Cheverus blanks Deering to cap superb week

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Cheverus junior Maxx St. John is congratulated by seniors Jack Casale (22) and Jared Brooks after scoring a first inning run in the Stags’ 7-0 home win over Deering Saturday. Casale threw a three-hitter as Cheverus remained undefeated. 

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Cheverus 7 Deering 0

D- 000 000 0- 0 3 4
C- 300 013- 7 9 0

Bottom 1st
St. John singled to left, Watson scored. D. Casale singled to right, Brooks scored. Ray singled to left, St. John scored.

Bottom 5th
J. Casale scored on error.

Bottom 6th
J. Casale singled to right, Dube scored. Brooks doubled to right-center, Watson and J. Casale scored. 

Repeat hitters: 
C- Brooks, J. Casale 

Runs:
C- J. Casale, Watson 2, Brooks, Dube, St. John 

RBI:
C- Brooks 2, D. Casale, J. Casale, Ray, St. John 

Doubles:
C- Brooks, J. Casale 

Stolen bases:
C- D. Casale, J. Casale, Dube, Watson 

Left on base:
D- 2
C- 7

Pelletier and Lynch; J. Casale and McCarthy

D:  
Pelletier (L, 0-1) 6 IP 9 H 7 R 3 ER 1 BB 2 K 1 HBP

C:
J. Casale (W, 3-0) 7 IP 3 H 0 R 0 BB 10 K 

Time: 1:21

PORTLAND—In the span of a week, Cheverus’ baseball team went from being off to a good start to cementing its status as one of the elite powers in Class A South.

Saturday morning, the Stags punctuated their week to remember by avenging last year’s playoff ouster behind yet another pitching gem, this one from senior Jack Casale.

Hosting Deering, which was playing without senior standouts Colby Dame and James Sinclair, Casale got out of trouble in the top of the first thanks to his catcher, Logan McCarthy, who threw out a runner trying to steal, and in the bottom half, Cheverus’ bats erupted against Rams junior starter Joe Pelletier.

The Stags sent eight batters to the plate, five delivered hits and three runs scored, as junior designated hitter Maxx St. John, senior centerfielder Dom Casale and sophomore second baseman Justin Ray all had RBI singles to produce a 3-0 lead.

Casale was close to unhittable the rest of the way and while Cheverus continued to hit the ball on nose, it had nothing to show for it and the game remained 3-0 into the bottom of the fifth.

There, the Stags got a gift, as after Jack Casale doubled, he stole third and on the play, the throw got away, allowing Casale to cruise home on the error.

Cheverus got three more unearned runs in the sixth, as consecutive errors set the stage for an RBI single from Jack Casale and a two-run, opposite field double from senior first baseman Jared Brooks to end all doubt.

Casale then registered two more strikeouts in the seventh, catching junior third baseman Alex McGonagle looking to end it, and the Stags had themselves a 7-0 victory.

Casale threw a three-hit gem, didn’t allow a walk and struck out 10 and also had two hits, a run scored and an RBI as Cheverus improved to 9-0 on the season and dropped Deering to 4-4 in the process.

“It was a very successful week,” said Stags coach Mac McKew. “Maybe a few shades of the 2011 (state championship) season when we played five games in seven days. We were aggressive with the bats. We swung the bats well today. We were aggressive on the bases and we got great pitching.”

Different day, different hero

Cheverus has relied on chemistry and teamwork to achieve perfection so far this spring. Every game, someone else has produced the big hit, the big play in the field or has excelled on the mound.

The Stags started out with shutout wins over visiting Noble (6-0) and host Gorham (3-0), Cheverus then beat visiting Bonny Eagle (9-1) and eked out wins at Thornton Academy (3-2) and visiting Westbrook (10-9). This week began with a 4-0 blanking of host Marshwood and was followed by a 5-3 home victory over Windham and Thursday’s 4-0 shutout win at South Portland, in a game which saw Brooks toss a one-hitter.

Deering opened with a 1-0 home win over Sanford, then won at Thornton Academy, 4-2, and lost at home to Gorham, 10-1 and at Scarborough 12-3. After doubling up host Massabesic in a slugfest, 20-10, Deering fell at Biddeford, 3-1, and Thursday, beat visiting Westbrook by a 3-1 score.

Last year, the Rams edged the visiting Stags, 4-3, in the regular season, then outlasted them, 5-4, in eight innings, in a Class A South preliminary round contest played at the University of Southern Maine.

Entering play Saturday, Deering held a 12-6 edge dating back to the start of the 2004 season (see sidebar, below) and had won three straight in the series, but Cheverus went out and took care of business in all aspects of the game.

Jack Casale got Rams senior catcher Jack Lynch to ground out to third to start the game, but junior centerfielder Luc Harrison lined a single to center. Harrison then tried to steal second, but McCarthy delivered a strong, albeit low throw, and Ray dug it out and tagged Harrison out for the second out. Casale then got senior first baseman Riley Bartell to look at strike three.

