Falmouth 5 Biddeford 3

B- 002 100 0- 3 6 1
F- 030 200 X- 5 6 1

Bottom 2nd
Gill scored on wild pitch. Hendry reached on error, Dilworth scored. McCluskey stole home.

Top 3rd
Crowell singled to center, Kelly scored. Descoteaux grounded out to short, Crowell scored.

Top 4th
Dion grounded out to second, Ham scored.

Bottom 4th
Kidder tripled to center, Dilworth and Hendry scored.

Multiple hits:
B- Camire
F- Gill, Kidder

B- Crowell, Ham, Kelly
F- Dilworth 2, Gill, Hendry, McCluskey

B- Crowell, Descoteaux, Dion
F- Kidder 2, Hendry

B- Camire
F- Dilworth

F- Gill, Kidder

Stolen bases:
B- Crowell 2
F- McCluskey

Left on base:
B- 4
F- 5

Ham, Camire (5) and Crowell; Smith, Rumpf (7) and Hendry.

Ham (L) 4 IP 3 H 5 R 5 ER 3 BB 6 K 1 WP 1 HBP
Camire 2 IP 3 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K

Smith (W) 6 IP 6 H 3 R 2 ER 1 BB 5 K 1 Balk
Rumpf (Save) 1 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 2 K

Time: 1:37

FALMOUTH—The Class A South baseball playoffs are going to come down to who makes the key pitch and who can get the timely hit.

Monday, for one game at least, Falmouth proved it could come through when it mattered most and as a result, it lives to play another game.

Hosting No. 12 Biddeford in a Class A South Round of 16 contest, fifth-ranked Falmouth got off to a fast start, scoring three times in the bottom of the second, as junior first baseman Patrick Gill tripled and scored on a wild pitch, a second run scored on a ground out and senior third baseman Peter McCluskey stole home.

But the Tigers battled back in the third, getting an RBI single from senior catcher Ashton Crowell and an RBI ground ball to pull within a run.

Then, in the top of the fourth, Biddeford tied it on another run-scoring ground ball.

Falmouth then went ahead to stay in the bottom half, as senior centerfielder and leadoff hitter Sam Kidder, who struck out in his first two plate appearances against Tigers sophomore starter Brady Ham, came up huge with two-on and two-out, tripling to center to put his team ahead to stay.

After Falmouth junior starter Bennett Smith worked out of a jam in the top of the sixth, freshman Brennan Rumpf came on in the seventh and set Biddeford down in order to finish off a 5-3 victory.

Falmouth improved to 14-3, ended the Tigers’ season at 7-10 and in the process, advanced to play in the quarterfinals Thursday either at No. 4 Marshwood (11-5) or at home versus No. 13 Berwick Academy (4-10).

“We had an error and other than that, we played pretty clean baseball,” said Falmouth coach Mike D’Andrea. “That’s been our m.o. all year, play clean baseball and stay out of big innings and get it done. What we did well today was we didn’t take our poor at-bats out in the field.”

Step one

Falmouth’s last playoff game came June 8, 2019 and resulted in a 3-1 loss in the Class A South semifinals to eventual state champion Scarborough, then coached by D’Andrea.

Falmouth has established itself as a top contender this season.

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, 2-0, before bouncing back to down visiting and then-unbeaten Thornton Academy on a walk-off hit, 4-3. Falmouth next blanked visiting Windham (7-0) and host Gorham in the opener of a doubleheader (3-0), before beating the Rams in the nightcap (4-3) and sweeping a pair of games from visiting Portland (10-0, in five-innings, and 13-2, in five-innings). After falling in the opener of a home doubleheader against Cheverus, 2-1, Falmouth blanked the Stags in the nightcap, 8-0, before closing the regular season with a 13-4 victory at Windham.

Biddeford, meanwhile, started with a 7-2 victory at Portland, then held off Windham (8-6) before losing to Falmouth (4-3) and Thornton Academy (13-0). After a 13-0 (five-inning) win over Deering, the Tigers swept a doubleheader against Bonny Eagle (3-1 and 10-4) before losing to Gorham (6-2) and to Westbrook (5-4), in the first game of a doubleheader. Biddeford beat the Blue Blazes in the nightcap, 8-5, but followed that up with losses to Thornton Academy (2-1), Scarborough in a doubleheader (8-7 and 9-3) and Cheverus (3-2).  The Tigers then closed by splitting a doubleheader with South Portland, taking the opener, 6-4, then losing the second game, 7-3.

