CAPE ELIZABETH—Cape Elizabeth’s bunt was successful, Yarmouth’s was not and as a result, the Cardiac Capers capped their regular season of drama with a critical victory that ensured they’ll be the top seed in Class B South for the upcoming baseball playoffs.

Tuesday afternoon at Holman Field, two top contenders, meeting for the only (scheduled) time this spring, both demonstrated why they have what it takes to go all the way next month, but in the end, it was Cape Elizabeth that was slightly better at doing the little things.

The first five innings saw a tremendous pitcher’s duel between Clippers’ senior ace Liam Hickey and Capers senior standout Curtis Sullivan, who traded zeroes and each worked out of an early jam.

Sophomore Jameson Bryant came on to replace Sullivan in the top of the sixth and after a runner was thrown out trying to score in the bottom half, the contest remained 0-0 heading for the seventh.

There, Yarmouth put runners at second and third with one down, but junior catcher Graeme Roux popped out, leading to an inning-ending double play.

Then, in the bottom half, sophomore designated hitter Jimmy Hollowell singled leading off, senior Andrew Libby came on to run and after he was sacrificed to second, he took third on a passed ball. After freshman pinch-hitter Caiden Johnson drew a walk, Bryant got a chance to play the hero and he laid down a textbook bunt to score Libby and give Cape Elizabeth a 1-0 victory.


The Capers finished the regular season 13-3, their best mark since 2010, locked up the number seed for the tournament and in the process, dropped the Clippers to 11-5.

“We’re resilient,” said Cape Elizabeth first-year coach Donny Dutton. “It’s been that way since day one. Everyone is buying in what we’re trying to do. It felt like a playoff game, 100 percent. (Yarmouth’s) a really good team. We knew that coming in. We just executed a little bit better today. We’ll see them again and I’m sure it will be a good one again.”

Collision course

For the first half of the 2023 season, Cape Elizabeth was the team to beat in Class B South.

Then, Yarmouth rattled off nine straight victories to stake its claim.

And as the campaign wound to a close, it became clear that the region is wildly unpredictable, with multiple teams capable of going on a deep postseason run.


The Capers started with wins over visiting Old Orchard (7-1), host York (6-4), visiting Fryeburg (7-4), visiting Freeport (2-1), the reigning Class B South champions, and host Greely (4-3). After a 3-2 win at Gray-New Gloucester, the Capers downed visiting Wells, 5-0, then beat visiting Greely in a 10-inning, back-and-forth thriller, 3-2. Cape Elizabeth finally fell from the unbeaten ranks at Poland (4-3) and after beating host Brunswick in a wild game (18-9) and rallying multiple times for a 10-inning home win over Mt. Ararat (8-7), the Capers lost at Freeport (8-5) and Wells (7-1) before bouncing back last week for 4-1 victories over visiting York and host Lake Region.

The Clippers, meanwhile, started with a 4-1 setback at Freeport, then blanked visiting Lake Region (1-0). After a 6-2 home loss to Fryeburg Academy, the calendar flipped to May and Yarmouth got going, blanking visiting York (5-0) and host Poland (14-0, in five-innings), beating visiting Gray-New Gloucester (9-1) and Wells (8-1) and winning at Mt. Ararat (5-3), at Greely (12-2) and at Gray-New Gloucester (8-1), before blanking visiting Poland (4-0) and pulling away to down visiting Freeport (10-1).The Clippers’ win streak ended at Oxford Hills (11-0, in five-innings), then they fell at Wells (5-1) before getting back on track Friday at home over Greely (4-2), as they swept a season series from the Rangers for the first time in 13 years.

Last spring, Yarmouth won the regular season meeting, 6-4, at home, but in the Class B South quarterfinals, the visiting Capers enjoyed a 5-0 victory.

Tuesday, on a sunny but typically windy day (59 degrees at first pitch), following a pregame ceremony honoring Cape Elizabeth’s seniors, there was almost no separation between the rivals before the home team did just enough to pull out the victory in its final at-bat.

Sullivan began the game auspiciously by getting Clippers junior second baseman Matt Gautreau to watch strike three. Junior shortstop Andrew Cheever then continued his sizzling work with the bat, going the other way and lining a single to right with the first pitch he saw. Senior first baseman David Swift was next and he nearly put Yarmouth on top with a deep drive to left, but the wind blew the ball just foul.

“That ball would have been out of every major league ballpark with no wind,” said Clippers coach Marc Halsted. “That ball was destroyed.”


Swift then grounded into a shortstop-to-second base force out and after Swift stole second, junior third baseman Stevie Walsh struck out swinging for the third out.

Hickey began the bottom of the inning by getting sophomore second baseman Brady Inman to chase strike three, but junior shortstop Gabe Harmon went the other way, lining a shot down the rightfield line and Harmon didn’t stop until he slid into third base with a triple. He’d be stranded, however, as Hickey battled back from a 3-1 count to fan senior third baseman Ben Altenburg on a full count pitch, then got senior first baseman Owen Tighe to ground out to third base to end the threat.

