Yarmouth sophomore catcher Cate Ralph tags out Cape Elizabeth senior Tess Haller on a play at home in the bottom of the first inning of Friday afternoon’s showdown. The defending Class B champion Clippers earned a key 5-3 victory, snapping the Capers’ nine-game win streak in the process.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
CAPE ELIZABETH—Maybe history doesn’t repeat itself after all.
Friday afternoon, Yarmouth’s softball team appeared destined to take a most unpleasant step back in time when it battled red-hot Cape Elizabeth at Capano Field.
In the 2014 Western B semifinals, the Clippers and then-sophomore pitcher Mari Cooper took an 8-3 lead to the bottom of the seventh inning only to the Capers muster an improbable rally to win, 9-8, when then-sophomore Tess Haller hit a walkoff home run.
Fast forward nearly two years, where Yarmouth almost let another sure win slip away.
The Clippers got a two-run single from sophomore rightfielder Sophie McGrath in the top of the second inning and a bases loaded double from senior centerfielder Colleen Sullivan in the fourth to go ahead and they took a two-run lead to the final inning only to see Cape Elizabeth, on its Senior Day, put the tying runs on base with no one out and the weight of history bearing down.
Cooper, who earlier retired 14 straight Capers in one dominant stretch, got junior centerfielder Kelly O’Sullivan to pop out to junior shortstop Andrea St. Pierre, who threw to twin sister and second baseman Sydney St. Pierre to double off a runner. Then, with Haller on deck, Cooper got senior shortstop Megan Nicholson, who had already drive in a run and scored another, to hit the ball hard, but this time, luck was on Yarmouth’s side, as her line drive nestled in the glove of Sydney St. Pierre to end it and the Clippers held on, 5-3, for their biggest victory of the season.
Yarmouth improved to 9-3, ended Cape Elizabeth’s nine-game win streak and dropped the Capers to 10-3 in the process.
“We didn’t talk about it while it was happening, but two years ago still stings,” said Clippers coach Amy Ashley. “I was proud we were able to finish today, especially with runners on and no outs.”
While Yarmouth, as the defending champion, earned plenty of preseason buzz, there was little talk about Cape Elizabeth (which won just eight times a year ago and gave up 15 runs in a preliminary round loss to Poland). When the Capers started 1-2, it didn’t look like they’d be a factor, but has this team ever come on.
After sandwiching losses to visiting Wells (12-4) and host York (2-1, in 10 innings) around a 15-3 home victory over Kennebunk, Cape Elizabeth’s win streak began with a dramatic 5-4 home win over Falmouth. The Capers then won at Kennebunk (10-6), at home over Sacopee Valley (19-3), at Freeport (13-3), at Fryeburg Academy (3-0), at Gray-New Gloucester (13-9, in a 10-inning marathon), at home over Greely (2-0), at home over Lake Region (17-5, in five-innings) and at home over Poland (11-2).
Yarmouth started by handling visiting Freeport (15-2, in five-innings), then, after a letting a seventh inning lead slip away in a tough home loss to Fryeburg Academy (4-3), the Clippers won at Traip Academy, 6-3. After falling at Greely, 7-1, Yarmouth hit its stride, beating host Lake Region (13-1, in five innings), visiting Poland (12-4) and Wells (11-6) and host Sacopee Valley (7-3). After being blanked, 1-0, by York ace Stephanie Rundlett last Friday, the Clippers got back on track Monday with a 7-5 home win over Falmouth, then won, 8-3, at Kennebunk Wednesday.
The teams have played some memorable games the past few seasons, none more epic than the Capers’ unthinkable come-from-behind triumph in the aforementioned 2014 Western B semifinals.
Last year, Yarmouth beat Cape Elizabeth twice, 11-4 in Cape Elizabeth and 11-6 at home.
Friday, the Clippers made it three in a row in the series.
Capers freshman starter Jessie Robicheaw was solid in the top of the first, getting Sydney St. Pierre to ground out to Nicholson at short and after walking Sullivan, getting sophomore catcher Cate Ralph to ground into a force out and Andrea St. Pierre to fly to left, where freshman Alison Ingalls made the catch for the out despite stumbling.
Cape Elizabeth got its bats going immediately against Cooper in the bottom half.
After O’Sullivan lined out to sophomore Hannah Merrill at third, Nicholson walked and Haller lined a single up the middle. Robicheaw then helped herself with a single to center, scoring Nicholson for a 1-0 lead. On the throw home, Haller took third and Robicheaw went to second. With freshman second baseman Maddie Culkin at the plate, a Cooper pitch was low and squirted away from Ralph. Haller broke for home, but the ball didn’t go far and Ralph collected it and was able to get to the plate in time to tag out Haller to short-circuit the Capers’ inning. Culkin walked, but sophomore third baseman Anna Torre looked a strike three to end it.
