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Cheverus senior catcher Griffin Watson, left, is congratulated by junior first baseman Andrew DeGeorge after scoring a run during the Stags’ 2-1 home win over Biddeford Thursday.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
B- 000 000 1- 1 7 1
C- 100 010 x- 2 4 1
Ray flew out to right, Watson scored.
St. John singled to left-center, Watson scored.
Couture grounded out to short, Lavigne scored.
C- St. John, Watson
C- Watson 2
C- Ray, St. John
C- St. John
Left on base:
Springer and Petit; MacDonald and Watson
Springer (L, 3-3) 6 IP 4 H 2 R 2 ER 4 BB 4 K
MacDonald (W, 2-2) 7 IP 7 H 1 R 1 ER 0 BB 5 K
PORTLAND—At the start of the day Thursday, Cheverus’ baseball team was on the outside looking in at the Class A South playoff field.
By Thursday evening, the Stags had moved from 13th to ninth place and suddenly, their future is looking is bright.
Cheverus hosted Biddeford, a team that began the day higher in the standings, and thanks to a superb pitching performance from senior Conner MacDonald, steady defense, as well as offensive production from senior catcher Griffin Watson and senior rightfielder, Maxx St. John, the Stags came away victorious.
Watson led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, went all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt, then scored on a sacrifice fly from junior shortstop Justin Ray for the game’s first run.
MacDonald made that hold up until the bottom of the fifth, when Watson singled and came home on a two-out single from St. John for a 2-0 advantage.
The Tigers made things interesting in the seventh, producing three straight hits, then scoring a run on a ground ball, but MacDonald fanned senior catcher Curtis Petit to end it, as Cheverus prevailed, 2-1.
The Stags won their third game in a row, improved to 6-5 and in the process, dropped Biddeford to 6-5 as well.
“It’s nice to beat a team ahead of us,” said Cheverus coach Mac McKew. “We were the first team on the bubble going into today, so hopefully things improve from a Heal Points perspective with this one.”
Cheverus breezed through its regular season schedule a year ago, losing only once, so making the playoffs and earning a high seed wasn’t a concern. This spring, however, the Stags started slowly and are playing catch-up, as they look to qualify for the postseason for the 10th straight year.
Cheverus opened with a 5-2 home loss to Gorham in an error-prone affair. The Stags then got in the win column with a 10-0 (five-inning) victory at Sanford before losing to visiting Thornton Academy (4-2), at Falmouth (3-1) and at Windham (3-1). After downing visiting Westbrook (11-1, in six-innings) and host Bonny Eagle (6-3), Cheverus fell at home against South Portland (8-0). Monday, the Stags downed visiting Kennebunk (10-6) and Wednesday, they dominated host Deering (14-0, in five-innings).
Biddeford, meanwhile, started with three straight wins: 5-3 over visiting Marshwood, 6-4 at Gorham and 8-3 over visiting Sanford. After an 11-1 (five-inning) loss at South Portland, the Tigers handled visiting Westbrook (12-2) before losing at Noble (5-3) and at home to Thornton Academy (3-0). After a 13-3 (five-inning) win at Deering, Biddeford was blanked by visiting Portland, 4-0, then defeated host Massabesic (8-1) Saturday in its last outing.
Last year, the Stags got a one-hit gem from Jared Brooks, who also homered, in an 8-1 victory at Biddeford.
Thursday, on a very pleasant 68-degree afternoon, Cheverus beat the Tigers for the third straight time in a game that took just 76 minutes.
MacDonald made quick work of Biddeford in the top of the first, getting sophomore third baseman Kurtis Edgerton to fly out to right, junior shortstop Carter Edgerton to bounce out to third with junior first baseman Andrew DeGeorge making a nice scoop for the out, and senior second baseman Logan Magnant to chase strike three.
The Stags then took the lead in the bottom half, thanks in large part to Watson’s baserunning acumen.
Watson led off and hit the first pitch from Tigers senior starter Brice Springer to right for a single. Senior centerfielder Cam Dube then bunted to third and was thrown out at first, but on the sacrifice, Watson rounded second and took off for third, reaching safely. That loomed huge, as Ray hit a fly ball to right and Watson was able to come home on the sacrifice fly for the lead.
Watson has taken over behind the plate for the Stags and made a huge difference.
“We struggled early, so we made a change behind the plate,” McKew said. “It’s not what we had planned, but the catcher sets the tone. Watson is a great athlete. He brings the energy. He’s a solid team player. We’re 5-2 since we made the move. He’s brought stability.”
St. John followed with a double down the leftfield line, but Springer fanned DeGeorge swinging to end the frame.
“That first run was huge,” MacDonald said. “That was a big confidence booster.”
MacDonald started the top of the second by catching senior centerfielder Evan Paquette looking at strike three with a nice curveball, getting junior leftfielder Hunter Demeule to ground to second, where again DeGeorge made a nice scoop at first and after hitting senior rightfielder Colin Lavigne with a pitch, MacDonald ended the inning by getting senior first baseman Owen Sullivan to ground to short with DeGeorge making yet another nice scoop.
After junior designated hitter Hayden O’Donnell led off the bottom of the frame by grounding back to the mound, Springer walked both sophomore third baseman Chris Cimino and junior leftfielder Nathaniel Lapoint, but after junior second baseman Tanner Laflamme grounded out to short with the runners moving up, Watson was walked intentionally to load the bases for Dube, who flew harmlessly to center to end the threat.
