SOUTH PORTLAND – The Patriots trampled the Spartans to the tune of 12-5 on Thursday afternoon, August 3, Anthony Degifico (South Portland, the University of Southern Maine) leading the way with three doubles, three RBIs and three runs in four trips to the plate.
“Great team win – a lot of players contributing up and down the line up,” said Patriots head coach Andrew Wood, also the head coach at Cape Elizabeth High School (and a former coach at Southern Maine Community College and St. Joseph’s). “Anytime you can jump out to a lead and put pressure on the defense by being aggressive to create holes in the defense with the hit-and-run – that was beneficial for us.”
“We took advantage of a few of their errors that put us in great situations to be successful,” Wood said. “And Cam Smith (Gorham, Clark) pitched well for us, once we were able to create the lead.”
“The Patriots are a talented team and played well,” said Spartans head coach Tim Downing, who also heads up the USM program. “Anthony Degifico, who has been outstanding for the Patriots, proved again why he is one of the league’s best hitters with doubles.”
The Spartans jumped out front 1-0 in the top of the first. Henrick Barbin (Exeter, N.H.; Castleton) singled for the team, rounded to third on a Caleb Burpee (Kennebunk, Southern Maine Community College) double and reached home on a Mitch Caron (Augusta, Castleton) sac fly to right.
But the Patriots tied things up in the bottom of the inning: Leadoff man Sam Troiano (South Portland, USM) singled, then dashed all the way to third when Zach Quintal (Eliot, USM) followed him up with a single of his own. Troiano scored when Degifico grounded out to second.
From there, the Patriots only picked up steam, posting a big, five-run bottom of the second. Tanner Laberge (Windham, USM), Drew Abramson (South Portland, Bentley), Quintal and Degifico all crossed the plate, thanks to doubles by Laberge and Degifico and singles by Abramson and Jared Gagne (Dover, N.H.; St. Joseph’s) – not to mention a shaky stretch by Spartans starting pitcher John Parker (Brunswick, Eastern Connecticut), who hit Troiano with a throw and committed two errors.
“I had Johnny Parker, from EConn, pitching,” said Downing “and I wanted him to get off on the right foot. But he struggled at the beginning. After that, he kind of slipped into a game.’
“And we didn’t have our starting shortstop,” Downing said; “that kind of hurt. Mitch Sytulek (Raymond, N.H.; Plymouth State), who works during the day, stepped on a nail. I got that phone call about two o’clock in the afternoon.”
Devin Butler (Standish, SMCC), normally the Spartans’ second baseman, filled in at shortstop for Sytulek.
The Spartans got one back in the top of the third – Burpee made it 6-2 on a Mike Sterritt (Exeter, N.H.; Great Bay Community College) double to left – and they held the Patriots silent in the bottom of the inning. They added yet another in the top of the fourth, slicing their deficit fully in half when Grayson Jennings (Dover, N.H.; St. Joe’s) scored on a Connor Hopkins (Windham, N.H.; St. Michael’s) double.
“After about the third inning,” Downing said, “we kind of woke up. But by that time, they had six runs on us. So it’s a 6-1 game, it’s uphill, it’s tough, you can’t do anything: can’t steal, can’t hit-and-run, can’t do any of that stuff when you’re down by that much; you’ve just got to get baserunners.”
“We made a run,” Downing said. “I thought we did okay. Some of the kids – I gave them a little bit of a speech; I got mad. So we had some hits, and it wasn’t as bad as it looked. But defensively, we missed our shortstop. We had guys playing out of position: We had pitchers playing…to ask them to go into the game and field a position that they don’t normally do, it’s a tough thing.”
The Patriots continued to tack on offense of their own, ultimately rolling to victory on two more in the fourth and four more in the sixth. Meanwhile, the Spartans managed just one in each of the fifth and the sixth for the 12-5 final.
Gagne went 3-4 on the day for the Patriots, notching a trio of singles. He tallied two RBIs and two runs. Abramson finished 2-4 with two singles, an RBI and a run. Ryan Linehan (Bedford, USM) went 2-4 with a pair of singles. Laberge went 1-4 (one run), Quintal went 1-4 (one run) and Troiano 1-3 (two runs).
Barbin and Burpee led the Spartans’ attack, each going 2-4. Barbin logged an RBI and a run and Burpee two runs. Jennings went 1-2 (two runs), Sterritt 1-4 (two RBIs), Hopkins 1-4 (one RBI) and Caron 1-4 (one RBI). Tim Verrill (Dover, N.H.; St. Joe’s) and Cole Carter went 1-3.
“We were okay,” Downing said. “I was proud of the guys. It’s first year, and coming from New Hampshire, a lot of them, that’s taxing on their financial situation, but the fact is, they came every time we had a game. I was happy.”
Downing took a moment to praise a couple of his guys: “I thought Henrick Barbin hit the ball real well – he hit it hard; his first two times up, he really smoked it. Grayson Jennings, who pitches, he was forced into a DH role, and he had a triple and a nice bunt at the beginning. Grayson’s a pretty good athlete, so he’s always able to fill in.”
The result, which played out at SMCC, shuffled the Spartans off the playoff coil in the Greater Northeast Collegiate Baseball League (GNCBL). Meanwhile, the Patriots advanced to Sunday’s Championship round, where they needed to defeat the Norsemen (coached by Westbrook native Scott Heath) twice consecutively if they meant to grab the crown. That, however, did not happen; instead, the Norsemen prevailed 19-7 in one game.
“These guys were excited to get another crack at the Norseman, who beat us 4-1 in the first round,” Wood said of the double-elimination tournament. “Unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t in our favor. But at the end of the day, it was summer baseball: It was a relaxed, professional environment, where kids came to get better for their college season coming up to be ready for the fall. I believe it was a positive experience for all. I was able to meet some new players who I’ve coached against, being at Cape Elizabeth. I’m excited to follow those guys throughout the remainder of their college careers. For those guys just playing a 30-game season, I’m sure they are ready to enjoy August before fall ball heats back up in a month.”
The sun thus sets on a very successful inaugural season for the GNCBL, which can be found online at www.gncbl.net, on Twitter at @GNCBLBaseball, and on Facebook via searching.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Drew Abramson scoots off third for the Patriots.
John Parker hurls a ball toward home for the Spartans.
Anthony Degifico arrives on third for the Patriots.