Cheverus senior Jared Brooks is all smiles as he’s congratulated by his teammates following a one-hit, 11-strikeout, shutout performance in Thursday’s 4-0 victory at South Portland. Brooks improved to 3-0 and the Stags are now 8-0 on the season.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
C- 003 100 0- 4 8 0
SP- 000 000 0- 0 1 1
J. Casale reached on error, Dube scored. St. John singled to center, Watson and J. Casale scored.
Dube scored on wild pitch.
C- Watson 3
C- Dube 2, J. Casale, Watson
C- St. John 2, J. Casale
C- Brooks, D. Casale
SP- Troiano 2, Johnson
Left on base:
Brooks and McCarthy; Owen, Buckley (4), DiBiase (7) and Horton
Brooks (W, 3-0) 7 IP 1 H 0 R 3 BB 11 K
Owen (L, 2-1) 3.1 IP 5 H 4 R 3 ER 2 BB 1 K 1 HBP 1 WP
Buckley 3.1 IP 2 H 0 R 1 BB 2 K 1 WP
DiBiase 0.1 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 0K
SOUTH PORTLAND—For two years, while recovering from an arm injury, Jared Brooks could only daydream about taking the mound in a big spot and mowing down the opposition.
Brooks, Cheverus’ senior ace, got that opportunity Thursday afternoon at Wainwright Farms in a pivotal midseason showdown against South Portland and after two terrific efforts earlier this spring, he was simply transcendent.
And as a result, his team remains perfect.
Brooks, who will play at Stonehill College next year, was mortal for one inning, the first, but the Red Riots couldn’t get to him and from there, he was close to unhittable as he and the Stags put another impressive feather in their victory cap.
In the bottom of the first, South Portland senior centerfielder Sam Troiano beat out an infield hit, stole second, then moved to third with one out, but Brooks struck out consecutive batters to keep the game scoreless.
The Red Riots wouldn’t get a runner past second base the rest of the way.
That left it up to Cheverus’ offense to get Brooks a run and after suffering through 32 scoreless innings against South Portland dating to 2013, the Stags finally broke through in the third inning, as senior first baseman Jack Casale’s ground ball scored junior leftfielder Cam Dube and junior designated Maxx St. John hit a two-run single.
Cheverus added a run in the the fourth when Dube scored on a wild pitch and from there, it was all Brooks, all the time, as the ace only got stronger as the game went on, ending the contest by striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Stags had themselves a 4-0 victory, their first over South Portland in five years.
Brooks allowed just one hit, to the first batter he faced, struck out 11 and impressed everyone in both dugouts as Cheverus improved to 8-0 on the season, dropping the Red Riots to 5-3 in the process.
“I knew I was capable of doing this,” Brooks said. “This is what I love. This is my passion. I’m so glad I’m getting great results. That’s nothing more I could ask for. We’ve faced tough teams and we’ve prevailed each time.”
After opening with shutout wins over visiting Noble (6-0) and host Gorham (3-0), Cheverus beat visiting Bonny Eagle (9-1), then eked out wins at Thornton Academy (3-2) and visiting Westbrook (10-9) before Tuesday’s 4-0 blanking of host Marshwood and Wednesday’s 5-3 home victory over Windham.
South Portland started with a 3-1 win at Windham and after a 2-1 loss at Gorham, the Red Riots downed host Marshwood (2-1), visiting Thornton Academy (8-7) and host Sanford (2-0, in nine innings). After falling at home to Portland Tuesday (5-2), South Portland beat host Noble, 8-0, in a makeup contest Wednesday.
Since the start of the 2002 season, the Red Riots had beaten the Stags in 15 of 22 meetings (see sidebar, below), including each of the past four.
Thursday, on yet another windy and chilly day, South Portland hoped to make it five in a row, but Cheverus scored its first runs against the Red Riots since 2013 and beat them for the first time since a 9-4 home triumph May 17, 2012.
South Portland freshman starter Hunter Owen got Stags junior shortstop Griff Watson to ground out to short to start the game, then fanned Casale swinging, but Brooks followed by crushing a double to the wall in left-center for a double. He’d be stranded, however, as St. John flew out deep to center.
Troiano, last year’s Southwestern Maine Activities Association Most Valuable Player, then almost single-handedly produced a run in the bottom half before Brooks established his dominance.
Troiano led off by working the count full, fouling the ball off multiple times, then hitting a slow grounder to the hole between short and third and beating it out for an infield single.
“Their one hit was a jam shot to the infield,” said Stags coach Mac McKew. “Anyone else going down the line would have been out.”
Troiano immediately stole second and moved to third when junior shortstop Riley Hasson’s squibber was grabbed by Brooks, who threw Hasson out on a bang-bang play. Junior second baseman Zach Johnson had a chance to give the hosts an all-important early lead, but he struck out swinging and that energized Brooks to fan junior first baseman Jake Poole as well to get out of the jam unscathed.
