PORTLAND—Deering’s baseball team is learning how to win and are the Rams ever having fun celebrating.
Friday afternoon at Hadlock Field, Deering enjoyed a walkoff triumph for the second day in a row and at the quarter pole of the 2015 season, the resurgent Rams have plenty of reason for optimism.
Twenty-four hours after scoring three times in the bottom of the seventh inning to stun Biddeford, Deering dug an early 3-0 hole against visiting Westbrook, a team the Rams hadn’t beaten since 2009.
Deering, sparked by the potent bat of senior rightfielder Kevin Goldberg, crept back within 3-2 and after the Blue Blazes tacked on a run in the top of the fourth, the Rams drew even in the bottom half, thanks to a clutch hit from Goldberg.
Deering senior starter Sam Luebbert gutted his way through the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, holding Westbrook at bay, and the Rams went out and won it in the bottom of the seventh.
Junior centerfielder Dominick Bernard led off with a solid single to center, moved to second on a single from sophomore third baseman James Sinclair and with one out, junior second baseman Pat Viola played the hero, ripping a single to right which scored Bernard, giving Deering a 5-4 victory and setting off a wild party at home plate.
The Rams made it three wins in four outings, handed the Blue Blazes their fourth straight loss and hinted that more excitement is in store.
“I wouldn’t mind doing it a little earlier, but I’ll take it,” said Rams first-year coach Josh Stowell. “I think guys are starting to buy in. We only won four games last year, but we lost quite a few by one or two runs, so we were a team that was close to being 8-8. We were on the fringe. Now we’re executing more and that’s how you gut out these one-run games.”
Deering missed the playoffs last spring with a 4-12 record, although the Rams were still in the hunt for a spot entering their finale. Tim Eisenhart then stepped down as coach and was replaced by Stowell, the one-time Deering standout.
The Rams began the 2015 campaign with a 5-3 loss at Massabesic, then beat host Gorham, 9-3, and rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to shock visiting Biddeford, 6-5, Thursday.
Westbrook was frustrated in its first three outings, falling at Scarborough (5-3), at home to Massabesic (6-4) and at home to South Portland (7-2)
Entering Friday, over the past decade, the teams had played 17 times with Deering holding a 9-8 edge (please see sidebar, below), but the the Blue Blazes had won every game since 2010 (including a semifinal round triumph that year). Last season, Westbrook won twice: 5-1 at Hadlock Field and 3-2 (in eight innings) at home.
Deering’s last win over Westbrook came May 11, 2009 (7-2 at Hadlock Field).
Friday, the Rams found a way to end their hex at the hands of the Blue Blazes, waiting until the bottom of the seventh to do it.
Luebbert looked sharp to start, getting his opposite number, senior Blake Fillmore, to ground out to shortstop, but he walked junior shortstop Jack McCullough and junior first baseman D.J. Henrikson ripped a shot over junior leftfielder Ian Westphal’s head and off the Maine Monster to put runners at second and third. Luebbert appeared primed to escape the jam when he got junior Keigan Sears to look at strike three, but on an 0-2 pitch, junior rightfielder Corey Walker singled past Luebbert, up the middle, and McCullough and Henrikson came home with Walker taking second on the throw home. Sophomore catcher Bailey Sawyer followed with a double down the leftfield line and Walker scored easily for a 3-0 lead. Senior third baseman Patrick Weimer singled sharply to left, but Sawyer had to hold at third. After Weimer stole second, Luebbert fanned freshman second baseman Justin Copetta to end the uprising.
In the bottom half, Goldberg led off and reached when his sharp ground ball bounced off McCullough. Senior shortstop Nick Bevilacqua then crushed a ball to center, but senior Mike Howard ran it down for the first out. With Bernard at the plate, Goldberg stole second. Bernard then grounded to short, but when McCullough bobbled the ball, Bernard reached safely and Goldberg went to third. Bernard then stole second, but Sinclair, Thursday’s hero, struck out. With junior catcher Luciano Minervino at the plate, Fillmore’s pitch wasn’t cleanly handled by Sawyer and Goldberg was able to score. Minervino struck out looking, but Deering was back within two, 3-1.
Luebbert got junior leftfielder Bailey Ryan to line out to Bevilacqua to start the top of the second. Fillmore then reached on an error. McCullough hit into a force play, with Sinclair making a nice play on a short hop. McCullough stole second to get into scoring position, but Luebbert retired Henrikson on a liner, which Viola skied to snare.