Yarmouth then got its offense going, with a little help.
Senior first baseman Eleanor O’Gorman led off the top of the second with a grounder that got past Nicholson for an error. Cooper then blooped a hit over Nicholson to put runners at first and second. A Robicheaw wild pitch moved the runners up and McGrath lined a single past junior first baseman Grace Carignan down the rightfield line to score O’Gorman and Cooper for a 2-1 lead. Senior designated hitter Tori Messina grounded into a force out, Merill struck out and after Sydney St. Pierre reached on an in field hit and a Haller throwing error put runners at second and third, Sullivan grounded back to the mound to end the frame.
Cape Elizabeth battled right back in its half.
Senior rightfielder Sam Feenstra walked and Ingalls reached on a bunt single. Carignan executed a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up. O’Sullivan then grounded to Sydney St. Pierre at second. St. Pierre threw home, but it was too late and Feenstra scored to tie it. Nicholson followed with a double to right-center to score Ingalls for a 3-2 lead (Sullivan was shaken up on her attempt to make a diving catch but stayed in the game, which proved fortunate for the visitors).
That brought Haller to the plate with first base open, but Cooper pitched to her and in a game-turning sequence, she struck her out swinging. Robicheaw then hit a little ground ball to Cooper’s left, which forced to pitcher to dive to stab. Cooper then threw to O’Gorman to end the inning and even though the Capers had the lead, the Clippers had momentum.
“The past few years, every time (Tess) comes up, I think she’s going to crush it, so that strikeout got us going,” Cooper said. “I was having trouble in the first two innings, getting adjusted to the mound. We made some made good defensive plays behind me and that gave me the confidence. I’m lucky to have all of them behind me.”
Robicheaw walked Ralph on a 3-2 pitch to start the third, but got Andrea St. Pierre to line to center. With O’Gorman at the plate, Ralph was caught stealing. O’Gorman then singled to right and stole second, but Cooper looked at strike three to strand her.
Cooper asserted herself in the bottom half, getting Culkin to ground back to the mound (where the pitcher made a nice defensive play), fanning Torre looking and getting Feenstra to hit a little pop-up in front of the plate, which landed in front of Ralph. Feenstra thought it was going to be caught and didn’t run, allowing Ralph to tag her out in a rarely seen catcher unassisted tag out of a batter.
Yarmouth then went ahead to stay in the fourth.
After McGrath grounded out to short, Messina walked on a 3-2 pitch to get things started. Merrill followed with a walk and Sydney St. Pierre lined a single to right to load the bases for Sullivan.
Sullivan quickly fell behind 0-2, but took a couple balls, then lined a shot to the gap in right-center which O’Sullivan couldn’t reach. Senior courtesy runner Jen Dubois, Merrill and St. Pierre all raced home and just like that, the Clippers were up, 5-3.
“It’s a little stressful being in that situation I’ve got to say, but it feels much better when you come through,” Sullivan said.
“I know whenever we need a clutch hit, if Colleen is up at bat, something big will happen,” Cooper said. “I have no doubt in her in a pressure situation.”
“(Colleen’s) a competitor,” Ashley added. “Her feet have been a little crazy. We’ve worked on that. She just had to see the ball and hit the ball. There’s no one we’d rather have at the plate in that situation than Colleen.”
Ralph grounded out to third and Andrea St. Pierre struck out, but the damage was done.
Cooper continued to mow down the Capers in the bottom half, getting Ingalls to fly to center, Carignan to ground out unassisted to first and O’Sullivan to pop out foul to Andrea St. Pierre behind third.
The Clippers then squandered a chance to open things up in the fifth.
O’Gorman led off with a single up the middle. Cooper bunted for a hit and McGrath beat out an infield single to load the bases with no one out.
Yarmouth wouldn’t score, however, as Messina hit a chopper back to the mound, which Robicheaw stabbed nicely before throwing home for one out, which was followed by Haller throwing to first to complete the 1-2-3 double play. Merrill then looked at strike three to end the threat.
Cooper had another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half, as she got Nicholson to fly out deep to center, Haller to line out to O’Gorman at first and Robicheaw to ground out to third.
Robicheaw had her best inning in the top of the sixth, as she got Sydney St. Pierre to fly out deep to center, Sullivan to look at strike three and Ralph to ground out back to the mound on a checked swing.
Cooper wasn’t about to give the Capers life in the bottom half, as she got Culkin to ground out to third, Torre to ground out to second and Feenstra to end it with a grounder to short.
The Clippers looked to get an insurance run in the seventh, but after Andrea St. Pierre singled to center, O’Gorman flew to center (where O’Sullivan slipped but made the catch) and after St. Pierre moved up on a wild pitch, Cooper grounded out unassisted to first and McGrath struck out swinging.
