Yarmouth rows its boat past York, into Class B state final

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Yarmouth junior pitcher Dom Morrill jumps for joy while being mobbed by his teammates following the final out of the Clippers’ 5-3 win over York in Tuesday’s Class B South Final. Yarmouth won the region for the first time and will meet defending champion Old Town in the state final Saturday.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Class B South Final

Yarmouth 5 York 3

Ya- 014 000 0- 5 9 1
Y0- 010 020 0- 3 5 0

Top 2nd
Morrill reached on infield single, Waaler scored.

Bottom 2nd
LaBonte scored on balk.

Top 3rd
J. Romano doubled to left, Waeldner and C. Romano scored. Harnett scored on Waaler squeeze bunt. Coyne singled to center, J. Romano scored.

Bottom 5th
Rodrigues singled to left, Pidgeon scored. LaBonte hit sacrifice fly to right, Rodrigues scored.

Multiple hits:
Ya- Waeldner 3

Runs:
Ya- Harnett, C. Romano, J. Romano, Waaler, Waeldner
Yo- LaBonte, Pidgeon, Rodrigues

RBI:
Ya- J. Romano 2, Coyne, Morrill, Waaler
Yo- LaBonte, Rodrigues

Double:
Ya- J. Romano

Stolen bases:
Ya- Coyne 2, Morrill, C. Romano, Waaler, Waeldner
Yo- Neilson, Nelson

Left on base:
Ya- 5
Yo- 9

Waeldner, Morrill (5) and Waaler; Rodrigues, Neilson (3) and Gundlah

Ya:
Waeldner (W, 6-2) 4.2 IP 4 H 3 R 3 ER 6 BB 2 K 2 Balks
Morrill (Save, 3) 2.1 IP 1 H 0 R 1 BB 2 K

Yo:
Rodrigues (L, 4-3) 2.2 IP 7 H 5 R 5 ER 1 BB 0 K 1 HBP 2 WP
Neilson 4.1 IP 2 H 0 R 0 BB 2 K

Time: 2:00

STANDISH—Yarmouth Baseball is a mindset and a style unique unto itself.

The Clippers thrive on making things happen on the basepaths, riding great pitching and getting timely hitting, while utilizing every member of the roster, or as the big sign over the dugout calls it, “Row the Boat,” and that style and mindset earned the ultimate validation Tuesday afternoon at Mahaney Diamond on the campus of St. Joseph’s College.

Facing second-ranked York in the Class B South Final, its first regional final since 2011, ninth-seeded Yarmouth threw caution to the wind, built a lead and held on for dear life before making history.

After junior left-handed starter Luke Waeldner escaped a jam in the bottom of the first inning, the Clippers got the jump in the second, as junior designated hitter Dom Morrill reached on an infield single and junior catcher James Waaler raced all the way around from second base for the game’s first run.

The Wildcats evened things up in the bottom half on a pair of Waeldner balks, but in the third, Yarmouth got the big inning it needed.

Sophomore centerfielder Jack Romano provided the big hit, a bases loaded, two-run double. Waaler followed with a textbook squeeze bunt for an RBI and senior second baseman Joe Coyne singled home Romano for a 5-1 lead.

The Clippers wouldn’t score again, but that advantage would prove to be enough.

York rallied in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of runs and loaded the bases with two outs, forcing Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted to pull Waeldner in favor of Morrill and Morrill got a clutch strikeout to keep the Clippers in the lead.

Morrill then worked around a leadoff single in the sixth and despite walking the leadoff man in the bottom of the seventh, he got the final three outs, the last on a ground ball to Coyne at second, and Yarmouth got to celebrate a 5-3 victory and its first Class B South championship.

The Clippers completed a dazzling regional playoff run and improved to 15-5, ended the Wildcats’ season at 15-4 and advanced to play in their first state final in any class since 1995, where they will take on defending champion Old Town (16-3) Saturday at 4:30 p.m., at St. Joe’s.

“I’ve dreamed about this,” said Halsted, who is in his 11th season with the program. “I got to sit on the bench and watch my kids charge on to the field and celebrate. You live for that as a coach. I got to live that today. It’s priceless, beautiful stuff.”

