PORTLAND—Cheverus’ baseball team has enjoyed a dominant run the past couple of seasons, but the Stags knew nothing would come easily this spring.
That was evident Thursday afternoon at Hadlock Field, but playing like the champions they hope to become, the Stags managed to do enough to hold off upset-minded Deering in an early season Western Class A city showdown.
Cheverus took the lead for good with two runs in the third inning and ultimately built a 10-2 lead, but the Rams refused to go quietly, scoring twice in both the fifth and seventh innings.
Ultimately, Deering couldn’t come all the way back and the Stags prevailed, 11-6, improving to 3-0 on the young season, while dropping the Rams to 1-2.
Cheverus got three hits apiece from seniors Ryan Casale and Drew Ferrick and junior Felix del Vecchio and scored in every inning but two.
“Three-and-oh is 3-0,” said Stags coach Mac McKew. “We’re still figuring things out. There’s a lot of stuff to work on.”
Cheverus is coming off the best two-year stretch in program history, winning the Class A championship for the first time in 2011 and reaching the regional final a year ago, before losing to Scarborough on a walkoff home run.
The Stags were hit hard by graduation, but managed to win their first two outings with relative ease, 3-0 at Bonny Eagle and 10-0 (in five innings) over visiting Sanford.
Deering missed the playoffs last season for the first time this century, but expects to be more competitive this year. The Rams lost their opener, 4-0, at Massabesic, but defeated host Thornton Academy, 6-1, Tuesday, to get in the win column.
Deering dominated this rivalry for many years (please see below), but Cheverus has turned the tide the past few seasons.
In the 2010 opener, the Stags ended the Rams’ 50-game win streak and Cheverus also beat Deering in the regular season in 2011 (15-7) and again last year, 8-1.
Thursday, on an absolutely beautiful day, the Stags took care of business, but the Rams fought until the final out.
The Stags had their hitting shoes on from the get go, as junior second baseman Mitchell Powers led off with a single to center off Deering junior starter Stephen Caiazzo and Casale, the designated hitter, followed with a base hit to right to put runners at the corners.
Caiazzo appeared to get just the break he needed when Ferrick, the first baseman, grounded into a rarely seen third-to-second-to-home-to-shortstop double play, which left Ferrick at first. Junior catcher Chris Tinsman followed by drawing a walk and del Vecchio, the shortstop, singled on an 0-2 pitch to left to score Ferrick (barely) for a 1-0 lead.
A passed ball followed and scored Tinsman and Cheverus had a 2-0 advantage.
Stags sophomore left-handed starter Derek Hammond set the Rams down in order in the bottom half.
After Caiazzo worked around a two-out walk in the top of the second, the first two Deering hitters made outs on the first pitches they saw in the bottom half, but junior first baseman Ben Peterson drew a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch, senior rightfielder Nick Payne drew a walk, then sophomore designated hitter Nick Carmichael grounded weakly to junior Ethan Jordan at third for what should have been the third out. Jordan hesitated, however, thought about throwing across the diamond, realized he could have tagged the bag for the force, but understood it was too late, then simply held on the ball for an error, loading the bases.
Freshman Pat Viola made Cheverus pay by grounding the first pitch he saw back up the middle to score Peterson and Payne to tie the score.
In the top of the third, the Stags went on top to stay Tinsman walked with one away and after del Vecchio flew out to right, Tinsman stole second and ball four to Jordan was wild, allowing Tinsman to move to third. That left it up to senior centerfielder Liam Fitzpatrick, who singled through the hole between third and short to score Tinsman for a 3-2 lead.
That was it for Caiazzo, who was pulled in favor of Carmichael.
Senior rightfielder Andrew Cloutier greeted Carmichael with a bloop hit to center, scoring Jordan and Carmichael hit junior leftfielder Charlie Mull with a pitch to load the bases, but on the first pitch, with a chance to open it up, Powers grounded out to short.
Deering again made two-out noise in its half of the third, as senior catcher Dominic Esposito-Martin lined a shot to center for a base hit. After Fitzpatrick’s dive missed the ball, Esposito-Martin raced all the way to third. Hammond stranded him, however, getting sophomore leftfielder Kevin Goldberg looking at strike three.
In the fourth, Cheverus scored twice more as Ferrick singled to left with one out, Tinsman was hit by a pitch and after del Vecchio loaded the bases with a bloop to right-center that fell between Payne and sophomore second baseman Nick Bevilacqua, Jordan hit a slow roller to short that scored Ferrick and Tinsman too, once the ball got through for an error.
