BOX SCORE 

Greely 8 Brunswick 2

G- 000 231 2- 8 10 0
B- 000 010 1- 2 4 4

Top 4th
Almy singled to left, Kolben scored. Leding singled to center, Williams scored.

Top 5th
Axelsen singled to right-center, Soucie scored. Williams doubled to left-center, Axelsen and Madore scored.

Bottom 5th
Thompson reached on infield single, Scholl scored.

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Top 6th
Robeck singled to right, Leding scored.

Top 7th
Williams scored on passed ball. Leding reached on error, Carter scored.

Bottom 7th
Gaghan singled to right, Lay scored.

Multiple hits:
G- Axelsen, Williams

Runs:
G- Williams 2, Axelsen, Carter, Kolben, Leding, Madore, Soucie
B- Lay, Scholl

RBI:
G- Leding, Williams 2, Almy, Axelsen, Robeck
B- Gaghan, Thompson

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Doubles:
G- Axelsen, Williams

Triple:
G- Williams

Stolen bases:
G- Carter, Cloutier, Leding
B- Lay, Masse, Scholl

Left on base:
G- 9
B- 3

Kolben and Soucie; Masse, Harvey (5), Thompson (7) and McCaffrey.

G:
Kolben (W, 1-0) 7 IP 4 H 2 R 2 ER 1 BB 17 K 1 Balk 1 WP

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B:
Masse (L, 0-1) 4.1 IP 6 H 4 R 2 ER 0 BB 8 K 1 HBP
Harvey 2 IP 4 H 4 R 3 ER 5 BB 2 K
Thompson 0.2 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 2 K

Time: 2:14

BRUNSWICK—At first glance, Greely’s victory at Brunswick Wednesday afternoon was just like any other.

The Rangers got superb pitching, played strong defense and took advantage of opportunities on offense.

And ultimately, they won, like they so often do.

But this victory was special, as it put longtime coach Derek Soule in rarified air.

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The 300-win club.

Soule, a Greely Ranger through and through, inherited one of the state’s premier programs at the turn of the century and has taken it to an even higher level and for one afternoon, even if he wished otherwise, all eyes were him.

And his accomplishment.

The contest was also notable as senior standout Ryan Kolben, the state’s finest catcher, who will play baseball next year at the University of Massachusetts, took the mound for the first time as a starter.

And did he ever dazzle.

But for three innings, despite Kolben’s eight strikeouts, the Dragons hung tough behind their ace, Sam Masse, who had seven strikeouts of his own.

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But you can only hold Greely in check for so long and in the top of the fourth, the Rangers gave Kolben the lead for good, as rightfielder Sam Almy and sophomore centerfielder Jackson Leding hit two-out RBI singles.

Greely then added to its advantage in the fifth, as sophomore third baseman Marky Axelsen hit a RBI single and senior third baseman Brooks Williams added a two-run double to make it 5-0.

After Brunswick got a run back in the bottom half, when third baseman Caleb Thompson beat out an infield hit to drive home a run, the Rangers got the run back in the top of the sixth, on an RBI single from sophomore pinch-hitter Ethan Robeck, then added two more in the seventh, as runs scored on a passed ball and an error.

First baseman Noah Gaghan hit a two-out RBI single for the Dragons in the bottom half, but Kolben punctuated the victory with his 17th strikeout of the afternoon and Greely (now 2-0 on the young season) had itself an 8-2 victory.

And Soule had himself a milestone.

“When I think about 300 wins, what I associate with that is a lot of great memories and great moments and great relationships I’ve made that have lasted a long time,” said Soule. “Players that I still keep in touch with, my fellow coaches on this staff and relationships in baseball beyond that. It’s a tight family, the Greely baseball family. Some of my former players were here today. That was pretty cool.”

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Sustained excellence

Soule, one of a long line of family standouts on the diamond (his father, Mort, is a member of several Halls of Fame and served as a Greely assistant for many years), has long been synonymous with Greely and success. He played soccer, basketball and baseball for the Rangers in high school, then played baseball at the University of Maine.