In the teams’ regular season meeting April 27, Smith’s three-hitter allowed Falmouth, which took an early 4-0 lead, to hold on, 4-3.

Prior to Monday, the teams had never met in the postseason.

Monday, on one of the hottest days for high school baseball in recent memory (93 degrees at first pitch and just as scorching at last pitch), Falmouth got pushed, but pushed back to advance.

Falmouth junior starter Bennett Smith throws the first pitch of the game to Biddeford senior catcher Ashton Crowell. Hoffer photos.

Smith started the game by getting Crowell to fly out to center and senior second baseman Alec Descoteaux to watch strike three. Senior third baseman Will Harriman then singled up the middle, but Smith got Ham to foul out to right, as senior rightfielder Sean Dilworth made a nice running catch in foul territory for the third out.

In the bottom half, Ham was unhittable, battling back from a 3-1 count to catch Kidder looking at strike three, fanning junior shortstop Brady Coyne, then getting senior leftfielder Gus Ford to chase strike three on a full count pitch, with Crowell catching the foul tip to end it.

Smith then made quick work of the Tigers in the top of the second, getting junior centerfielder Kalvin Camire to line foul to Ford in left, junior shortstop Kyle Dion to line out to right and senior designated hitter Aiden Donovan to chase strike three.

Falmouth then got its offense going in the bottom half.

Gill led off with a triple over the head of senior rightfielder Scott Kelly. Ham got Smith to pop out to third, but Dilworth and McCluskey each walked on 3-2 pitches to load the bases. With freshman catcher Ethan Hendry at the plate, Ham threw a wild pitch and Gill came home with the game’s first run, with the other runners each moving up a base. Hendry then grounded to short and with the run scoring regardless, Hendry reached when Dion’s throw pulled senior first baseman Alex McAlevey off the bag for an error. With runners at the corners and Rumpf, who began the game at second base, at the plate, Ham threw to first to attempt to pick off Hendry, but Falmouth had a squeeze play on and McCluskey pulled off the steal of home for a 3-0 lead. Ham settled down and got Rumpf to fly out to left and Kidder to chase strike three, but it appeared Falmouth was on its way.

But Biddeford came right back in the top of the third.

McAlevey led off and hit the ball deep to center, but Kidder ran it down for the first out. Kelly then lined a single to center on the first pitch he saw and when Smith tried to pick him off and threw wildly, Kelly went to second. Kelly then took third on a Smith balk and scored his team’s first run when Crowell lined a single up the middle. Crowell then stole second and followed that up with a theft of third, standing up. Crowell then scored when Descoteaux grounded out to short. Harriman popped out to short to end it, but just like that, the Tigers only trailed by a run.

In the bottom half, Coyne struck out and Ford popped out foul to Ham. Gill then walked, but Smith ended the frame by bouncing out to short.

Biddeford then tied it up in the top of the fourth.

Ham drew a walk on four pitches leading off, then Camire doubled to right, just over the glove of Dilworth to put runners at second and third. Dion grounded out to second to bring home Ham to tie it and move Camire to third, but Smith kept the game even by getting Donovan to pop out to short and McAlevey to bounce out to third, keeping the score 3-3.

That score wouldn’t last.

Dilworth led off the bottom of the fourth with a double down the leftfield line and after McCluskey popped out to second on a 3-2 pitch, Ham hit Hendry to put runners at first and second. Ham struck out Rumpf, but he wouldn’t be as fortunate with Kidder at the plate.

Kidder, who fanned his first two times, wouldn’t be denied in his third at-bat, launching a drive to deep center. The ball had a little air under it, so Camire was able to make a run for it, but couldn’t quite make the catch. Dilworth and Hendry both scored easily and Kidder didn’t stop until he steamrolled into third with a two-run triple.

Sean Dilworth comes home as Sam Kidder prepares to round second base and head for third as his triple puts Falmouth ahead for good.

“My teammates helped me,” Kidder said. “I was down a little bit, but I put it behind me and I went out and squared up the ball. I watched (the ball off the bat). I thought (the fielder) could have had it, but I got lucky. I was thinking three all the way.”

“I knew we’d get it back with clutch hits and we did,” Smith said. “I always feel good when Sam’s up.”

“I’m always confident with Sam up,” added D’Andrea. “We talked between innings that you just have to get ready for the next at-bat. He’s been our leader all year, so that was fitting. I’m proud of him for staying focused mentally.”