“I was keeping my eye on (Troiano) over my shoulder,” said Brooks. “I know he can steal any base. I was trying to throw extra because he’s fast as heck. I didn’t feel like that was a game-changer, but it was definitely big to get those outs. That gave the team confidence.”
“Our goal was to get the lead,” said South Portland coach Mike Owens. “I knew coming in we’d have our hands full. (Brooks is) a very good pitcher. We hadn’t seen him before because he was battling injuries, but we heard about him and he lived up to the billing. I thought he struggled a little bit early throwing his curve ball for a strike and we did a good job laying off and we got his pitch count up a little bit. His fastball stayed down and he elevated it when he needed to and we had a hard time laying off of it. We hadn’t seen that velocity yet. He blew us away a little bit.”
In the top of the second, Owen got senior catcher Logan McCarthy to ground out to second and senior centerfielder Dom Casale to fly to center, where Troiano made a nice running catch. When sophomore second baseman Justin Ray followed by bouncing out to second, it appeared the inning was over, but catcher’s interference was called instead and Ray was safe. He moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but senior rightfielder Rylan Benedict grounded out to Hasson at short to keep the game scoreless.
Brooks was unhittable in the bottom of the frame, getting senior leftfielder Gordon Whittemore to chase strike three and Owen and junior third baseman Jimmy DiBiase to watch strike three.
In the third, after 32 scoreless innings against the Red Riots, the Stags finally broke through.
Junior leftfielder Cam Dube sparked the rally by being hit by a pitch and with Watson at the plate, Dube took off for second as Watson grounded the ball up the middle. It appeared the play would result in at least one out, but the ball hit the side of the mound and caromed to the right of Hasson and into the outfield, putting runners at the corners.
“We used the hit-and-run to get us going,” McKew said. “Dube’s a pest. We want him to get on base out of the number nine spot and play great leftfield.”
When Jack Casale grounded to short, Dube broke for the plate and scored and when Hasson’s throw got away, Casale was safe at first and Watson took second.
For the first time since a 9-6 loss May 30, 2013, Cheverus put a number other than zero in the run column against South Portland.
“I’m glad (former Red Riots ace) Henry Curran wasn’t here today,” McKew said. “I had visions of him when I saw another left-hander (Owen) walk out.”
The Stags weren’t done, as after Brooks walked to load the bases, St. John came up with the key hit, a single to center, scoring Watson and Casale to make it 3-0.
“We didn’t want them to hang around,” Brooks said. “We had to make sure their energy level went down when we scored. That allowed me to coast.”
Owen kept the game in reach by getting McCarthy to fly out deep to right, Dom Casale to ground back to the mound for a force out at third and Ray to fly out to left.
Watson made a nice defensive play to start the bottom of the inning, ranging back before lunging and falling to catch a pop up off the bat of sophomore catcher Caden Horton. Junior rightfielder Khem Johnston drew a walk, but with the runner going, Troiano’s grounder up the middle was fielded by Watson, who tagged second for the force a split second before Johnston’s slide. After Troiano again stole second, Hasson grounded out to short to end the frame.
Cheverus tacked on a fourth run in the fourth.
Benedict grounded out to second to start the frame, but Dube again got the fun started by drawing a walk. Watson followed with a single past a diving DiBiase and Jack Casale beat out an infield hit to Johnson when Owen didn’t get over in time to cover first base, loading the bases.
That brought up Brooks, but Owen didn’t get a chance to face him, as Owens pulled him in favor of junior Connor Buckley.
Buckley started inauspiciously, by throwing a wild pitch that scored Watson, but after walking Brooks to reload the bases, he got St. John to pop out to shallow left and McCarthy to pop out to second to keep the score 4-0.
Brooks started the bottom half by walking Johnson, but he got Poole to look at strike three and after Johnson stole second, Whittemore also struck out looking. The Stags then got a bit of a break as a ball hit by Owen appeared to be ticketed to centerfield to score a run, but Brooks managed to get a piece of it and deflect it to Watson at short, who threw out Owen to end the inning.
In the fifth, Dom Casale grounded out to third and Ray lined to left. After Benedict beat out an infield hit, Horton gunned him down trying to steal.
South Portland went meekly in the bottom half, as DiBiase was out bunting back to the mound, Horton grounded out to second and Buckley bounced out to third.
Dube started the sixth by striking out, but Watson reached on an infield single to the hole. He’d be stranded, however, as Jack Casale flew out to center and Brooks bounced out to short.
In the bottom half, Troiano led off by hitting the ball deep to center, but Dom Casale ran it down. Hasson then looked at strike three. Johnson kept the inning alive by walking on a full count, but Brooks got Poole to bounce out to second to end the frame.
Buckley got the first two batters of the seventh, St. John chasing strike three and McCarthy flying out to center. He was then pulled in favor of DiBiase, who allowed a double down the leftfield line to Dom Casale before getting Ray to ground out to third.
That set the stage for Brooks to slam the door with abandon.
He started the bottom of the seventh by striking out Whittemore swinging. Owen then suffered the same fate. That left it up to DiBiase, who could only look at strike three and after 1 hour and 55 minutes, Cheverus was able to celebrate its 4-0 victory.