In the bottom half, Viola led off by reaching on an infield single when his chopper nicked the glove of a leaping Weimer. Sophomore designated hitter Orey Dutton sacrificed Viola to second, but he advanced no further as junior first baseman Jake Latini struck out swinging and Westphal popped out foul to Sawyer.
In the top of the third, Luebbert got Sears to ground out to short and struck Walker out, but Sawyer beat out an infield single to the hole and stole second. He was then stranded when Weimer grounded out to second.
In the bottom half, Goldberg led off by crushing a pitch into the gap in right-center and didn’t stop until he reached third with a triple.
“I finally got a pitch I liked and I drove it,” said Goldberg. “It was nice to get a big hit like that.”
“Kevin’s done a great job so far this year,.” Stowell said. “He’s a little pull-happy sometimes, so I’m trying to get him to go the other way a little bit more. He’s putting the barrel on the ball.”
Bevilacqua grounded out to McCullough and Goldberg came home to make it 3-2. Bernard then reached on an infield hit, as Henrikson couldn’t handle a difficult hop. Bernard stole second, but Sinclair struck out swinging and Minervino lined softly to Henrikson to end the frame.
In the fourth, Copetta lined out to Bevilacqua, but Luebbert walked Ryan, the No. 9 hitter, and that came back to bite him. Ryan stole second and after Fillmore grounded out to short, with Latini making a nice play coming off the bag and tagging the runner for out number two, McCullough singled up the middle to plate Ryan for a 4-2 lead. McCullough also stole second, but Luebbert got Henrikson to ground out to short to end it.
In the bottom half, Viola singled through the hole on the left side of the infield and Dutton singled through the hole on the right side to put the Rams in business. Latini thought he was hit by the ball when he tried to bunt the first pitch, but it was ruled a foul ball. The bunt sign was then taken off and Latini struck out looking. With Westphal at bat, Fillmore threw a wild pitch to move the runners into scoring position, then unleashed another wild pitch to score Viola and move Dutton to third. Westphal drew a walk and stole second and Goldberg tied the score when his slow roller to short didn’t draw a throw and was ruled an infield single. Westphal was caught rounding third and tagged out by Sawyer, as Goldberg went to second. Bevilacqua followed with a sharp grounder toward short, but it deflected off the umpire into center and the dead ball put runners at the corners. After Bevilacqua stole second, Bernard struck out looking.
Westbrook missed out on an opportunity to go back on top in the top of the fifth.
Leading off, senior pinch-hitter Brady Arsenault reached and took second on a Bevilacqua throwing error. Walker followed with a grounder up the middle, which Bevilacqua fielded and after a nice pirouette, threw out Walker with Arsenault moving to third. Luebbert then bore down and caught both Sawyer and Weimer looking at strike three.
In the bottom half, Fillmore had his best frame, getting Sinclair to look at strike three, inducing a pop back to the mound off the bat of Minervino and getting Viola to fly to right.
In the top of the sixth, Luebbert got two outs on two pitches, as Copetta grounded to second and Ryan flew out deep to left, but Fillmore walked. Fillmore tried to steal second, but overslid the bag and was out to end the threat.
In the bottom half, Dutton flew to right on the first pitch and Latini grounded back to the mound. Westphal then laced a 3-2 single to right, bringing Goldberg to the plate. Senior pinch-runner Brendan McNally stole second and Goldberg was walked intentionally, bringing Bevilacqua to the plate. Bevilacqua hit the ball deep to center, but Howard was there to record the out and the game remained tied entering the fateful seventh inning.
McCullough led off and took the first two pitches for balls, but Luebbert fought back to a full count, then got McCullough to fly out to right. Henrikson popped out to Luebbert and Arsenault grounded out to short.
Deering then won a game in the bottom of the seventh for the second day in a row.
Bernard led off with a sharp single to center. With Bernard running, Sinclair singled up the middle to put runners at first and second. After Minervino lined to center with the runners holding, Viola played the role of hero, lining a shot to the gap in right-center. Walker made a valiant diving effort, but couldn’t come up with the ball and Bernard scored easily to end it.
“I was just looking for a pitch,” said Viola. “I worked the count. I got a curveball in the zone and I just hit it. I saw (Walker) dive and I didn’t know if he came up with it. The past couple years, we’ve been on the losing side of walkoffs, but this feels good.”
“Pat came up really big,” said Stowell. “That was a great piece of hitting, letting the ball break and go the other way with it.””
After 2 hours and 2 minutes, Deering had a 5-4 victory.
“It’s a great feeling,” Goldberg said. “To win two games in a row on walkoffs is unbelievable. We just tried to generate anything we could get, just get people on base. We battled back yesterday and we knew we could do it again and we did it. Coming back from 4-0 yesterday proved we can come back.”
