Yankee Ford’s Griffin Kelley led on the mound as his team – a combo of top South Portland High School and Cape Elizabeth High School players – trumped Summit Gas, the squad (mostly) out of Freeport and Yarmouth, 7-3 in American Legion action on Thursday, June 30.

“We put up four or five in the first inning, just led off with a triple,” said Yankee Ford co-head coach Andrew Wood. “Next guy got a single, then another triple; yeah, we scored a bunch in the first inning and made it pretty easy for Griffin, South Portland’s No. 1, to come in and throw strikes. That’s what he does; works quick. He’s fun to watch – and he’s probably our No. 3 pitcher.”

Summit Gas piled up a few runs in the later innings, but could never quite catch up. Co-head coach Nick Whittaker explained what started to work for his team as the afternoon progressed: “We had a few guys step up,” he said. “Gibby Harnett was huge for us on the mound; he kept the game close for us, competed his tail off for us. And a few big hits from our older guys sort of carried us.”

“But, obviously we ran into a solid ball club,” said Whittaker. “We had too many mental errors out there to really put this one away.”

The result, which played out at South Portland’s Wainwright Sports Complex, Yankee Ford’s home turf, extended the team’s unbeaten streak to 5-0. It’s perhaps no surprise Yankee Ford is so strong, given that South Portland and Cape Elizabeth were two of the top contenders in their respective MPA conferences, this past spring.

Summit Gas is hardly a slouch, of course. Yarmouth, like Cape Elizabeth, was a Class B powerhouse, going 10-5-1 through their regular season, while Freeport’s run to the state final is now the stuff of legend.

Still, where Yankee Ford aggregates many of the top players from South Portland and Cape, Summit Gas is actually missing several key players from Freeport’s miracle team. So the all-star aspect of the teams’ structuring worked more for Yankee Ford on Thursday than it did for Summit Gas.

“We’re missing some of the core guys from [Freeport’s] state championship team,” said Whittaker. “Some of the key seniors; so we’re asking a lot of some of the younger guys, some of the less-experienced guys to step up and play bigger roles.”

The Summit Gas roster features six Freeporters – Max Doughty, Austin Langley, Caleb Salter, Josh Spaulding, Caleb Rice and Jack Sawicki – and a Gray-New Gloucesterite as well, Evan Harmer at catcher.

Legion ball brings a different feel to the field for both teams and fans, as Wood observed. Still, the action is competitive, and squads harbor a strong drive to make the Regional and State tournaments in late July.

“It’s a little bit more relaxed,” Wood said. “But I think we know that, with the Cape team and South Portland team combining, we have a pretty good shot to make a Regional. You take the five best players from Cape Elizabeth, and team them up with 10 of the best kids from South Portland, add Henry Curran and Anthony Degifico from USM – you have 10 pitchers who are just very, very good. We have 10 or 11 guys who show up each night, we think we can put a pretty solid squad together, be something special.”

Wood happily rattled off the names of some of his skilled hurlers: Curran, Sam Troiano, Marshall Peterson, Nate Ingalls, Drew Abramson, Ben Conti and Bryce Hewitt. “We’ve got a lot of guys we feel comfortable we can go out there each night and get a win with.”

Legion teams, despite often being comprised of players who vie with one another during the school year, usually gel just fine. “They came together very nice; some of the guys already knew each other,” said Wood. “Plus, they’re all seniors, and going to college, so they know this is kind of the last chance to actually do it. I think they’re having a blast.”

“The guys, they like each other,” said Whittaker simply.

Summit Gas starting pitcher Gibby Harnett hurls a ball toward home in his team’s 7-3 loss at South Portland/Cape Elizabeth (i.e., Yankee Ford) on Thursday.

Yankee Ford starting pitcher Griffin Kelley whips a throw toward the plate vs. Summit Gas. The former South Portland High School player joins former teammates on Yankee Ford, along with players from Cape Elizabeth.

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