WESTBROOK—Tuesday’s regular season finale between the two best teams in Western Class A, the (entering the game) No. 1 Westbrook Blue Blazes and No. 2 Cheverus Stags, couldn’t be decided in seven innings.
The Blue Blazes rallied in the seventh to tie it up, but the Stags’ offense proved to be more dominant on the day and scored four runs in the top of the eighth to win 6-2. With the tough road victory, Cheverus appears to be the top seed for the upcoming playoffs, something the Stags have never been. Westbrook will likely be No. 2, but will have to wait the release of the final standings.
Even worse than the loss of the game could be the potential loss of Westbrook senior pitching ace Scott Heath, who started the game on the hill, but left in the second inning with elbow pain.
“He’s never been sore with the elbow,” said Westbrook coach Mike Rutherford. “He was a little bit sore after the Deering game (May 21st), that’s why we skipped a start. He felt good warming up today and he just felt a twinge in the first inning and it got worse.”
Heath appeared to be off a bit from the get go. He gave up back-to-back singles to Nic Lops and Peter Potthoff in the first inning, and Nick Melville hit a hard line drive which resulted in a 4-6 inning-ending double play.
Joey Royer led off the second inning and reached on an error by second baseman Zach Collett. Tyler Flaherty then worked a walk. Immediately after the walk, Heath called over Rutherford, who didn’t waste much time pulling the lefty.
“He said he hurt it in the first inning and I think he went out and tried to fight it (in the second),” said Rutherford. “If Scotty takes himself out, you know he’s hurt. That’s not him.”
Senior Sean Murphy, who was not expected to pitch at all, then entered the game and got as much time as he wanted to warm up, while Heath went out to rightfield.
With two runners on and no outs, Jack Bushey stepped up to the plate and hit a hard grounder up the middle that shortstop Zach Gardiner fielded with a ranging dive and athletic flip to Collett to record an out and keep Royer from scoring for the moment. However, senior Peter Gwilym promptly drove a deep sacrifice fly to centerfield to tie the game at 1-1.
The Blue Blazes got a run in the top of the first inning when Joe Quinlan scampered home on a Harry Ridge wild pitch.
Both Murphy and Ridge pitched very efficiently and quickly while throwing minimal pitches.
“I was just trying to throw first pitch strikes, that’s the main thing,” said the lefty Ridge. “Once I got ahead I just tried to pound the zone.”
Ridge went six-plus innings on just 75 pitches, allowing just three hits, three walks, and two strikeouts.
The Stags manufactured another run in the top of the fifth inning to go ahead, 2-1.
Gwilym led off with a soft dinker into rightfield and was bunted to second by junior Spencer Cooke. Junior Louie DiStasio then hit a fly ball to right deep enough to advance Gwilym up to third base with two outs. Lops was then hit by a pitch and Peter Potthoff fisted a ball into shallow leftfield for an RBI to put Cheverus on top.
The Blue Blazes’ powerful bats were kept in check the entire game by Ridge. However, Westbrook wouldn’t go down softy, as they put together a rally in the bottom of the seventh.
Murphy led off with a walk and Cheverus coach Mac McKew brought in freshman pitcher Mitchell Powers for relief.
“Ridge pitched a great game. He’s done that all year. His ERA was .6 coming into the game,” said McKew. “He’s a little irked at me for taking him out, but I thought the matchup was better.”
Powers promptly rose to the occasion and struck out Zach Gardiner looking on an outside fastball. Next was Sam Stauble, who hit a seemingly harmless grounder, but it was bobbled by third baseman Tyler Flaherty, putting the tying run on second base with only one out. Jake Gardiner then followed with a hit up the middle bringing home Murphy to tie the game 2-2 and snag the momentum.
Looking to go for the win, Adam Begos grounded into a 3-6-1 double play in which Powers alertly covered first base and made an impressive stretch to send the game into extra innings.
“Powers is a very composed and very baseball savvy kid,” said McKew. “Just to be over there to cover first after Royer got the first half of that shows you that he knows how to play the game.”
The Stags, despite just losing the lead, came out hard in the top of the eighth, sending nine batters to the plate.
Potthoff singled to centerfield and Melville bunted him up to second. Royer drew an intentional walk and then Flaherty drew a walk to load the bases with one out. Bushey delivered a sacrifice fly to centerfield to bring home Potthoff for what proved to be the winning run, but the Stags weren’t done. Pinch hitter Ryan Casale hit a grounder to Gardiner at shortstop, who was out of position due to the runners, and the throw airmailed Stauble at first, bringing in Royer to make it 4-2 Cheverus. Cooke then hit a single up the middle to bring in two more runs to cap the scoring at 6-2.
“We could have wilted after letting them tie the game like that, but we came out and put a four spot on them,” said McKew. “And that’s the way you can you respond. That’s the only way you can respond.
“We know we have a good team here. The league’s going to be tough because there is so much good pitching. The first round game is going to be tough.”
Westbrook was unable to rally in the eighth.
Murphy pitched a very solid game overall, despite the score. He pitched seven innings, allowing only two earned runs, scattering six hits, two walks (one intentional), one hit batsman, and four strikeouts.
“He kept us in the game,” said Rutherford. “We had a chance to win it with one out in the seventh with a man on second base.
“We can’t score two runs. We’ve got to out-hit teams sometimes and it just didn’t happen today.”
Powers improved to 3-0 on the year while Murphy fell to 4-2.
Gwilym scored two runs for Cheverus. Potthoff added three hits and a run. Royer had two hits and scored two runs.
Cheverus and Westbrook will face off again on Saturday in the league title game.
The Western A playoffs start Thursday, June 9, with the quarterfinal round.
Cheverus junior Harry Ridge started and pitched six strong innings for the Stags.
Cheverus junior shortstop Louie DiStasio ranges far to his left to keep a groundball in the infield.
Cheverus senior Nic Lops is hit by a pitch.
Cheverus senior Jack Bushey slides safely into second base as Westbrook senior Zach Gardiner loses the ball as he brings his glove down to apply the tag.
Cheverus freshman Mitchell Powers delivers a pitch. Powers worked the final two innings to earn the win.
Cheverus senior Peter Gwilym (left) and freshman Mitchell Powers celebrate after Gwilym scored an insurance run during the decisive eighth inning of Cheverus’s 6-2 road win over Westbrook.
More photos below.
C- 010 101 04- 6 9 2
W- 100 000 10- 2 5 4
WP- Powers (3-0)
LP- Murphy (4-2)