In the top of the third, MacDonald got senior designated hitter Ian Couture to look at strike Petit to ground out to short. Kurtis Edgerton then produced the Tigers’ first hit, a single to center, but Carter Edgerton bounced out to third for the third out.
Ray led off the bottom half with a fly ball to center. After St. John drew a walk, DeGeorge flew out deep to left and St. John was thrown out trying to steal.
Magnant led off the fourth by chopping the ball to third and Cimino made a low throw, but again, DeGeorge made the scoop for the out. Paqette followed with a single to left-center, but Demeule and Lavigne both grounded out to Ray at short to end it.
Cheverus got a break to start the bottom of the fourth, as O’Donnell’s ground ball got through the legs of Kurtis Edgerton at third. Cimino sacrificed him to second, but Lapoint looked at strike three and Laflamme popped out to short.
MacDonald preserved the lead in the top of the fifth. After Sullivan flew out deep to left, Couture singled to left. Freshman pinch-runner Ashton Crowell was sacrificed to second, but he was stranded as MacDonald fanned Kurtis Edgerton.
The Stags then got an all-important insurance run in the bottom of the fifth.
Watson again got things started with a single up the middle and again, Dube sacrificed him up. Ray popped out foul to first, but St. John came through in the clutch, lining a single to left-center to easily score Watson for a 2-0 lead.
“I focused on my approach and got my rhythm down on deck,” St. John said. “I went up with confidence that I would kill it. I just had to get him in.”
“We have to play small ball,” said McKew. “We’re not a great hitting team. We had to manufacture runs and we did today. Both of Cam’s bunts led to runs. Griffin is an intelligent base runner. He reads it. Maxx had the big hit.”
DeGeorge flew out to left, but Cheverus had a little breathing room.
MacDonald retired Carter Edgerton on a ground ball back to mound leading off the sixth, but Magnant singled to right to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Paquette, who grounded to third. Cimino threw to first for an out and on the play, Mangant stopped short of second before making a last-ditch effort to get to the bag, but DeGeorge threw him out to complete the inning-ending double play.
The Stags went quietly in the bottom half, as O’Donnell chased strike three, Cimino grounded out to second and Lapoint struck out as well.
Cheverus then completed the victory in the seventh, but not without some anxious moments.
Demeule led off with a single to right. Lavigne then reached on an infield single to third, but Demeule was picked off second on a throw from DeGeorge for the first out. That loomed huge, as Sullivan followed with a single to right. After a MacDonald pickoff throw got away, the Tigers had runners at the corners and a slow roller to short from Couture resulted in an out, but Lavigne came home on the play to cut the deficit to one. Sullivan took second on the throw, putting the game in the hands of Petit. Petit fouled off several pitches, but MacDonald was finally able to strike him out swinging to bring an end to the Stags’ 2-1 victory.
“I wanted to finish,” MacDonald said. “I need to finish what I started. I saw on the previous curveball that he was a little bit early, so I had to bury one, see if he’d go for it and he did. I use (my curveball) as a first pitch strike a lot. I’m confident in that pitch.”
“Our corner infielders played outstanding defense,” McKew said. “We threw behind runners, held runners, game-changing stuff. I’m happy. It was our best game of the year.”
MacDonald evened his record at 2-2 with a masterful effort. He allowed just one run on seven hits in a complete game effort. MacDonald didn’t walk a batter and struck out five.
“The command and velocity were there today,” MacDonald said. “I felt good as soon as I warmed up.”
“Conner was phenomenal,” said St. John. “It’s the best game I’ve seen him pitch. He had great energy.”
“It was the best game of Conner’s career,” McKew said. “He came up big in the 3 spot in the rotation last year, but this was great. He shut down a good team that was hitting over .300. Our pitching has been outstanding all year. MacDonald, (junior Jack) Mullen and Ray have kept us in all but one game. They’ve been a solid three-man rotation.”
St. John and Watson paced the offense with two hits apiece. Watson scored both runs. Ray and St. John had RBI.
Cheverus left six runners on base.
For Biddeford, Lavigne scored the run and Couture had the RBI. The Tigers left five runners on.
Springer was the hard-luck loser, giving up two earned runs on just four hits in six innings. He surrendered four walks and struck out four.
Biddeford (now 11th in the Class A South Heal Points standings) hosts Bonny Eagle Friday and welcomes Kennebunk Tuesday. The Tigers sandwich games at Windham and Falmouth around a home tilt versus Scarborough to close the regular season.
Cheverus is back in action Friday, when it plays at Noble. A huge home test against Portland looms Tuesday before the season ends with games at Scarborough and Massabesic sandwiched around a home tilt versus Marshwood.
“We’re meshing more than we did early in the season,” St. John said. “We’ve figured it out.”
“We’ll keep pounding the ball,” said MacDonald. “We know we have really good pitching. We just have to hit.”
Cheverus senior pitcher Conner MacDonald goes into his delivery. MacDonald allowed just one run as he improved to 2-2 on the season.
Cheverus senior Maxx St. John is caught stealing, as he’s tagged out by Biddeford’s Logan Magnant.
Cheverus junior shortstop Justin Ray fields a ground ball.
Cheverus junior second baseman Tanner Laflamme tags out Biddeford’s Logan Magnant.
Cheverus senior Griffin Watson races home with a first inning run.
Cheverus sophomore third baseman Chris Cimino, left, is congratulated by junior first baseman Andrew DeGeorge after making a nice defensive play.