Cheverus holds off TA for signature win

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Cheverus junior pitcher Jack Casale delivers a strike. Casale went the distance to earn the win.

Hoffer photos.

Cheverus freshman Tre Fletcher takes a mighty swing during Wednesday’s game versus Thornton Academy. Fletcher’s fourth inning home run put the Stags ahead to stay en route to a 4-3 victory.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Cheverus 4 Thornton Academy 3

TA- 000 101 1- 3 9 1
C- 001 120 x- 4 9 1

Bottom 3rd
LaPoint hit sacrifice fly to center, Watson scored. 

Top 4th
Wescott singled to right-center, Hall scored.

Bottom 4th
Fletcher homered to left-center, Fletcher scored.

Bottom 5th
Vallee singled to center, Watson scored. Vallee scored on fielder’s choice.

Top 6th
LePauloue singled to right-center, Reny scored.  

Top 7th
Lambert doubled to left-center, Chessie scored. 

Repeat hitters:
TA- Searle-Belanger 3, Lambert
C- Casale 3, LaPoint, Watson

Runs:
TA- Chessie, Hall, Reny
C- Watson 2, Fletcher, Vallee

RBI:
TA- Lambert, LePauloue, Wescott
C- Fletcher, LaPoint, Vallee 

Doubles:
TA- Chessie, Hall, Lambert

Home run:
C- Fletcher 

Left on base:
TA- 8
C- 7

Chessie, Coleman (6) and Hall; Casale and McCarthy

TA:
Chessie (L, 1-1) 5 IP 8 H 4 R 4 ER 1 BB 4 K 1 Balk
Coleman 1 IP 1 H 0 R 1 BB 0 K 

C:
Casale (W, 2-2) 7 IP 9 H 3 R 3 ER 2 BB 3 K 1 WP 1 Balk

Time: 1:52

PORTLAND—It isn’t often that a signature victory doubles as a palate-cleansing win, but that’s exactly what Cheverus’ baseball team accomplished Wednesday afternoon at Kevin MacDonald Memorial Field.

The Stags hosted Thornton Academy in a pivotal late-season showdown and they went into the game not only in pursuit of Heal Points, but they also hoped to avenge a painful loss from last month, when a seventh inning lead slipped away in Saco.

Cheverus took care of business on a day which ran the gamut of weather conditions, but it didn’t come easily.

Stags junior starter Jack Casale worked out of a first inning jam, retired the Golden Trojans in order in the second, then worked around a two-out single in the third.

In the bottom of the inning, the Stags took advantage of a balk from Thornton Academy freshman starter Luke Chessie and grabbed a 1-0 lead on senior designated hitter Jensen LaPoint’s sacrifice fly.

But as the weather started to turn, so did Cheverus’ fortunes. 

With raindrops falling. the visitors pulled even in the top of the fourth, as junior catcher Brandon Hall doubled with two outs and junior second baseman Chase Wescott followed with a single to tie the score.

In the bottom half, Stags freshman sensation Tre Fletcher crushed a ball through the raindrops that didn’t land until it cleared the fence above the hill in deep left-center for a 2-1 lead.

The game was delayed for five minutes due to a quick shower, but it resumed and in the bottom of the fifth, senior third baseman Chris Vallee singled in sophomore shortstop Griffin Watson to extend the lead and a fourth run scored on a fielder’s choice.

The Golden Trojans got a run back in the sixth, as senior rightfielder Josh LaPauloue hit a two-out RBI single and Casale, despite throwing over 100 pitches, returned to the mound for the seventh.

In the previous meeting, Casale came out for the seventh, clinging to a lead, and couldn’t hold it. This time, he did.

Barely.

With one out, senior shortstop Ben Lambert laced an RBI double to cut the deficit to one, but Casale slammed the door, inducing a fly ball and a pop up and Cheverus exhaled and celebrated a 4-3 victory.

The Stags got three hits and a strong pitching effort from Casale, two hits and two runs scored from Watson and improved to 7-6, dropping the Golden Trojans to 10-3 in the process.

“It’s the first signature win of the year,” said Cheverus coach Mac McKew. “Unfortunately, it’s the 13th game of the year, but we desperately need it. We need Heal Points and they’re worth a lot.”

Big step

Thornton Academy has been excellent all year. The Golden Trojans won their first six games: 9-2 at Deering, 3-2 at home over Cheverus, 22-2 at Sanford, 4-0 at home over South Portland, 7-0 at Bonny Eagle and 16-4 at home over Noble. After a 5-1 loss at Westbrook, Thornton Academy beat visiting Windham (4-1), host Marshwood (8-2) and visiting Portland (5-4, in nine innings). After a 13-7 home loss to Gorham, the Golden Trojans rolled at rival Biddeford Saturday, 10-1.

