PORTLAND—Deering’s baseball team has emerged from the struggles of its recent past.
Now, the Rams are hoping to return to their one-time glory.
Thursday evening at Hadlock Field, Deering made quick work of visiting Massabesic, avenging an Opening Day loss with a “mercy-rule” walkoff victory.
The Rams scored five runs in the first inning, two more in the second, one in the fourth and after the Mustangs scored once in the top of the sixth, put the finishing touches on their 11-1 victory thanks to two bases loaded walks and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of half.
Senior shortstop Nick Bevilacqua had three hits, including a triple, and sophomore pitcher James Sinclair went the distance for his first victory as Deering improved to 5-4, eclipsed last year’s win total, and dropped Massabesic to 4-5 in the process.
“It’s nice to be able to breathe,” said first-year Rams coach Josh Stowell. “It makes a big difference. Playing tight games are intense and fun, but it’s nice to have these every once in awhile.”
Deering, which won a total of 10 games between 2012-14, was optimistic entering the season, but suffered a disappointing 5-3 loss at Massabesic in the opener April 24. The Rams then put it together, beating host Gorham, 9-3, rallying for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to shock visiting Biddeford, 6-5, then walking off again in the bottom of the seventh, 5-4, over Westbrook. After falling at home to South Portland (2-1), Deering lost at home to preseason favorite Marshwood, 14-6. A 5-3 victory at Bonny Eagle was followed by a 7-1 setback at Thornton Academy Tuesday.
Massabesic opened its season with a 4-2 home loss to Bonny Eagle, then beat visiting Deering (5-3) and host Westbrook (6-4). After falling 4-0 at Portland, the Mustangs eked out a 5-4 home win over Windham and held off host Noble, 3-2. Home losses to Thornton Academy (5-1) and Scarborough (4-0) followed.
Last year, each team won at home, with Massabesic prevailing, 11-6, and Deering going on to a 4-1 victory.
Thursday, the Rams delivered an early knockout blow.
In the top of the first, Sinclair walked Mustangs junior catcher Dawson Renaud, but picked him off. Sinclair then got senior shortstop Matt Allen to pop out to second base and senior third baseman Remi Gaetjens to fly to center.
Deering took advantage of the wildness of Massabesic junior starter Weston Bergeron in the bottom half and opened up a healthy lead.
Leading off, senior centerfielder Kevin Goldberg drew a walk. Bevilacqua followed with a single and after junior second baseman Patrick Viola struck out, Sinclair drew a walk to load the bases. Sophomore designated hitter Orey Dutton then came up big with a double that drove in Goldberg and Bevilacqua to put the Rams ahead to stay.
The Mustangs defense then helped Deering score even more.
Junior catcher Luciano Minervino grounded to second and the throw came home. The Rams then had a pair of runners occupying third base before a rundown ensued in which the ball was thrown away and Sinclair and Dutton both came home to make it 4-0. After sophomore third baseman Spencer Todd struck out, senior rightfielder Brendan McNally singled in Minervino for the fifth run. McNally was caught stealing, but the damage was done.
In the top of the second, as good pitchers do, Sinclair kept momentum on his team’s side by making quick work of the opposition after a big inning. Sinclair struck out Bergeron, made a terrific stab on a liner back to the box off the bat of junior centerfielder Derek Coulombe, then fanned junior first baseman Adam DeAngelis.
Deering added to its lead in the bottom half.
Junior leftfielder Ian Westphal led off with a single and after Goldberg flew out to center, Bevilacqua got a hold of a Bergeron offering and rocketed it to deep left-center for an RBI triple.
“We definitely saw pitches tonight,” Bevilacqua said. “We jumped on everything we saw and we drove them everywhere. I saw a fastball and just drove it.”
A Viola fly ball to right brought home Bevilacqua for a 7-0 advantage. Sinclair then struck out to end the inning.
Sinclair surrendered a leadoff single to junior rightfielder Noah Eichler in the top of the third, but he struck out freshman second baseman Jake Gregoire and freshman leftfielder Simon Roberts, then got Renaud to pop to short.
The Rams put a couple runners on in the bottom half, but couldn’t add to their lead.
After Dutton hit a grounder that deflected off Bergeron’s glove to Allen, he was thrown out at first on a close play. Minervino walked and after Todd looked at strike three, McNally also walked, but Westphal looked at strike three.
Sinclair started the fourth by getting Allen to line to short. After Gaetjens blooped a single to center, Bergeron flew out to deep center and Coulombe struck out.
Deering made it 8-0 in the bottom half, as Goldberg walked and after Bevilacqua flew out to center, Viola singled to center and when Goldberg stole third, an errant throw from the catcher allowed the run to score and Viola to take second. Viola moved to third on Sinclair’s ground out to short, but was stranded when Dutton grounded out to second.
