to shortstop, Guay to line to right and Whitlock to line to left.

The Clippers would finish it off in the seventh, but not without giving their coaches and fans palpitations.

Brindley started the seventh with a single to center. Ryan popped out to second and Grant was out when her bunt to third was scooped nicely by Sydney St. Pierre at second. When Kariotis grounded to short, it appeared the game would be over, but Andrea St. Pierre’s throw was high and Powers couldn’t hold the ball, allowing Brindley to come in to cut the deficit to one with Kariotis holding at first. Davis followed with a single to right and Kariotis went all the way to third. That brought Waltz to the plate with an opportunity to extend the game, but she never got to swing the bat, as Lyon delivered a pitch well over the head of Tillotson to the backstop. Kariotis broke for the plate, looking to tie the score, but Tillotson quickly pounced on the loose ball and after receiving so many strikes from Lyon, the catcher delivered one of her own and Lyon applied the tag on the sliding Kariotis to bring the game to a stunning end.

“My job is to cover the plate,” Lyon said. “I just had to get there. Cayte did a great job getting me the ball. We got the out, that’s all that matters.”

“Cayte had a big hit for us and she didn’t give up on that play at the end,” Ashley added. “I’m proud of her.”

In an eventful 1 hour, 22 minutes, Yarmouth had prevailed, 4-3.

“We’ve talked a lot about keeping our cool and getting the job done and that came into play at the end,” McGrath said.

“We’ve come out flat,” Ashley said. “We have to reassess on how to get ready for the first inning. We don’t want to start and end sloppy and have the middle of the game be strong. We have to do a better job starting and closing.”

Lyon improved to 5-1 after allowing three runs (all unearned) on six hits in seven innings. She threw one wild pitch, didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.

“I have really good defense,” Lyon said. “I know if they hit it, I know I can rely on them. Everyone is always there for me.”

“Ceanne has done a great job,” Ashley said. “She’s believed in her defense and doesn’t try to do it all by herself.”

McGrath was the offensive star, producing two hits, both home runs, scoring twice and driving in four runs.

Andrea St. Pierre also had two hits and two runs scored.

Tillotson had the Clippers’ other extra base hit, a double.

Yarmouth stranded there runners.

For the Patriots, Brindley, Martell and Thayer all scored runs and Martell, Ryan and Thayer had stolen bases.

Gray-New Gloucester left five runners on base.

Martell fell to 2-3 on the season after giving up four earned runs on six hits and two walks in six innings. She struck out four and threw four wild pitches.

Second half

The second half of the season begins later this week and both teams are in position to be a factor all the way to the end.

Gray-New Gloucester is back in action Friday at Wells. The Patriots return home Monday to meet Kennebunk.

Yarmouth welcomes Lake Region Wednesday, then has a key test at Fryeburg Academy Thursday and plays at Freeport Friday.

“I believe in us,” said Lyon. “We have what we need to be a good team. We play together. We believe in ourselves and each other.”

“I’m not surprised (at our start), because the underclassmen have done a great job coming in and filling spots,” McGrath said. “I’m excited for the rest of the season.”

“It’s a lot better than we thought,” Ashley added. “We’re young, but the girls are stepping up and making big plays. I’m proud of how they learn from mistakes. We’re teaching a lot and they’re executing. They’re sponges soaking things up. We still have a long way to go, but we’re sitting pretty right now.”

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

Yarmouth sophomore Ceanne Lyon throws a pitch. Lyon earned her fifth victory of the season.

Yarmouth senior second baseman Sydney St. Pierre takes a rip.

Yarmouth freshman first baseman Tasha Powers tags out Gray-New Gloucester senior centerfielder Cara Waltz after a bunt.

Yarmouth sophomore Marie LeBlanc slides safely into third base as Gray-New Gloucester senior third baseman Grace Kariotis takes the throw.

Yarmouth freshman rightfielder Adriana Whitlock goes all out to make an amazing diving catch.

Yarmouth sophomore leftfielder Lydia Guay makes contact.

Yarmouth junior Sophie McGrath is all smiles as she rounds the bases after hitting her fifth inning home run.

The play that ended it. Yarmouth sophomore pitcher Ceanne Lyon tags out Gray-New Gloucester senior Grace Kariotis at the plate.

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