OLD ORCHARD BEACH—It took an extra day and a trip 23 miles south for Falmouth’s baseball team to advance to the Class A South semifinals.

As well as making some critical plays at key times.

Friday afternoon, at The Ballpark, the top-ranked Navigators took on No. 8 Cheverus in a quarterfinal, which was supposed to be played Thursday in Falmouth, but was moved to Old Orchard Beach a day later due to poor conditions at Croker Field.

And while nothing came easily for the Navigators, they found ways, traditional and non-traditional, to get the job done.

Falmouth could do nothing with Stags senior ace Matt Connor the first two innings, but junior starter Brennan Rumpf managed to hold Cheverus at bay.

The Stags then scored twice in the top of the third, with the first run coming home on a double play ground ball and the second scoring on an RBI double from junior designated hitter Lucas Soutuyo.


The Navigators needed a spark and got one between innings courtesy a “motivational speech” from coach Mike D’Andrea and Falmouth then went out and scored four times, without benefit of a hit, thanks to three walks, two errors, a hit batter and catcher’s interference, to go on top to stay.

The Navigators made it 5-2 in the fourth when sophomore shortstop Josh Polchies drove in a run with a ground ball, but in the top of the sixth, Cheverus made things most interesting.

After one run scored on a ground ball, the Stags put the tying runs in scoring position and they appeared poised to come home to even the score when senior centerfielder Noah Kennedy-Jensen hit a shot to center, but Falmouth senior centerfielder Miles Gay raced in, dove and made a game-saving catch to preserve the lead.

After junior catcher Ethan Hendry added an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in bottom half, the Navigators closed it out in the seventh and prevailed, 6-3.

Falmouth won its 16th consecutive game, improved to 16-1, ended Cheverus’ season at 10-8 and in the process, advanced to host No. 4 Thornton Academy (12-5), the defending state champion, in the Class A South semifinals Saturday at 11 a.m.

“We found a way,” said Navigators coach Mike D’Andrea. “I give a lot of credit to Cheverus. They came out with energy and hit the ball really well, better than I expected. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done.”


Tougher than expected

Falmouth lost its opener, an error-plagued 6-4 setback at Scarborough, then ran the table, winning its final 15 contests to earn the top seed in Class A South (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

Cheverus, meanwhile, got out to a 6-1 start, then ran into some tough injury luck and went just 3-6 the rest of the regular season to wind up eighth in the region.

Tuesday, in the preliminary round, the Stags blanked No. 9 Noble, 3-0, to advance.

The teams met May 25 in Falmouth, where the Navigators stole 13 bases and rolled to an 11-3 victory.

The squads had split two prior playoff meetings (see sidebar).


Friday, on a comfortable afternoon, which featured sun and clouds (and a reading of 61 degrees at first pitch), Cheverus gave Falmouth a scare, but the Navigators made the plays, big and small, to advance.

The Stags threatened in the top of the first against Rumpf, as junior shortstop Ryan Connolly singled through the hole between short and third on the first pitch of the game and after Connor struck out swinging, Connolly took second when Kennedy-Jensen reached on an error by sophomore Thomas Healy at third. Sophomore Devin Kelly then grounded to third, where Healy stepped on the bag, then threw across to first to get Kelly in a bang-bang play to complete a double play and retire the side.

In the bottom half, Connor plunked Gay with a pitch leading off, then Gay stole second, but Polchies flew out deep to center on a 3-2 pitch, with Gay moving to third. Connor got out of the jam, as he fanned Hendry on a foul tip, then got freshman first baseman Jacoby Porter to chase strike three as well.

Cheverus put its first two runners on in the top of the second, as Soutuyo walked on a 3-2 pitch leading off, then junior second baseman Chris Murphy singled between first and second. After sophomore rightfielder Liam Backman failed to get a bunt down, Rumpf struck him out swinging, then senior third baseman Daxon Austerman squibbed a ball in front of the plate with Rumpf throwing him out and with two runners in scoring position, sophomore leftfielder Reis Stamaris flew out to senior rightfielder Eli Cowperthwaite in foul territory to keep the game scoreless.

Sophomore designated hitter Tyler Simmons grounded out to second on the first pitch of the bottom of the second, but Rumpf followed with a sharp single to center on an 0-2 pitch. Senior second baseman Mitch Ham then grounded into a short-to-second force out and subsequently stole second, but Connor fanned senior leftfielder Peyton Mitchell on an off-speed pitch to retire the side.

