Cheverus baseball reaches first regional final since '93; Deering, Waynflete ousted
The Cheverus baseball team partied like it's 1993 Monday afternoon when it beat South Portland to reach the Western Class A Final for the first time in 18 seasons.
The Stags, the top seed in the regional playoffs, eliminated No. 8 Thornton Academy, 5-2, in the quarterfinals. Then, after rain postponed Saturday's semifinal versus No. 5 South Portland to Monday, Cheverus took care of business again, winning, 8-2, in a game moved to The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.
That set up a No. 1 versus No. 2 regional final showdown Wednesday at 3 p.m. against preseason favorite Westbrook at St. Joseph's College in Standish.
Two other city teams weren't as fortunate.
Perennial powerhouse Deering, ranked third, suffered its first quarterfinal round setback since 1998 as a last-ditch rally fell just short in a 7-5 loss to No. 6 Marshwood.
Waynflete, ranked sixth in Western C, defeated No. 3 Wiscasset, 5-1, last Wednesday in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinal round for the first time since 1994. There, Saturday, at No. 2 Dirigo, the Flyers were decisively eliminated, 15-1, in five innings.
Superb year continues
Cheverus has enjoyed a magical school year when it comes to boys' sports. The football team won its first state championship in 25 years back in the fall and basketball reached the state game before falling to Bangor.
Now, the baseball team, which includes familiar names from those other champions, is doing its part.
The Stags, who surprised by going 14-2 in the regular season, edging preseason favorite Westbrook in the finale to earn the top seed in the region.
Cheverus originally hosted Thornton Academy Thursday, but with the Stags leading, 3-0, in the fourth, the contest was suspended and ultimately called off, necessitating starting it from scratch Friday.
There, the Stags trailed 1-0 early, but went ahead to stay on a wild pitch and an RBI single by senior Peter Potthoff. An RBI double from junior Tyler Flaherty and a two-run single from senior Nic Lops made it 5-1.
“Mentally, (the postponement) was a little tough,” said Lops. “We were sitting there for a couple hours just waiting and wondering if we were going to play. But coach preaches three things: character, effort and energy. It’s the type of thing that really tests your character, to come back and get it going on day two — to just kind of get rebooted. It’s not an easy thing to get up and do it all over again, but it’s what we do. It’s what we love to do. The more baseball, the better for me.”
Junior Louie DiStasio had some breathing room and the hurler did the rest, allowing just three hits (fanning seven) as Cheverus won, 5-2.
“(Louie) was motivated today,” said Stags coach Mac McKew. “He knew what he needed to do. He was 3-0 coming in. He was just solid — a solid pitcher and solid competitor. That’s what he does every time he goes out there.”
Saturday, Cheverus was supposed to host No. 5 South Portland (an upset winner over No. 4 Scarborough in its quarterfinal), but again, bad weather intervened and the teams played on Monday several miles south than expected.
In OOB, the Stags fell behind 2-0 early, but erupted for eight runs in the fourth.
Senior Joey Royer doubled to lead off. After Flaherty grounded out, senior Jack Bushey blooped a double. Royer only made it to third as he had to wait to see if the ball dropped. Junior Harry Ridge knocked home Royer and Bushey with a single, tying the game at 2-2.
Juniors Spencer Cooke and DiStasio followed with singles to load the bases. Lops hit a two-RBI single. Back-to-back walks to Potthoff and junior Nick Melville pushed another run across. Royer, up for the second time in the inning, singled to left to drive in Lops. After Flaherty struck out, Bushey singled to plate the final two runs, making it 8-2.
Royer did the rest on the hill, allowing just three hits and striking out 10 in his six innings. Freshman Mitchell Powers fanned the side in the seventh to end it.
“(Royer) hasn’t pitched in a month, other than two innings in the (league) championship game,” said McKew. “He threw 96 pitches, 62 strikes. Pretty impressive. His first pitch strikes were out of sight, too.”
“I was just going by feel,” Royer said. “Coach had a pitch count on me. When he visited me on the mound, he’d let me know my pitch count and ask me how I’m doing. I felt fine. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or what, but I felt great today. I wasn’t expecting to go that long today.”
