End of an era, Raiders’ reign comes to an end

LAST TIME THROUGH THE LINE — Fryeburg Academy senior captain Maddie Pearson is introduced prior to last Saturday's semifinal game against Greely. The Rangers upset the top-ranked Raiders 2-1, ending FA's streak of five West titles and state championship appearances. (Rivet Photo)

LAST TIME THROUGH THE LINE — Fryeburg Academy senior captain Maddie Pearson is introduced prior to last Saturday's semifinal game against Greely. The Rangers upset the top-ranked Raiders 2-1, ending FA's streak of five West titles and state championship appearances. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — The run is over.

After five straight Class B softball state championship appearances, Fryeburg Academy is out of the title picture.

Greely shocked the top-ranked Raiders Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 victory in the West semi-finals.

“Tough ending,” FA Coach Fred Apt said. “I was very proud of how the girls battled all day, but in the end, we came up short.”

The door appeared wide open for a return to the state game when second-ranked Cape Elizabeth — the only team to hand the Raiders a loss during the regular season — was upset 2-1 by Gray-New Gloucester.

That 2-1 count proved to be somewhat prophetic.

The Raiders liked their chances against fourth-seeded Greely, having beaten the Rangers 7-1 in the finale, along with a 4-1 victory in the season’s second game. Unlike other teams, the Raiders had enjoyed good success against all-conference hurler Danielle Cimino, including last year’s barrage in the West finals as the Raiders put up double digits at St. Joseph’s College.

Saturday, Cimino and the Rangers (14-4) finally had their day against Fryeburg (16-2).

Having lost 10 of their last 12 meetings against FA, Greely plated two runs in the first inning and rode a five-hit, nine strikeout outing by Cimino to upend the five-time conference champ.

With one out in the first inning, Haley Felkel, who was 0-for-6 against FA this year, beat the Raiders’ “slap defense” — which had infielders in close and the FA outfield just along the infield dirt — by lining Sarah Harriman’s first pitch into the left-center gap. Speedy outfielder Maddie Pearson tracked down the ball and held Felkel, who hesitated rounding the first base bag, to a single.

Greely third baseman Elyse Dinan broke a 1-for-6 streak (three strikeouts) against the Raiders by ripping a ball down the first base line, which scooted by Kylie Locke, who returned to the Raider lineup after suffering a hamstring injury (it forced her to miss two games).

Cimino then reached after being hit by a pitch.

After Greely beat Yarmouth to reach the semis and when asked what it would take to beat their old nemesis (Fryeburg), Ranger first baseman Mykaela said, “I think Fryeburg’s all in our head. If we look at them as a new team, we’ll go in and hopefully get a win out of it.”

Twitchell’s mind apparently was clear, and she was certainly focused, lining a 0-2 pitch up the middle to plate two runs.

Fryeburg got out of deeper trouble when outfielder Pearson cut down courtesy runner (for pitcher Cimino) Elizabeth Shibles at third base and Harriman induced an infield fly ball to end the frame.

All season, Coach Apt has impressed upon his players to “attack” the ball wherever it is pitched and to “win the inning.”

The Raiders seemed on track to do so as Carla Tripp dropped a well-placed bunt for a single and Pearson whacked a base hit to right. After a strikeout, Locke walked after working the count full to load the bases. Junior Sydney Charles bunted, and a throw to the plate was late.

Down 2-1, the Raiders had a chance to tie the game, but Cimino worked out of the jam. Ellen Bacchiocchi grounded a ball back to the mound, and Cimino recorded a force out at the plate. With two out, sophomore Kristen Chipman, who knocked in two runs against Cimino in their last meeting, grounded the ball to shortstop Sarah Felkel, who gunned the ball to first to end the inning.

The game then became a pitching duel.

Harriman settled into a groove and retired six straight until Charlotte Benoit singled to right with two out in the fourth.

Cimino was equally as tough, retiring 10 straight, five by way of the strikeout.

In the fifth, the Raiders had a golden opportunity to tie the game as pinch hitter Emily Davidson rocked a drive to right for a single. Sensing his team might not get many more chances to tie the game, Coach Apt called for speedy freshman Julia Quinn, who normally runs for the pitcher, to replace Davidson. With Tripp at the plate, Cimino uncorked a wild pitch as Quinn attempted to steal second. The rookie never slowed down and headed to third. Greely catcher Audrey Mann likely made the play of the day for the Rangers when she delivered a low strike to Dinan, whose tag just swiped Quinn’s leg on her slide into the bag for an out.

On a 3-2 pitch, Tripp singled to left. She stole second and moved up to third on a wild pitch, but Cimino again escaped damage as she retired Pearson on a fly ball to second base.

Harriman surrendered a two out hit to Dinan in the fifth, but then retired the last seven hitters she faced. She finished with five strikeouts, while giving up six hits.

Down a run, the Raiders over the years engineered some miracle comebacks in their final at bat. It appeared the Comeback Kids had another fantastic finish in mind. With one out, Number 8 hitter Makayla Frost fouled off three pitches after being down 1-2 in the count before Cimino dinged her with an inside pitch. Senior Courtney Bartlett was then inserted as a pinch runner. Cimino painted the outside corner for a called third strike for the second out.

Up came old nemesis Carla Tripp. A year ago, Tripp put together an epic at bat, fouling off numerous pitches, pushing the final pitch count to over 20 to earn a walk. Again, Tripp battled against a variety of Cimino pitches, running the pitch count to 12. With the count full, Tripp was hit by a pitch.

The final battle came down to Cimino vs. The Whammer. One of FA’s top hitters, Pearson was unable to catch up with a 2-2 fastball on the outside part of the plate as Cimino ended Greely’s struggles against the Raiders and put a stop to an incredible five-year FA streak.

“This really hurts,” Coach Apt told his players as they gathered for a group hug in leftfield. “But, I couldn’t be more proud of your efforts today. You battled to the end. It just wasn’t meant to be, today.”

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