Sinclair remained strong in the fifth, striking out DeAngelis, getting Eichler to fly out to left and after freshman pinch-hitter Jacob Gregoire reached on an infield hit, Sinclair got Roberts to pop up a bunt attempt, which Todd caught in foul ground for out number three.
In the bottom half, the Rams had a chance to end the game, but failed to capitalize.
Roberts came in to pitch and allowed a single to Minervino, walked Todd and McNally reached on an error to load the bases with no one out. Westphal looked at strike three and Goldberg hit a sharp ground ball to second, which resulted in a 4-6-3 double play and the opportunity had been squandered.
Massabesic finally solved Sinclair in the sixth, but the pitcher allowed just minimal damage.
Renaud led off with a single and stole second. Allen then crushed a ball to deep left for a double as Renaud scored the run easily. Gaetjens beat out an infield single to put runners at the corners, but Sinclair got Bergeron to ground to Bevilacqua, who threw home to get Allen, and Coulombe followed with a fly ball to right, which McNally turned into a double play when he threw back to first to catch Gaetjens.
Deering then put it away in the bottom of the sixth.
Leading off, Bevilacqua rapped his third hit, a single. Viola reached when sophomore leftfielder Ethan Daigneault couldn’t hold his liner. Sinclair then walked to load the bases. Sophomore pinch-hitter Colby Dame drew a walk to score Bevilacqua. Senior pinch-hitter Billy Johnson walked to bring home Viola and junior Nate Loranger ended the game by flying to center, as Sinclair came home to put a bow on the 11-1 victory, the Rams’ first mercy rule win since May 20, 2011 (12-0 over Thornton Academy in five innings), a span of 64 games.
“We wanted revenge, but we mostly concentrated on having energy and being loud,” said Bevilacqua.
“The kids were more focused today,” Stowell said. “When they beat us game one, we were still figuring everything out. These guys, after losing game one, they marked it on the calendar and wanted to play them again.”
Sinclair had his best outing to date, allowing just the one run on six hits in six innings of work. He walked one and struck out six.
“It was great having runs behind me tonight,” Sinclair said. “My curveball was really on tonight and my fastball too, in the strike zone. The bench kept me in it. They were loud. I was ready to pitch the seventh, but that was alright that I didn’t have to.”
“James has been snakebitten so far, but he had a great effort today for sure,” Stowell said.
Offensively, Bevilacqua had three hits, scored three runs and had an RBI. Goldberg and Sinclair scored twice and Dutton, Minervino, Viola and Westphal all touched home once. Dutton drove in two runs, while Dame, Johnson, Loranger, McNally and Viola all had one RBI. The Rams stranded seven runners.
For Massabesic, Bergeron dropped to 0-3 after giving up eight runs (four earned) on six hits and five walks in four innings. He struck out five. Roberts surrendered three runs on two hits and four walks in 1.1 innings. He fanned one.
Offensively for the Mustangs, Gaetjens had two hits, Renaud scored their lone run and Allen had the RBI. Massabesic left four runners on base.
Massabesic (11th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) returns to action Friday when Marshwood pays a visit. The Mustangs go to Gorham Tuesday.
Deering (eighth in Western A) is home with Gorham Friday, then travels to Noble, Cheverus and Scarborough next week. The Rams host Sanford and Portland, then close with a trip to defending regional champion Windham.
While Deering has eclipsed last year’s win total, it has a chance to post a winning record and make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
“We know we can win this year,” Bevilacqua said.
“We can be good as long as we stay together,” Sinclair said.
“(Our success) speaks to these guys coming in and being open to what we’re teaching,” said Stowell. “They’re applying it in games. We’re getting things done. Little things. Last year, we struggled doing that. The guys are a year older and they’re figuring it out. I don’t think the guys have quite grasped that we’re a playoff team and if we get in, it’s anyone’s ballgame. We line up pretty good. We have enough pitching and hitting to make a run for sure.”
Deering 11 Massabesic 1 (6)
M- 000 001 X- 1 6 4
D- 520 103 X- 11 8 0
Dutton doubled, Goldberg and Bevilacqua scored. Sinclair and Dutton scored on error. McNally singled, Minervino scored.
Bevilacqua tripled, Westphal scored. Viola flew out to right, Bevilacqua scored.
Goldberg scored on error.
Allen doubled, Renaud scored.
Dame walked, Bevilacqua scored. Johnson walked, Viola scored. Loranger hit sacrifice fly to center, Sinclair scored.
D- Bevilacqua 3
D- Bevilacqua 3, Goldberg, Sinclair 2, Dutton, Minervino, Viola, Westphal
D- Dutton 2, Bevilacqua, Dame, Johnson, Loranger, McNally, Viola
Left on base:
Bergeron, Roberts 5) and Renaud; Sinclair and Minervino
Bergeron (L, 0-3) 4 IP 6 H 8 R 4 ER 5 BB 5 K
Roberts 1.1 IP 2 H 3 R 3 ER 4 BB 1 K
Sinclair (W, 1-1) 6 IP 6 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 6 K