Portland’s Donnie Tocci lines a double during Saturday’s 4-3, nine-inning loss at Falmouth in a Class A South semifinal.
Portland’s Grace Stacey, left, Laini Legere and Morgan Boyle mob pitcher Jess Brown after the final out of the Bulldogs’ 4-1 win over Thornton Academy in a Class A South semifinal Saturday. Portland reached the regional final for the first time since 2004.
Cheverus’ Kathryn Griffiths shoots and scores during the Stags’ 18-8 win over Gardiner/Hall-Dale in last week’s Class A North quarterfinal. Cheverus was ultimately eliminated by defending champion Messalonskee in the semifinals.
(Ed. Note: For the complete Portland-South Portland and Portland-Falmouth baseball, Portland-Thornton Academy softball and Cheverus-Gardiner/Hall-Dale and Waynflete-Cape Elizabeth girls’ lacrosse game stories, with box scores and photos, see theforecaster.net)
The postseason action came fast and furious last week and left in its wake only a handful of survivors.
With just days remaining in the spring sports season, here’s a look at who’s left and what’s to come:
Cheverus’ baseball team advanced to its first regional final since 2012 after a pair of key regional tournament victories last week.
The second-ranked Stags first hosted No. 10 Deering in a quarterfinal.
The Rams had upset No. 7 Biddeford, 3-2, in Wednesday’s preliminary round. The Rams scored twice in the top of the seventh inning to win a postseason game for the third year in a row. Riley Bartell went the distance to earn the win. Luc Harrison drove in the tying run and stole home for the go-ahead run. Colby Dame also had an RBI.
Deering then met Cheverus for the third straight postseason and unlike the past two, couldn’t beat the host Stags in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Cheverus broke the game open with five fifth inning runs, as Jared Brooks threw a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts. Dame took the loss for the Rams, who finished the season 8-10.
The Stags welcomed No. 3 Gorham for the semifinals Saturday and got another terrific pitching performance, this one from Jack Casale, who allowed just four hits in a 5-1 victory. Maxx St. John drove in three runs.
Cheverus (17-1) advanced to meet top-ranked Falmouth (17-1) in the Class A South Final Wednesday at 3 p.m., at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. The teams didn’t meet this year and have no playoff history.
If the Stags move on to their first state final since 2011, they’ll play either Bangor (14-4) or Mt. Ararat (11-8) in the Class A state game Saturday at 2 p.m., at Morton Field in Augusta. Cheverus has never faced the Rams in the playoffs. The Stags’ lone prior postseason meeting with the Eagles resulted in a 10-0 (five-inning) victory in the 2000 Western A preliminary round. Cheverus’ lone prior state title came in 2011.
Portland came oh-so-close to joining Cheverus in the regional final, but the Bulldogs’ better-than-expected season ended in the semifinals.
Portland, ranked fourth in Class A South, had its way with No. 5 South Portland in Thursday’s quarterfinals, despite a shaky start. The first four Red Riots’ batters reached base and they scored two runs, but Bulldogs starter Gio Ruotolo avoided further damage and in the bottom of the first, Portland put up five runs, highlighted by two-run hits from Will Snyder and Cam King. South Portland cut the deficit to 5-4 in the fifth, but in the bottom half, Dom Tocci hit a bases-clearing triple and in the sixth, the Bulldogs scored six more times, capped by an RBI single from Nick Archambault, to induce the 10-run mercy rule and prevail, 14-4.
Ruotolo earned his eighth win and Portland pounded out a dozen hits as it won a playoff game for the third year in a row.
“We played well,” Archambault said. “We overcame some adversity. It’s always good to beat SoPo, especially in the playoffs, but to do it this way boosts our confidence going into the next game.”
“I was happy to come up with the bases loaded,” Tocci said. “That was sweet.”
“I think (South Portland) ran out of pitching a little bit,” added Bulldogs coach Mike Rutherford. “I didn’t expect this. I expected a 3-2 game, but we’ll take it.”
Portland went on to face top-ranked Falmouth in the semifinals Saturday in a game that turned in an all-timer, that seemingly took forever to decide.
When the Yachtsmen got home runs in the first and third innings, then added a third run in the fourth off Bulldogs starter Donnie Tocci, they appeared en route to victory, but Portland senior standout Jake Knop got his team back in the game with a two-run home run and Donnie Tocci came home on an error to tie the score, 3-3. The game would go into bottom of the ninth inning before Falmouth finally ended it, when Donnie Tocci, who had a heroic effort on the mound, hit a batter with the bases loaded to spell a 4-3 defeat, ending the Bulldogs’ campaign at 13-5.