“Gabe tripled and we were hoping to score there and ride it out,” said Dutton. “We knew one run would be huge.”

Junior designated hitter Sam Lowenstein started the second by flying out to center, then junior leftfielder Jack Janczuk grounded back to mound, but after falling behind in the count 0-2, senior centerfielder Jonny Cody drew a walk. Junior rightfielder Zach Ericson was next, but Sullivan got him to pop out to Inman at second for the third out.

In the bottom half, Hickey got junior catcher Charlie Song to chase strike three, got Hollowell to watch strike three, then after senior rightfielder Sam Lombardo singled up the middle and moved to second on a passed ball, Hickey struck out senior centerfielder Antonio Dell’Aquila to end the frame.

Roux popped out to first on the first pitch he saw in the top of the third, then Gautreau lined out to right, but Cheever produced his second hit, a single to right, before Swift watched strike three.


In the bottom half, Hickey had an easy inning, catching sophomore leftfielder Andy Choi watching strike three before getting Inman to line out to center, where Cody made a nice tumbling catch, and Harmon to pop out to short.

Sullivan then had the easiest inning possible in the top of the fourth, throwing all of three pitches.

First, Walsh grounded back to the mound on the first pitch he saw. Lowenstein then flew out to right on the first pitch of his at-bat. Janczuk also chased the first offering and flew out to right.

In the bottom half, Hickey got Altenburg to pop to first, Tighe to fly out to deep left and after Song reached on a single through the hole between short and third, Hollowell lined out to first.

Cody looked to spark the Clippers when he led off the top of the fifth with a single to left-center, but junior Sam Bradford flew out to left, Roux flew out to right and on Sullivan’s final pitch of the game, Gautreau flew out to left to keep the score 0-0.

In the bottom of the fifth, Lombardo grounded out to Swift unassisted, Dell’Aquila bounced out to short, with Swift making the tag at first after a high throw, then Choi struck out looking.


Bryant came on to replace Sullivan to start the sixth and he got Cheever to hit a line drive right at Inman at second, then retired Swift on a grounder to third, but Walsh beat out an infield hit to the left side only to be stranded as Lowenstein struck out swinging.

“I knew I was going to relieve Curt,” Bryant said. “I was hoping it wasn’t 0-0. Coming in in relief, I just try to keep the energy going and not allow any runs to score.”

The Capers then had a great chance to take the lead in the bottom half, but they would come up empty.

Inman led off and hit a shot back up the middle, but the ball deflected off of Hickey, who recovered and barely threw Inman out at first. Harmon then drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch and stole second. Altenburg was next and he crossed Yarmouth up by bunting the ball in front of the plate and he raced to first, diving in safely with a single, while Harmon took third on the play. After Altenburg stole second, Cape Elizabeth was poised to go on top, but Tighe grounded to Walsh, who made a nice stab on a tough hop, then threw home. Harmon realized he had no chance to score, so he headed back to third, but Roux threw to Cheever, who was covering, and Cheever chased Harmon back toward home before tagging him out. Song then chased the first pitch he saw and flew out to center to keep the game scoreless.

The Clippers then had their opportunity in the top of the seventh, but couldn’t take advantage.

Janczuk led off with a grounder to Altenburg, but Altenburg couldn’t make the play cleanly. Cody then walked and when Ericson sacrificed the runners over, a run appeared imminent.


But Yarmouth’s aggressiveness would backfire, as with the runners going, Roux tried to lay down a squeeze bunt, but instead popped it up. The ball settled in Altenburg’s glove and after Harmon, who had rotated over near third on the play, raced back to second, Altenburg’s throw over produced an inning-ending double play.

“I just try to have a short-term memory,” said Altenburg. “We all knew the squeeze was coming. We’d worked on it all week. I just tried to make a play and I was in the right place at the right time. I initially thought I’d go to third, then I heard Gabe yell at me and I fired it over to second. To get out of a jam like that was huge.”

“We had to execute and be heads-up enough to not be overwhelmed by the big moment knowing they’d (squeeze),” Dutton said. “Heads up play by Gabe to get back to second base. Ben took his time and made the right play.”

“I felt like (the squeeze) was the best option,” Halsted said. “It doesn’t always work. If it always worked, major league ballplayers would do it. There’s a reason why when the games get tighter and the teams get better, it doesn’t always work. That’s life and we go on.”

Hollowell then got the winning rally started in the bottom of the seventh by singling to right on an 0-2 pitch. Libby came on to run and was sacrificed to second by Lombardo. With Johnson at the plate, a pitch got away from Roux and Libby took third. Hickey got the count to 2-2 and was on the verge of getting the all-important second out, but Johnson was able to battle back full, then took ball four.

“CJ’s at-bat was huge,” Dutton said. “For him to come in as a freshman and draw a walk was really huge for us.”


