POLAND — Matt Rabasco’s speed and aggressiveness got him ¾ of the way around the basepaths in the fifth inning of Poland’s Western Maine Conference clash with fellow unbeaten Greely on Friday.

Upon reaching third base, the Knights’ senior left fielder wasn’t too thrilled to learn those skills might be called upon again for the final 90 feet. He wasn’t sure he and C.J. Martin, who was standing at the plate, would be on the same page when coach Mike Connor wanted a suicide squeeze.

“At first, coach told me it was a squeeze and no signal on the first pitch,” Rabasco said. “I was a little nervous that C.J. would smack me on the head with the bat because he didn’t have the signal. But then he gave C.J. the signal. C.J. laid down a great bunt and I didn’t even have to slide into home.”

Rabasco needn’t have worried. Martin was determined to make up for an earlier mistake.

“I told coach I wanted the bunt sign if he was on third because I had missed a bunt sign earlier in the game,” Martin said.

Rabasco and Martin’s execution were all Poland lefty Lukas Johnson needed to gut out a 3-0 win.

Johnson and Shawn Murphy, who closed it out with one inning of scoreless relief, limited a potent Greely lineup to just three hits. But five walks, a hit batter and an error forced Johnson to dig his way out of several jams.

“You just try to rely on your mechanics and do what you’ve got to do,” Johnson said. “The defenders behind you are going to make the plays behind you, so trust what they can do.”

Johnson (six innings, five strikeouts) had just one clean inning, the second, but did his best work with men on base. Greely (3-1) stranded 10.

“You’ve got to give Poland credit. Their pitcher made some great sequences of pitches when we had men in scoring position. Defensively, they were solid behind him,” Greely coach Derek Soule said.

The first inning served as a harbinger of things to come when the Rangers stranded runners at second and third with two out. Will Bryant would have loaded the bases when he was hit on the arm with a pitch, but the home plate umpire ruled he didn’t make enough effort to avoid the pitch. Two pitches later, Bryant struck out swinging to end the inning.

Greely left runners at second and third again in the third, then threatened yet again in the fourth when Bryant had no choice but to take a pitch, then a walk, putting the Rangers at first and second to start the inning.

Corey Cunliffe (two hits) smothered Tom Buccholz’s grounder up the middle, stepped on second and threw to first for a double play. Johnson then walked Cal Soule, but Bryant inexplicably ventured more than halfway between third and home on ball four and was tagged out by Johnson at the end of a rundown to bring a premature halt to the threat.

Greely southpaw Connor Russell (six innings, six hits, two earned runs, eight strikeouts, zero walks, one HBP) had considerably less stress early. Poland (4-0) managed just two singles, one of them an infield hit, and a hit batter through the first four innings.

“He mixed his speeds really well and hit his spots,” Martin said. “It wasn’t anything really overpowering, but he had some very good off-speed stuff that left a lot of guys guessing what’s coming next.”

Rabasco got the winning rally started with a perfect bunt for a base hit to the first base side. Heads-up base running on pitches in the dirt got him to third with one out to set up Martin’s bunt.

“It’s good to see the bottom of the order scrap it out, doing the little things” Connor said.”As soon as (Rabasco) got to second, we started thinking (squeeze).”

The Knights added insurance in the sixth on an RBI single by Murphy (two hits) and a wild pitch that scored pinch-runner Pat Kuklinski.

The extra cushion came after Johnson had to escape one last jam in the top of the sixth. A walk, error and infield hit loaded the bases with two out, but he reached back for a little extra zip to blow his 94th pitch, a high fastball, past Reid Howland.

“This is a really big win,” Johnson said. “It’s the first time (the senior class has) ever beaten Greely. It makes a statement”

“It’s always good to come away with a win against a program like that. They’re always in the conversation for who’s going to be playing for the state title,” Connor said. “But where we want to go, we’re probably going to have to play them again. So, it is a good win, give the boys a little confidence. But I told them, we’re going to see them again.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.