BANGOR, Maine — The number nine hole for baseball teams is traditionally known as a hiding spot for a club’s weakest link offensively. A coach will pencil a player into the slot with high hopes and little expectations when that player digs in.
In the case of the Falmouth High School baseball team, the nine spot is used quite differently. Ryan Conley has occupied the nine spot for the Yachtsmen from game one this season.
Conley, one of the team leaders in batting average and doubles, was not put there for his lackluster offense. Instead, he was plugged in to spark the offense at the bottom of the order, according to Falmouth coach Kevin Winship.
“Ryan’s not a number nine hitter,” said Winship. “We’ve kept him there all year so he gets to see a lot of fastballs and he has a lot of power to drive the ball into gaps.”
Conley provided that spark in a big way Saturday at Mansfield Stadium, as Falmouth defeated Foxcroft Academy 2-0 to claim the Class B state championship.
All the offense came in the second inning for the Yachtsmen, who had three of their five hits in the inning.
After singles from Will D’Agostino and Jeremy Lydick, Conley stepped up and ripped a two-run double down the line to make it 2-0.
Conley knew he had an opportunity to set the tone for his team and was set on making the most of it.
“I was thinking to myself that this is a situation where we need to score, we need a hit here,” said Conley.
Winship said the ability to have such a potent lineup from top to bottom had been a factor for the Yachtsmen all season.
“The beginning of the year it was the top of our lineup that carried us, by the middle and down the stretch it was everyone,” he said. “It took nine guys to win it today and they did.”
Falmouth (17-3) also got two singles from Nick Spencer.
That was all the offense Falmouth starter Thomas Fortier needed, as he held the Ponies to just two hits while striking out six in his complete-game victory.
“His pitching has just carried us,” Winship said of his left-hander.
It was the third two-hitter in a row for Fortier, who did not allow a runner past second base in the outing. Fortier felt very comfortable on the mound, which gave him confidence in his pitch selection.
“Pitching off a good mound and on a good field always helps bring out the movement in your pitches,” said Fortier.
Scoring runs was difficult for Falmouth through the postseason.
“I’m usually working with lower run support,” Fortier said. “But, the offense usually comes up in the clutch and get the key hits.”
Up until the final out, emotions were running wild in the Falmouth dugout.
“So many different emotions going around,” said Conley. “Everyone was getting nervous with every pitch, but so excited too.”
On the other side, Foxcroft starter Kaleb Smith and his defense settled down after the second inning and kept the Ponies in contention. Smith gave up just two hits after the second, while his defense gobbled up every ball put into play.
The offense was unable to find its stride, leaving six runners on base and spoiling opportunities with two runners on in the fourth and sixth.
Matt Chapman and Caleb Richard each had a single for the Ponies, who finish at 15-6.
Besides skill and a bit of luck, Winship credited Falmouth’s success to a new concept adopted at the beginning of the season that took the Yachtsmen to the next level and propelled them to the title.
“One of the things that we talked about at the beginning of the year that we wanted to focus on was staying together and playing relaxed,” said Winship. “The kids and the coaching staff both bought into that philosophy and we got on a roll from there.”