The Rams produced a dozen hits, keyed by three each from Goldberg and Viola and two from Bernard. Goldberg scored two runs, while Bernard, Dutton and Viola each touched home once. Bevilacqua, Goldberg and Viola each had an RBI. Bernard and Goldberg both stole two bases, while Bevilacqua, McNally and Westphal all had one.
Luebbert evened his record at 1-1 after giving up four earned runs on six hits and three walks in seven innings. He struck out five.
“Sam let up a couple runs in the first, but he battled back,” said Viola.
“Sam bounced back and was able to throw some strikes and make hitters hit,” said Stowell. “He had trouble walking guys last year, but he’s done a better job pounding the strike zone.”
For Westbrook, Sawyer was the lone repeat hitter. Henrikson, McCullough, Ryan and Walker scored. Walker had two RBI, while McCullough and Sawyer each had one. McCullough stole two bases, while Ryan, Sawyer and Weimer all had one.
Fillmore fell to 0-1 after giving up five runs (four earned) on 12 hits and a walk in 6.1 innings. He fanned seven and threw two wild pitches.
Westbrook returns to action Tuesday, when Cheverus pays a visit. After going to Biddeford Thursday, the Blue Blazes visit preseason favorite Marshwood May 9.
Deering is home for its next two games, but the Rams have to go up against formidable South Portland Tuesday and preseason favorite Marshwood Thursday. Deering is at Bonny Eagle May 9.
This team figures to continue to improve.
“We’ve grown as a team,” said Goldberg. “We’re older. We’ve developed as a group. We work together well. The team chemistry is there.”
“We can always get better,” Viola said. “We just have to stay on top of everything.”
“I was pretty fired up before the season started and the way things have shaped up so far, it’s nice,” Stowell added. “We’re 3-1 and we were really close to pulling that loss out. It’s going to be a fun year. If we throw strikes and play great defense, we’ll be right there with those top teams.”
Deering junior second baseman Pat Viola takes the throw as Westbrook’s Jack McCullough steals second.
Deering sophomore third baseman James Sinclair takes a swing.
Deering senior rightfielder Kevin Goldberg laces one of his three hits.
Westbrook senior pitcher Blake Fillmore shows his form.
Deering senior Sam Luebbert delivers a pitch. Luebbert had a gritty effort and earned his first victory of the 2015 season.
Deering junior leftfielder Ian Westphal tries to make contact.
Westbrook 5 @ Deering 1
@ Westbrook 3 Deering 2 (8)
Westbrook 7 @ Deering 3
@ Westbrook 2 Deering 1
@ Westbrook 6 Deering 2
Westbrook 6 @ Deering 0
@ Westbrook 9 Deering 6
Western A semifinals
Westbrook 7 @ Deering 6
@ Deering 7 Westbrook 2
Deering 3 @ Westbrook 2
Western A Final
Deering 3 Westbrook 2
Deering 10 Westbrook 0 (5)
Deering 7 @ Westbrook 3
Deering 5 @ Westbrook 3 (8)
@ Deering 2 Westbrook 0
@ Deering 12 Westbrook 2
Deering 4 Westbrook 0
Deering’s baseball team celebrates its 5-4 victory over Westbrook Friday afternoon. The Rams improved to 3-1 on the season.
Jim Allen photos.
More photos below.
W- 300 100 0- 4 6 1
D- 101 200 1- 5 12 2
Walker singled to center, McCullough and Henrikson scored. Sawyer doubled to left, Walker scored.
Goldberg scored on passed ball.
Bevilacqua grounded out to shortstop, Goldberg scored.
McCullough singled to center, Ryan scored.
Viola scored on wild pitch. Goldberg reached on infield single, Dutton scored.
Viola singled to right-center, Bernard scored.
D- Goldberg, Viola 3, Bernard
W- Henrikson, McCullough, Ryan, Walker
D- Goldberg 2, Bernard, Dutton, Viola
W- Walker 2, McCullough, Sawyer
D- Bevilacqua, Goldberg, Viola
W- Henrikson, Sawyer
W- McCullough 2, Ryan, Sawyer, Weimer
D- Bernard, Goldberg 2, Bevilacqua, McNally, Westphal
Left on base:
Fillmore and Sawyer; Luebbert and Minervino
Fillmore (L, 0-1) 6.1 IP 12 H 5 R 4 ER 1 BB 7 K 2 WP
Luebbert (W, 1-1) 7 IP 6 H 4 R 4 ER 3 BB 5 K