Pelletier got in immediate trouble in the bottom half, as junior shortstop Griffin Watson hit the first pitch up the middle for a single. After Jack Casale popped out to short, Watson stole second and he moved to third when Brooks lined a single to left. St. John then came through with an RBI single the other way, to left, scoring Watson to give the hosts the only run they would need.

And they weren’t done.

After McCarthy flew out deep to right, Dom Casale singled to right to score Brooks and move St. John to third. Ray then lined a single to left to score St. John and even though senior rightfielder Rylan Benedict grounded out sharply to short to end the frame, Cheverus had a 3-0 lead.

“Our energy level went through the roof once we started hitting,” McCarthy said.

“We can hit 1 through 9 and we have guys on the bench who can hit too,” Jack Casale said.

Casale would make quick work of Deering in the second, getting sophomore shortstop Luke Hill to chase strike three, McGonagle to look at strike three and junior rightfielder Keegan Stanton to fly out to center.

The Stags continued to hit the ball hard in the bottom half, but after junior leftfielder Cam Dube led off with a single to left and stole second, Watson lined a shot back to the mound which Pelletier caught in self defense, Jack Casale lined out to second and Brooks hit a sharp grounder to short that resulted in the third out.

In the top of the third, Casale struck out both junior designated hitter Bobby Ridge and senior second baseman Jacob Gikas swinging, then got senior leftfielder Rob Dacey to ground to first with the pitcher covering to end the frame.

In the bottom half, St. John bounced out to second and McCarthy lined hard to left, but Dom Casale drew a walk and stole second. He’d be stranded, however, as Ray grounded out to short.

Casale got two quick outs in the fourth, as Lynch squibbed a slow roller to second and Harrison bounced out to third, but Bartell kept the inning alive with a single to center. Hill then flew out to right to retire the side.

Pelletier had his best frame in the bottom half, getting Benedict to fly out deep to center, Dube to fly out to center and Watson to fly to right, where Stanton made a sprawling grab.

The Rams could generate nothing in the fifth, as Casale got McGonagle to ground to third, Stanton to ground out to first and Ridge to chase strike three.

Cheverus then added a run in the bottom half.

Casale led off by going the other way and lining a double over the head of Dacey in left. With Brooks at the plate and Pelletier holding the ball, Casale broke for third and stole the base and Pelletier’s throw got away, allowing Casale to score to make it 4-0. Brooks then flew out deep to center, St. John looked strike three and after McCarthy reached on a two-base error when Gikas and Stanton didn’t communicate on a pop fly, Dom Casale popped out to short to end the frame.

Jack Casale started the sixth by catching Gikas looking at strike three. Dacey then grounded to short and Lynch looked at strike three.

In the bottom half, the Stags should have gone out in order, but Deering’s defense extended the inning and the hosts took advantage.

After Ray grounded out to third, Benedict reached on an error by Hill at short and Dube got on when McGonagle couldn’t handle his ground ball. Watson grounded into a force out at third, but Jack Casale singled to right to score Dube and move Watson to third and after Casale stole second, Brooks lined an 0-2 pitch to the fence in right-center for a double which easily scored both runners. St. John was hit by a pitch, but Pelletier avoided further trouble by striking out senior pinch-hitter Ben Hanna.

Casale then shut the door, with one minor hiccup, in the seventh.

After getting Harrison to look at strike three, Casale got Bartell to fly to center. Hill kept the game going by lining a single over Ray’s head into right-center, but Casale brought the curtain down in style, fanning McGonagle looking and in an efficient 81 minutes, Cheverus had a 7-0 victory.

Casale improved to 3-0 on the season with a three-hit shutout. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out 10. He was in command from start to finish, had great rhythm and relied on his teammates to handle the balls Deering did manage to hit.

“I hadn’t started in two weeks, but I pitched (in relief Tuesday) against Marshwood and I had confidence that my arm felt good,” Casale said. “Today, I had my slider and curveball working. It’s the first time I’ve had both breaking pitches effective this season. I felt like I was throwing a little bit harder. That helped keep them off balance.”

“Mixing up the pitches was definitely the key,” said McCarthy. “(Jack) had his curveball going and his slider especially. He has a lot of pitches to work with. He mixed it up. I get to sit back and relax and enjoy the ride as a catcher.”

“Casale was very efficient today,” McKew added. “He got maybe a few more strikeouts than normal. The bottom of their order was a little overmatched. They’re playing with a depleted squad. We’re not fools. We know we caught them at a good time and took advantage of it.

“The pitchers feed off each other, especially Brooks and Casale, who are senior captains. For guys like (sophomore Jack) Mullen, (junior Conner) MacDonald and Justin Ray, to be around them, hopefully they’re paying attention. They’ll get their chances to follow suit.”

McKew made sure to praise his catcher as well for his role in the team’s pitching dominance.

“Logan’s biggest defensive asset is his ability to block the ball,” McKew said. “A guy like Casale can bury that curve ball and get guys chasing and he has no fear to throw it in the dirt. (Logan’s) been a four-year varsity starter and he’s progressed nicely. He’s solid back there. He’s a wall. His pitchers have all the confidence in the world in him.”

