BOX SCORE

Falmouth 4 Thornton Academy 3

TA- 200 100 0- 3 5 2
F- 101 100 1- 4 3 1

Top 1st
Bowker homered to center, Bowker scored. Graffam homered to left, Graffam scored.

Bottom 1st
Ford scored on wild pitch.

Bottom 3rd
Ford reached on infield single, Kidder scored.

Top 4th
Schaffer doubled to left-center, Williams scored.

Bottom 4th
Gill scored on wild pitch.

Bottom 7th
Coyne singled to left-center, Daniels scored.

Multiple hits:
F- Ford

Runs:
TA- Bowker, Graffam, Williams
F- Daniels, Ford, Gill, Kidder

RBI:
TA- Bowker, Graffam, Schaffer
F- Coyne, Ford

Doubles:
TA- Schaffer
F- Ford

Home runs:
TA- Bowker, Graffam

Stolen bases:
TA- Bowker, McLeer
F- Gill, Kidder, Smith

Left on base:
TA- 1
F- 5

Kopetski and Lausier; Smith and Daniels.

TA:
Kopetski (L) 6.1 IP 3 H 4 R 3 ER 6 BB 10 K 5 WP

F:
Smith (W) 7 IP 5 H 3 R 3 ER 0 BB 5 K

Time: 1:39

FALMOUTH—Thornton Academy brought the thunder early, but Falmouth saved its best for last to earn a critical midseason victory in a Class A South showdown Monday afternoon at Croker Memorial Field.

Just three batters into the game, the Golden Trojans led, 2-0, as junior centerfielder Cody Bowker and junior third baseman Brady Graffam both hit long home runs off Falmouth junior pitcher Bennett Smith, but Falmouth would battle back.

After senior leftfielder Gus Ford just missed a home run of his own with two down in the bottom of the first, settling for a ground-rule double, Ford came around to score after successive wild pitches from Thornton Academy sophomore pitcher Joshua Kopetski.

A pair of errors and a Ford infield single pulled Falmouth even in the third, but in the top of the fourth, the Golden Trojans went back on top when junior leftfielder Christian Schaffer hit an RBI double.

Again, Falmouth would answer, as in the bottom of the fourth, junior first baseman Patrick Gill came home to tie it on a wild pitch and neither team would score again until the bottom of the seventh.

There, after junior Eben Daniels led off with a walk, he moved to second on a wild pitch, setting the stage for junior shortstop Brady Coyne to play the hero and Coyne singled to center and Daniels raced home to produce the decisive run in a palpitating 4-3 victory.

Not only did Falmouth snap a two-game skid, it improved to 6-2 and handed Thornton Academy its first loss of the season, after six consecutive victories.

“We needed a win against what I think is one of the top teams,” said Falmouth first-year coach Mike D’Andrea. “They’ve proved they’re a top team. I think we’ll see them again.”

Resilience

Falmouth won its first five outings: 4-1 over visiting Westbrook, 4-0 at Bonny Eagle, 4-3 at Biddeford and a doubleheader sweep at Deering (13-0, in five-innings, and 10-2). Falmouth then lost at home to Scarborough (9-3) and at South Portland in its most recent outing May 8, 2-0.

Thornton Academy roared out of the gates with decisive victories over Cheverus (14-4), Windham (11-1), Deering (23-0) and Biddeford (13-0). After downing Portland, 7-1, the Golden Trojans handed host Scarborough its first loss Friday, 3-2.

The teams last met in the 2019 Class A South quarterfinals, a 5-4 upset win for visiting Falmouth.

Monday, on another beautiful mid-May afternoon (64-degrees and sunny at first pitch), Falmouth found a way to beat Thornton Academy by a run again, but it didn’t look good early.

Bowker led off against Smith and crushed an offering to deep centerfield, over the head of senior Sam Kidder and over the fence for a stunning home run.

Thornton Academy junior Cody Bowker takes a mighty swing at a pitch from Falmouth junior pitcher Bennett Smith. Bowker led off the game with a home run. Michael Hoffer / For The Forecaster

After getting sophomore catcher Henry Lausier to ground out to second, Smith got taken deep again, this time by Graffam, who launched a shot to left that Ford tried to run down but couldn’t reach and just like that, the score was already 2-0.