The Stags then stunned the Navigators with two runs in the top of the third.


Connolly led off by reaching on an error on a grounder to third, then he stole second. Connor then bunted down the first base line and when both Rumpf and Porter charged the ball, no one was available to cover the bag and Connor reached safely, with Connolly moving to third. Kennedy-Jensen grounded back to the mound and Rumpf threw to Polchies, who tagged the bag, then threw on to Porter to complete the double play, but Connolly scored to break the ice. After Kelly drew a walk, Soutuyo crushed an offering to deep right, over the head of Cowperthwaite, and Kelly came all the way around the score on the double, while Soutuyo took third on the throw. Murphy flew out to left, but Cheverus was on top, 2-0.

In the dugout before Falmouth came to the plate, D’Andrea had some choice words for his charges.

“My message was if you told me we weren’t going to score six or seven runs, you’re crazy,” said D’Andrea. “I expected to score. I didn’t want them to get down and think the game was over.”

The Navigators then responded.

With a little help.

The rally began inauspiciously, as Cowperthwaite appeared to line out to short, but junior Max Cassidy was called for catcher’s interference on the play and Cowperthwaite was awarded first base. Cowperthwaite stole second and Gay drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Connor fanned Polchies on an off-speed pitch, but with Hendry at the plate, Cowperthwaite and Gay pulled off a double steal and after Connor fell behind in the count 3-0, Hendry was intentionally walked to load the bases. That brought up Porter, who worked the count in his favor 3-1, then drew a walk to score Cowperthwaite and reload the bases. Simmons was next and he was hit by a pitch and Gay came home to tie the score. Rumpf was next and he hit a sharp grounder to short that could have resulted in an inning-ending double play, but after Connolly threw to Murphy for the force out, Murphy’s throw to first was wild and not only did Hendry come in to score, but Porter followed. Ham flew out to right, but Falmouth had a 4-2 advantage.


“We got back into the dugout and Coach just got on us, but it’s all love,” said Gay. “He told us if we wanted to win this game we had to put the ball in play and good things would happen.”

Rumpf, seemingly energized by the rally, began the top of the fourth by catching both Backman and Austerman looking at strike three, but Stamaris kept the inning alive by singling past third on a 3-2 pitch, then Connolly singled to deep right-center. Stamaris was moving on the play and he rounded third and headed for home, but Gay got the ball to Porter, who fired home to Hendry, who applied the tag for the third out of the inning.

“I did a good job cutting the ball off, then I saw Jacoby,” said Gay. “Coach said before the game to be sure to hit our cutoff man, so I came up and chucked it to him and it worked out. I pride myself in not letting balls get by me.”

“A point of emphasis today was hitting cutoffs,” D’Andrea said. “(Miles) did what we asked him to do and it was a great relay by Jacoby and a great tag by Ethan. He caught it and it was a bang-bang play.”

In the bottom half, Mitchell led off by reaching on an error by Austerman at third. Cowperthwaite was then hit by a pitch and after Gay grounded into a short-to-second force out, runners were at the corners. Polchies was next and he grounded out to Kelly at first and on the play, Mitchell came in to score. Hendry bounced out to third, but the Navigators’ lead was now 5-2.

Rumpf began the top of the fifth by getting Connor to ground out to third and Kennedy-Jensen to bounce out to second, but Kelly singled to right, then Rumpf hit Soutuyo with a pitch. The Stags couldn’t capitalize, however, as Murphy flew out to right for the final out.


Falmouth threatened to add to its lead in the bottom of the frame, but couldn’t do so.

After Porter flew out to left, Simmons singled to right-center and Rumpf lined a single to left-center on the first pitch he saw. Ham then flew out to center and Connor kept Cheverus in the game by getting Mitchell to ground into a short-to-second force out.

The Stags then made things very interesting in the top of the sixth.

Backman led off and grounded the ball to short on the first pitch he saw and he reached safely on an error by Polchies. After Austerman lined out deep to right, Stamaris hit the ball over the head of Mitchell in left for a double, putting runners at second and third. Connolly was intentionally walked and Connor came up with a chance to help himself. He grounded into a short-to-second force out, scoring Backman and putting runners at the corners. Connor then stole second, putting the tying run in scoring position and bringing up Kennedy-Jensen, who hit sinking line drive to center.

