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Scarborough outlasts Cheverus in 14-inning marathon, 6-3

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Scarborough outlasts Cheverus in 14-inning marathon, 6-3

PORTLAND—Two of the top contenders in a topsy-turvy, extremely balanced Western Class A, Cheverus and Scarborough, played 14 innings Saturday morning/afternoon at Kevin McDonald Memorial Field.

No, a doubleheader wasn't on the schedule, the teams just simply couldn't get any separation in the latest of a series of crucial tests with major Heal Points on the line.

The Stags, who entered the game sizzling after a 15-7 home win over Deering Friday, took an early 3-0 lead and appeared en route to their 10th straight victory behind the pitching of junior ace Louie DiStasio, but the Red Storm, who had dropped two in a row coming in, rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth to ultimately force extra innings.

There, the brilliant relief pitching of Scarborough junior Joe Cronin and a great escape from a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the 10th, kept the game alive long enough for the Red Storm's bats to finally re-awaken in the top of the 14th, where sophomore second baseman Nick Bagley delivered a two-run single to finally break the deadlock. Scarborough added one more run in that frame and went on to a 6-3 triumph, improving to 11-4, while dropping Cheverus to 13-2.

"I was talking to the ump and he said he was ready for a hot bowl of soup in that last inning," said Bagley. "It was crazy."

Busy week

Scarborough began the week 9-2 and went on a roller-coaster ride. Tuesday night, the Red Storm were on an ultimate high after downing previously unbeaten Westbrook, 5-4. Thursday, however, they lost at home to Deering, 4-3, and Friday evening, playing on their home field, but as the road team in a makeup game versus Bonny Eagle, they lost again, 7-1.

Cheverus, meanwhile, was 10-1 at the start of the week and expected to host Deering Tuesday, but just a couple hours before game time, poor field conditions forced that game to be postponed. Wednesday, the Stags went to Bonny Eagle and won, 8-2. Thursday brought another victory, 3-2, over visiting Windham and Friday, the offense erupted versus Deering for the team's ninth win in a row.

Cheverus opened the season with a 4-1 win at Scarborough way back on April 25.

The Stags appeared en route to another triumph over the Red Storm Saturday in a game that was flying along before one of the longest games in memory ensued.

DiStasio walked Cronin to start the game, but struck out Bagley looking as Cronin was gunned down trying to steal by senor catcher Nic Lops. DiStasio then walked junior centerfielder Ben Wessel, but fanned senior third baseman Ryan Mancini to end the threat.

Scarborough freshman starter Ben Greenberg, who no-hit Massabesic back on May 5, hit Lops with one out in the bottom half, but induced senior rightfielder Peter Potthoff to ground back to the mound, which led to a double play.

DiStasio retired Scarborough in order in the top of the second.

In the bottom half, Cheverus rediscovered its hitting shoes.

Junior second baseman Nick Melville led off with a single to right, then stole second. After moving to third on a groundout by senior first baseman Joey Royer, Melville had to hold when junior third baseman Tyler Flaherty grounded to Cronin. Senior Jack Bushey would come through with two down, however, blasting a triple over Wessel's head for a 1-0 lead.

It was the first earned run Greenberg had allowed all spring.

After DiStasio set the visitors down in order in the top of the third, the Stags got things going again in their half, but shot themselves in the foot on the basepaths.

Junior centerfielder Spencer Cooke led off by drawing a walk. DiStasio then launched a blast to deep left-center that one-hopped the fence and skittered over for a ground rule double, putting runners at second and third. Lops followed with a ringing single to right-center, easily scoring Cooke, but DiStasio hesitated coming around third and got caught in a rundown. He was eventually tagged out at home by Greenberg, keeping it 2-0, although Lops moved to second.

Potthoff then reached on a fielder's choice, putting runners at first and third and with Melville at the plate, Greenberg balked, scoring Lops for a 3-0 advantage. Melville then grounded to third and Potthoff ran into an out. Royer grounded out to third and while Cheverus appeared in control, it missed an opportunity to perhaps put the game away.

