GNCBL: Windjammers eliminate top-seeded Spartans from playoffs

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GORHAM—The Windjammers’ Bryce Smith (Greenland, New Hampshire/Great Bay Community College) tied things up at 1-1 when he blasted a long solo homer vs. the Spartans in the top of the fourth on Tuesday evening, Aug. 7. The momentum-grabbing play put his boys in a happy spot to pick up two more runs in the fifth, leading to a 3-1 victory.

The playoff contest unfolded at the University of Southern Maine’s Ed Flaherty Field.

“It was just a really good baseball game to be a part of,” said Jammers head coach John Dahms. “I enjoy these tight battles…[The Spartans] are a good team; we’ve seen their guys a lot. They have some good hitters in their lineup. Ultimately, we knew it was going to be a good game, we just had to be able to outlast them a little bit.”

The Spartans, who entered the GNCBL’s double-elimination postseason tourney at No. 1, suffered their first loss 7-5 against the Nor’easters on Sunday the 5th. That makes Tuesday’s defeat their second, and they thus retire till next summer.

The Windjammers, meanwhile, also succumbed on Sunday, 4-0 to the Norsemen. Their win over the Spartans advances them to a rematch with the Norsemen (who lost on Tuesday to the Nor’easters) on Thursday the 9th.

The first inning passed scorelessly on Tuesday, with Jammers starting pitcher Amos Herrin (Mt. Blue/Southern Maine Community College) and his Spartans counterpart, John Parker (Brunswick/Eastern Connecticut), looking strong. Behind both, two clean defenses turned in errorless games.

“Both pitchers pitched really well today,” Dahms said. “I thought Amos just got stronger as the game went along.”

“When you only have five teams in the league, you tend to see some of the pitchers multiple times,” Dahms said. “I think this is probably the third time we’ve seen [Parker], so the third time’s the charm, because he’s sort of had our number the first two times we’ve faced him. He’s a really good pitcher: throws the ball hard, has good off-speed stuff. We just knew we had to go out there and attack his fastball and sit back on the off-speed stuff.”

The Spartans added a hit in the bottom of the second – Dom Esposito (Deering/Thomas) singled into the left-center gap – but couldn’t get a run on the board. Likewise, Jammer Tucker Banger (Orono/University of Maryland) beat a throw from short on a slow chopper infield grounder in the top of the third, but never found his way home again.

In the bottom of the third, though, the Spartans broke the 0-0 deadlock. Herrin walked Drew Healey (Rochester, New Hampshire/St. Joseph’s) onto first, and Healey promptly came round again when Mattingly Simaan (Mahopac, New York/St. Joe’s) smashed a triple into deep center.

Then, in the top of the fourth, Smith connected – and connected hard – with a Parker pitch: The ball sailed easily over what looked to be the furthest stretch of centerfield fencing and into the woods. 1-1.

The Spartans couldn’t squeeze any more runs out of the bout, though they did keep hitting: Esposito and Logan Drouin (Gorham/USM) singled in the bottom of the fourth, Connor McGuire (Ellsworth/Husson) doubled in the bottom of the fifth and Christian Dow (Rochester, New Hampshire/GBCC) and Caleb Burpee (Kennebunk/Thomas) singled in the bottom of the sixth.

The Jammers, on the other hand, eked out a slim advantage on a pretty, two-out performance in the top of the fifth. The team opened the ups with a single into right, but then Banger sac-bunted and Grant Hefler (Wiscasset/Wheaton) flied out to Healey, manning second for the Spartans. The Jammers looked doomed to exit the inning with no production, but Brogan Searles-Belanger (Saco/University of Maine Orono) followed Hefler to the plate and singled into center, scoring one. Herrin then followed Hefler to the plate and singled into center as well, scoring Searles-Belanger.

“We had some timely hitting there, with two outs, and were able to take the lead,” Dahms said. “We were able to take advantage. We had a couple of guys we could get in scoring position with a couple of steals, and then we had balls just drop into the outfield and we were able to score. And I’m not going to stop a guy at third with two outs unless he’s dead to rights, so I was wheeling them all the way.”

Come the top of the seventh, lightning showed its toothy grin in the near distance, and rumbles of thunder momentarily followed. The umpires conferred, and called it a night.

The GNCBL also plays at the Wainwright Sports Complex (in South Portland), at Southern Maine Community College (South Portland again), at St. Joseph’s College (Standish) and at the University of Southern Maine (Gorham). The League is online at www.gncbl.net; they’re 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.

Amos Herrin (Mt. Blue/SMCC) hurls for the Windjammers.

Windjammers second baseman Justin Coppeta (Westbrook/Assumption) fields an incoming grounder.

John Parker (Brunswick/Easter Connecticut) has been stalwart for the Spartans on the mound all season.

Spartans catcher Jason Komulainen (Gorham/USM) gets underneath an infield pop-up.

Spartans first baseman Logan Drouin (Gorham/USM) lobs a fielded grounder to pitcher John Parker, racing in to cover the bag.

Spartans second basemen Drew Healey (Rochester, New Hampshire/St. Joe’s) leaps after a throw from home, an attempt to catch out a ‘Jammers runner.

Spartan Mattingly Simaan (Mahopac, New York/St. Joe’s) slides into third.

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