STANDISH — Craig Pendleton, an assistant baseball coach at Falmouth High, calls pitches from his perch inside the dugout.
In five years of doing so, he can remember only one major disagreement with Coach Kevin Winship, who did not approve of a change-up thrown to the opposing team’s No. 9 hitter that resulted in a single.
The batter had fouled off multiple fastballs, Pendleton said, defending his decision. Still, Winship wasn’t buying it.
Of course, neither Cam Guarino nor Reece Armitage delivered that change-up. Falmouth’s junior lefties have a way of making Pendleton look good.
“They’ve saved a lot of arguments in the dugout,” Pendleton said with a laugh. “Even their mistake pitches are good.”
Falmouth (19-0) will meet two-time defending champion Bangor (18-1) at St. Joseph’s College at 1 p.m. Saturday for the Class A state title. It marks the first title game for Falmouth since moving up to Class A following the 2013 season. The Yachtsmen won the 2012 Class B state championship after previously winning Class C championships in 1985, 1996 and 1998.
Bangor has won 11 Class A crowns and has appeared in nine other state finals. The Rams feature senior left-hander Trevor DeLaite, the state’s Gatorade player of the year, who will pitch for the University of Maine.
“I don’t know a lot about him except that he’s good,” Winship said of DeLaite. “We’re going to have our hands full. He’s just as good as our guys.”
DeLaite (8-1) tossed a three-hitter to lead Bangor past Edward Little 8-0 Tuesday in the North regional final. Of course, three hits is the total number allowed by Guarino (10-0) and Armitage (7-0) in Falmouth’s three playoff victories over Deering, Portland and South Portland.
If Winship continues to alternate pitchers, as he has all spring, Armitage will start Saturday’s game. But Guarino, like DeLaite, is also eligible to pitch because three calendar days have elapsed since the regional finals. On Friday morning, Winship declined to name his starter.
“We have the luxury of that 1-2 punch,” he said. “To us, it really doesn’t matter who starts because they’re both available.”
Guarino and Armitage go about their business in different ways. Guarino is a nibbler, hitting his spots, changing speeds and pitching to contact.
Armitage, who also plays hockey, throws harder. He has 11 more strikeouts in 24 fewer innings than Guarino, and tops out at 85 miles per hour.
“Cam pounds his spots,” said sophomore catcher Garrett Aube. “Reece blows it by people.”
Both joined the Falmouth varsity team as freshman two years ago. Guarino was quieter, more deferential. Armitage, who was coming off a varsity hockey season, was more comfortable, more outgoing.
Both were effective immediately. Guarino went 5-0 with a 0.44 ERA. Armitage, with little run support, was 3-2 with a 1.57 ERA.
“I tell my friends that it’s coaching,” Pendleton said, “but the two of them as freshmen were just above and beyond anything I’ve seen as freshmen.”
As sophomores, Guarino was 7-2 with a 0.57 ERA, and Armitage, who pitched less because of elbow problems, was 3-1 with a 2.47 ERA.
With their continued success as juniors, both pitchers have attracted attention from college coaches.
“Every door is open to them,” Winship said. “They’re figuring what’s going to be the best fit for them at the next level.”
So who’s the better pitcher?
“Oh, that goes back to the beginning of Little League,” Guarino said. “We used to battle for the starting spot, for the No. 1 draft pick for pitching, all that stuff. But not anymore. We accept the fact that we switch off now.”
Armitage, whose twin brother, Robbie, plays shortstop, doesn’t even call it competition.
“It’s more like motivation,” he said. “It’s really helpful to have him there.”
Whoever doesn’t pitch plays right field. Having two lights-out starters, Armitage said, takes pressure off the rest of the team on defense and at the plate.
The dimensions at St. Joseph’s, which include 380 feet to dead center and 350 to right-center, make it hard for hitters to hit home runs, even if they weren’t already facing two – or three – of the state’s best pitchers.
“The disadvantage Saturday goes to hitters, for sure,” Winship said. “It’s going to come down to who plays good defense and who can get that timely, big hit and take advantage of the other team’s mistake, if they make one.”