The ball appeared destined to find the grass to tie the score, but Gay got a great read on the ball, ran in, dove and stabbed it just in time for the biggest out of the game, to retire the side.

“I always get a good first step,” said Gay. “I knew that ball couldn’t drop because it would be a tie game, so I knew I had to get it done. (Brennan) gave me a big hug when I came in.”


“That diving play, I have to be grateful for that,” Rumpf said. “That was massive.”

“(Miles) has been a staple out there for us for three years now,” D’Andrea added. “When the ball came off the bat, I always think he’ll catch the ball out there. He’s so aggressive. His closing speed is among the best in the league. There was a point where I thought it might get down, then he turned on the jets.”

The Navigators added a key insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, as Cowperthwaite was again hit by a pitch, stole second, took third on an infield single from Gay and after Gay stole second and Polchies flew out to shallow left, Hendry delivered Cowperthwaite with a sacrifice fly to center. Gay stole third as well, but he’d be stranded as Porter grounded out to short.

Rumpf returned to the mound to start the seventh and he retired Kelly on a grounder to second on his final pitch of the day.

Mitchell then came in to relieve and he fanned Soutuyo before getting Murphy to ground out to short to end it and Falmouth was able to celebrate a 6-3 victory.

The Navigators only mustered four hits, with Rumpf producing two of them.


Cowperthwaite scored twice, while Gay, Hendry, Mitchell and Porter all touched home plate once.

Hendry, Polchies, Porter, Rumpf and Simmons each had an RBI.

Falmouth left seven runners on base.

Rumpf earned the win, allowing three runs (all unearned) on eight hits in 6.1 innings. He walked two and struck out four.

“We had some errors, but as a pitcher, I had to forget about it and get the batter,” Rumpf said. “I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I just had to battle out there. That’s what I love. As a pitcher, I love playing here. There’s plenty of fans. It’s like playing at the next level, it’s awesome. It was a great day for baseball.”

“Brennan kept us in the game and I’m proud of him,” said D’Andrea. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he did what he had to do.”


Mitchell got the save by retiring the only two hitters he went up against.

A valiant effort

Cheverus got two hits apiece from Connolly and Stamaris and had eight hits total, but the stranded nine runners.

Backman, Connolly and Kelly all scored runs and Connor and Soutuyo had RBI.

Connor took the loss, giving up six runs (three earned) on four hits in six innings of work. He walked three and fanned four.

“We pushed them hard,” Stags coach Tony DiBiase said. “Falmouth has a good squad. They’re a really good team. They won’t beat themselves. I thought we gave them a good game. I told the kids if you walked in the ballpark and didn’t know anything, you wouldn’t think it was a 1-versus-8 game. I thought we had some very good at-bats against a quality pitcher. I give a lot of credit to Matt coming back on two days rest. He wanted to keep going. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he showed guts. Playing today helped us because (Matt’s) one of the best pitchers in the league. He wanted to go. He had a great year.”


Cheverus returns most of this year’s key contributors and hopes to build on Friday’s effort in 2024.

“We have seven guys coming back and two or three pitchers coming back and as long as they work hard, they should be effective,” DiBiase said.

Two red-hot teams

Thornton Academy was just 3-5 at the midway point, but hasn’t lost since, meaning something has to give Saturday when two sizzling squads square off.

Falmouth won the regular season meeting, 7-2, way back on April 27 in Saco.

The teams have split two prior playoff encounters, with Falmouth springing a 5-4 semifinal round upset in 2019 and the Golden Trojans returning the favor, 3-1, in the 2021 semifinals.


“Eli will go out there and we’ll do our part on offense and defense to back him up and we’ll get some runs early,” said Rumpf. “That’s the plan.”

“We just have to go up to the plate, not be scared, hit whatever pitch we see and good things will happen,” said Gay.

“TA has won a bunch in a row, we’ve won a bunch in a row, so we’ll see,” added D’Andrea. “Hopefully, we continue to manufacture runs going forward.

“I don’t think everyone’s gunning for us. The teams that are left know they’re good. I’ve said since day one, this league is very, very balanced. Every team has great players. I’ve never seen parity like this in the league.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net.

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