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SCARBOROUGH—First-year Deering baseball coach Josh Stowell said prior to Saturday’s 10 a.m. contest that it was good for his players to have an early wakeup call.
He was right.
Despite the hour and a sluggish first inning, the Rams continued their surprising march to a winning season with another impressive victory, this one at another squad in the middle of the Western Class A playoff chase, Scarborough.
After Deering left a runner on third base in the top of the first inning, senior starter Sam Luebbert walked a pair and gave up two hits in the bottom half, but only surrendered one run.
The Rams’ bats came alive in the second, as junior leftfielder Ian Westphal and senior shortstop Nick Bevilacqua both produced two-run hits for a 4-1 lead.
An RBI triple from sophomore third baseman James Sinclair and an RBI single from junior catcher Luciano Minervino added two more runs in the fifth and after junior second baseman Pat Viola made a terrific defensive play in the bottom half, Luebbert slammed the door from there and Deering went on to a 6-1 victory.
Luebbert allowed just one run on six hits, Sinclair, senior rightfielder Kevin Goldberg and sophomore designated hitter Orey Dutton all had two hits and the Rams improved to 8-5, ensuring themsleves of no worse than a .500 season, dropping the Red Storm to .500 (6-6) in the process.
“My personal goal when the season started was to be .500 and make the playoffs,” Stowell said. “I thought that was realistic. Now, I think we can definitely finish better than .500.”
A year ago, Deering beat visiting Scarborough, 4-3, in a game best remembered for how it ended. From the Rams’ perspective, they escaped thanks to a tremendous play from Bevilacqua to produce the final out. The Red Storm viewed it as highway robbery, however, feeling that the final out wasn’t made and in the ensuing argument, Scarborough coach Ryan Jones was ejected.
So far this year, but teams have held their own in a competitive league.
Deering suffered a disappointing 5-3 loss at Massabesic in the opener, 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), the Rams 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. After walking off in an 11-1 six-inning mercy rule home win over Massabesic, Deering rallied to edge Gorham, 2-1, in an eight-inning thriller, and prevailed at Noble, 7-4, but Thursday, the Rams were doubled up at Cheverus, 10-5.
Scarborough won its first two outings: 5-3 at Westbrook and 10-5 at Noble, then dropped home decisions to Gorham (5-4) and preseason favorite Marshwood (5-0) before falling at Portland, 3-0, and at Cheverus, 7-1. The Red Storm then hit their stride, downing visiting Sanford (7-4), host Massabesic (4-0), visiting Noble (12-3) and visiting Westbrook (4-1) before falling at defending Western A champion Windham Thursday, 2-0.
A lot was at stake bright and early Saturday morning as two teams battling for Heal Points and playoff positioning did battle amid chilly and windy conditions.
Both teams would squander first inning chances, but Deering managed to remain relentless on offense and that made the difference as the Rams improved to 13-3 all-time against the Red Storm (see sidebar, below).
Goldberg started the game by singling to left off Scarborough senior starting pitcher Nate Wessel, then stole second base. Bevilacqua wasn’t able to get him over, however, as he flew out to center. Junior centerfielder Dominick Bernard grounded to second, moving Goldberg to third, but Viola lined out to right.
The Red Storm got a run in the bottom half, but would lament not producing more.
Leading off, junior shortstop Nick Lorello walked. Lorello then stole second and when the pitch was wild all the way to the backstop, he continued on to third. Carreiro then beat out an infield hit to put Scarborough ahead, 1-0.
Junior third baseman Josh Reed fouled out to first and Carreiro was thrown out trying to steal, but Luebbert walked both Wessel and junior rightfielder Jack Hughes. That brought up senior first baseman Ben Irish with a chance to open up a bigger lead, but Irish looked at strike three.
“A leadoff walk and a wild pitch will do it,” Stowell said. “We stress first pitch strikes, getting ahead in the count and making the hitter get defensive. (Sam) kept getting behind in the first inning. They didn’t hit the ball out of the infield, but they got a run.”
Deering responded in the second and went ahead to stay.
Dutton led off with a single down the leftfield line. Sinclair then jumped on the first pitch he saw and doubled over the head of Hughes to put runners at second and third. Minervino grounded to senior second baseman Tim Ross, who bobbled the ball and the bases were loaded. Wesssel got sophomore first baseman Spencer Todd to strike out looking, but Westphal followed with a single off the glove of Carreiro and when the ball trickled into leftfield, both Dutton and Sinclair came home. Goldberg grounded into a force play, putting runners at the corners and after Goldberg stole second, Bevilacqua came through with a ringing double down the leftfield line to score Minervino and Goldberg to make it 4-1. Bernard kept the inning going with a walk before Viola lined out to right.