“This team fits so well together,” Brooks said. “It’s like we’re a puzzle. That makes the difference. We have fun, but we’re serious still. We like to slap the ball around, create chaos, throw strikes and come out on top. (South Portland’s) a very talented team. They’ll win some games. I hope the best for them so we get more Heal Points too.”
Brooks threw exactly 110 pitches, which is the maximum number a hurler can toss under the new pitch count rules.
“Because of his strikeouts, (Jared) runs up his pitch counts a little bit, but he’s gone out there and has been dominant,” McKew said. “He’s done the job. Too bad that wasn’t his sophomore and junior years also, but he mentally worked through it and still contributed. Now, it’s all coming to fruition. He’s a leader on this team.”
Brooks allowed one hit and three walks, but struck out 11 to improve to 3-0 on the season.
“My curve ball was a little slow at the start, but my fastball felt good,” Brooks said. “I had some zip on it. I tried to keep it low. They would swing at some high ones that favored me. I just pounded the zone. I had my defense behind me today. I give all the credit to them. When I get the ball, I’m a different person. I wanted to finish it.”
“Our depth is paying off so far,” McKew said. “We have Jared and (Jack) Casale behind him and (junior Conner) MacDonald and (sophomore Jack) Mullen also came through this week.”
Watson paced the offense with three hits. Dube scored twice and Jack Casale and Watson both touched home once. St. John had two RBI, while Jack Casale finished with one.
The Stags stranded nine runners.
They also didn’t make an error for the third game in a row.
South Portland couldn’t muster much on offense, producing just four base runners, three on walks, and they were all stranded. Troiano stole two bases and Johnson also had a steal.
Owen fell to 2-1 after giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits in 3.1 innings. He walked two, struck out one, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
“We put Hunter in a tough situation as a freshman making his second start,” Owens said. “I think he’s got a ton of talent. It was a good learning experience for him.”
Buckley was solid in relief, pitching 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. He struck out two and threw a wild pitch.
“Connor has done a great job for us all year,” Owens said. “He’s our go-to guy in the bullpen. He’s not the most overpowering guy, but he throws strikes and changes speed. He’s responded to some tough spots.”
DiBiase gave up one hit in his scoreless third-of-an-inning stint.
“The guys did a good job hanging in there and keeping it a ball game,” Owens said. “Anytime you face a pitcher like that, if you give up a big inning, it’s hard because we haven’t scored much. When we did put the ball in play, they made some excellent plays. We had to be almost perfect on a day like this and we weren’t.”
Both teams hope to wind up in the top four in Class A South to earn a bye into the quarterfinals and both squads have ample opportunities to earn Heal Points in the days to come.
South Portland has a playoff rematch at Scarborough Saturday, hosts Westbrook Tuesday and Massabesic Thursday, then visits Deering May 20.
“This was a tough stretch of the schedule for us and it doesn’t get any easier Saturday,” Owens said. “We’ll find out where we are and where we need to go. Hopefully, we’ll bounce back and have a good effort.”
Cheverus welcomes Deering Saturday morning and next week visits Noble, hosts Sanford and goes to Portland.
“Now, it’s on to Deering,” Brooks said. “We’re not looking two or three games ahead, just the next one and we take them all seriously. There’s always room for improvement. We want to always get better. We’re perfectionists.”
“We’re 8-0 and you can’t be any better at the halfway mark,” McKew said. “We’re right where we need to be. We feel good.”
Cheverus senior Jared Brooks shows his masterful form.
South Portland freshman starting pitcher Hunter Owen throws a pitch.
South Portland junior shortstop Riley Hasson goes all out to stop a ground ball.
Cheverus senior first baseman Jack Casale lines a hit.
South Portland junior Connor Buckley takes a swing.
Cheverus junior shortstop Griffin Watson makes a diving catch in the outfield.
Cheverus junior leftfielder Cam Dube slaps hands with his teammates after scoring the game’s first run in the third inning.
South Portland 1 @ Cheverus 0 (8)
@ South Portland 1 Cheverus 0
@ South Portland 2 Cheverus 0
Western A quarterfinals
@ South Portland 1 Cheverus 0 (8)
@ South Portland 9 Cheverus 6
@ Cheverus 9 South Portland 4
Cheverus 7 @ South Portland 1
Western A semifinals
@ Cheverus 8 South Portland 2
South Portland 4 @ Cheverus 3
Cheverus 4 @ South Portland 3
Cheverus 5 @ South Portland 4
South Portland 6 @ Cheverus 3
Cheverus 9 @ South Portland 3
South Portland 6 @ Cheverus 3
@ South Portland 7 Cheverus 0
@ South Portland 4 Cheverus 3
South Portland 5 @ Cheverus 4
@ South Portland 15 Cheverus 5 (6)
@ South Portland 11 Cheverus 6
South Portland 4 @ Cheverus 3
@ South Portland 10 Cheverus 2
@ Cheverus 14 South Portland 4 (5)