MONMOUTH — Carrabec’s aggressive game plan to knock off top-seeded Monmouth nearly paid off Thursday in their Western Maine Class C quarterfinal baseball matchup.

But in the end, it hurt the Cobras, who had two runners thrown out at the plate and another at third in a 5-4 loss to the Mustangs.

Monmouth, 16-1, advances to host No. 4 Sacopee Valley on Saturday while eighth-seeded Carrabec finishes at 8-8.

Monmouth rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the third inning on a mammoth grand slam from senior Alex Curtis, but the Cobras tied the game in the fourth inning on a base hit from Paul Kaplan. The Mustangs took the lead for good in the fifth when Phil Rowe singled and scored on Brandon Goff’s double and Kyle Fletcher took care of the rest with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

“It’s what I’ve been doing all year, and I’m trying to get used to it,” Fletcher said. “I’m used to starting games so you’ve got to find a way to get into a rhythm.”

With the exception of the open tournament years, the Cobras hadn’t qualified for the postseason in over 20 seasons. And just three years ago, they only fielded a junior varsity team. Their rapid rise is due in part to their aggressive baserunning and they didn’t temper their style against the Mustangs.

“We’re a gutsy team and we’ve got to do that,” Carrabec coach Troy Dunphy said. “This is the first time we’ve been in this situation, so the only way we scored any runs coming up through was to be gutsy.”

The Cobras nearly tied the game in the top of the sixth when Christian Miller singled and went to second on Levi Murray’s base hit. With two outs, leadoff batter Boog Dunphy singled to left. Pinch-runner Gabe Dunphy attempted to score from second but was gunned down 7-5-2 after he stumbled rounding the bag at third.

“The bag is a little loose,” Coach Dunphy said. “When he hit it, it slid about two inches. He twisted . . . and he finally fell when he landed back on it.”

Will Crawford led off the Carrabec seventh with a shot over Nick Sanborn’s head in left field. Sanborn ran it down and threw a strike to Jariah Caissie at third to nip Crawford on a close play. The Cobras scored twice in the second inning on a walk, an error, a base hit from Miller and a wild pitch from starter Nate Gagne. They made it 3-0 in the third on a double steal — they stole seven bases in all — and could have had more except Boog Dunphy was thrown out at home on a squeeze attempt and batter Tyler Reichert was tagged out after he headed back to the dugout thinking the inning was over.

The Mustangs didn’t do anything against freshman starter Dustin Crawford until the third inning. With one out, Goff singled and Hunter Richardson and Fletcher followed with walks on eight straight pitches. After a visit to the mound, Crawford grooved a fastball to Curtis, the team’s cleanup hitter.

“Coach Eric Palleschi told me if you see your pitch, hit it,” Curtis said. “It was almost right down the middle and I hit it.”

Curtis’ shot down the left field line rolled to the bank over 400 feet away and he rounded the bases without drawing a throw.

Sanborn came on for Gagne in the third inning and escaped further damage but the sophomore lefty ran into trouble in the fourth when he gave up a run and walked two batters to load the bases. Enter Fletcher, a Mr. Maine baseball finalist, who caught Boog Dunphy looking at a third strike to end the inning.

“Troy’s done a hell of a job with that program,” Palleschi said. “In three years he’s taken them to a very competitive program. He has those kids play hard and he has them playing right.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ

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