The offense was paced by a single and a double apiece from Brooks and Jack Casale. Jack Casale and Watson both scored twice, while Brooks, Dube and St. John also touched the plate.

Brooks drove in two runs, while Dom Casale, Jack Casale, Ray and St. John also had RBI.

Dom Casale, Jack Casale, Dube and Watson all stole bases.

The Stags stranded seven runners and for the fourth game in a row, they didn’t commit a single error.

“The guys behind me made plays,” Jack Casale said. “I’m confident that if I miss a location, they’ll make a play. We haven’t made an error in four games. In my mind, Griffin is the best shortstop in the league. He’s made ridiculous plays all week, saving us pitches. Everyone else has made plays and the outfield has tracked down balls. If we have a bad game hitting, we’ll be OK because defensively we’re so sharp.”

“The game is very simple when you’re playing good defense and throwing strikes,” McKew said.

Deering mustered just three singles and left two runners on. Four errors proved fatal.

Pelletier fell to 0-1 after giving up seven runs (just three earned) on nine hits and a walk in six innings. He walked one, hit a batter and struck out two.

“We knew it would be a tough one today, especially against a guy like Jack, who’s been successful for a couple years in this league,” said Rams coach Josh Stowell. “He keeps getting better. He had a great rhythm going today. We hadn’t really dealt with that. That’s something we have to work on. He got in a groove and worked very efficiently today.

“Even if we had everyone today, we knew it would be tough. They’re the best team in the league for a reason. I was proud of how the guys battled. We were in it for awhile, but we couldn’t string any hits together on offense.

“I’m proud of Joe. He battled. He got his breaking ball over for strikes and kept them off-balance. They found holes early. I’m glad he stayed with it. A lot of guys lose confidence, but he kept battling and kept us in the game.”

More challenges

Neither team will have an easy time of it the rest of the way.

Deering looks to bounce back Tuesday at Windham. The Rams host Marshwood Thursday and South Portland Saturday. Trips to Sanford and Noble and home tilts versus Thornton Academy, Bonny Eagle and Portland close out the regular season schedule.

“We’re at the halfway point now,” Stowell said. “We’re .500, basically back at square one. We have an eight-game season. We have to try and win five, six games and go into the playoffs.”

Cheverus is at Noble Tuesday, hosts Sanford Thursday and has its next big showdown at Portland Saturday at Hadlock Field. Games at Westbrook and Biddeford, sandwiched around home tests versus Scarborough and Massabesic, also await.

“This shows how strong our team is,” McCarthy said. “We won four games with four different pitchers this week. It shows our pitching depth is pretty strong and our confidence is sky-high. We can’t sleep on our start. We have to keep grinding and we’ll take it one game at a time. I love this group. We’re having a blast.”

“We’ve got a good group of seniors and a good group of underclassmen,” Jack Casale said. “The pitching success has been a little bit of a surprise. We expected the bats to be there. We’ll keep focusing on the little things. If we keep playing perfect defense, we have a chance to keep coming away with wins.”

“We knew we had a strong team this year,” McKew added. “Our initial goal is to not have to play a prelim game. These guys are focused. I told them to take their mothers out tomorrow, then it’s on to Noble on Tuesday.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cheverus senior Jack Casale delivers a strike. Casale struck out 10 and was in command throughout.

Deering junior Joe Pelletier delivers a pitch. Pelletier went the distance, allowing three earned runs.

Cheverus sophomore second baseman Justin Ray tags out Deering junior centerfielder Luc Harrison on a first inning steal attempt. 

Cheverus senior catcher Logan McCarthy lines a hit.

Deering senior second baseman Jacob Gikas stretches in vain for a ground ball.

Cheverus senior Chandler Hartigan makes a throw to first.

Deering senior first baseman Riley Bartell applies the tag on Cheverus senior Jared Brooks on a play at first base.

Cheverus senior Jack Casale steals third as Deering junior third baseman Alex McGonagle reaches in vain for a wild throw. Casale would come home on the play to make it 4-0 in the fifth inning.

Recent Cheverus-Deering results

2016
@ Deering 4 Cheverus 3
Class A South preliminary round
Deering 5 Cheverus 4 (8) (@ USM) 

2015
@ Cheverus 10 Deering 5
Western A preliminary round
Deering 12 @ Cheverus 2 

2014
@ Cheverus 5 Deering 1 

2013
Cheverus 11 @ Deering 6 

2012
Cheverus 8 @ Deering 1

2011
@ Cheverus 15 Deering 7

2010
@ Cheverus 5 Deering 4
@ Deering 3 Cheverus 0
Western A quarterfinals
@ Deering 4 Cheverus 1

2009
Deering 8 @ Cheverus 5
Western B semifinals
@ Deering 7 Cheverus 3

2008
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 1 (8)

2007
Deering 10 Cheverus 1 (@ USM)

2006
@ Deering 4 Cheverus 2

2005
Deering 18 @ Cheverus 0 (5)

2004
@ Deering 3 Cheverus 0

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001.
Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net.
I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.