CUMBERLAND—A year ago, Yarmouth’s softball team, behind pitcher Mari Cooper, took a five-run lead to the bottom of the seventh inning at Cape Elizabeth in a Western Class B semifinal.
And suffered the most agonizing loss in program history.
Saturday afternoon at Twin Brook Recreation Center, Cooper and her teammates got another chance to protect a lead in the semifinal round and they weren’t about to be denied.
The fourth-ranked Clippers had all the answers against top-ranked Greely, scoring a key run in the first inning, gradually adding to their advantage, then turning to air-tight defense and absolute gem from their ace to go somewhere no Yarmouth softball team has gone since 1996.
The regional final.
The Clippers got the jump when senior leftfielder and captain Michelle Robichaud drew a bases loaded walk in the first inning.
In the second, Yarmouth got a run on an RBI groundout from sophomore shortstop Andrea St. Pierre, another run came home on an error and Cooper made sure the potent Rangers never produced a threat.
In the fourth, a two-run double from Robichaud provided even more insurance and Cooper helped her own cause with a two-run single in the top of the seventh.
Then, in the bottom half, Cooper and her teammates exorcised their demons by setting Greely down in order, thanks in large part to a terrific running catch from a reserve outfielder, and slammed the door on a 7-0 victory.
Cooper allowed just two hits, added two hits, two runs scored and two RBI on offense and Robichaud drove in three runs as the Clippers improved to 15-3, ended the Rangers’ fine season at 14-4 and advanced to face No. 7 Fryeburg Academy (13-6) in the Western Class B Final Tuesday at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.
“I’m overwhelmed right now,” Cooper said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. I think it’s the highest point in my life so far. I’ve never felt so happy. I’ve never been prouder of this team.”
On May 6, Yarmouth played its worst game of the season in a 12-2 home loss to Greely. That was one of just three regular season blemishes, however, and the Clippers went on to post 13 wins as they grabbed the No. 4 seed in Western B. Thursday, Yarmouth, behind Cooper, blanked No. 5 Leavitt, 6-0, in the quarterfinals.
Greely started the year 2-2, but its win at Yarmouth propelled it to an 11-1 finish and the Rangers’ 13-3 mark earned them the top seed for the playoffs. Thursday, Greely outlasted upset-minded No. 8 Poland (9-5) in its quarterfinal.
The teams had met three previous times in the playoffs, including each of the past two quarterfinals (see sidebar, below), with the Rangers holding a 2-1 edge. Last spring, in a walks-ridden affair that took nearly three hours, the Clippers prevailed, 15-11.
Yarmouth then went to Cape Elizabeth and suffered the aforementioned shattering loss.
A setback which stayed with Cooper for a long time.
“Last year destroyed me,” she said. “I wasn’t myself for weeks. It was just horrible.”
Time heals all wounds and Saturday, the Clippers went out and wrote one of the most inspirational chapters in program history.
After starting slowly in the regular season matchup, Yarmouth knew it was imperative to score early and the Clippers got a run in the top of the first.
Andrea St. Pierre led off the game by drawing a walk off Greely senior starter Miranda Moore. Senior catcher Kallie Hutchinson followed by hitting into a shortstop-to-second force play and Cooper lined an apparent hit to center, but Rangers sophomore centerfielder Kayley Cimino threw to classmate Moira Train, the shortstop, to record the force out. Junior shortstop Cat Thompson produced Yarmouth’s first hit, a single, and junior first baseman Eleanor O’Gorman drew a walk to load the bases. That brought up Robichaud, who walked as well, bringing home Cooper and Yarmouth had the lead.
“(Scoring first) was our approach today,” said Clippers coach Amy Ashley. “Last time we faced Greely, they jumped ahead and we weren’t able to come back, so we knew we needed to score at least one in the first inning. We wanted to make Moore feel the pressure early.”
In fact, Robichaud was Moore’s last batter, as she was replaced by freshman Kelsey Currier, who escaped further damage by retiring freshman designated player Cate Ralph on a pop up to first.
“We had to do that against Poland too,” said Greely coach Rob Hale. “It’s something that’s come up during the year. I have a lot of confidence in (Kelsey) and the team has confidence in her.”
Cooper announced immediately that she was on her game by getting junior third baseman Sarah Felkel to ground to second, junior rightfielder Evan Carrell to ground out to short and junior first baseman Miranda Eisenhart to look at strike three.
Yarmouth added to its lead in the second as Currier had trouble finding the plate.
Sophomore second baseman Sydney St. Pierre set the tone by drawing a leadoff walk. She moved to second on a passed ball and junior centerfielder Colleen Sullivan sacrifice bunted her to third. Andrea St. Pierre then drove her sister home with a groundout to short, but the Clippers weren’t done. Hutchinson and Cooper drew consecutive walks and when Train made an error on a ball hit by Thompson, the bases were loaded. O’Gorman then drew a walk to score Hutchinson to make it 3-0. Robichaud ended the inning by looking at strike three.
