CAPE ELIZABETH—Despite seizing an early lead – Cooper Winslow scored on Cam Andrews contact – the Patriots couldn’t hold on against the Capers on Monday afternoon, May 27. G-NG’s start-of-game sizzle died as the innings elapsed, while Cape’s only got hotter and hotter. 5-1 the final.

“Our offense has sputtered all year long,” G-NG head coach Brad Smith said. “The thought process, of even how we put together the lineup, it seems like we discuss it morning, noon and night. So you front-load it here, or you try to stagger it, and then you look at it at the end of the game, and the top five guys have collectively one strikeout, and you look at everybody else, and some games…”

And which Patriots are hitting well is liable to change from game to game. “Exactly,” Smith said. “When the kids aren’t consistent, it takes things like squeezes. A lot of the things that we should be able to do well. Even base-stealing.”

Winslow opened the action in the leadoff slot for the Patriots, and wasted little time reaching base on a single grounder to leftfield. He then moved to second on a dropped third strike to teammate Wyatt Kenney and third on a passed ball during Andrews’s at-bat. Winslow rounded to home when Andrews clubbed a sac grounder.

Unfortunately, neither Kenney – who reached third on Andrews’s sac – nor any other Patriot would cross the plate again that day. The team did threaten at times: In the top of the fourth, for instance, they loaded the bases. Nick McCann kicked off the push with a drive single to centerfield; Andrews followed McCann into the box and belted a single grounder down the leftfield line; finally, Aiden Sweeney followed up Andrews, and walked onto first: Three men on, no outs.

But bad luck has hounded the Patriots all spring. Aiden Gonzalez (a freshman, and also the team’s able pitcher for the contest) made good, hard contact in his ups – only to see the ball bullet directly to the Cape third baseman. McCann, already off third and headed for home – who wouldn’t be? Gonzalez had really smacked that pitch – dove back for the bag, but he really had no chance of getting there. Two outs devolved into a third out, and that was the end of G-NG’s inning.

Jake Dyer made it to third for the Patriots in the fifth (he singled to reach), then leapt off base for a suicide-squeeze during Gonzalez’s at-bat. Gonzalez’s bunt attempt didn’t work, though, and Dyer found himself thrown out at third.

McCann walked on in the sixth, and even advanced to second on a Capers wild pitch, but the guys after him went down one-two-three, capping yet another ill-fated inning for G-NG.

Meanwhile, the Capers had made plenty of mischief for their guests. Cape put up two in the bottom of the second – Charlie Carver and Ryan Oberholtzer scored – and three in the bottom of the fifth, when Cole Hoffman, Sean O’Sullivan and Colin Smith all lit up the board.

“Today, frankly, was one of our better games,” Smith said. “You can’t explain [Cape’s] hits. Of course, you can’t explain our lack of hitting, either…We try not to get in our own heads. We say all the time, ‘Don’t let your offense affect your defense and don’t let your defense affect your offense.’ And experience will tell you it’s never just one play. But if you don’t have experience, mistakes invariably will tend to snowball.”

On the upside, at least a couple Patriots defensive plays warrant highlighting. First up, Dyer at centerfield turned in a spectacular diving catch on a Cape hit over his head – a hit nearly to the fence – in the bottom of the fifth. Then, McCann, the team’s perpetual catcher (he’s also a Captain, and an all-around top-notch player), threw out Cape runner Liam Concannon at second in the bottom of the sixth.

Still, those defensive fireworks aside, the Capers prevailed 5-1. G-NG stumbled on the loss to 2-12; the Patriots suffered a 13th loss 6-0 to Traip on Wednesday, May 29. The team currently ranks 16th in B South, well outside the upcoming bracketing; they conclude their season with a make-up road bout vs. Wells on Thursday the 30th.

Smith took a moment to praise a handful of his boys by name. “Aiden Gonzalez, he shows a lot of promise. Nick McCann is always going to give you an all-conference performance.”

More than ill luck has dogged the Patriots in 2019; the team is also wet behind the ears. Smith doesn’t like to focus on that – he’s not one to make excuses – but it’s not so much an excuse as a bare fact that McCann, Andrews and Winslow are the team’s only seniors. Experience does matter, and it only comes with time.

“Yeah,” Smith said, asked if his squad is young. “But what’s never questioned is the effort I get from these kids. If we come up short, and the kids are putting it all on the line – Jake Dyer had that catch: That’s the kind of effort. You can’t ever fault the kids for trying their best, and in the final analysis, that’s most important.”

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

G-NG first baseman Aiden Sweeney cuts back to the bag after grabbing a Cape grounder a short distance away.

Patriots second baseman Wyatt Kenney attempts to get in front of a bouncing ball as a Capers opponent descends into a slide for the bag.

G-NG freshman Aiden Gonzalez unwinds into a delivery from the mound.

G-NG’s Nick McCann hops away from third as, at the plate, teammate Aidan Gonzalez makes hard contact with a pitch.

G-NG centerfielder Jake Dyer reels in a spectacular diving catch, late in the Patriots bout at Cape on Monday.

Cooper Winslow dashes across the infield from shortstop to (successfully) get beneath a pop-up ball.

Jake Dyer scoots off third, eager to race home.

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