The Stags wouldn't score another run.

DiStasio took a no-hitter into the top of the fourth and retired the first two hitters, but Mancini beat out a chopper to end the bid. DiStasio then got senior catcher NickMurphy to ground to Royer. DiStasio had to race over to cover the bag and made a leaping catch of Royer's throw before landing on the bag to retire the side.

In the bottom half, Bushey beat out an infield single, stole second and with two down, Cooke walked, but DiStasio lined out to center to keep it a 3-0 game.

Junior first baseman Conor McCann walked to start the fifth, but DiStasio caught senior rightfielder Kyle Kelley looking at a third strike and after McCann stole second, induced a pop-up off the bat of senior designated hitter Kevin Philbrick, then fanned senior leftfielder Jack Adams swinging.

In the bottom half, Lops beat out a bunt down the third base line leading off and with two out, Royer singled to right. That ended Greenberg's day. He allowed three earned runs on seven hits with two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch. He fanned two.

Enter Cronin, who was about to embark on arguably his team's finest pitching performance of the season. A remarkable statement considering Scarborough had back-to-back no-hitters earlier this month.

Cronin walked Flaherty to load the bags, but caught Bushey looking at strike three to keep it a 3-0 contest.

Then, in the top of the sixth, the Red Storm finally broke through.

Cronin started the inning with a relatively harmless ground ball to freshman Mitch Powers at short, but Powers' throw pulled Royer off the bag and Cronin was safe.

"That opened the gates up," lamented Cheverus coach Mac McKew. "Usually does. You can't afford errors, but we lost it in a number of ways."

That's all the visitors would need to get things started.

Bagley followed with a single to left. A DiStasio wild pitch moved the runners up and Wessel ripped a single to right to score both runners, making it a suddenly close 3-2 contest.

Mancini followed with a single to left, but when Murphy attempted to bunt the runners over, DiStasio pounced and fired a strike to Flaherty at third to erase Wessel. The Red Storm immediately regained momentum, when, with the runners on the move, McCann grounded a ball in textbook fashion through the vacated hole at second base and Mancini easily raced home to tie the score. The runners moved to second and third on the throw.

"Somebody gets a hit and then another guy and good things happen," Scarborough first-year coach Mike Coutts said. "That's what happened that inning."

Scarborough could have gone ahead and perhaps shortened this game by half, but senior Joe Viola hit back to DiStasio, who caught Murphy off the bag at third. Murphy attempted to score, but was thrown out by Flaherty. Philbrook then struck out and the Red Storm had tied the score, 3-3, but couldn't go ahead.

Neither team would score again for eight innings and nearly two hours.

In the bottom of the sixth, Cheverus got a one-out walk by Cooke, who alertly raced all the way to second when ball four went to the backstop, but DiStasio took a called third strike and Lops grounded out unassisted to first.

Scarborough attempted a rally with two down in the seventh as Bagley singled up the middle and Wessel walked, but Mancini flew out to right.

In the bottom half, Potthoff walked to get things started, but Melville took a called third strike. Potthoff then stole second and Royer looked to end it. He appeared to do that very thing when he lined a shot down the leftfield line, but the ball hooked perhaps a foot foul at the last minute. On the next pitch, Royer lined to Mancini at short and Potthoff was caught off the bag for a double play.

There wouldn't be many chances in extra innings. Cheverus would have a golden opportunity to end it in the 10th, but had a major squander. The Red Storm then finally got the job done in the 14th.

First, there was a whole lot of impressive pitching.

In the top of the eighth, McCann was hit by a pitch (on an 0-2 count) with one down, but DiStasio got Viola looking and Lops gunned down McCann trying to steal.

In their half of the eighth, the Stags could do nothing with the ever-more-impressive Cronin, who fanned Flaherty looking and blew third strikes past the swinging Bushey and Ridge.