Crashing the party

York’s appearance in the regional final didn’t come as a shock. The Wildcats wound up second in Class B South after a solid 13-3 campaign and York easily dispatched No. 10 Mountain Valley in the quarterfinals, 19-1, in five-innings (after grabbing a 12-0 lead after two frames), then ousted No. 3 Wells in an 11-6 slugfest in Saturday’s semifinal round.

Yarmouth, meanwhile, has risen from uncertainty and inexperience in the preseason to the Final Four in Class B in stunning fashion.

The Clippers, with just two veterans, seniors Gibson Harnett and Chris Romano, had a better-than-expected 11-5 regular season, then, as the No. 9 seed in the region, won three times on the road to advance. After handling No. 8 Leavitt, 8-1, in the preliminary round, Yarmouth held on to upset top-ranked Carrabec/Madison, 5-4, in the quarterfinals. Saturday, the Clippers went to No. 4 Cape Elizabeth and prevailed, 2-0, to reach the regional final for the first time in six seasons.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I only thought this was possible after the Cape game,” Halsted said. “Every game last week was an obstacle. Leavitt has some great athletes. Madison/Carrabec had five great players. That was a Herculean effort. Then, to go to Cape and win, we should have never won that game, but Gibson Harnett wouldn’t be denied.”

Yarmouth won the regular season meeting, 4-3, at home, way back on April 24. Harnett and Waeldner combined for the victory on the mound and Harnett scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh on a fielder’s choice.

The teams had met three previous times in the postseason (see sidebar, below) and in each occasion, the winning team scored at least 14 runs and won by a lopsided margin.

This time around, to no one’s surprise, the game was much closer, as Yarmouth found a way to keep its fantasy run going.

The Clippers had a chance in the top of the first, but stranded a runner at third.

Waeldner led off with a sharp single to center, but he was erased on a force out, as senior shortstop Chris Romano grounded out to second. After Harnett, the leftfielder, flew out to left, Romano stole second and moved up to third on a wild pitch, but Rodrigues got Jack Romano to bounce out to short to end the threat.

In the bottom half, York had a nearly identical frame.

Waeldner walked senior centerfielder and leadoff hitter Chris Neilson on four pitches and after senior starting pitcher Andrew Rodrigues flew out to right, Neilson stole second. Junior third baseman Tim MacDonald grounded out to second, with Neilson moving up to third, but he’d be stranded there, as Waeldner got sophomore catcher Dawson Gundlah to bounce out to short to keep it 0-0.

“Yarmouth Baseball” was on full display in the top of the second, as the Clippers’ daring style on the basepaths led to a run and cost them another.

Waaler led off by being hit by a pitch and on a 3-1 pitch to Coyne, appeared to steal second, but Coyne was called for the rarely-seen batter’s interference, which ruled him out and sent Waaler back to first. Freshman rightfielder Aidan Hickey was hit by a pitch as well and with the runners on the move, Morrill grounded an infield single to the hole between first and second and Waaler didn’t stop, racing home with the game’s first run.

Senior third baseman Nate Dealaman then laid down a sacrifice bunt to third and was thrown out and Halsted sent Hickey to the plate, but a good throw from senior first baseman Trevor LaBonte beat him and Gundlah applied the tag to end the inning with Yarmouth on top, 1-0.

“That was our kind of inning even though we had kids thrown out,” Halsted said. “We tried to control the tempo. Hockey, it’s a forecheck, basketball it’s the press, football is running plays and running spread. We try to control the tempo in our own way.”

York answered in the bottom half.

LaBonte drew a leadoff walk and was balked to second. After freshman shortstop Riley Linn grounded out to second with LaBonte moving to third, Waeldner walked junior designated hitter Thomas Carr on a full-count pitch and with sophomore second baseman Jacob Nelson at the plate, Waeldner was again called for a balk, allowing LaBonte to score and Carr to move to second. Freshman Tyler Rivers replaced Carr as the base runner, but he was stranded as Nelson lined out to right and after sophomore rightfielder Shane Pidgeon drew a four-pitch walk, Neilson looked at strike three to end it.

Despite walking three batters and committing two balks, Waeldner got out of the inning with the game still tied.

Then, in the top of the third, Yarmouth put together the quintessential celebration of the Clipper Way, batting around and scoring four times to grab the lead.