Soule began coaching as an assistant to his father at Deering while still in college, then took over the Greely junior varsity job before replacing Maine Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Anthoine (now a Greely assistant) as Rangers head coach in 2000 at the age of 26.

Soule won his first game April 14, 2000 (19-2 over Poland, as his current assistant/pitching coach Miles Hunt earned the victory), his 100th April 25, 2007 (3-0 at home over rival Cape Elizabeth) and his 200th May 22, 2013 (2-1 at York).

Greely knocked on the championship door but fell agonizingly short in each of Soule’s first seven seasons, but in 2007, sparked by a miracle rally from five runs down in the bottom of the seventh inning against Mountain Valley in the semifinals, the Rangers finally broke through. They would win again in 2009, then go back-to-back in 2014-15.

Along the way, Soule, who teaches at Greely High, got to coach his son, Calvin.

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Last season, Greely was excellent as usual, but a 4-1 loss to Freeport in the Class B South Final left the Rangers 16-4 and one win shy of the big stage.

This season, Greely has all the pieces in place to go all the way and they opened in style Friday with a 10-0, five-inning home victory over Fryeburg Academy, as senior southpaw ace Zach Johnston (who will pitch for Wake Forest University next year) threw a no-hitter and struck out 11.

Brunswick was 3-14 last season, losing to Camden Hills in the Class A North preliminary round.

Last year, host Greely blanked the Dragons, 3-0.

The teams were scheduled to play Tuesday, but rain and poor field conditions moved the game back to Wednesday where the Rangers overcame a sluggish start and rolled to victory.

Brunswick starter Sam Masse delivers a strike to Greely third baseman Marky Axelsen in the first inning. Hoffer photos.

Masse gave up a bloop single to right-center off the bat of senior shortstop Max Cloutier (who will play next year at St. Lawrence University in New York) to start the game, but he got Axelsen to chase strike three (with Cloutier stealing second in the process), then got Kolben to fly out to right and junior first baseman Mason Kelso to chase strike three.

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Kolben hinted at a dominating outing to come when he caught Brunswick’s leadoff hitter, centerfielder Wes Cooper, looking at strike three, then fanned leftfielder Thomas Harvey. Masse managed to reach on an infield single when his excuse-me swing resulted in a dribbler that rolled about 10 feet from the plate, but Kolben struck out rightfielder Declan Lay to end the inning.

In the top of the second, Masse struck out Williams and Almy swinging, then blew a 3-2 pitch past Leding.

Kolben was just as impressive in the bottom half, catching catcher Quinton McCaffrey looking on an off-speed pitch, blowing strike three past shortstop AJ Wolverton, then pulling the string again to fan Gaghan.

In the top of the third, senior second baseman Liam Sheff led off with a sharp line drive, but it was right at Gaghan at first. Masse then struck out freshman catcher Wyatt Soucie and Cloutier to keep the game scoreless.

Kolben got a little luck to start the bottom half, as Thompson hit a sharp grounder up the middle, but off-balance, Kolben managed to stop the sure base hit with his foot, then collected the ball and threw Thompson out. Kolben then struck out second baseman Colin McCaffrey swinging, but the ball got away from Soucie and McCaffrey reached. Soucie quickly redeemed himself by throwing out McCaffrey attempting to steal second, then Kolben fanned Cooper to send the game to the fourth.

Where Greely’s offense awakened.

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Axelsen got things started by lofting a fly ball to left that got lost in the sun and dropped for a double. Masse then hit Kolben with an off-speed 0-2 pitch in the helmet to put two runners on. Kelso struck out swinging, then, with Williams up, the Rangers attempted a double-steal, but Axelsen was thrown out at third. When Williams grounded to third, it appeared the Dragons would escape the inning, but Thompson couldn’t handle the ball and the error put runners at the corners.