Coyne tried to extend the lead by hitting the ball hard, but his line drive was caught in right to end the frame.

Regardless, Falmouth had a 5-3 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Smith made quick work of Biddeford in the top of the fifth, getting Kelly to ground out to third on a bang-bang play, Crowell to line out to Kidder in center and Descoteaux to chase strike three.

Camire then replaced Ham on the mound in the bottom half. He got Ford to ground out to short on a bang-bang play, then, after Gill singled through the hole between third and short on the first pitch he saw, Smith grounded into a third-to-second force out and Dilworth flew out to left.

Smith then had to work out of a jam in the top of the sixth, in what proved to be his last inning.

After McCluskey made a nice play to retire Harriman, knocking down his line drive, then throwing him out at first, Smith struck out Ham, but Camire singled just over Coyne’s glove into center and Dion followed with a line single to center to put the tying runs on. That brought up Donovan and Smith got behind in the count 2-0, but he battled back, then struck him out swinging to end the threat.

“I just focused on the hitter,” said Smith. “I couldn’t worry about the base runners. I did a good job of that.”

Falmouth had opportunity to add to its lead in the bottom half, but couldn’t do so.

After Camire got McCluskey to ground out to third on the first pitch, Hendry singled to right-center. Rumpf then popped out to short, but Kidder ripped a sharp single to left. Coyne couldn’t produce the run, however, bouncing out to second, and the game went to the top of the seventh.

There, Rumpf came on to replace Smith and he made quick work of the Tigers to earn the save.

Rumpf got McAlevey to chase strike three leading off. Then, he fired strike three past Kelly. That left it up to Crowell, who made contact, but his ground ball up the middle was grabbed by Coyne at short, who threw to Gill at first to end it and give Falmouth a 5-3 victory.

“Everyone contributed to the win,” Kidder said. “We kept our cool and didn’t have mental errors. That’s how we win.”

“When we played them down there (earlier this season), it was close, so I expected this would be close too, but I knew we could get it done,” said Smith. “This one feels good.”

“I was proud of the boys,” D’Andrea added. “They did a good job to fight and stay focused and loose.”

After freshman Brennan Rumpf closes out the Tigers, Falmouth celebrates its victory.

Falmouth managed six hits for the game, with three of them going for extra bases. Gill and Kidder led the way with two hits apiece.

Dilworth scored twice, while Gill, Hendry and McCluskey also touched home.

Kidder had two huge RBI, while Hendry also drove in a run.

Falmouth stranded five.

Smith earned the victory, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out five.

“My curveball started to work late in the game and I started throwing that more,” Smith said.

“Bennett wasn’t as sharp as usual today, but he’s been our guy all year,” said D’Andrea. “He keeps us in every game, throws strikes. He’s a quiet competitor. When he’s on the mound, we like our chances.”

Rumpf earned the save with a perfect inning, which included a pair of strikeouts.

“We feel great with Brennan pitching,” said Kidder. “He’s a great kid and he knew what he had to do to get it done.”

“I was really impressed with Brennan coming in that last inning,” said D’Andrea.

Biddeford got two hits from Camire, runs from Crowell, Ham and Kelly, RBI from Crowell, Descoteaux and Dion and two stolen bases from Crowell, but it wasn’t enough.

The Tigers stranded four base runners.

Ham took the loss, giving up five earned runs on three hits in four innings of work. He walked three, struck out six, threw a wild pitch and hit a batter.

“I have to give their pitcher credit,” said D’Andrea. “He was effective against us the first time we met and he was pretty effective today too.”

Camire didn’t allow a run in two innings of relief. He surrendered three hits.

Survive and advance

Falmouth will learn its quarterfinal round foe Tuesday when Marshwood and Berwick Academy meet in their Round of 16 contest. Falmouth didn’t face either team in the regular season. Falmouth has no playoff history with the Bulldogs. Falmouth did beat the Hawks, 7-5, in the 2018 Class A South preliminary round.

“I think we can put something together,” Kidder said. “We just have to keep our cool and take it day by day. No mental errors or physical errors and we’ll be fine.”

“We just want to keep our momentum going,” Smith said. “We just need to string hits together to come out on top. I’d like to have another chance to pitch. I think we can make a run.”

“I don’t know anything about those teams, so who knows, we’ll just go down there and play our game,” D’Andrea added.

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

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