Waeldner grounded a single between first and second leading off. Chris Romano then hit a sharp single to center. Harnett fell behind 0-2 (a pop foul behind the plate landed untouched for the second strike), but he blooped a single to center and just like that, Yarmouth had the bases loaded.

Jack Romano also fell behind 0-2, took three balls to run the count full, then, after barely fouling off a high pitch, he ripped a double down the leftfield line to easily score Waeldner and Chris Romano for a 3-1 lead.

“I got down 0-2 in the count pretty quickly and at that point, I was just looking for anything close,” Jack Romano said. “Coach and the bench helped me out with their positivity. I just wanted to get a good swing on it and something good would happen. It felt great to give my team a boost.

“I haven’t had a ton of experience on varsity teams, but what’s made this season so special for me and has been a key to our success, is that there’s so much enthusiasm and love. The coaches are willing to put anyone in the game in any situation. That atmosphere helps you perform and sometimes that excitement can intimidate opposing teams as well.”

“Jack had a great two-strike approach and came up clutch,” Harnett said.

“Jack is setting (batting) records as a sophomore,” Halsted added. “He’s quiet and humble and studious.”

Waaler then laid down a textbook squeeze bunt and while Rodrigues threw him out at first, Harnett scored easily for a 4-1 advantage.

Next, it was Coyne’s turn and he singled to center to bring home Jack Romano with the final run of the frame.

After senior Tommy Fallon (who replaced Hickey in rightfield) was called out when he was hit by his own bunt outside the batter’s box, Coyne stole second and Morrill walked.

That was it for Rodrigues, who was replaced by Neilson.

Yarmouth greeted the new pitcher with a double steal, but couldn’t add to its lead, as Dealaman looked at strike on a full count pitch to end the inning with the Clippers on top, 5-1.

In the bottom half, Waeldner kept the all-important momentum on the side of his team by retiring the Wildcats in order on just 11 pitches.

Waeldner got things started by blowing a high fastball past Rodrigues for strike three. MacDonald followed with an excuse-me swing squibber in front of the plate and Waaler pounced on it and threw him out. Gundlah then flew out to right for the third out.

“(Getting the lead) was huge,” Waeldner said. “I had one of my better innings right after. I had confidence and I didn’t care if a runner got on or took an extra base.”

The Clippers had a chance to extend their lead in the top of the fourth, but ran into a fateful out.

Waeldner led off with his third hit, a sharp single the other way to left. Waeldner then stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, but Waeldner didn’t immediately break for the plate when Chris Romano grounded to short and he was out Linn to Gundlah to MacDonald for the first out, with Romano holding at first. Harnett lined out to third and with Jack Romano up, Chris Romano was thrown out stealing.

In the bottom half, York got in the hit column, but the defense of Yarmouth senior first baseman John Thoma kept the Wildcats off the scoreboard.

LaBonte led off by lining a single the other way, just inside the rightfield line. Thoma then made a nice play on a sharp grounder from Linn, knocking it down and tagging the bag for the out as LaBonte took second. Carr worked the count full before grounding to Thoma, who barely beat him to the bag for the second out, as LaBonte moved up to third. Carr hit a sharp grounder to second and Coyne’s throw pulled Thoma off the bag, but he applied the tag for the third out, keeping the score 5-1.

Neilson kept York within hailing distance by setting the Clippers down in order in the top of the fifth, getting Jack Romano to fly to right, Waaler to look at strike three and Coyne to ground out to short.

The Wildcats then made things interesting in the bottom half.

Pidgeon walked leading off and he moved to second when it appeared Waeldner had him picked off, but he threw high for an error. After Neilson bounced back to the mound, with Pidgeon moving up to third, Rodrigues singled through the hole between short and third to score Pidgeon. MacDonald followed with a line single to left and Gundlah beat out an infield hit on a slow roller to short to load the bases for the formidable LaBonte.

Waeldner limited the damage by getting LaBonte to fly to right, with Rodrigues coming home, but he then walked Linn on four pitches to re-load the bases.

That did it for Waeldner, who was replaced by Morrill, who debuted with a flourish, striking out Carr on three pitches, with strike three called, to end the frame with Yarmouth still on top, 5-3.

