STANDISH — The matchup on paper for the Class B baseball state championship looked to be heavily in Old Town’s favor.
The Coyotes were not only the No. 1 seed coming out of the North region, but they were also the defending state champions.
Yarmouth, meanwhile, was the No. 9 seed from the South and hadn’t won a state title in 22 years — and that was in Class C.
None of that mattered to the Clippers, and none of that mattered on the field Saturday.
“Our kids have the mentality of we don’t care what the seeding is,” Yarmouth coach Marc Halsted said. “We know you’re better than us. We knew we have a 1-in-10 chance. We play Old Town 10 times, we only win once. We know that, and we’re just going to come out and give everything we have.”
What the Clippers had was Gibson Harnett on the mound, inducing groundballs by the dozen, and an aggressiveness that worked in their favor to beat the Coyotes 3-0 at Larry Mahaney Diamond.
Things could have gone south for Harnett early. After walking the second batter of the game, Troy Crawford, Harnett was called for a balk, which he argued for a moment.
“I got a little bit upset, and I apologized to both umps afterwards. I didn’t want to be on the wrong foot early in the game,” Harnett said. “And I just had to refocus. I knew it was going to be a long game. I was able to bounce back, and it was important to the success of this team.”
Harnett got out of that early jam, then struggled his way through a second inning that saw him give up the first of two hits allowed, as well as a fielding error and a wild pitch that put runners at second and third. The senior right-hander was at 38 pitches through two innings, but threw just 37 the rest of the way.
“Me and (catcher) James (Waaler) were on the same page,” Harnett said. “A lot of off-speeds the last five innings, and we were able to get it done.”
The Clippers (16-5) offense was able to produce two hits in just the first inning alone. Luke Waeldner led off with a walk against Ethan Stoddard, then Chris Romano singled to left. After Harnett popped out, Jack Romano singled between third and short to drive in the game’s first run.
The Coyotes (16-4) squandered scoring chances in both the second and third innings. The missed opportunity in the third might have been the most devastating. Ryan Hoogterp was hit by a pitch to lead off, then Crawford moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Cole Daniel hit a fly to deep center that Jack Romano caught falling down. Hoogterp tagged up and headed for third, but kept going and tried to score. A throw from Jack Romano to cousin Chris Romano at short was then relayed to Waaler, who was standing just up the third-base line with the ball in time to tag out Hoogterp. Harnett threw just three pitches in the frame.
“Once he hit the ground — he was out there pretty deep — it was going to take a long throw to hit the cut, another long throw to get home. As well as their pitcher was throwing just take a shot,” Old Town coach Brad Goody said. “Obviously it’s easy to look back and say it’s stupid. The No. 4 batter is coming up next, it’s probably not the smart thing, but just trying to be aggressive and make something happen.”
Old Town never got past first base again.
The Yarmouth offense wasn’t producing much either, but that changed in the bottom of the sixth. Waaler led off with a walk, and Joe Coyne followed by reaching on a bunt that the Coyotes couldn’t corral cleanly. Dominic Morrill bunted the runners over, then Jackson Caruso — who was inserted into the game two innings earlier — dropped down a suicide squeeze bunt. Stoddard fielded the ball, but no one was covering first, allowing Caruso to reach. Waaler scored without a throw, and by the time Stoddard looked back to home Coyne was scoring too.
“Just a mental breakdown on our part,” Goody said.
“That’s who we are,” Halsted said. “And when I had Joe Coyne rounding third, first thought in my head — crowd noise. I didn’t think the pitcher could hear anybody yelling. So we just kept him rolling. That’s Yarmouth baseball at its best.”
“I saw the second guy score. I turned around after I made it to first base and saw the second guy score. So that was an incredible feeling,” Caruso said. “It wasn’t the first time we’ve scored two on a suicide.”
Harnett said the two insurance runs loosened his nerves for the top of the seventh. Not that he let the tension rise much. A groundout and a line-out to Chris Romano were the first two outs, then Caruso secured a grounder to third and fired to John Thoma at first for the final out.
“These kids love to play for championships. They’re not afraid of the big stage,” Halsted said. “To get a Class B championship for these kids is something that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
“We knew it was going to be a grind to get to this place,” Harnett said, “but we believed in ourselves and we were able to get it done.”