“It was frustrating in the first inning, but we came back,” Stowell said. “We hit the ball hard in the first inning, so we knew we could hit him alright. We like pitchers who throw a little bit harder.”
Luebbert kept momentum on the side of the Rams, making quick work of the Red Storm in the bottom half. On a total of five pitches, Luebbert got senior centerfielder Ian Corey to ground to second, Ross to strike out looking and junior catcher Bayley Welsh to ground out to Viola.
Wessell struck out the side in the third, catching Dutton swinging, Sinclair looking and after Minervino reached on an error, blowing strike three past Todd.
Scarborough had a chance to cut into the deficit in the bottom half, but stranded two runners.
After Lorello grounded out to Todd unassisted to start the frame, Carreiro singled to right. Luebbert struck out Reed, but Wessel singled to right to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Hughes, but Hughes flew out to right to end the threat.
Wessel had another strong inning in the fourth, getting Westphal to ground out to third, Goldberg to fly out to left and Bevilacqua to ground out to short.
Irish led off the bottom half with a single to left, but Corey lined out to Goldberg in right, Ross flew out to right and Welsh hit a liner that Westphal, the leftfielder, ran in to snare while sprawling for out number three.
The visitors got some breathing room in the fifth.
Bernard bounced out to third leading off and Viola struck out, but Dutton singled to left and Sinclair sent a shot to the wall in right-center for a triple, scoring Dutton.
“I saw a first pitch strike and went after it,” Sinclair said. “I knew it was in the outfield. I didn’t know it was in the gap though. I just kept running.”
Minervino followed with a single to left and Sinclair came home to make it 6-1.
That was it for Wessel, who was replaced by senior lefthander Sam Warren, who got Todd to ground out to short to end the inning.
When Lorello beat out an infield hit to start the bottom of the fifth, it appeared Scarborough might have an opportunity to rally, but Viola fielded Carreiro’s ground ball, tagged Lorello, then threw on to first for a timely double play.
“That was huge,” Luebbert said. “That pumps us up. It’s the best thing that can happen to a pitcher.”
“That was a great play by Pat,” Stowell said. “He was heads-up, tagging the runner, then staying calm and getting the batter at first.”
“We had one on and nobody out, then had two outs, nobody on,” Jones said. “That popped our final balloon, so to speak.”
Luebbert then got Reed to fly out to left to end the frame.
Warren got Westphal to ground out to second to lead off the sixth, but Goldberg followed with a bloop single to left. He was stranded, as Bevilacqua flew out to center and Bernard flew out to left.
Luebbert was dominant in the bottom half, getting Warren to line out to Bevilacqua, Hughes to ground out to Bevilacqua, who made a stellar play, and keeping the bat on Irish’s shoulder by firing strike three past him.
Deering went quietly in the seventh, as Viola grounded back to Warren, Dutton grounded out to the first baseman unassisted and Sinclair looked at strike three.
Luebbert then took care of business, getting senior pinch-hitter Brendan Kane to ground out to second and after walking senior pinch-hitter Wyatt Bridgham, Luebbert got senior pinch-hitter Jack Posey to look at strike three, then ended the game in 1 hour, 40 minutes by inducing a foul pop off the bat of Lorello, which Viola caught to precipitate a victory celebration.
After winning just 10 games total between 2012-14, Deering’s eighth victory of 2015 was in the books and a winning season appears to be a formality.
“All four years I’ve watched us progress,” Luebbert said. “Not much was expected of us this year, but I think we’ve proved ourselves. In the preseason we got together and talked. We have a big family.”
Luebbert improved to 4-1 after giving up just one earned run on six hits and three walks in seven innings. He struck out five and threw a wild pitch.
“I just kept the ball in play,” Luebbert said. “I have to thank my teammates. They kept me going and gave me confidence. It was cold out, but it’s no excuse. I just settled down. I just threw the ball with confidence. I didn’t think. I just wanted to put the ball in the strike zone. In the sixth and seventh innings, I just wanted to stay out and throw the last pitch.”
“Sam did well once we got the lead and he kept the lead for us,” said Sinclair.