Smith settled down by catching sophomore first baseman Brayden Williams looking at strike three and getting Schaffer to hit the ball hard, but right at Kidder in center for the third out.

“I wasn’t frustrated,” said Smith. “I just had to regroup. After that, it was all good. I knew we could hit the ball and get some runs, so I wasn’t that worried.”

Falmouth indeed got a run back in its half of the first.

After Kopetski blew a 3-2 fastball past Kidder, then got Coyne to pop out to short, Ford put a charge into a pitch and drove it over Bowker’s head in center. The ball didn’t clear the fence on the fly for a home run, but did one-hop over the fence for a ground-rule double and Falmouth had life. With Smith at the plate, Kopetski threw consecutive wild pitches and on the second, Ford came home to cut the deficit in half. Kopetski then battled back from a 3-0 count to strike out Smith swinging.

Smith settled in and retired the side in the Golden Trojans’ half of the second, as he got junior rightfielder Michael McLeer to watch strike three, junior designated hitter John Rohner to pop out to third and junior second baseman Jack Cote to look at strike three as well for the third out.

Kopetski was untouchable in the bottom half, striking out Gill swinging, blowing strike three past senior designated hitter Ben Keller, then fanning senior rightfielder Sean Dilworth as well.

Freshman shortstop Jeremiah Chessie led off the top of the third by chasing the first pitch he saw and grounding out to Coyne at short. Bowker then hit the first pitch he saw as well, right to Coyne, but reached when Coyne’s throw was low for an error. Thornton Academy couldn’t capitalize, however, as after Bowker stole second, Lausier grounded out to second, with Bowker moving to third, and with Graffam at the plate, Smith whirled and picked Bowker off third to end the threat.

Falmouth then drew even in its half.

Both Daniels and freshman second baseman Brennan Rumpf struck out, giving Kopetski six straight Ks, but Kidder made contact and grounded to short and he reached when Chessie’s throw was high for an error. Coyne then grounded to Cote at second, who couldn’t make the play for another error, and Falmouth had two runners on. After Kidder stole third, Ford grounded softly to second and he beat the throw to the bag for an infield hit, driving in Kidder in the process to tie the score, 2-2. Smith flew out to center to end the inning, but the hosts had made it a brand new game.

But not for long, as the Golden Trojans retook the lead in the top of the fourth, thanks to another booming hit.

Graffam lined out to Kidder, who made a terrific running play in center, on the first pitch of the inning. Williams then blooped a single to right and on a full count offering, Schaffer pounded a double to deep left-center and Williams came around to score. McLeer followed with a sharp single to left, but Schaffer couldn’t get past third. That loomed huge, as Smith got Rohner to pop out to third and after McLeer stole second, with Cote at the plate, Smith picked McLeer off to keep the deficit at one.

Thornton Academy wouldn’t have another base runner the rest of the day.

Falmouth tied the game for the second time in the bottom of the fourth, as Gill walked on four pitches leading off and after Keller struck out swinging, Gill stole second before Dilworth drew a walk as well. Daniels flew out to left, but with Rumpf at the plate, Kopetski threw a wild pitch to move the runners up, then unleashed another to score Gill with the tying rum. Rumpf struck out, but the game was deadlocked anew, 3-3.

Smith only got stronger as the game wore on and he retired Thornton Academy in order in the fifth, battling back from a 3-0 count to get Cote to line out to second, Chessie to ground out to Coyne, who made a nice play ranging to his left, and Bowker to bounce back to the mound.

In the bottom half, Kidder walked on four pitches leading off and represented the go-ahead run, but with Coyne at the plate, Kopetski picked Kidder off and Kidder was out trying to steal second. Coyne then watched strike three and Ford grounded out to third.

The Golden Trojans went quietly again in the top of the sixth, thanks in large part to senior third baseman Ben Wilson, who threw out Lausier on a ground ball for the first out after going to his left, then making a pretty backhanded stab before throwing out Graffam for the second out and then, retiring Williams on a routine grounder to the bag to end the inning.

“Ben stepped in today and played solid third base for us,” D’Andrea said.

In the bottom half, Falmouth threatened to go on top, but Kopetski didn’t let it happen.

On a 3-2 pitch, Smith drew a walk, then he stole second, but Gill popped out foul to Lausier, who made a nice catch while falling, Keller popped out foul to first and Dilworth popped out foul to third.