“We just stared down, I think, the best team in the state,” Rutherford said. “It’s a game of inches. We had some chances, but they had chances too.
“We’re a very good baseball team. I don’t believe there’s a better defensive team than us. Our lineup is strong and Gio and Donnie can pitch with anybody. The chemistry these guys had was great. What’s great about them, is that they’re great, great kids. We didn’t come here to play well. We came here to win. You can see it on their faces. They’re disappointed because they thought they could win the game.
“The seniors are awesome. I had them for three years. They really brought Portland High back. We had some years where we struggled to get in the playoffs, but they put us back on the map. They’re some tough, tough competitors.”
Portland’s softball program returned to contention in 2016, posting a winning record and winning a playoff game for the first time in a decade. The 2017 Bulldogs have raised the bar even higher and last week, they managed to advance to the regional final for the first time since 2004.
Portland, ranked second in Class A South, blanked No. 10 South Portland in the quarterfinals, 6-0, as Jess Brown, Maine’s Gatorade Softball Player of the Year, threw a three-hit shutout. Callie Watson had a two-run triple and Sydney Gilbert, Laini Legere and Annie Twombly all produced multiple hits.
Saturday morning, the Bulldogs hosted No. 3 Thornton Academy and after Brown worked out of a jam in the top of the first, Taylor Crosby had a two-run double in the bottom half. The Golden Trojans got a run back in the second, but in the bottom half, Brown helped herself with a two-out, two-run, bases loaded single for a three-run lead. Brown retired 16 batters in a row in one stretch and Portland went on to a 4-1 victory.
“We’re making history,” Crosby said. “It’s a complete shock, but we’re so ready for it. I always dreamed about this, but when I first started high school, I didn’t think this could come true.”
“Last year when we played (TA) in the regular season, we gave up 10 runs in the last inning, so I knew anything was possible,” Brown said. “ We’ve proved ourselves. It’s been great to come back into relevance.”
“I’m so happy for this group,” added Portland coach Robbie Ferrante, who, in a previous stint with the program, also coached the 2004 Bulldogs. “They’ve put a lot of time into it and we’re still together. We’ve taken a couple more steps this year.”
The Bulldogs earned a date with top-ranked Scarborough (18-0), a team which has outscored its foes, 241-15, this season in the Class A South Final Wednesday at 7 p.m., at St. Joseph’s College. The Red Storm won the regular season meeting, 9-0, at home May 3. Scarborough also took two of three prior playoff encounters, including last year’s 12-0, six-inning decision in the quarterfinals.
Portland will be a heavy underdog, but this group believes it can shock the world.
“This year’s team believes in itself,” Ferrante said. “They know what it takes. I’ll let the girls know they deserve to be there. Hopefully, we’ll be as loose as we can be. For every batter we get out, hopefully we’ll get more confident. We’ll enjoy it.”
If the Bulldogs spring the upset, they’d play either Skowhegan (16-2) or Oxford Hills (13-5) in the Class A state final Saturday at 12 p.m., at Cony High School in Augusta. Portland is 4-2 all-time in the playoffs against the Vikings, with a 3-1 victory in the 2001 Western A Final the most recent. The Bulldogs are 4-1 versus Skowhegan, with an 8-3 triumph in the 2001 Class A state game the most recent. Portland has won eight championships, but none since 2004.
The first-year Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth co-op squad also qualified for the playoffs and nearly pulled off a stunner in the preliminary round last week. The 12th-ranked Sea Lions went to No. 5 Noble and took a 5-2 lead to the bottom of the seventh inning, but surrendered four run and dropped a heartbreaking 6-5 decision. Megan Faucher had three hits and Liberty Ladd doubled twice, but it wasn’t enough and MGA/Falmouth wound up 7-10.
“It was a tough way to lose, but the girls came so far and it was so much fun,” said MGA/Falmouth coach Tim Eisenhart. “Bringing two groups of girls together couldn’t have gone more smoothly. The coaches and the kids didn’t want the season to end. We got a lot of support from the parents and we had a blast. It was a special experience.”
The co-op team is expected to return again in 2018.
“As far as I know, we’ll have Falmouth kids again next year and we’ll together for one more season,” Eisenhart said. “We lose five seniors, but we return a lot of young kids.”
Cheverus and Deering’s boys’ lacrosse teams met in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs last Wednesday and produced an epic.