Cooper then struck out Moore, senior catcher Audrey Mann and senior leftfielder Haley Felkel in the bottom half to preserve the advantage.
Currier settled down in third getting Ralph to fly to center and after walking Sydney St. Pierre, getting Sullivan to fly to right and fanning Andrea St. Pierre for out number three.
In the bottom half, Train popped out to short and junior designated player Charlotte Benoit bounced back to the mound, but Sarah Felkel delivered the Rangers’ first hit, a single to left. It didn’t generate a rally, as Cooper got Carrell to ground out to third.
Yarmouth got even more breathing room in the fourth.
After Hutchinson popped to third, Cooper beat out an infield hit to short with Train injuring her knee on the play. She had to leave the game. Thompson singled to center and O’Gorman singled down the rightfield line, loading the bases. That brought up Robichaud and she delivered with a double to right-center, scoring both Cooper and Thompson. Robichaud settled for a double and two RBI instead of a triple and three runs batted in when O’Gorman stumbled over third.
“I’m a competitor and I like to compete,” said Robichaud. “(Assistant) coach (Richie) Ashley told me he’d be mad if I walked, so I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it.’ I crushed it.”
“Michelle’s battled injuries this season, but I knew when she went up to the plate she’d come through,” Amy Ashley said.
After Ralph beat out an infield single to load the bases, Currier prevented the Clippers from completely blowing the game open by catching Sydney St. Pierre looking at strike three and getting Sullivan to fly to Cimino in center.
Up five runs, Cooper allowed a leadoff single to Eisenhart in the bottom of the fourth, but she struck out Moore, got Cimino to ground to the mound (Eisenhart took second) and induced a fly out to right off the bat of the dangerous Mann.
Yarmouth went quickly on three pitches in the fifth, as Andrea St. Pierre flew to right, Hutchinson bounced out to short and Cooper flew to center.
Cooper was equally effective in the bottom half, as she got Haley Felkel to ground out to Andrea St. Pierre at short, who made a terrific play, sophomore Jennie Smith (hitting in Train’s spot) to line to third and blowing strike three past Benoit.
The Clippers went quietly again in the sixth, as Thompson flew to center, O’Gorman grounded out to third and Robichaud bounced out to second.
In the bottom half, Sarah Felkel grounded out to third and Carrell flew to right, but Eisenhart walked, stoking hopes of a rally, before Cooper quickly extinguished those hopes by fanning Mann.
Yarmouth then put it away with a two-out rally in the top of the seventh.
Ralph struck out and Sydney St. Pierre was out on a bunt attempt, but Sullivan singled to center, Andrea St. Pierre singled to left and after a wild pitch moved the runners up, Hutchinson walked to load the bases. Cooper then blooped a hit to right, scoring Sullivan and St. Pierre and the lead was 7-0. Thompson grounded back to the mound to end the frame, but the stage was set for the Clippers to ice their victory.
The first out in the bottom of the seventh certainly turned heads.
Freshman Sophie McCrath was anonymous until she made a tremendous catch in right to retire Cimino leading off.
“Once we got that first out that was the most important,” Ashley said. “(Sophie) started on JV this year. That catch was huge.”
From there, Cooper made quick work of Mann (groundout to short) and Haley Felkel (liner to Sydney St. Pierre) to end it.
In its 18th Class B season, Yarmouth was heading to the regional final.
“It feels incredible,” said Robichaud. “It’s what I’ve wanted. I’ve never won a high school state championship and we’re one step closer. (The first time we played Greely) was our worst game all season. We knew that was one of their best games and we’ve improved. We knew coming here we were both different teams.”
“We pushed the regular season game behind us and gave our all,” Cooper said. “We know they’re a great team, but we also know them very well. We tried to use that to our advantage. (The way last year ended) makes this feeling that much better. I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Ashley added. “Our defense is stepping up. Our offense has carried us all season. I was confident today. It means a lot for this program and it means a lot for us as coaches. We thought we’d be inexperienced this season with two sophomores up the middle and two freshmen in the lineup, so it means a lot.”
The Clippers mustered eight hits. Cooper was the game’s lone repeat hitter. She also scored twice and had two RBI. Hutchinson, Andrea St. Pierre, Sydney St. Pierre, Sullivan and Thompson also scored runs. Robichaud had three RBI and the game’s lone extra base hit and Andrea St. Pierre added one RBI. In the only glass-half-empty analysis of the win, Yarmouth did leave 12 runners on base.
“In hindsight, we left a lot of runners on,” said Ashley. “We left bases loaded in three innings.”
As impressive as Cooper was with the bat, she was even more overpowering on the mound, allowing just two hits and one walk in seven shutout innings. She fanned seven as she improved to 13-1.