After downing host Windham in the opener, 9-1, the Stags lost at Thornton Academy, 3-2. Shutout wins over visiting Sanford (7-0), visiting Marshwood (3-0) and host Massabesic (5-0) followed. After a 1-0, eight-inning home loss to South Portland, Cheverus let a 4-0 lead slip away at Bonny Eagle and lost, 9-5. An 8-1 home loss to Portland dropped the Stags to .500, but they bounced back to beat visiting Westbrook, 6-3. After losing at Scarborough (6-4), Cheverus won at Noble, 5-2. In the Stags’ last outing, last Friday at Deering, the Rams pushed across a run in the bottom of the seventh to beat Cheverus, 4-3.

In the April 27 meeting, the Stags took a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the seventh inning, but the Golden Trojans scored twice to win it. Chessie was the hero with three hits and three RBI and a strong start from Casale went for naught.

Wednesday, under 63-degree overcast skies, Casale and his teammates earned a timely dose of revenge.

Casale got Chessie to fly out to right on a 3-2 pitch to start the game, but sophomore third baseman Brogan Searle-Belanger blooped a single to center and Lambert followed with a hit-and-run single to center. Searle-Belanger got the third and Lambert reached second on the throw. Thornton Academy couldn’t take the lead, however, as Casale got junior first baseman Evan Balzano to chase strike three and also fanned junior designated hitter Adam Gibbons to end it.

The Stags had a great chance to go on top in the bottom half, but also failed to take advantage.

Casale led off with a single to center on a 3-2 pitch, but Vallee popped out to short. LaPoint beat out an infield single to third and junior first baseman Jared Brooks walked to load the bases. That set the stage for Fletcher, but he flailed at strike three and with junior catcher Logan McCarthy at the plate, a Chessie offering got past Hall, but not far enough, as Hall pounced on the ball and threw to Chessie, who tagged out Casale at the plate to end the inning.

Casale got a great play from Brooks at first to start the second inning, as he stabbed Hall’s sharp grounder and threw to Casale covering for the first out. Wescott then popped out to short and LePauloue flew to center.

Chessie had his best inning in the bottom half, getting McCarthy to ground out to short and fanning senior leftfielder Josh Veroneau and senior rightfielder Alex Jacobs.

Senior centerfielder Zach Ham led off the third by grounding to short and Chessie’s bid for a hit was denied by Jacobs in right, who made a sprawling catch for the second out. Searle-Belanger singled off the glove of senior second baseman Jon Bernier, but Lambert flew deep to right to end the threat.

Cheverus broke through in the bottom half.

Watson led off with an infield single to the hole and Casale followed with a single between short and third. Chessie then balked the runners up a base, but Vallee popped out to second. LaPoint wasn’t about to let the Stags squander another chance, however, as his fly ball to center was plenty deep enough to score Watson with the game’s first run. Brooks then grounded to Lambert at short, who made a nice stab before throwing across the infield for the final out.

Raindrops began to fall in the fourth and the visitors pulled even, thanks to some two-out thunder.

Balzano bounced out to second and Gibbons struck out, but Hall doubled over the first base bag and Wescott singled to right-center to tie the score and he took second when Jacobs fumbled the ball for an error. Thornton Academy couldn’t produce the go-ahead run, however, as LePauloue bounced out to third.

Fletcher then produced the game’s biggest blow.

With rain coming down more steadily, Fletcher took a pitch, then took a mighty swing and his drive rose deep toward left-center. With Ham and junior leftfielder Ben Steva giving chase, the ball kept carrying and cleared the fence for a rarely seen MacDonald Field home run, giving Cheverus a 2-1 lead.

“I thought initially it was a pop fly, but it was raining, so I thought they might miss it and I sprinted as hard as I could,” Fletcher said. “I saw it bounce over the fence, so it felt nice. That was one at-bat this game where I didn’t try to hit a home run. I tried to hit a line drive and it carried.”

“Any home run is an energy boost,” Casale said. “Tre was slumping, but he got out of it. That gave us momentum and it carried us over.”

“(Tre) got it up in the air and it kept going and going,” McKew added. “He’s a very talented kid. Hopefully he’ll do it a few more times.”

With McCarthy at the plate, play was halted for five minutes due to rain, but the game quickly resumed and McCarthy singled to left-center. Veroneau then hit the ball hard, but it was lined right at Wescott at second, who recorded the first out, then threw to first to double up McCarthy. Jacobs struck out swinging to send the game to the fifth.

In the fifth, Ham tried to bunt his way on, but Casale got to the ball and threw to the first for the first out. Chessie grounded out to short, but Searle-Belanger produced his third hit, a seeing eye single up the middle. Lambert crushed the ball to right, but again, Jacobs was there to record the out to preserve the lead.

The Stags tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the frame.

