PORTLAND—Even though Cheverus’ baseball team has played nearly the equivalent of an extra game in the early going this spring, thanks to three extra inning contests, junior Jensen Lapoint had yet to take the mound.
That changed Thursday afternoon at Kevin McDonald Memorial Field where Lapoint made sure his debut was memorable, not only because of his arm, but because of his bat as well.
Hosting a Scarborough team which had been shut out in consecutive games, Lapoint posted four straight scoreless innings and helped the Stags score twice in the first inning and add a single run in the third.
While the Red Storm finally broke through in the fifth, Cheverus, which let a 3-0 lead slip away in an agonizing nine-inning loss at Westbrook Tuesday, didn’t buckle, adding two runs in the bottom of the fifth, then putting the game away with two more in the sixth as it went on to a 7-1 victory.
Lapoint threw a five-hitter to earn his first win and with the bat he doubled twice, scored two runs and even stole a base as the Stags improved to 4-1, handing Scarborough its fourth straight loss and dropping the Red Storm to 2-4 in the process.
“The boys were focused start to finish,” said Cheverus coach Mac McKew. “We didn’t have the killer instinct against Westbrook and we gave (that game) to them. That’s baseball, especially high school baseball. The key word today was resiliency. We needed to bounce back.”
Cheverus has given its fans their money’s worth so far this spring, going extra innings in three of four previous outings. The Stags opened with a 4-3 home win over Biddeford, in nine innings, then, after prevailing in regulation at Bonny Eagle (8-3), needed 11 innings to win at Sanford (4-3). Tuesday, Cheverus fell in nine innings at Westbrook, 4-3.
Scarborough won its first two outings: 5-3 at Westbrook and 10-5 at Noble, then dropped home decisions to Gorham (5-4) and preseason favorite Marshwood (5-0) before falling at Portland Tuesday, 3-0.
The Red Storm and Stags have played some memorable games over the years (see sidebar, below), including a 14-inning epic in 2011 and a regional final for the ages the following season. Last year, Scarborough won, 2-0, at Cheverus, as ace Ben Greenberg shut down the Stags with some help from his defense.
Thursday, the Red Storm hoped to improve to 11-4 all-time versus Cheverus, but the Stags carried the day.
Lapoint gave up a single to Scarborough’s leadoff hitter, junior shortstop Nick Lorello, in the first, but he got senior centerfielder Ian Corey to pop out to second, junior designated hitter Josh Reed to ground into a shortstop-to-second base force out and fanned senior first baseman Ben Irish.
Cheverus then got all the runs it would need in the bottom half.
Red Storm senior starter Nate Wessel got some help from junior rightfielder Jack Hughes, who made a great diving catch on a liner off the bat of Cheverus senior centerfielder Derek Hammond leading off. Sophomore catcher Logan McCarthy then looked at strike three, but Lapoint drew a walk on four pitches and took second on a Wessel wild pitch. Sophomore first baseman Jared Brooks then came through with a single to center, which scored Lapoint and put the hosts ahead to stay. Junior designated hitter Chris Vallee was next and he blooped a double which allowed Brooks to score all the way from first for a 2-0 lead. Junior rightfielder Jack Whaley grounded out to first, but the Stags had the jump.
“It’s big to get the early lead,” said Lapoint. “It’s crucial to get that first run across.”
Scarborough got its leadoff hitter on base again in the second, when senior leftfielder Zach Carreiro singled, but Carreiro was tagged out after sliding beyond second base on an attempted steal. Wessel then looked at strike three and Lapoint got Hughes to fly out deep to right to end the frame.
Wessel gave up a leadoff single to left off the bat of junior third baseman Alex Jacobs in the bottom half, but got senior second baseman Matt Gedaro to strike out, as he bunted strike three foul, then fanned senior leftfielder Chris Billings swinging and got Hammond to fly to center.
The Red Storm’s offensive frustrations continued in the third, as after junior third baseman Mitchell Wedge blooped a single over Jacobs’ head leading off, junior catcher Bayley Welsh struck out and after Wedge stole second and Lorello walked, Corey bounced to Gedaro, who threw to junior Jon Bernier for one out and Bernier threw to Brooks to complete the 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
Cheverus got a third run in the bottom half.
After McCarthy grounded out to third, Lapoint ripped a double over the lead of Carreiro in left. Brooks flew out to right, but with Vallee at the plate, Lapoint stole third and Welsh’s throw was high, over the head of Wedge, and Lapoint continued home for a 3-0 lead. Jacobs struck out for out number three.
Reed and Irish walked to start the fourth, but Carreiro fanned swinging, Wessel struck out looking and Hughes grounded out to short, capping the Red Storm’s 19th straight scoreless inning.
In the bottom half, in what proved to be Wessel’s finally inning on the hill, Gedaro led off with a walk, but he was thrown out at second after Billings’ pop up fell near first base. Hammond flew to right and after McCarthy reached on catcher’s interference and a wild pitch and stolen base put runners at second and third, Lapoint looked at strike three to keep Scarborough’s hopes alive.
The Red Storm finally broke through in the fifth.
Wedge flew out to right to lead off and Welsh grounded to third, but Jacobs’ throw was high and Welsh took second base on the error. Lorello walked, but Lapoint struck out Corey. The runners moved up on a double steal and Reed delivered Welsh with a single to left. On the throw home, Lorello and Corey moved into scoring position, but Irish looked at strike three.
Scarborough’s momentum quickly disappeared in the bottom half, as the Stags scored twice against Reed.
