GRAY—The visiting Rangers run-ruled the Patriots 15-2 in five innings on Saturday afternoon, April 28: Nick Butler, Will Neleski and Eben Kiesow all scored in the first, and Greely never looked back from there. G-NGers Will Shufelt and Eli Winchester tallied in the fourth and fifth, respectively, but that was far too little, far too late to keep the home team alive.
“Our guys know we didn’t play a good game,” G-NG head coach Brad Smith said. “They know what areas they need to work on.”
Butler kicked off Greely’s offense in the top of the first, ripping an grounder single into center off G-NG starter Shufelt. The next two Rangers to take a turn at the plate – A. J. Eisenhart and Luke Miller – drove out to second and flew out to left, but then Shufelt walked Neleski and Kiesow scored Butler with a double to center. Jacob Whiting also hit to center, but the Patriot there, Damien Pye, dropped the catch; Neleski and Kiesow rounded to home. 3-0.
“We haven’t got the best record against Greely,” Smith said, “and I think they know it. You can’t tell these guys, ‘You’re on par’; if they don’t feel they’re on par, the magic wand kind of goes away.”
Pye, the Patriots’ leadoff hitter, took a pitch to the foot in the bottom of the first, thereby reaching base. Winchester followed Pye into the box, but flew out; Nick McCann then grounded into a 4-6-3 double play and the inning concluded on a down note – for G-NG, that is. Certainly the moment was defensive music to Greely’s ears.
The Patriots continued to struggle. Cam Andrews, for example, grounded a single into left in the bottom of the second, then advanced 90 feet on a Cam Usher sac. But Kiesow, the Rangers’ starting pitcher, picked Andrews off when Andrews took too large a lead toward third.
Greely added four in the top of the third: Neleski, Kiesow, Whiting and Aiden Smith all rounded to home in another stretch that, defensively, just didn’t go the Patriots’ way. A G-NG walk and hit batter, as well as errors in right and at second, all gave the Rangers openings they voraciously capitalized on.
“You can’t make those kinds of mistakes against a very good team and expect to recover,” Smith said. On the other hand, as Smith also observed, the Patriots have plenty of opportunities to clean up their play: “It’s very early in the season.”
One factor that no doubt contributed to the Patriots’ difficulties was their necessary experimentation with positioning. “We lost all three outfielders last year,” Smith said. “It’s a matter of finding a balance. No excuses for bobbling in center, in right, but yeah, because it’s early, I’ve got to put people in different positions.”
“It’s not going to be a season-long thing,” Smith said. “But we build our defense, as most teams do, around the guy who’s on the mound. I thought Will Shufelt gave us the best defensive look; he’s one of our top three pitchers, and setting the defense around him was paramount. But the defense we put out today didn’t live up to their potential.”
The Patriots got on the board – at long last – in the bottom of the fourth. Shufelt began the push, reaching base after clubbing the ball into center, where Ranger Evan Wyman erred on the catch attempt. Shufelt eventually scored when Cooper Winslow blasted a single into left. 9-1.
Greely logged their biggest ups yet in the top of the fifth, notching six: Jack Libby, Jack MacDonald, Butler, Eisenhart, Miller and Neleski all piled onto the Rangers’ already-huge heap of runs. The Patriots looked doomed to retire early for the day; if the hoped to play a full seven innings – to say nothing of staging a comeback – they desperately needed to turn up the heat in their own next at-bats.
Greely got the better of G-NG in the end, though the Patriots did get one last word in. Winchester crossed home for the team in the bottom of the fifth, reaching on a deep double to right-center, advancing to third on a passed ball during McCann’s at-bat and scoring when Shufelt grounded into a 1-6-3 double play.
“It’s too bad,” Smith said, “because we had a really good outing against Waynflete. A good outing in terms of playing solid defense, timely hitting, playing with confidence. We did not play with confidence today, and it really showed.”
A long list of Rangers contributed on the day. Butler went 2-3 for the Rangers, with two runs total. Eisenhart went 3-4 with two runs and an RBI, Miller 1-4 with two runs and an RBI, Neleski 2-3 with three runs and an RBI, Keisow 1-2 with two runs and an RBI; MacDonald 1-1 with two RBI, Jacob Whiting 2-3 with one run and three RBI, Nate Cyr 1-1 with one RBI, Libby 1-1 with a run, Smith 2-4 with two runs and an RBI. Wyman rounded out Greely’s take with an RBI.
G-NG hashed five hits total. Winchester went 1-2 with a run, Shufelt 1-3 with a run, Cam Andrews and Cam Usher 1-2 each and Cooper Winslow 1-1 with an RBI.
The Patriots traveled to Lake Region on Monday, April 30, then Traip on Wednesday, May 2. They host Fryeburg on Friday. Greely welcomed York on Monday, Freeport on Wednesday and Lake Region on Friday.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
G-NG’s Nick McCann leads off first late in the Patriots’ loss to Greely.
Cam Andrews unwinds into a pitch during his stint on the mound for the Patriots.
Cooper Winslow leads off base for the Patriots.
Will Shufelt started on the mound for G-NG, pitching four complete.
Damien Pye inches off base.
Eli Winchester fires off a ball from second toward home.