And brought up Almy, who lined the first pitch into left to score Kolben for a 1-0 lead. Harvey dove but couldn’t quite come up with the ball and Greely wouldn’t look back.

Leding was next and he singled to center to score Williams and while Sheff lined back to Masse for the third out, the damage was done and the Rangers had a 2-0 advantage.

“We were 0-0 after three innings and that got us fired up,” said Kolben. “We had better at-bats, a more patient approach. We waited on our pitch.”

Brunswick centerfielder Wes Cooper reacts to a pitch from Greely senior Ryan Kolben.

Kolben quickly got his team back into the dugout in the bottom half, striking out Harvey swinging, getting Masse to watch strike three on a full count pitch, then inducing a grounder back to the mound off the bat of Lay.

Greely promptly added to its advantage in the top of the fifth.

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Soucie set the tone by lining the first pitch into center for a single. Soucie then took second when Quinton McCaffrey’s pickoff throw was wild for an error and he moved to third on a ground out by Cloutier to second. That brought up Axelsen and he delivered an RBI single to right-center to make it 3-0 and end Masse’s outing.

Harvey came on to pitch and immediately gave up a single to left by Kolben, putting runners at first and second. After Kelso struck out on a 3-2 pitch, Williams crushed a drive to left-center for a double to score both Axelsen and courtesy runner Mac Madore to make it 5-0. Almy flew out to deep left to end the inning.

In the bottom half, Kolben struck out Quinton McCaffrey, then Wolverton lined a ball that appeared ticketed for rightfield, but Kelso made a nice dive to snare it for the second out.

Brunswick’s then showed some two-out life, as Gaghan earned a walk on a 3-2 pitch and courtesy runner Liam Scholl stole second and took third on a wild pitch before Thompson’s grounder up the middle was stopped by Sheff at second, but Thompson reached on the infield single to drive in the run. Kolben then caught pinch-hitter Anthony Cooley looking at strike three to keep the score 5-1.

Greely coach Derek Soule surveys the field late in the contest.

Greely returned to its scoring ways in the top of the sixth, again with some help.

Junior Cam Irish hit for Leding to lead off and drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. After Leding re-entered to run and stole second, Johnston pinch-hit and made solid contact, lining the ball at Colin McCaffrey at second. It looked for a moment like a double play might ensue, but instead, no outs were recorded, as McCaffrey dropped the ball and Johnston reached safely on the error, with Leding staying at second. That set the stage for Robeck to single to right, bringing in Leding for a 6-1 lead, but Johnston was thrown out trying to take third, with Robeck moving to second on the play. Cloutier then flew out to deep center and after Axelsen and Kolben walked to load the bases, Kelso struck out.

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In the bottom half, Kolben got Cooper to fly out to deep left, caught Harvey looking at strike three, then he fanned Masse for the third out.

The Rangers tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh.

Williams got things started by crushing a triple to deep right-center. Sam Carter came on to hit and drew a walk, then stole second. Williams then scored on a passed ball, with Carter taking third. Leding grounded out to second to score Carter to make it 8-1 and on the play, when Gaghan dropped the throw for an error, Leding was safe as well. Sheff flew out to center, but Soucie walked and Harvey was replaced on the mound by Thompson, who struck out junior pinch-hitter Tyler Piesik looking and pinch-hitter Owen Cook swinging.

Kolben then took the mound to close it out in the bottom half.

Lay beat out an infield hit to shortstop to start the frame, but Kolben struck out Quinton McCaffrey on a 3-2 pitch and after Lay stole second, Wolverton fanned as well. After a balk moved Lay to third, Gaghan extended the contest with a single to right, scoring Lay, but at 5:15 p.m., Kolben caught Thompson looking at strike three, for his 17th K, and Greely was able to celebrate an 8-2 victory.