The Rams left two on in the bottom of the fourth.
In the top of the fifth, Powers pelted a double to left-center with one down and scored on a Casale single to left-center. Ferrick followed by blooping a single over third, moving Casale to third. Ferrick took second on the throw. Tinsman then lined a single to right, scoring Casale and chasing Carmichael.
Payne came in to pitch and immediately threw a wild pitch which scored Ferrick. Del Vecchio then hit an RBI single to left to extend the lead to 10-2.
Deering didn’t quit in its half.
Bevilacqua led off with a line shot to center which kept carrying over the head of Fitzpatrick for a double. Esposito-Martin drove him home with a one-out single and with two down, Peterson’s RBI single to center cut the deficit to 10-4. The Rams had a chance to pull even closer as Payne walked and Carmichael singled to left to load the bases, but after Hammond was pulled for Jordan, Viola grounded out to short to end the threat.
Neither team scored in the sixth, the only inning that featured ‘0s.’ on both sides.
In the top of the seventh, Cheverus tacked on one final run as Casale singled to center and Ferrick drove him home with a deep triple down the leftfield line.
The hosts didn’t go quietly in their final at-bat, as Goldberg singled to lead off, was replaced by pinch-runner David Fowler and after a walk by Peterson, both runners moved up on a wild pitch. A groundout from Payne scored Fowler and a double down the leftfield line from Carmichael scored Peterson to make it 11-6.
That was as close as the Rams would get, however, as Viola and Caiazzo both grounded out to end it.
“It’s always great to beat our crosstown rival,” said del Vecchio. “We hit really well. We saw the ball well out of the hand. We roped a bunch of hits together and ended up with a bunch of runs. We’re a young team, so it’s good for us to hold our own. Once we get a lead, we hold it. It’s cool to see the transformation from everyone leaving to us still getting wins.”
“We got away with one,” McKew said. “Thank God we hit. We outhit them. That’s how we won. We didn’t pitch great or play great defense. We’re happy to come away with a win.”
Cheverus had 15 hits total, as Casale, del Vecchio and Ferrick (who tripled) all had three, while Powers (who doubled) mustered two. Tinsman scored four times, Ferrick three, Casale two and Jordan and Powers once apiece. Del Vecchio drove in two runs, while Casale, Cloutier, Ferrick, Fitzpatrick, Jordan and Tinsman all had one RBI.
Hammond improved to 1-0, allowing four runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks in 4.2 innings. He fanned four and threw three wild pitches. Jordan closed it out, allowing two runs on two hits and two walks. He struck out one hitter.
For Deering, Carmichael and Viola both had multiple hits. Peterson touched home twice, while Bevilacqua, Esposito-Martin, Goldberg and Payne scored once. Viola had two RBI, Carmichael, Goldberg, Payne and Peterson one apiece. Junior Mike Marzilli had a pair of stolen bases.
Deering has no rest for the weary, hosting Marshwood Friday. The Rams go to Noble Tuesday.
Deering feels it’s turned the corner.
“We’ve been competitive,” said Eisenhart. “I’m psyched about the way our pitching’s coming around. The kids like hanging out with each other. They have confidence. Confidence breeds success. We have to keep working hard in practice and get better every day. We have the ability.”
Cheverus hopes to improve to 4-0 Saturday at 1 p.m., when it hosts Thornton Academy. The Stags visit Windham Tuesday.
“We’ll regroup,” said McKew.
“We need to have strong defense, keep hitting the ball and get strong pitching,” del Vecchio said.
Deering junior Will Barlock prepares to tag out Cheverus junior Mitchell Powers to complete a first inning double play.
Deering senior catcher Dominic Esposito-Martin triples to centerfield in the third inning.
Deering senior Nick Payne dives safely back into first base to avoid a pickoff throw.
Cheverus junior Charlie Mull takes a swing.
Cheverus junior Mitchell Powers lines a hit.
Cheverus 8 @ Deering 1
@ Cheverus 5 Deering 4
@ Deering 3 Cheverus 0
Western A quarterfinals
@ Deering 4 Cheverus 1
Deering 8 @ Cheverus 5
Western B semifinals
@ Deering 7 Cheverus 3
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 1 (8)
Deering 10 Cheverus 1 (@ USM)
@ Deering 4 Cheverus 2
Deering 18 @ Cheverus 0 (5)
@ Deering 3 Cheverus 0
Cheverus sophomore Derek Hammond delivers a strike during Thursday’s win at Deering.
More photos below.