On to the ninth, where Greenberg led off with a single to right, but DiStasio again cut down the lead runner on a bunt off the bat of Adams. Cronin then hit a slow ground ball to Flaherty. Flaherty's throw to second appeared to be late, but the runner was called out, giving rise to plenty of griping from the Scarborough side, which was still stewing over earlier questionable calls. Lops then threw out Cronin trying to steal and it was on to the bottom of the ninth.

There, Cooke bunted into the first out, but DiStasio beat out an infield single. That would prove to be the only hit Cronin would surrender. DiStasio was picked off by Cronin and thrown out at second and Lops bounced out harmlessly to second to send the game to the 10th.

DiStasio did not return to the mound in that inning. After nine innings of seven-hit, three-run, four-walk and nine-strikeout ball (with one wild pitch and a hit batter), he gave way to sophomore Ryan Casale. DiStasio went to shortstop and Powers was done for the afternoon.

Casale made an immediate impression, striking out Bagley and Wessel before getting Mancini to fly to right.

In the bottom of the 10th, the hosts had a golden chance to end the game, but couldn't execute.

Potthoff walked to start the inning. Melville then bunted to third. Mancini got a piece of the ball, deflecting it to Cronin, whose throw was wild and the Stags had runners at second and third with nobody out. Royer was walked intentionally to set up a force at home and that played out in ideal fashion as Flaherty hit a sharp grounder to Bagley. Bagley made a pretty stab on a short-hop and threw home to Murphy to force Potthoff.

"I timed it out so I got the nice short-hop," Bagley said. "Everyone was shouting, '4!,' so I threw it to the plate and got him out."

Cheverus still had the winning run at third with just one down, but with Bushey at the plate, McKew called for a squeeze. Bushey couldn't get his bat on the high pitch and Melville was hung out to dry. Murphy threw to Mancini at third, who tagged out Melville. Bushey then struck out and the game went on into the 11th.

Casale and Cronin both retired the opposition 1-2-3 in that inning, each striking out two hitters.

Scarborough got a two-out walk by Cronin in the top of the 12th, but Bagley flew out to center. In the bottom half, Cronin easily retired the side in order.

The 13th would not prove to be lucky for either side.

With one out in the top half, Mancini blooped a single to center, but Murphy flew out to center and McCann popped out to Casale.

Royer walked to lead off the bottom of the frame and was sacrificed to second by Flaherty. Senior Liam Hobbins came in to pinch-run, hoping to score the game-winner, but Bushey hit a fly ball to left that Adams dove to catch before catching Hobbins off the bag for a double play to end the inning.

Then, finally, in the top of the 14th, Scarborough broke through.

Sophomore pinch-hitter Brendan Hall got the rally started by blooping a single to center. Greenberg followed with a walk. Adams attempted to bunt the runners over, but struck out when he fouled back a two-strike pitch. Casale then got to the brink of escaping the jam by fanning Cronin, but Bagley came through, hitting a shot to left. Ridge dove in a bid to make the catch, but couldn't quite corral the ball. Hall and Greenberg scored easily and it was 5-3.

"I've been struggling at the plate this year," Bagley said. "I changed up my stride a little bit. I timed him up and hit it to left field. The guy dove and it got by him. It felt good."

"We struggled all game and Bagley's struggled, but he hit it hard," Cronin said.

If that wasn't enough, Wessel provided an insurance run with a bloop single to left and the Red Storm had a 6-3 lead entering the bottom of the 14th.

There, Cheverus couldn't respond.

Cronin got Ridge to bounce out to first, struck out Cooke (with Murphy throwing to first after failing to handle strike three), then ended the interminable contest by getting DiStasio to line to Mancini.

After 14 innings and 3 hours, 15 minutes, Scarborough earned a much-needed 6-3 triumph.

"It was really important to come back and win," said Cronin. "We lost to Deering and Bonny Eagle. Hopefully we can take this and roll with it. It's a big win."