Brooks led off with a walk. Vallee flew out to center, but Whaley blooped a single. Jacobs was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but when Reed retired junior pinch-hitter Pat Sullivan on a pop up to short, he was on the brink of escaping. Billings was next and took one for the team, getting hit by a pitch to score Brooks for a 4-1 lead. Hammond reached on an error and freshman pinch-runner Griffin Watson came home with another run. McCarthy ended the frame with a deep fly out to center, but Cheverus had some breathing room.
In the sixth, Lapoint got senior pinch-hitter Wyatt Bridgham to fly to right and junior pinch-hitter John Timpson to fly to center. After Hughes beat out an infield single, Wedge popped to second for out number three.
The Stags added two more runs in the bottom half.
Leading off, Lapoint blooped a double to center. Brooks then singled sharply to left and an error put runners at second and third. Junior Josh Veroneau ran for Lapoint and came home when Vallee singled to left. Whaley’s fly ball to center scored Brooks for a 7-1 lead. Jacobs popped back to the mound and Gedaro looked at strike three.
Lapoint didn’t waste any time ending the game in the seventh, as he got Welsh to look at strike three, Lorello to ground out to first and Corey to fly to left to end it.
“Coach told us to keep the pressure on them and don’t let up,” Lapoint said. “That was a tough loss against Westbrook. We came out and got a good win today.”
While Hammond warmed up on a couple occasions, Lapoint managed to go the distance, allowing one unearned run on five hits and four walks. He struck out eight and threw one wild pitch.
“I felt pretty good,” said Lapoint. “Yesterday, I threw in the bullpen. The warm weather helped me out. I was facing a good team in Scarborough. I wanted to throw strikes and get the job done. I was waiting for my turn and made the most of it.”
“Jensen answered the bell,” McKew said. “We’ve had three extra inning games. Our pitching staff was taxed. He stepped up and was a mound presence. He threw 109 pitches and the inning they got their run, he should have been out of it. We base life on 15 pitches per inning. He’s a big boy. He’s a horse. He’s not frail by any stretch. He’ll bounce back.
“We preach that defense will win in this league. I like the depth of our pitching. I love our guys, (Senior Alex) Libby, Jacobs and Lapoint. I do think we have more depth than any other team in the SMAA, but we have to play consistent defense. That’s what cost us the Westbrook game.”
While Cheverus left 10 runners on, it did manage seven runs. Brooks, Lapoint, Vallee and Whaley all had multiple hits. Brooks scored three times, Lapoint touched home plate twice and Veroneau and Watson each had a run. Vallee had two RBI, while Billings, Brooks and Whaley all had one. Lapoint and McCarthy had stolen bases.
For Scarborough, Welsh scored the lone run and stole two bases, while Reed had the RBI. The Red Storm left seven runners on.
Wessel fell to 2-1 after giving up three earned runs on five hits and three walks in four innings. He struck out five and threw two wild pitches. Reed surrendered four runs (three earned), on four hits and a walk in his two innings. He hit two batters.
“Mix in a few errors, a few bad bounces, that’s kind of how our season has gone so far,” said Red Storm coach Ryan Jones. “Our pitching has been fantastic. That’s one component I haven’t been worried about. I know we have the talent. I watch these guys day in, day out. Sometimes it boils down to our approach when we’re hitting. The lack of hitting a cutoff guy, a walk there, an error, then one single can account for four runs based on everything that happened previously.”
Western A this spring appears to be overwhelmed with parity and every game brings a challenge. Both Cheverus and Scarborough expect to make the playoffs, but both have work to do.
The Red Storm return to action Saturday when Sanford pays a visit. After going to Massabesic Tuesday and hosting Noble Thursday of next week, Scarborough is home against Westbrook May 16.
“We’ll keep plugging,” Jones said. “We just have to stay positive moving forward. These guys don’t need to hear anything negative. Everyone will beat up on each other. We think we’ll make the playoffs.”
The Stags have a tough test Saturday at South Portland and its ace, Henry Curran.
“Bring him on,” Lapoint said. “He’s a good pitcher. He throws strikes, throws it low, hides it well. I feel like we’re very deep in pitching and hitting. We’re ready to get the job done. The chemistry’s great. We’ll keep rolling.”
“We have 10 minutes to celebrate, then we have to get back to work and think about playing a very good team on Saturday,” McKew said. “I’m sure we’ll see Curran. They’ll see Jacobs. That’s the same matchup as the playoff game last year (which South Portland won in extra innings).”
After hosting Noble Tuesday, Cheverus welcomes Thornton Academy Thursday of next week, then plays at Biddeford May 16.
Cheverus junior Jensen Lapoint delivers a pitch. Lapoint went the distance in his first start.
Cheverus sophomore Jared Brooks takes a throw as a Scarborough runner dives back safely into the bag.
Scarborough junior Nick Lorello takes a swing.
Scarborough senior starter Nate Wessel fires to the plate. Wessel fell to 2-1 on the season.
Cheverus sophomore Jared Brooks slides in with a run.
Cheverus junior Jensen Lapoint rounds third and heads for home.
Cheverus 5 Scarborough 0 (played at OOB)
@ Scarborough 2 Cheverus 0
Western A Final
Scarborough 7 Cheverus 5
Cheverus 4 @ Scarborough 1
Scarborough 6 @ Cheverus 3 (14 innings)
Scarborough 4 @ Cheverus 2
Scarborough 2 @ Cheverus 0
@ Scarborough 2 Cheverus 1 (8 innings)
@ Scarborough 12 Cheverus 2 (6 innings)
@ Scarborough 6 Cheverus 3
@ Cheverus 17 Scarborough 2
Western A preliminary
@ Cheverus 6 Scarborough 2
Cheverus’ baseball team celebrates its 7-1 win over Scarborough Thursday afternoon.