That brought up Bryant for his date with destiny.

This time, Dutton rolled the dice, sending the runners and Bryant squared to bunt. He made contact, bunted in front of the plate and while Hickey, racing off the mound, got to the ball, he couldn’t get it home in time and Libby slid home to win it 1-0.

“I was expecting CJ to bunt,” said Bryant. “He didn’t. I didn’t hear Coach at first because of the crowd, then I got the sign. As soon as I saw the ball on the ground and I saw Andrew take off, I knew he was going to score. We’re just a competitive team and we find ourselves scoring runs deep into games because we have energy. It’s always exciting to have a walk-off win.”

“I felt like the squeeze was the right play there, especially with one out and first-and-third,” Dutton said. “We wanted to stay out of the double play. If you put the ball in play, good things will happen.”

“We do that type of stuff too,” Hickey said. “We had to be ready for anything. They executed well. There wasn’t much I could do. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and say, ‘Nice play.'”

Cape Elizabeth’s offense featured two hits from Song, a run from Libby and an RBI from Bryant.


“We can start out slow, but we’ll get timely hits and make the plays,” said Altenburg. “Our energy has been great the entire season.”

The Capers left seven runners on base, but it didn’t matter.

Sullivan didn’t earn a decision, throwing five scoreless innings, surrendering three hits and one walk, while striking out three.

Bryant got the victory in relief after throwing two shutout innings. He allowed one hit and one walk and fanned one.

“The plan going in was to ride Curt for four or five (innings), then bring ‘Jamo’ in afterwards,” Dutton said. “They’ve been our two best pitchers all year and we rode with them.”

A tough finish


Hickey deserved a better fate, but took the loss after giving up one unearned run on five hits in 6.1 innings. Hickey walked two and struck out seven.

“I felt good,” Hickey said. “Graeme gave me good calls behind the plate and he set up good spots, so I was just hitting those spots.

“Liam’s always so gritty and gutty,” said Halsted. “He’s the definition of that. Andrew Cheever was ready to go in, but we were fine with Liam on the mound in that situation.”

Yarmouth managed just four hits, two coming from Cheever, and was shutout for just the second time this season.

The Clippers left six runners on.

“We didn’t come out with a win, but we learned a lot from today,” Hickey said. “It was a lot of fun. It’s great practice for playoffs. We’ll have an environment like this for every game in the playoffs.”


“It was a great game,” said Halsted. “Cape vs. Yarmouth is always fun. The first thing I said to the guys was, ‘Are they demonstrably better than you? Cape’s a really good baseball team. Yarmouth’s a really good baseball team. Let’s go to the playoffs and see what happens with 0-0 records.’ We hope to see them again. I’ve known Donny for 15 years. We’re both in the Lightning (travel) program. It’s fun to go against him. He’s done a great job this year.”

The sky’s the limit

Yarmouth is ranked second in Class B South at press time, but the Clippers could drop a spot or two. Regardless, they know they have as good a shot as anyone to win the region. Yarmouth will host a quarterfinal round contest Thursday, June 8.

“We still have confidence and we know we can win,” said Hickey. “We’ll buckle down in practice. We’ll take this and keep working and get ready for our next game. I’ve been playing with these guys my whole life and (the seniors) will try our best to win a state title. That’s what we want.”

“I’ve honestly had great kids for 16 years, hundreds of players, and they’re all special to me, but this group of kids, you never count them out,” Halsted said. “You don’t count ‘Stevie Wonder,’ Liam Hickey, Andrew Cheever, Swift, Gautreau out. It’s so much fun to come to the ballpark and coach these guys.

“This is a fantastic Class B right now. York (ranked 11th) could win a state championship. Wells, the way they played last week against us, they’re tough. Greely could win a championship, 100 percent. It’s so much fun. In (our nine-game win streak) we scored 75 runs. If we swing the bats and score eight runs a game, we have a very good chance and I’ll look like an intelligent coach. We’ll start with Matt Gautreau (leading off) next Thursday and see what happens.”


Cape Elizabeth will be the top seed in the region for the first time since 2016, when it got to the regional final and lost to Freeport. The Capers have had just about everything fall their way so far this spring and they expect that will continue when they return to action next Thursday.

“We understand we have a talented team and we can make a deep run,” Altenburg said. “We’re ready for it. I think beating (Yarmouth) last year in playoffs was a huge confidence boost going into this game. This is a big confidence boost knowing we might see them again down the line.”

“Having homefield is great,” said Bryant. “I think we’ve just got to keep playing our brand of baseball.”

“Expectations were always high and we set the bar high from the beginning,” Dutton added. “We wanted to be a competitive team from start to finish and now we’re sitting in the number one spot. Homefield goes through us and we’re excited to host whoever wants to come play us. I feel like we’ve worn a bulls-eye all year, so it won’t be new to us. We’ll embrace every challenge.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at

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