Thornton Academy hoped to break through in the top of the seventh, but Smith made it 10 straight batters retired by getting Schaffer to line out to Ford in left, who made a fabulous catch on the run, McLeer to watch strike three and Rohner to chase strike three.

Falmouth then won the game in the bottom half.

Leading off, Daniels drew a walk. With Rumpf at the plate trying to bunt, Kopetski threw a wild pitch and that put Daniels in scoring position. Rumpf tried to bunt Daniels to third, but he popped out to first. Kidder then worked the count full before drawing a base on balls to put runners at first and second and set the stage for Coyne to play the hero.

After taking a ball, Coyne made solid contact and the only question was would the ball land safely and would it score a run.

Chessie, the shortstop, leaped and nearly got a glove on the ball, but it landed behind him and with Daniels racing around third and Bowker charging the ball, it was clear there would be a close play at the plate.

Bowker’s throw home likely would have been in time for the out, but it landed short of Lausier and the short hop eluded the catcher and allowed Daniels to dive in with the winning run.

Falmouth junior Eban Daniels scores the winning run as Thornton Academy sophomore catcher Henry Lausier can’t make the play in the bottom of the seventh inning. Michael Hoffer / For The Forecaster

“I was looking for a strike down the middle and that’s what I got,” said Coyne. “I knew I just needed a base hit. With a runner in scoring position, I knew a base hit would score him. I saw the shortstop jump and I thought he might catch it and Eben would get doubled up. I saw the ball get down and I was hoping he wouldn’t get gunned down at home. Their best player is in center, but luckily we got the run in. (Cody) has a hose. The throw was there but it bounced away. The celebration was awesome. It’s a thrill.”

“Once (Eban) got to second, I had a good feeling,” said Smith. “Brady had a nice hit. The celebration was a lot of fun. I’m really proud of the team. We had a rocky road with two losses, but this is a big win for us.”

“We had three hits, so we had to be scrappy,” D’Andrea added. “If Bowker’s throw home skipped five feet earlier, we would have been in trouble, but Brady came through for us.”

Falmouth only mustered three hits, two coming from Ford and one from Coyne.

Daniels, Ford, Gill and Kidder all scored runs.

Coyne and Ford each had an RBI.

Falmouth stranded five runners.

Smith overcame his rough start to go the distance and earn the win, allowing three runs on just five hits in seven innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out five.

“I knew if I could pitch to my ability, I’d pull it off and I guess I did,” Smith said. “Later innings is when I start feeling good. I wanted to stay out there. My inside fastball was working really well for me and later on, I was throwing my curveball for strikes.”

“Bennett kept his head in the game and dialed in,” Coyne said. “We kept battling and wound up winning.”

“I said to the team in our postgame chat that if this was a pro game, after two home runs, fans would start walking out, but Bennett’s very resilient,” D’Andrea added. “He has ice in his veins. He keeps throwing strikes and keeps going. He just needed a little pick-up. He just got better. He’s done that all year. I think the best part tonight was the way he threw inside. His best characteristic was his ability to throw strikes inside. (Assistant coach Greg) Copetta did a really good job calling pitches, but credit goes to Bennett.”

Thornton Academy’s runs were scored by home run hitters Bowker and Graffam, as well as Williams.

Bowker, Graffam and Schaffer all had one RBI.

The Golden Trojans only stranded one runner.

Kopetski took the loss, giving up four runs (three earned) on just three hits in 6.1 innings. He did walk six and struck out 10.

“The Kopetski kid threw very well,” D’Andrea said. “When he needed to, he threw strikes. I was very impressed with him.”

No rest

Thornton Academy is back in action Tuesday at home versus Biddeford. After going to South Portland Thursday, the Golden Trojans host Bonny Eagle for a doubleheader Saturday.

Falmouth is also back in action Tuesday, at home against Windham. Saturday brings a doubleheader at Gorham.

“We were on a losing streak, so knocking off TA will get us back in the win column and hopefully keeps us going,” Coyne said. “Coach is getting us going. He wants to win just like we do. We have to keep hitting and we have to stay composed in the field.”

“We’re still searching for consistency,” said D’Andrea. “This isn’t a team of nine guys, but of 14 or 15 guys. I’m happy that we go 12, 14 deep. We have some athletes in the field. I’m not worried about our defense. We just have to hit the baseball.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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