“I felt this was going to be a low-scoring, grind-it-out game, small-ball, make it happen on the basepaths, then all of a sudden, it wasn’t that type of game,” Soule said. “Momentum’s a funny thing. Once we got going, we started to string it together.”

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With Coach Soule front and center, Greely celebrates his 300th victory following Wednesday’s contest.

Following the win, Soule was presented with the game ball, the team took a commemorative photo and the coach reflected on the magnitude of his milestone, deflecting credit to the whole Greely baseball community.

“It’s a total collective effort,” Soule said. “I’m just part of a very large program. It’s not just the varsity team. It’s a community program that I have the incredible honor to lead. I take that seriously. It’s something I’m proud of, but I know I’m just a piece of the program. I ask my players all the time to put the team first, so that’s my mentality. I do the best I can to support everyone else on the team.”

Others paid tribute as well.

“(Coach has) sacrificed so much for us and put us in this position to win, so it’s special for sure,” Kolben said. “He puts together a good group of guys. He’s very methodical, whatever he does. It’s all about winning here.”

“I’m not surprised at all that he’s such a good coach,” said Mort Soule, who, along with Derek’s Soule’s wife Cindy and kids Calvin and Siara, was on hand for the game. “He’s very dedicated. He’s a great student of the game. He knows what position a player should be in. He does that so well. He’s a terrific history teacher as well.”

Kolben stole the show on the mound, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk while registering a dazzling 17 strikeouts. Kolben did throw one wild pitch and committed a balk.

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“My fastball was good,” Kolben said. “I lost my curve-ball a little bit, then I found it at the end again. I got the lead and I wanted to close it out. Pitching was an idea last season and I really worked at it in the offseason. It’s nice to see it pay off.”

“When I think back on today one of the things I’m most happy for is how Ryan did in his first start on the mound,” Soule said. “We experimented with him closing a few games last year. We transitioned him into a starter this summer. He put in a lot of work on his own in the offseason and this is a nearly year-long project. We all know he has a big arm, but to have 17 strikeouts in his first start is amazing.”

Offensively, Greely was paced by two hits apiece from Axelsen and Williams (who doubled and tripled).

Williams also scored twice, while Axelsen, Carter, Kolben, Leding, Madore and Soucie also touched home plate.

Leding and Williams each drove in two runs, while Almy, Axelsen and Robeck also had RBI.

Carter, Cloutier and Leding all stole bases.

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The Rangers stranded nine baserunners, but it didn’t come back to haunt them.

For Brunswick, Lay and Scholl scored runs, while Gaghan and Thompson had RBI. Lay, Masse and Scholl stole bases.

The Dragons left three runners on.

Masse took the loss after surrendering four runs (two earned) on six hits in 4.1 innings. He hit a batter, didn’t walk any and struck out eight.

Harvey gave up four runs (three earned) on four hits in two innings of work. He walked five and struck out two.

Thompson finished by fanning both batters he face.

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On to 301 and beyond

While Brunswick is back in action Thursday at Lake Region, then goes to Cape Elizabeth Saturday, Greely is at Wells Friday, then plays its home opener Monday against Poland.

For the Rangers, the fun is just beginning.

“Everyone wants to be here and play and everyone wants to win,” Kolben said. “We have unbelievable chemistry. You can’t ask for much more.”

“We have gotten off to a good start, but we need to continue to develop pitching depth,” said Soule. “We have a good 1-2 punch, but it’s not enough. We can always get better and we will.”

Soule wouldn’t say if he’d still be around for win number 400, but the way the Rangers dominate, don’t be surprised if he’s triumphantly at the helm for many years to come.

“I always take it year-to-year,” Soule said. “There aren’t many baseball coaches who have coached 20-plus years. It’s a very challenging sport and it’s different from other sports. Dealing with the weather, the field conditions, the equipment, the challenge of pitching. It’s not like in other sports you have to sit your top scorer two out of every three games and pitching dominates.

“I take it year-by-year, but I’m all-in this year.”

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

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