The fifth-seeded Rams, who lost the regular season meeting, 11-3, at home, staggered the fourth-ranked Stags by jumping out to an 8-1 lead. Cheverus settled down and got back within 8-6 at halftime, then took control in the second half to prevail, 15-12. Colby Anton’s seven goals were a big reason why the Stags were able to advance.
Despite five goals from Nate Richards and four more from Omar Contrera, Deering’s season ended at 8-5.
The Stags went on to meet No. 1 Brunswick in Saturday’s semifinals and despite being tied, 5-5, at halftime, Cheverus lost, 12-8, being eliminated by the Dragons for the fourth year in a row. Max Coffin and Michael Hatch both had three goals.
Cheverus, Portland and Waynflete’s girls’ lacrosse teams all fell in the playoffs last week.
The Stags advanced the furthest, getting to the Class A North semifinals.
Cheverus, ranked fourth in the region, first ousted No. 5 Gardiner/Hall-Dale in the quarterfinals, 18-8. The Stags raced to a 3-0 lead, fell behind, 4-3, went on top, 6-4, at halftime, then pulled away in the second half behind four goals apiece from Mackenzie Johnston and Brooke McElman and three each from Aisling Flaherty and Kathryn Griffiths.
“Once we got a goal, we got another, then another and another,” Johnston said. “It’s huge for the seniors to win this one.”
“At halftime, we talked about executing the offense and settling in on defense and the girls did that,” said Cheverus coach Bill Fenton. “I’m really proud of these girls. They’ve come such a long way this season and we have too as coaches.”
Friday, the Stags took part in the semifinal round for the first time since 2014 when they went to top-ranked Messalonskee, the defending state champion. Cheverus hung tough with the Eagles, but ultimately went down to a 12-7 defeat despite two goals apiece from McElman and Terryn MacDonald, and finished the year 6-8.
Eighth-ranked Portland was also eliminated by Messalonskee, but the Bulldogs gave the Eagles fits in last Wednesday’s quarterfinal round. Portland enjoyed leads of 4-1, 6-4 and 7-6 in the first half before Messalonskee rallied for a 9-7 advantage at the break. The Eagles seemingly put it away, going up, 13-7, in the second half, but the Bulldogs roared back before falling just short, 14-12. Catriona Moran and Isabella More both had three goals , but Portland ended the year 4-9.
In Class B South, Waynflete, the No. 5 seed, went to fourth-ranked Cape Elizabeth for the quarterfinals and led much of the way. The Flyers were on top, 5-3, at halftime, then took a 6-5 lead on Ya Stockford’s goal with 16:37 left, but the Capers scored the final five goals to win, 10-6, and end Waynflete’s season at 7-6. The loss marked the first time the Flyers didn’t reach the semifinal round of the tournament.
“It just didn’t go our way,” Waynflete coach Cathie Connors lamented. “We did our best. We played to the end and I’m proud of them. It’s a very young team and I’m psyched for the years to come.”
Cheverus freshman Emma Gallant stole the show at the outdoor track New England championship meet in Norwell, Massachusetts Saturday. Gallant won the girls’ 100 with a time of 24.81 seconds. She also joined Katelyn Gendron, Emma White and Emily Turner on a fourth-place 4×400 relay team (3 minutes, 58.96 seconds) and teamed with Caroline Ford, Turner and White to place 10th in the 4×100 relay (49.69). White finished seventh in the long jump (17 feet, 5.25 inches). Turner came in 12th in the 400 (58.63).
The Cheverus boys placed Sean Tompkins 17th in the 100 (11.57) and Mike O’Brien 24th in the triple jump (41-00.50). The Stags’ 4×400 relay team of Owen Burke, O’Brien, Will Peterson and Tompkins did not finish.
Deering’s Annah Rossvall was 21st in the girls’ 300 hurdles (48.74). The Rams’ 4×400 relay team of Caitlin Lally, Gaia Zampieri, Nicole Whipkey and Rossvall finished 23rd (4:33.44). Their 4×800 squad (Lucy Tumavicus, Grace Tumavicus, Elizabeth Erbe and Whipkey) placed 27th (10:25.02).
Deering’s boys were paced by Ezra Chapola, who was 17th in the triple jump (42-4.5). The Rams’ 4×800 relay team (Yahya Nure, Jerry Mixangelo, Masho Gabremikael and Alec Troxell) came in 22nd (8:23.02). Deering’s 4×400 relay squad (Travis Soule, Mason Kaserman, Hisham Ramadan and Chris Irakoze) was 25th (3:34.34).
Maine Girls’ Academy Samantha Witkowski did not score in the girls’ pole vault.
Waynflete’s Abby Pipkin was 25th in the girls’ 800 (2:23.02).