Offensively, the Rams pounded out nine hits, paced by two apiece from Dutton, Goldberg and Sinclair. Dutton and Sinclair both scored two runs and Goldberg and Minervino touched home once each. Bevilacqua and Westphal both had two RBI. Minervino and Sinclair each drove in a run. Deering stranded six runners.
For Scarborough, Wessel fell to 2-2 after giving up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk in 4.2 innings. Wessel fanned five. Warren pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. He struck out one batter.
The Red Storm got two hits and their lone RBI from Carreiro, their only run from Lorello and left six runners on.
“I think we had some chances,” Jones said. “I’d have liked to see us be more aggressive at the plate today. Deering put up six runs and it’s not because we walked guys. They swung the bats. We could have taken a page out of their book in that sense. Defensively, we gave them a few extra outs and extended innings for them. Nate pitched well. Our staff has pitched well all year. We have to play defense behind them and get more than one run. We’re average. We don’t do anything spectacular. We have to grind to win ballgames.”
Scarborough knows its still needs to win some games to ensure a playoff berth. The Red Storm (now 14th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, only 12 teams qualify for the playoffs)) travel to Bonny Eagle Tuesday, host South Portland Thursday and Biddeford Saturday, then close at Thornton Academy June 2.
“We’ve got some (Heal Points) coming up,” Jones said. “Bonny Eagle and Thornton Academy are ahead of us, so we have a chance.”
Deering (ninth in Western A) is home against Sanford Tuesday, then has a home showdown versus rival Portland Friday before closing at Windham June 2.
“We just have to come together,” Luebbert said. “We never give up. I look forward to playing Portland. I’d love to pitch in that game, but i just want to beat them.”
“Now we want to move up to a higher playoff seed,” Stowell said. “If we can beat Portland, we have a shot to finish sixth.”
Deering senior pitcher Sam Luebbert shows his form.
Scarborough senior starter Nate Wessel throws a pitch.
Deering sophomores Orey Dutton (14) and James Sinclair (4) are congratulated by their teammates after they scored the Rams’ first runs.
Deering senior Nick Bevilacqua drives a pitch.
Deering senior shortstop Nick Bevilacqua applies a tag on Scarborough senior Zach Carreiro on a pickoff attempt. Carreiro was safe.
Scarborough senior Ian Corey follows the path of the ball.
Deering sophomore designated hitter Orey Dutton lines one of his two hits Saturday.
Deering senior Kevin Goldberg slides safely into second with a stolen base as Scarborough senior second baseman Tim Ross can’t handle the throw.
Scarborough junior Nick Lorello makes contact.
Deering junior second baseman Pat Viola catches a line drive.
@ Scarborough 6 Deering 0
Scarborough 11 @ Deering 0
Deering 4 @ Scarborough 3
@ Deering 13 Scarborough 3 (5)
Deering 22 @ Scarborough 4 (5)
Western A Final
Deering 16 Scarborough 10
@ Deering 10 Scarborough 0 (6)
@ Deering 6 Scarborough 0
Scarborough 6 Deering 5 (8)
Western A quarterfinals
@ Deering 10 Scarborough (9)
@ Deering 8 Scarborough 3
Deering 17 @ Scarborough 3
Deering 9 @ Scarborough 2
@ Deering 10 Scarborough 0 (6)
Deering senior pitcher Sam Luebbert is congratulated after closing out an inning during the Rams’ 6-1 win at Scarborough Saturday morning. Luebbert allowed just one run on six hits as he improved to 4-1.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
D- 040 020 0- 6 9 0
S- 100 000 0- 1 6 2
Lorello scored on Carreiro infield single.
Westphal singled to left, Dutton and Sinclair scored. Bevilacqua doubled to left, Minervino and Goldberg scored.
Sinclair tripled to right, Dutton scored. Minervino singled to left, Sinclair scored.
D- Dutton, Goldberg, Sinclair
D- Dutton, Sinclair 2, Goldberg, Minervino
D- Bevilacqua, Westphal 2, Minervino, Sinclair
D- Bevilacqua, Sinclair
D- Goldberg 2
Left on base:
Luebbert and Minervino; Wessel, Warren (5) and Welsh
Luebbert (W, 4-1) 7 IP 6 H 1 R 1 ER 3 BB 5 K 1 WP
Wessel (L, 2-2) 4,2 IP 8 H 6 R 4 ER 1 BB 5 K
Warren 2.1 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K