Don’t tell city baseball teams that the playoffs start next week.
Cheverus, Deering, Portland and Waynflete have been scrambling to make up for lost time and playing big games for over a week now.
In the most balanced Western Class A season in memory, Cheverus and Deering are in the hunt for high playoff seeds, with an eye on June glory. The young Bulldogs of Portland will likely fall short of the postseason.
In Western C, Waynflete has accomplished a first for the 21st Century and will be a major factor when the playoffs begin.
Cheverus lost in the quarterfinals last spring and hoped to contend in 2011, but few expected the Stags to do this well this season.
Cheverus took a six-game win streak into last week and dispatched host Bonny Eagle (8-2) and visiting Windham (3-2). Against the Scots, junior Harry Ridge earned the win, senior catcher Nick Lops had three hits, including a triple, and junior Louie DiStasio had a pair of hits and two RBIs.
In the narrow victory over the Eagles, freshman Mitch Powers dazzled with a five-hit, 12-strikeout performance. Junior Tyler Flaherty squeezed home Lops for the go-ahead run. Ridge added two hits and two runs.
Friday, the Stags got a much sterner test when perennial powerhouse Deering came calling, but Cheverus was up to the challenge, erupting for 15 hits and 15 runs in a 15-7 rout of the Rams. Lops and Ridge both pounded long home runs (Ridge’s was a grand slam) and drove in five runs apiece.
“Offense has been kind of our weak point the last couple years I’ve been here, so it’s good to show teams what we can do,” Lops said. “It’s not a one-man sport. You need all the pieces. What was most impressive was our hitting in the clutch today.”
“It’s always good to beat Deering,” Ridge said. “It’s huge. It gets our momentum going toward playoffs. I’m not surprised we’re this good. We want to play here. We want to keep it going.”
“We’ve had a good year hitting the ball,” added Stags coach Mac McKew. “We picked up quite a few (Heal Points) today. We’d rather beat them at the end of the year than the beginning. Today, we’re in a good place. Baseball’s a day-to-day thing.”
Cheverus found that out the hard way Saturday, when it appeared en route to its 10th straight win before engaging in a marathon with visiting Scarborough that went 14 innings and didn’t have a happy ending.
The Stags were cruising along with a 3-0 lead in the sixth before an error opened the door and awakened the Red Storm, who scored thrice to tie the game. After Cheverus squandered a bases-loaded, nobody-out opportunity in the 10th, the game went to the 14th inning before the visitors scored three times to win, 6-3.
DiStasio and sophomore Ryan Casale were both solid on the mound, but the Stags managed just one hit in 9.1 innings against Scarborough junior reliever Joe Cronin.
“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 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.”
The Stags entered the week atop the Western Class A Heal Points standings with a 13-2 mark, but closed at preseason favorite Westbrook (ranked second) Tuesday. Cheverus had a great chance to finish No. 1 for the first time.
“We have a big one coming up,” McKew said. “I haven’t crunched the numbers, but it might be for the top seed. We’ll do what we can do. 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.”
Deering enjoyed great success before going to Cheverus Friday. The Rams outslugged host Gorham in a Battle of the Rams, 18-11, Wednesday, then eked out a 4-3 decision at Scarborough Thursday. Against Gorham, senior Jamie Ross doubled three times, scored three runs and had four RBIs. Junior Nick DiBiase had four hits, scored three times and drove in a pair. Senior catcher John Miranda had three hits and three runs scored.
At the Red Storm, Deering couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead in the sixth, but bounced back in the top of the seventh on senior designated hitter Devon Fitzgerald’s RBI hit, before holding on behind the gritty effort of Ross.
“I was just looking to get a base hit,” said Fitzgerald. “That was a key at-bat and I needed to get the run in. I wasn’t sure about the hit, but it dropped and we scored and I got excited.”
“I’m proud we came back,” added Rams first-year coach Mark Sutton. “We could have folded. It was one of those games where when one team made a mistake, the other team capitalized. I’m glad we got it done in the seventh inning. I didn’t want to play another one.”
Deering was then bludgeoned at Cheverus, despite a long Ross home run. Saturday, the Rams improved to 12-3 with a 3-2 home victory over Marshwood. Senior Matt Bevilacqua got the win behind a four-hit effort in his first start of the year. Ross threw out the potential tying run at the plate to end it.
Deering closed at home versus South Portland Monday night. The Rams were fourth in the Heals at the start of the week and hope to host at least one playoff game.
“We won’t know (where we stand) until we wake up Wednesday morning,” Sutton said.
Portland started 3-1 under first-year coach Tony DiBiase, but has struggled since. Last week, the Bulldogs lost to host Sanford (1-0, despite a pitching strong effort from Ryan Dixon), Windham (7-5, where sophomore Chip Weber drove in three runs), Westbrook (9-0) and Gorham (5-4, despite three RBIs from sophomore Kyle Reichert) to drop to 5-10 (11th in the Heals, where only eight teams qualify for the postseason). Portland closed the regular season at home versus Scarborough Tuesday and still had an outside shot to get into the playoffs with a win.
Waynflete made great strides a year ago, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but this year’s team has dwarfed that squad’s accomplishments.
The Flyers have guaranteed their first winning record since 1994 and took a 7-4 mark into Tuesday’s regular season finale versus visiting Sacopee.
Last week, Waynflete dropped tough decisions to Western C rivals Old Orchard Beach (5-4) and North Yarmouth Academy (6-2) to fall to sixth in the Heals.
The postseason begins next week with the preliminary round on Tuesday (although it’s unlikely any city teams will take part in that round). Thursday brings the quarterfinals, to be hosted by the higher seeds. The semifinals are Saturday, also on the field of the highest remaining seeds.
The Western A Final is Wednesday, June 15 at 3 p.m., at St. Joseph’s College. The Western C Final is the same date and location at 7 p.m.
The Class A state game is Saturday, June 18 at Morton Field at Augusta at 2 p.m. The Class C Final is the same date at 2 p.m., at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Cheverus junior Tyler Flaherty reaches first ahead of the throw to Deering senior first baseman Mason Morgan in the third inning of Friday’s slugfest. The Stags beat the Rams, 15-7.
Waynflete’s baseball team posted a winning regular season record for the first time since 1994. Senior Noah Aronson and company are hoping to make a deep playoff run.