“Coach told me during practice that I was the first one up after Luke,” Morrill said. “I expected to be in the game at some point. That’s actually the third time I’ve come in with the bases loaded. It’s tough here with all the fans, but I just tried to get out of it as quickly as I could. That was a big out.”

Neilson continued to hold the Clippers at bay in the sixth, thanks in part to a little good fortune.

Neilson hit junior Ben Norton (who replaced Thoma at first) with a pitch leading off, then recorded a force out at second when he fielded Morrill’s chopper back to the mound. Junior pinch-hitter Jackson Caruso followed with a single to center, but Waeldner’s bid for a fourth hit resulted in a line drive right to LaBonte at first and LaBonte stepped on the bag to force Caruso to retire the side.

In the bottom half, York had a great chance to creep closer, but Morrill extinguished the rally.

Nelson led off with a sharp single to right and stole second. On a full count pitch, Pidgeon bounced out to first with Nelson taking third. Neilson had a chance to make it a one-run game, but Morrill caught him looking at strike three for the second out and on a 3-2 pitch, he got Rodrigues to fly out to center to end the inning.

The Clippers weren’t able to add to their lead in the top of the seventh, as Chris Romano grounded out to short, where Linn made a nice slide before throwing on to first for the out, Harnett bounced back to the mound and Jack Romano lined out to center.

That set the stage for the bottom of the seventh, where Yarmouth put a stranglehold on its regional crown.

MacDonald gave York hope by leading off and walking on a full count pitch. Gundlah followed by hitting a soft line drive to Coyne at second, bringing LaBonte up as the tying run. Morrill got him to ground into a short-to-second force play (the ball was hit just a little too slowly for a game-ending double play), bringing up Linn as the Wildcats’ final hope and at 5:05 p.m., exactly two hours after the game began, Linn grounded to Coyne at second, who threw on to Norton at first and the Clippers had the regional title, 5-3.

“I was focused,” Morrill said. “I just tried to keep the ball low. I just wanted to empty the tank. I’ve been lucky enough to go to a state final with hockey, but this is better. We had three or four guys carry us in hockey, but here, it’s all of us. The one thing we’ve done is have fun. We’ve been fired up. Us having fun is one of the big reasons we’re going to the state final.”

“We played Yarmouth baseball and that’s how we won this game,” Harnett said. “Before the last inning, I told Dom to leave it all out there because there weren’t any more games.”

“It was pure excitement at the final out,” Jack Romano said. “It feels amazing to win, especially with this team. We’ve worked really hard. We have so much enthusiasm. Luke and Dom grinded it out. One of the key factors of our success is we use everybody. We know everyone can make the play.”

“It was pure excitement at the final out,” Waeldner said. “It feels very good. It’s been a good season. All the guys have come together and we’ve played how we know how to play. We’re stealing bases, bunting, Coach has been aggressive. We don’t hit home runs and massive gap doubles like other teams can, but at the end of the day, we chip away and get it done with small ball.”

“This is the most unheralded team we’ve ever had,” Halsted added. “We weren’t a top 10 team to watch, we didn’t have any top 25 players to watch. We graduated eight starters and 110-plus innings. I keep going back to that over and over again. These kids are coachable. They’re high-character kids. They want to play for championships. (Junior) Jack True, one of the best football players around, will never play in a game for us, but he wants to be here as a leader. John Thoma got taken out of the game and he was one of the most vocal kids on the bench.”

Following the win, Harnett, who along with Chris Romano and Thoma are captains, best encapsulated the feeling shared by his teammates.

“It’s an unreal feeling,” said Harnett, who enjoyed this title perhaps more than most after suffering a head injury in the first quarter of  Yarmouth’s stunning regional final basketball loss to Wells back in February. “I felt rushed with emotion. It’s pretty incredible, especially how basketball ended. It’s redemption.

“We have a mantra, ‘Row the Boat,’ and it means that everyone has to keep rowing. It doesn’t matter whether you play every game or if you’re on the bench every time, you keep rowing and whatever hardships we come to, we keep pushing through and that’s carried us. An Eastern Michigan football coach started it and Coach Halsted somehow made contact with and he asked him if we could adapt it and we have.

“We knew our seed was a bit low for an 11-5 team. We’ve had some close games and we knew that teams would underestimate us. Taking advantage of our underdog status was important. We felt like we had momentum. We knew we’d come out with a lot of energy, believing in ourselves and no one could stop us.”

