Fantastic finish for FA Raiders: Score twice in final at bat to win

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — “In the playoffs, anything can happen.”

Fryeburg Academy head coach Fred Apt has seen his Raiders rally from big and small deficits in past playoff games over the past five years, clearing the path to state championship titles.

COMEBACK COMPLETE — Fryeburg Academy junior Maddy Pearson slides in safely on a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning for the game’s winning run against Gray-New Gloucester last Saturday. The top-ranked Raiders rallied from a 3-2 deficit to move on to the West final, scheduled for Wednesday against Greely. Celebrating following the winning run were Raider Sarah Harriman (middle) and FA Head Coach Fred Apt (right). Gray-NG pitcher Maggie Chaplin (left) looks on. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Andrews Damon/Fryeburg Academy)

So, when the top-ranked Raiders (17-1) fell behind fifth-seeded Gray-New Gloucester in Saturday’s Class B West semifinal game at the Legion Field, one might think Coach Apt expected his team to fight back and win.

He was confident, but not entirely sure.

“A month or so ago, I’m not so sure we come back and win,” he told his players after Fryeburg scored twice in their last at bat to fend off the upset-minded Patriots, 4-3. “We’ve grown up a lot. I couldn’t be more proud of the way you responded here today.”

Gray-NG (14-5) seemingly had the Raiders on the ropes after taking a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh. Lefty Samantha Wilkins, who had struck out twice, whacked a double down the leftfield line to open the inning. FA pitcher Sarah Harriman appeared to have weathered the storm when she struck out the next two Patriots. But, leadoff hitter Sandra Ricardi (who went 3-for-4) won a lengthy at bat, driving a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a single. FA outfielder Maddie Pearson made a hard charge on the ball, but a bobble on the exchange of the ball from her glove to her hand gave Wilkins the extra step she needed to beat the throw at the plate.

With senior captain Maggie McConkey vocally encouraging her teammates to fight back, the Raiders showed the heart of a defending champion. Carla Tripp certainly showed her mettle. After dropping a well-placed bunt near the first baseline for a hit, the junior catcher dropped to one knee and vomited, likely due to dehydration.

With the trainer by her side, Tripp was asked whether she could stay in the game. There was no hesitation. She answered with an emphatic, “Yes!”

If the Patriots thought the upset stomach might slow down the speedy Tripp, they were dead wrong. Tripp stole second base and moved up on a catcher’s error. Pearson hit a roller to third, but with Tripp on third, Patriots Maria Valente immediately fired the ball to home plate. After Pearson stole second base, McConkey (3-for-4) looped a 1-2 pitch into shallow leftfield, scoring Tripp. The throw to the plate allowed Pearson to move up to third base, setting the stage for an unlikely finish.

On the first pitch to Harriman, Gray-NG pitcher Maggie Chaplin skidded a pitch, which catcher Wilkins was unable to handle. As the ball went to the backstop, Pearson easily scored and Raider Nation celebrated a victory — and kept alive FA’s hopes of another state title.

“That’s how you battle. You never give up,” Coach Apt told his players after the game. “We had put the ball in play all day, and finally, something good happened.”

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Up next

• Class B West finals, #1 Raiders (17-1) vs. #2 Greely (16-2).

• The game was scheduled to be played at St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Rain was falling in the morning, but at press time no decision had been made regarding if the game would be postponed until today (June 14) or played.

• The Raider/Ranger winner advances to the Class B state championship game on Saturday, June 16, at Brewer High School at 3:30 p.m. against the East champ, either Old Town or Nokomis.

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The day, however, didn’t start out well. Gray-NG sent a quick message that they were going to take their swings against Harriman, who had blanked the Patriots 5-0 earlier this season while allowing just one runner to reach second base. Wilkins knocked the first pitch into left for a hit. Shortstop Alexandra Thompson followed with a bunt single. Wilkins was erased on a fine stop by FA shortstop Sydney Charles. But, Thompson scored when a double steal resulted in the ball sailing into leftfield and the Raiders failing to come up with the loose ball. Maria Valente, who reached on a fielder’s choice, later scored on a passed ball.