Looking ahead to Wednesday, the Stags defeated Westbrook 6-2 in eight innings in the regular-season finale, then topped the Blue Blazes again in eight innings, 3-2, in the non-countable league championship game.
“Is it third time’s a charm, or you can never beat a team three times in one season?” said McKew. “We’re going with third time’s a charm. We look forward to it. You look at it and these are the two teams that should be in the finals.”
The matchup will be extra special for Royer, who hails from Westbrook and played with many of the Westbrook High seniors in the past — on the 2005 team that went to the Little League World Series and the 2008 team that finished as runners-up in the Babe Ruth World Series.
“We hang out all the time,” Royer said. “But we haven’t been hanging out lately.”
The Class A Final is Saturday at 2 p.m. at Morton Field in Augusta. If victorious, Cheverus will meet Lewiston (17-1) or Bangor (15-3).
Wait til' next year
Deering, the perennial championship contender, went 13-3 this spring under new coach Mark Sutton, good for the No. 3 seed. The Rams, like Cheverus, had their quarterfinal round game interrupted and postponed by bad weather. Unlike the Stags, Deering was trailing No. 6 Marshwood, 3-1, at the time, so it viewed the thunder and lightning as a repreive.
Friday, playing at the University of Southern Maine since Hadlock Field was unavailable, the Rams fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first and trailed 7-1 in the fifth. An RBI double from senior Nick Colucci got a run back and Deering produced a near-rally for the ages in the bottom of the seventh.
Down 7-2 with two outs and no one on, three straight hits (the last by senior Matt Bevilacqua) produced one run and a throwing error with the bases loaded scored two more and put the tying runs in scoring position. Senior catcher John Miranda was next, but he struck out looking and the season ended at 13-4 with a 7-5 loss.
"Marshwood did a good job executing.," said Sutton. "They got hits when they needed to. They're competitors. They don't think they're going to lose."
The Rams (13-4) went home faster than most expected and next year's team will have a dramatically different look.
"I'm only losing 10 out of 12," Sutton said, with a laugh. "Our JVs went 15-1 this year. Will that relate to next year? It's a good sign. We'll definitely be a different team."
In Western C, meanwhile, Waynflete built on last year's success and posted an 8-4 mark this spring, good for the No. 6 seed. The Flyers went to third-ranked Wiscasset last Wednesday and won a quarterfinal for the first time ever in Class C, 5-1.
Freshman Nik Morrill drove in the key run with two outs in the fourth inning to give Waynflete a 3-0 lead. In the field, senior Alex Hadiaris, freshman Joey Schnier and sophomore Andrew Butler all made multiple excellent plays and sophomore ace Charlie Laprade pitched a complete game to move his record to 6-2. Junior centerfielder Mitch Newlin had three hits.
Saturday's semifinal would prove to be a different story as the Flyers went to No. 2 Dirigo. Junior Sam Murphy had an RBI hit, but that's all the offense Waynflete could muster. Dirigo, meanwhile, put up 15 runs and ended the contest in the fifth inning by virtue of the mercy rule.
The Flyers finished 9-5 and should only get better going forward.
"It was an amazing season for our program," said Waynflete coach Steve Kautz. "After the loss, the kids circled up and listened to the just-graduated seniors talk about what it meant to them. It's weird, we just got beat, 15-1, yet that postgame meeting felt like a high point of the season. The seniors spoke to the team about how great it felt to finish strong last year, then go 8-4 this year and win a playoff game. All of this following their ninth and 10th grade years when we regularly got beat by the 10-run rule, which didn't happen once this year until the Dirigo game.
"It was a bummer to go down like that, we just couldn't hold together the pieces, but they are defending champs and the kids felt like the effort was there, but we were simply outplayed by the better team yesterday. We certainly feel that we gave it our all. Of course, we are thrilled with this season but we learned a lot from that Dirigo game about how we need to bring our 'A' game every day if we want to get to the next level.
"We're graduating five starters and we are going to feel that, but four of our top five hitters are returning and our pitching is young, so we plan to pick up right where we left off. After the game yesterday the seniors talked about how the young players brought a winning attitude to the team. Next year those young players will be the veterans and will be the leaders of the team. I look forward to watching them work."
Freelance writer Tom Minervino contributed to this story.