That set the stage for some high drama in the bottom of the inning.
Leading off, Ingalls hit a grounder to Sydney St. Pierre, who couldn’t handle a tough hop and the error ended Cooper’s string of 14 straight batters retired and gave Cape Elizabeth life.
Carignan, the number nine hitter, walked on a 3-2 pitch and the top of the order appeared primed to come to the rescue.
Instead, Cooper got some big time help from her dynamic twin tandem in the middle infield.
O’Sullivan hit a little pop fly to Andrea St. Pierre, who made the catch. When she looked up, Ingalls had left second and all St. Pierre had to do was throw the ball to her sister at second to complete a timely double play, arguably the biggest the twins had turned since the one that brought the curtain down on last year’s championship game victory.
“It’s so nice to have them up the middle,” Ashley said. “I believe in them, they’re so smart. They know what do. They have that twin intuition, I guess.”
This time around, Cooper still had one out to get and with Haller looming on deck as the potential winning run, Nicholson was the key batter.
Nicholson made solid contact, but lined the ball right at Sydney St. Pierre and that did it.
Instead of walking off the field in agony, Yarmouth had an inspirational 5-3 victory.
“I felt good about other wins, but this is huge,” Cooper said. “I was picturing two years ago and to shut them down was really awesome. I was pretty worried when we didn’t get that first out. The double play reminded me of the state game.”
“It’s pretty exciting,” Sullivan said. “I’m really pumped because we finally put our offense and defense together. We finally got our bats alive.”
“We knew it would be a battle of the bats today,” Ashley added. “They got ahead early, but it was nice to see us come back, get a lead and hold on to the lead. I think this is good because we finally closed a game in a tough place. It’s definitely the biggest win so far, but we play them again.”
Cooper improved to 9-3 after allowing three earned runs on just four hits. She walked four and struck out three.
“We put a lot of pressure on Mari, but she takes it like a champ,” Sullivan said. “The mound was a little rough today, but she got in her groove. I’m so confident every time she pitches.”
“Once (Mari) realized she needed to rely on her teammates, that helped her a lot,” Ashley said. “We have a lot of confidence in Mari and our defense.”
Offensively, Cooper, McGrath, O’Gorman and Sydney St. Pierre all had two hits.
“One of our biggest challenges is getting people on base,” Cooper said. “We had solid, loud outs in the first inning and we saw that we could hit the ball hard.”
“So far, it seems like the top of the order has been good, or the bottom of the order has been good, but today we strung together hits every inning,” Ashley said.
Cooper, Dubois, Merrill, O’Gorman and Sydney St. Pierre scored runs. Sullivan had three RBI and McGrath finished with two. O’Gorman had the game’s lone stolen base.
The Clippers stranded eight runners.
Cape Elizabeth got runs from Feenstra, Ingalls and Nicholson and RBI from Nicholson, O’Sullivan and Robicheaw, but left five runners on and couldn’t generate enough offense.
Robicheaw fell to 8-3 after allowing five runs (four earned) on 10 hits. She walked four, fanned five and threw a pair of wild pitches.
“We’re solid but we didn’t play solid today,” lamented Capers coach Joe Henrikson. “We had opportunities. We hit the ball hard, but it was right at people. We just didn’t get it done. Yarmouth’s a very good team and they made the plays when they had to. They executed.”
The Capers, who were fourth in the Class B South Heal Points standings at press time, look to bounce back Monday when they visit Traip Academy. They close with two pivotal road showdowns: at Greely next Friday and at Yarmouth May 31.
“I know it sounds cocky, but I go in with the expectation of winning every game and that’s what I instill in my kids,” Henrikson said. “I feel good about our squad. We’ll play out the season and see what happens. Anybody can beat anyone. There are a lot of tough teams.”
Yarmouth (now sixth in Class B South) returns to action Monday at Falmouth. The Clippers go to Wells Wednesday, then close at home versus Gray-New Gloucester next Friday and Cape Elizabeth May 31.
“I think this will really help us finish strong and drive us through playoffs,” Cooper said.
“I think we’ll hit the ground running,” Sullivan said. “I’m so excited for our team. I think we’re finally on a great pace.”
“Hopefully this gives us confidence going into the rest of the regular season,” Ashley added. “Heal Points-wise, it’s biggest for us. It puts us in better position for the postseason.”
Yarmouth senior pitcher Mari Cooper throws a strike. Cooper retired 14 batters in a row in one stretch and earned the victory.
Yarmouth junior Andrea St. Pierre makes contact.
Cape Elizabeth junior Kelly O’Sullivan slides safely into third base as Yarmouth sophomore third baseman Hannah Merrill takes the throw.
Cape Elizabeth senior shortstop Megan Nicholson fields a grounder.
Cape Elizabeth senior catcher Tess Haller rips a first inning single.