Fryeburg responded in the home half of the inning when McConkey singled sharply to center and then scored when Harriman belted a 0-2 pitch into the right-center gap for a RBI double.

The Raiders had a chance to pull even in the third inning when senior Maddie Smith doubled to center and Tripp was hit by a pitch. But, Chaplin escaped trouble as Pearson flied out, McConkey hit into a fielder’s choice, erasing Smith, and Harriman popped out.

Gray-NG put two runners (error and a bunt single) on to open the fourth inning, but Harriman struck out the Number 6, 7 and 8 hitters to end the threat.

FA continued to pressure Chaplin and the Patriot defense in the fourth inning as senior captain Bri Pelkie singled to left off a 1-2 pitch and moved into scoring position on a passed ball with one out. Chaplin notched a big strikeout and induced a ground ball out to end the inning.

In big situations, top athletes make something happen. Ms. Excitement — Carla Tripp — delivered when her team needed her the most. A fly ball down the leftfield line bounced off a hard-charging Patriot, and the ball caromed away. Racing around the bases, Tripp never downshifted. When the ball was bobbled on the relay, Tripp aggressively headed home. She dove head first to the plate, and just beat the tag to tie the game, 2-2.

“I never really think about whether to dive or slide feet first,” Tripp said. “It’s all just instinctive.”

After Gray-NG went quietly in the sixth inning, the Raiders had a chance to take their first lead in the home half of the frame as sophomore Kylie Locke, who nearly knocked the ball out of the park in the first inning, grooved a double down the leftfield line. Pelkie reached on a bunt single, but the Patriots cut down the lead runner when Ellen Bacchiocchi hit into a fielder’s choice. Chaplin wiggled out of trouble by getting two fly ball outs, sending the game to a thrilling seventh inning.

As players and Coach Apt were congratulated by a number of FA fans, one person said, “Gee, that was closer than you probably expected.”

Coach Apt simply responded, “It’s the playoffs.”

Anything can happen.

Sidelines: The Raiders collected 10 hits with Tripp, McConkey (3) and Pelkie being repeat hitters. Harriman allowed just one earned run and five hits, while striking out 11.

Laker give early scare

Lake Region had a chance to send an early message in the Class B West quarterfinal game last week, but didn’t take advantage.

The ninth-seeded Lakers put the first two hitters on (Abby Craffey hit by a pitch and Rachel Wandishin reached on an error), but were unable to score.

Fryeburg, however, did make a statement. Maggie McConkey crushed a 2-0 pitch over the centerfield fence for a three-run home run to lead the Raiders to a 7-0 victory over the Lakers.

“That pitch was right where I like it,” McConkey said. “I was afraid that I had hit it too high.”

The three runs would be all Sarah Harriman would need. The sophomore hurler continued her domination of the Lakers, allowing just a flare by LR Number 9 hitter Samantha Marucci over first baseman Kylie Locke’s glove for a single in the fifth inning. Harriman struck out 11.

Fryeburg dodged the bullet in the first as McConkey snagged a bouncer down the line with one out, and reached back to tag Craffey out. An infield fly ball out and a strikeout ended the inning.

With Harriman retiring seven straight during the middle innings, the Raiders added a run in the fourth courtesy of two Laker errors. FA made it 5-0 in the fifth as McConkey was hit by a pitch and later scored on a Bri Pelkie single.

Fryeburg tacked on two runs in the sixth inning as Maddy Smith walked, Tripp singled sharply off the third base bag, Pearson lined a RBI single and Pearson scored on an error.

For the Raiders, Tripp went 2-for-4, Pearson 3-for-4 with a double, and Smith 1-for-2 (driving a change-up up the middle for a single).

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