"It was a great baseball game," Coutts added. "I couldn't be more happy. Both teams had a lot of opportunities. Sooner or later, you knew someone would score. We were getting close to having to get Cronin out of there and were getting ready to bring Wessel in and then he was cramping up. Obviously, that play by Bagley was a huge play. Then, he got the big hit. I have to give our kids a lot of credit. We lost to Deering and got pounded last night by Bonny Eagle. We could have come in and rolled over and we didn't. We competed and I'm proud. Cheverus played well too. Louie pitched well. Casale pitched well."

Cronin's effort on the hill was epic. He allowed one infield hit in 9.1 innings of work. Cronin improved to 2-0 by striking out 11, while walking six.

"(The game) was going for awhile," said Cronin, who has verbally committed to Boston College. "I was getting hungry. It was fun. I just got in a rhythm and felt good forever. We were getting down to the wire. I was starting to lose a little, but we came up with big hits and put it away."

"I think an inning-and-a-third was the most he'd pitched (before Saturday)," Coutts added. "I asked him every inning if he was OK and he said he was strong. The key was that he kept getting his breaking ball over. That's probably our best pitching performance all year, which says a lot."

Offensively, Scarborough got three hits apiece from Bagley (who tripled, scored twice and drove in two runs) and Mancini and two from Wessel (who had a game-high three RBI).

Cheverus, which probably wishes it had saved a run or two from its Deering romp, had seven hits in the first five innings, but just one the rest of the way. Bushey (who tripled), DiStasio (who doubled) and Lops had multiple hits.

Casale fell to 0-1, but was nearly Cronin's relief equal by allowing the three runs on four hits and two walks, while striking out six, in his five innings.

"We had plenty of chances and just didn't capitalize," McKew said. "It's as simple as that. I hope that increases our battle-tested-ness for the future. We had opportunities. We didn't play a good game mentally. There were a lot of mistakes. I made mistakes. Runners made mistakes. Hitters made mistakes. We didn't execute a squeeze play."

One left

Cheverus is still clinging to the top spot in the Western Class A Heal Points and can finish first if it takes care of business at No. 2 Westbrook Tuesday.

"We have a big one coming up Tuesday," McKew said. "I haven't crunched the numbers, but it might be for the top seed. We'll do what we can do. I imagine there will be a ton of Heal Points available. Ridge will start and we'll go from there. Big implications.

"We'll move on from this and get over it. Considering we had four games in four days and if you asked me at the beginning, 'If you win three of four, would you be satisfied?' I'd probably say, 'Yeah,' but it's the way we lost the fourth one that hurts.

Scarborough moved up to third in the region with the win. The Red Storm finish at Portland Tuesday.

"This is a big win," Bagley said. "If we had three losses in a row, it would have been a huge momentum killer going into the playoffs next week. We feel pretty good now. We're ready."

"I definitely think we've shown we can beat anyone," Cronin said. "We've shown that. We can also play down, but if we play at our best, we can play with anyone."

"We've talked about being able to compete with Westbrook, Cheverus and Deering," Coutts added. "We beat Westbrook and Cheverus in the same week. It's a big win for us. No question about it. I don't know how the Heals will shake out. I'll wake up Wednesday morning and see what happens."

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

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Scarborough junior Conor McCann dives back into first as Cheverus senior Joey Royer takes the attempted pickoff throw.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Scarborough senior leftfielder Jack Adams takes a mighty cut.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Scarborough freshman Ben Greenberg delivers a pitch during the early stages of Saturday's contest.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Cheverus senior catcher Nic Lops beats out a bunt single in the fifth inning. Scarborough junior first baseman Conor McCann takes the throw too late.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Cheverus junior Louie DiStasio didn't allow a hit in the first three innings and took a shutout into the sixth, but despite a solid nine-inning effort, took a no decision.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Cheverus senior Jack Bushey steals second, despite the best effort of Scarborough junior shortstop Joe Cronin, in the fourth inning.

Photo: Jason Veilleux / For The Forecaster

Cheverus senior catcher Nic Lops runs past prone Scarborough junior Joe Cronin during a rundown in the bottom of the third inning of Saturday's marathon.