Waeldner threw more balls than strikes during his stint, but managed to improve to 6-2 by allowing three runs on four hits in 4.2 innings. He walked six, balked twice and struck out two.

“I had to stay true to my mechanics and made them put the ball in play and the defense came through,” Waeldner said.

“Luke pushed through,” Harnett said. “He said the mound was tough at the start, but he did a good job.”

“Luke threw 110 pitches a week ago and today he gave us everything he had and he also had three hits,” Halsted added.

Morrill earned his third save after allowing just one hit and one walk in 2.1 innings of relief. Morrill had a pair of strikeouts.

“Dom throws strikes,” Waeldner said. “He was very good today. I’m proud of him.”

Halsted praised not only Morrill for his work in relief, but also pitching coach Nick Whittaker, Yarmouth Class of 2010, for his role.

“Nick has worked with Dom for a year now,” Halsted said. “Dom has turned himself into a very good athlete. Nick is a very good pitching coach and JV coach. He’s one of the best we’ve ever had. Nick helped build this program and made us better.”

Waeldner also paced the offense with three hits (and a line shot to first base that could have been a fourth hit), as he was the only player on either team to produce more than one.

Harnett, Chris Romano, Jack Romano, Waaler and Waeldner all scored runs.

Jack Romano, who had the game’s only extra base hit, had a pair of RBI, while Coyne, Morrill and Waaler finished with one apiece.

Yarmouth stole six bases, as Coyne pilfered two and Morrill, Chris Romano, Waaler and Waeldner had the others.

The Clippers stranded five base runners, but managed to prevail regardless.

York’s offense saw LaBonte, Pidgeon and Rodrigues score runs and LaBonte and Rodrigues have RBI. Neilson and Nelson stole bases.

The Wildcats stranded nine runners.

Rodrigues took the loss and fell to 4-3 after giving up five earned runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings. He walked one, struck out none, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches.

Neilson was superb in relief, keeping his team alive by not allowing a run in 4.1 innings. He surrendered just two hits, didn’t walk a batter and fanned a pair.

First time

Yarmouth won Class C championships in 1991, 1994 and 1995, but has never played in a Class B state game.

The Clippers figure to have their hands full against an Old Town squad that won last year’s state title with ease, was the top seed in Class B North and is playing with even more confidence than before after rallying for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to shock Erskine Academy, 6-5, in the Class B North Final Tuesday.

The teams have no history.

Harnett will get the start.

Yarmouth is ready to roll the dice, row the boat and do its thing one final time and hope it results in the big prize.

“I’m so excited to keep playing with this team,” Jack Romano said.

“It’s been an honor to play this long, and as long as we keep our playing baseball and believing in ourselves and worry about us, I believe we can get it done,” Harnett said.

“We have to keep working hard,” Waeldner said. “Gibby will give us another good outing. We’ll just play Yarmouth baseball.”

“We just need to be ourselves and have fun,” Morrill said. “Gibby will throw his style of game. We have to get our bats going. We’ll go in and have fun. That’s the big thing Saturday.”

“I grew up in Orono and one of the first things I learned was to beat Old Town,” Halsted added. “They’re tough kids. Their coach is one of my best friend’s brothers. We’ll go straight ahead. We’ll throw Gibson, no secrets. Hopefully we have seven more innings in us. I can’t wait.”

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

Yarmouth junior starter Luke Waeldner delivers a pitch. Waeldner earned the victory.

Yarmouth senior Gibson Harnett makes contact.

Yarmouth senior first baseman John Thoma records an out.

Yarmouth junior James Waaler touches home with the game’s first run in the top of the second inning.

Yarmouth senior Chris Romano lines a third inning single.

Yarmouth junior pitcher Luke Waeldner and junior catcher James Waaler have a discussion on the mound.

Yarmouth senior second baseman throws to junior first baseman Ben Norton for the game’s final out.

Yarmouth senior captains Chris Romano, left, John Thoma and Gibson Harnett show off the championship plaque.

Previous Yarmouth-York playoff results

2013 Western B quarterfinals
York 14 Yarmouth 1

2006 Western B preliminary round
Yarmouth 14 York 6

1989 Western C quarterfinals
Yarmouth 16 York 5

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