Watson led off with his second hit, a single to center on a full-count pitch. Casale sacrificed Watson to second and Chessie’s wild pitch sent him to third. With the infield playing in, Vallee managed to steer a pitch up the middle for an RBI single and a 3-1 lead. LaPoint then singled through the hole to put runners at first and second. After Brooks flew out to right, Fletcher hit a grounder to Lambert at short. Lambert tried to beat LaPoint to the bag for a force out, but LaPoint got there first and on the play, Vallee didn’t stop running and beat the throw home. When it got away, LaPoint went to third and Fletcher took second.

“We had a lot of good hustle plays today,” McKew said. “Jensen hustled twice on the bases to create runs for us.”

McCarthy had a chance to break it open, but he flew out to left, keeping the score 4-1.

The Golden Trojans never say die and cut into their deficit in the sixth.

Balzano walked leading off and was replaced by junior courtesy runner Andrew Reny. Senior Andrew Coleman, who would come on to pitch in the bottom half, hit for Gibbons and flew out to center. A wild pitch moved Reny to second. Hall then flew deep to center, but Wescott walked and LePauloue came through with a clutch two-out RBI single to right-center to score Reny, making it 4-2. Wescott went to third and on the throw, LePauloue took second, putting the tying runs in scoring position, but Ham’s sharp ground ball that appeared ticketed to right to tie the score was instead snared by a diving Bernier, who threw to first to retire the side.

“Bernier’s play was probably a game-saver,” McKew said.

Coleman struck out Veroneau leading off the bottom half and Jacobs grounded out, but Watson walked and Casale beat out an infield hit. Vallee couldn’t add to the lead, however, as he grounded out to short to send the game to the seventh.

There, Cheverus had to endure some anxious moments.

Chessie led off with a deep drive to center that Fletcher appeared to have a bead on, but the ball got over his head for a double. Searle-Belanger flew to right, but Lambert crushed a double to left-center to score Chessie, cutting the deficit to 4-3, and putting the tying run in scoring position.

Casale and his teammates let the last game against the Golden Trojans get away, but they weren’t about to let it happen again.

Balzano hit a fly ball to center which Fletcher ran down and Coleman hit a foul ball by first which Brooks cradled and after a back-and-forth 112 minutes, the Stags celebrated a 4-3 victory.

“I felt deja vu, but I kept throwing strikes and trusted my defense,” Casale said. “They played well today and saved me a couple times. I came out last game and we ended up losing, so today I didn’t want to come out. We’ve had a couple losses we shouldn’t have, but today we overcame adversity.”

“It’s a huge win,” Fletcher said. “They beat us last game on a walkoff single and they got close again. I was sweating in the outfield, but we got it done.”

“With 103 pitches going into the seventh, the big question was if (Jack) should come out again,” McKew added. “I couldn’t have deja vu all over again. I said, ‘Jack, you own it.’ We could have made it easier on him.”

Casale evened his record at 2-2 after allowing three runs on nine hits in seven innings. He walked two, balked once, threw a wild pitch and struck out three batters.

“My fastball and curveball were good,” Casale said. “They caught up with my fastball in the seventh inning and hit the curveball. I pounded the zone and let them put it in play and we made plays.”

“Jack’s one of our veterans,” Fletcher said. “He’s a really good pitcher. He buckled down and finished the game strong.”

“(Jack) had both pitches going,” McKew added. “He’s a real competitor. He doesn’t necessarily outwardly show it, but inside, his heart is burning.”

Offensively, Casale had three hits and LaPoint and Watson had two apiece. Watson scored twice and Fletcher and Vallee touched home once. Fletcher, LaPoint and Vallee had RBI.

Cheverus stranded seven runners.

Thornton Academy got three hits from Searle-Belanger and a pair from Lambert. Chessie, Hall and Reny scored and Lambert, LePauloue and Wescott had RBI.

The Golden Trojans left eight runners on.

Chessie fell to 1-1 after giving up four earned runs on eight hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out four. Coleman pitched a scoreless inning of relief, giving up one hit and a walk.

No time left to lose

Thornton Academy is seeking a preliminary round bye and is jockeying with South Portland for the No. 2 spot behind Falmouth (the Golden Trojans are currently third). After hosting Sanford Thursday, Thornton Academy goes to Scarborough Saturday, then closes at home versus Massabesic Tuesday.

Cheverus (now 10th in the Class A South) hopes to keep the good times rolling Thursday when it hosts Biddeford. After going to Sanford Saturday, the Stags close at home versus Gorham Tuesday.

Cheverus is still hoping to move up and perhaps host a prelim.

“This is a huge confidence booster,” Fletcher said. “Every game, we go in thinking we’re going to win, but we haven’t won recently. To get this win is huge. Hopefully, we’ll keep it going.” 

“This is a turning point going into playoffs,” Casale said. “Hopefully we can build on it.”

“Hopefully we’ll take this momentum the rest of the way,” McKew added. “We’ll throw Jacobs tomorrow against Biddeford, then Gorham’s worth some (Heal) Points.”

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

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