“My location worked,” Cooper said. “The past few games, my screwball and drop haven’t worked too well, so I threw a few changes, but it was mostly fastballs outside and low and they weren’t hitting it.”
“I’d take Mari over anyone else,” Robichaud said. “I have complete faith in her. I know she can do it. She pitches her heart out every single day.”
“Mari threw a terrific game,” Ashley added. “They have a terrific lineup with no holes. For them to only have runners in scoring position once was amazing. Mari was on the mound last year. She’s a competitor and she came through. I was extremely excited to have Dick Gordon as the ump today. He has a small zone. You have to know the ump. Mari did a great job of finding the zone today.”
Greely only had four baserunners and only mustered two hits. The Rangers left three runners on.
“We took a lot of first pitch strikes, which is something we don’t usually do,” Hale said. “We’ve come back. We came back against Poland. We came back against Fryeburg, but in a playoff game, it’s tough.”
Moore took the loss (and fell to 8-2) after allowing one earned run on one hit and three walks in 0.2 innings. Currier gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and five walks in 6.1 innings of work. She struck out four.
“Kelsey was awesome the last five innings, but she had some walks early,” Hale said. “She’s calm, cool and collected.
Despite Saturday’s setback, Greely still had a solid 14-win campaign.
“This wasn’t indicative of our season,” Hale said. “We had the same record (as Yarmouth). We just had four Class A wins and that put us number one.”
The Rangers should be strong again in 2016.
“We had 14 kids contribute in some way this season,” said Hale. “We lose three starters, but we’ll be very solid next year.”
Yarmouth has never played in a Western B Final. The Clippers’ last and only regional final at any level was a 9-2 loss to Madison in Western C back in 1996.
Yarmouth downed Fryeburg Academy, 9-7, way back on May 1 in Fryeburg. The teams have no playoff history.
The Raiders have been consistent regional and state final contestants in recent seasons and will be a formidable foe, regardless of their seed.
Something the hungry Clippers are well aware of.
“We never underestimate any team,” said Cooper. “Softball is a game where it just depends on the day. We don’t see anyone as a lesser team.”
“We have to focus on ourselves,” said Robichaud. “We don’t care about what other teams do. We win as a team and we lose as a team. We’ll have fun.”
“I knew we had the potential and I think we have even more potential which hasn’t been reached,” Ashley added. “Fryeburg is tough on both ends. They hit hard and have great pitching. We were lucky to beat them last time. It was on an error. Tuesday should be fun.”
Yarmouth junior Mari Cooper dazzled on the hill, hurling a two-hit shutout.
Greely freshman Kelsey Currier came on in relief and got stronger as the game went on.
Greely junior Charlotte Benoit chases a pitch.
Yarmouth senior Kallie Hutchinson flashes a megawatt smile after scoring in the second inning.
Greely senior Audrey Mann makes contact.
Greely junior third baseman Sarah Felkel fields the ball.
Greely sophomore Jennie Smith makes a flip to first for an out.
Yarmouth sophomore second baseman Sydney St. Pierre records a force on Greely senior Miranda Moore and looks to throw to first.
Greely junior Miranda Eisenhart records an out at first on Yarmouth junior Colleen Sullivan.
Yarmouth junior Cat Thompson takes a rip.
Yarmouth sophomore second baseman Sydney St. Pierre is congratulated by junior shortstop Cat Thompson (23) and sophomore shortstop Andrea St. Pierre after a highlight reel play in the fifth inning.
Yarmouth sophomore Andrea St. Pierre crosses home plate with the final run of the game.
2014 Western B quarterfinal
@ Yarmouth 15 Greely 11
2013 Western B quarterfinal
@ Greely 9 Yarmouth 3
2006 Western B quarterfinal
Greely 3 @ Yarmouth 2
It was hugs all around at the conclusion of Yarmouth’s 7-0 softball victory at Greely Saturday. The Clippers advanced to meet Fryeburg Academy in Tuesday’s regional final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
Y- 120 200 2- 7 8 0
G- 000 000 0- 0 2 2
Robichaud walked, Cooper scored.
A. St. Pierre grounded to short, S. St. Pierre scored. Hutchinson scored on error.
Robichaud doubled to right-center, Cooper and Thompson scored.
Cooper singled to right, Sullivan and A. St. Pierre scored.
Y- Cooper 2, Hutchinson, A. St. Pierre, S. St. Pierre, Sullivan, Thompson
Y- Robichaud 3, Cooper 2, A. St. Pierre
Left on base:
Cooper and Hutchinson; Moore, Currier (1) and Mann.
Cooper (W, 13-1) 7 IP 2 H 0 R 1 BB 7 K
Moore (L, 8-2) 0.2 IP 1 H 1 R 1 ER 3 BB 0 K
Currier 6.1 IP 7 H 6 R 4 ER 5 BB 4 K