GNCBL: Spartans grab walk-off win over Norsemen

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OLD ORCHARD BEACH—The Greater Northeast Collegiate Baseball League’s second summer continues to churn out exciting action: The Spartans’ Caleb Burpie (Kennebunk/Thomas), for instance, belted a first-pitch, walk-off winner down the leftfield line on Sunday afternoon, July 16, securing a 6-5 outcome over the Norsemen. The contest played out at the Ballpark.

“They’re a very well-coached team,” Spartans head coach Frank Watson said of the Norsemen. “They’re tough; they’re into it. I think everyone wants to beat us because we’re leading the League right now.”

The Norsemen began the game in control, slowly – through the first four innings – building a small lead on regular batting and reliable defense. While neither team scored in the first, the Norsemen added a run in the second, one in the third and one in the fourth. Emery Dinsmore (Waldo/Colby) earned the last of those, reaching third base on a Spartans error and home on a Logan LaRochelle (Rochester, New Hampshire/Great Bay Community College) single grounder into left.

In the fifth and the sixth, though, the Spartans battled back. The team notched two in the bottom of the former inning, and one in the bottom of the latter: Connor McGuire (Ellsworth/Husson) crossed the plate when Drew Healey (Rochester, New Hampshire/St. Joe’s) clubbed a double into wide left, and Healy crossed the plate when Mattingly Simaan (Mahopec, New York/St. Joe’s) grounded past Norsemen second basemen Ben Nelson (Gorham/Merrimack). Finally, Burpie launched a deep double over the head of Norsemen centerfielder Ian Westphal (Portland/Southern Maine Community College) to reach base, and eventually arrived home on passed ball. 3-3.

“We were picking away at them,” Watson said of his boys’ initial comeback. “That’s what I told them: ‘You’ve got to pick away at these guys; just score a run here, score a run there – plenty of game left.’ The usual stuff. And they did.”

“This team is very resourceful,” Watson said. “These kids don’t give up. They’re very good. The same guys always show up, all the time, and they’re a close-knit group. They really are.”

The Norsemen dashed out front again in the top of the seventh: Ben Isaak (Durham, New Hampshire/Suffolk) and LaRochelle both tallied, LaRochelle on a Tim Brigham (Cape Elizabeth/Suffolk) grounder into left. 5-3.

Sure, the Spartans had gotten off to a slow start, but the later innings had seen them pick up some steam; if they could post their best ups yet in the bottom of the seventh, they stood a chance. Otherwise, the Norsemen looked like a lock to W.

Riley Bartell (Portland/University of Maine Farmington) kicked off the Spartans’ triumph with a one-out double drive down the leftfield line; Bartell reached home on a McGuire single grounder into right. Healey followed McGuire onto base, grounding to second. Nelson fielded the hit, but his underhand lob to shortstop Isaak sailed just a bit high, and a game-ending double-play opportunity sailed out of the Norsemen’s reach.

Then, Burpie capped the afternoon: He stepped to the plate and ripped a drive just fair into left. McGuire scored, then Healey – the Spartans had won.

“They had it,” Watson said of the Norsemen. “But we had the right hitters up and just put some guys on base, and they made a fatal mistake, with the tailor-made double-play. That was huge; that put us in the position to win, and the guys took advantage of it.”

Watson took a moment to applaud a few of his boys. “I thought the catcher for us today did a great job behind the plate, Jason Komulainen (Gorham/University of Southern Maine). He did a great job. Blocked everything. I think he threw out two runners – he can shut down a running game, when he’s on, and he was on today.”

“Our pitcher, obviously,” Watson went on. “And Caleb Burpie – he just got the game winner. First pitch, he just jumped right on it. He had two doubles today.”

Bartell, the Spartans’ lead-off hitter, finished 1-4 with one run. McGuire went 3-4 with two runs and an RBI, Healey 1-3 with two runs and an RBI, Burpie 3-3 with a run and two (critical!) RBIs, and Dom Esposito (Windham/Deering/Thomas) and John Parker (Brunswick/Eastern Connecticut) 1-3 each. Healey and Komulainen each stole one base.

Parker pitched the complete game, giving up eight hits, three earned runs and four walks, and striking out six.

Isaak, the Norsemen’s first man up, went 2-4 with a run. LaRochelle finished 1-3 with one run and one RBI, Mike Sterritt (Exeter/Great Bay Community College) 1-2 with a run, Evan Balzano (Saco/University of Maine Orono) 1-3 with an RBI, Brigham 2-4 with a run and two RBIs, and Nelson 1-3.

Luke Klenda (Yarmouth/St. Joe’s) began the contest on the mound for the Norsemen, throwing five full. Klenda gave up six hits and two runs (one earned) in that time, and struck out four. Mike Doherty (Scarborough/St. Joe’s) relieved him, throwing just over one full; Doherty relinquished four hits and four runs (one earned) in that time. He also struck out three.

The GNCBL plays not just at the Ballpark, but also at Wainwright Sports Complex in South Portland, at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, at St. Joseph’s College in Standish and at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. The seasons unfolds on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays – a full schedule is available online at www.gncbl.net – and can be tracked down on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/gncblBaseball/ and Twitter at @GNCBLBaseball.

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

John Parker (Brunswick/Eastern Connecticut) fires off a pitch for the Spartans.

Mike Doherty (Scarborough/St. Joe’s) hurls a late-game pitch toward home for the Norsemen.

Spartans shortstop Dom Esposito (Windham/Deering/Thomas) awaits a 2-6 throw, hoping to catch Norseman runner Ian Westphal (Portland/SMCC) out on the steal.

Riley Bartell (Portland/UMF) works the plate for the Spartans.

Ben Nelson (Gorham/Merrimack) tracks his contact.

Drew Healey (Rochester, New Hampshire/St. Joe’s) maneuvers beneath an infield fly.

Spartan Jason Komulainen (Gorham/USM) caught an excellent game.

Tim Brigham (Cape Elizabeth/Suffolk) fires a ball from rightfield.

Luke Klenda (Yarmouth/St. Joe’s) scoops up an infield grounder for the Norsemen.

Mattingly Simaan (Mahopec, New York/St. Joe’s) drops back in the Spartans’ outfield to grab a fly ball.

John Parker (Brunswick/Eastern Connecticut) unwinds into a Spartans pitch.

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