Huge first inning propels Portland past Deering

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Portland freshman catcher Elaina Legere is congratulated by her teammates after hitting a sacrifice fly during the Bulldogs’ 14-2 win over Deering Wednesday evening.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 14 Deering 2 (5 innings)

D- 100 01- 2 7 5
P- 913 1x- 14 6 3

Top 1st
Giroux scored on error.

Bottom 1st 
Boyle scored on wild pitch. Crosby reached on error, Brown scored. Stacey walked, Crosby scored. Rosmus scored on wild pitch. Stacey scored on wild pitch. Gilbert walked, Watson scored. Brown walked, Twombly scored. Crosby doubled to right-center, Boyle and Gilbert scored.

Bottom 2nd
Legere scored on error.

Bottom 3rd
Rosmus singled to center, Stewart and Crosby scored. Legere flew out to left, Rosmus scored.

Bottom 4th
Gilbert singled to center, Fagone scored.

Top 5th
Elowitch reached on infield single, Helmick scored. 

Repeat hitter:
D- Elowitch 

Runs:
D- Giroux, Helmick
P- Boyle, Crosby, Rosmus 2, Brown, Fagone, Gilbert, Legere, Stacey, Stewart, Twombly, Watson

RBI:
D- Elowitch
P- Crosby 3, Gilbert, Rosmus 2, Brown, Legere, Stacey

Doubles:
P- Crosby, Legere 

Stolen base:
D- Giroux

Left on base:
D- 8
P- 4

O’Donnell, Helmick (1) and Drelich; Gilbert and Legere

D:  
O’Donnell (L, 0-1) 0.1 IP 1 H 7 R 3 ER 5 BB 0 K 3 WP 1 HBP
Helmick 3.2 IP 5 H 7 R 4 ER 3 BB 1 K 2 WP 

P:
Gilbert (W, 4-0) 5 IP 7 H 2 R 1 ER 1 BB 7 K 2 WP 

Time: 1:29

PORTLAND—Portland’s softball program has made the leap from being up-and-coming to top contender status.

Deering is still working its way back into contention.

Wednesday evening at Payson Park, the ancient rivals did battle for the first of two times this spring and one inning, bountiful for the Bulldogs and interminable for the Rams, went a long way toward determining the winner.

Deering got off to a good start when senior leftfielder Sydney Giroux scored on an error in the top of the first, but in the bottom half, Portland took advantage of eight walks, a hit batter and four wild pitches to score nine runs, capped by a two-run double from senior second baseman Taylor Crosby, to end the competitive phase of the contest.

Bulldogs junior pitcher Sydney Gilbert held the Rams largely in check from there and Portland kept the offense coming.

In the second inning, freshman catcher Elaina Legere doubled and scored on an error to make it 10-1.

The Bulldogs tacked on three more runs in the third, as junior centerfielder Kit Rosmus had a two-run single and Legere added a sacrifice fly.

In the fourth, Gilbert drove in a run with a bloop hit and that run loomed large as Portland ended the game in the top of the fifth via the 12-run “mercy rule,” despite Deering getting a run on senior Abby Elowitch’s RBI infield single with the bases loaded.

Gilbert recorded the final out with the bases loaded and the Bulldogs prevailed, 14-2.

Gilbert earned the victory by scattering seven hits and she also drove in two runs, Crosby had two runs scored and three runs batted in and Rosmus scored twice and drove in a pair as Portland improved to 8-1, dropping the Rams to 1-7 in the process.

“I knew if we jumped on them, it would be tough for them to come back,” said Bulldogs coach Robbie Ferrante. “We’ve played with so much confidence. The kids are playing really hard and they want to get better. It could have made their year if they knocked us off. We’ll have to play them again. Hopefully, we sent a little message.”

First of two

Portland started with an 8-1 home win over Sanford, then rolled at Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy, 19-4, in five innings. After beating visiting Westbrook, 5-1, the Bulldogs outlasted visiting Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth (12-8) and won at Thornton Academy for the first time since 2008, 9-1. After losing, 9-0, at Scarborough, Portland blanked visiting South Portland, 4-0, and Monday, rallied for a key 5-3 victory at Noble.

“Noble’s a very good team,” Ferrante said. “They’ll win a lot of games. It was big to win down there and to come back.”

Deering welcomed new coach John Coyne this spring and started with a 17-10 home loss to Gorham and a 6-1 home setback to Noble. The Rams then rallied to win a wild 19-18 home decision over Cheverus/NYA before falling at Marshwood (14-2, in five innings), at Scarborough (27-0, in five innings), at home to Windham (21-0, in five innings) and at Sanford (17-4, in five innings).

Last year, Portland made it eight in a row in the series by beating Deering twice, 11-5 and 6-2.

Wednesday, the Rams sought their first win over the Bulldogs since April 25, 2011, but Portland had too much firepower and prevailed again.

Gilbert started the game by getting senior third baseman Kaylee Helmick to ground out to short and opposing hurler, sophomore Mackenzie O’Donnell, to chase strike three. Giroux then ripped a single to center and moved to third base on consecutive wild pitches. That brought up freshman catcher Liz Drelich, who grounded the ball sharply down the third base line and Bulldogs sophomore Grace Stacey couldn’t cleanly field the ball, allowing Giroux to score. Elowitch followed with a single to center, but senior second baseman Taylor Kelly struck out to keep the score 1-0.

It didn’t stay that way long.

In a 29-minute marathon, the Bulldogs sent 14 players to the plate in the bottom of the first and nine of them came home.

Senior shortstop Boyle got the rally started with a solid single to left. O’Donnell then walked Gilbert and hit junior leftfielder Jess Brown with a pitch to load the bases. With Crosby at the plate, a wild pitch brought home Boyle to tie the score. O’Donnell then threw over Drelich again, but the catcher made a nice play to recover and retrieve the wild pitch and throw to O’Donnell covering to tag Gilbert out at home with runners moving up to second and third. Crosby then grounded the ball to short, but sophomore Maddie Broda couldn’t handle it and Brown scored to put Portland ahead to stay.

The Bulldogs were far from finished.

Rosmus was next and she drew a walk on a full count pitch. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, Legere walked to load the bases. After a walk to Stacey drove in Crosby, another wild pitch scored Rosmus to make it 4-1 and freshman first baseman Callie Watson walked to reload the bases, ending O’Donnell’s stint on the mound.

“She might have been a little nervous, but MacKenzie O’Donnell is a gamer,” said Coyne. “You want her on your team. She’s spirited. She wants to play. She’s the quintessential athlete.”

“I knew they were struggling and we worked on being patient,” Ferrante said. “When I grew up, a walk was considered as good as a hit. I still consider those walks as good as hits.”

Helmick and O’Donnell swapped positions and Helmick was greeted by senior rightfielder Annie Twombly, who grounded the ball back to the mound, where Helmick threw home to Drelich for the second out. A wild pitch then scored Stacey to make it 5-1 and after Boyle walked to reload the bases, Gilbert took ball four to bring home Watson. A Brown walk on a full count pitch scored Twombly and Crosby followed with just Portland’s second hit of the frame, a double to right-center, scoring Boyle and Gilbert. Rosmus popped out foul to third to end the frame, but the damage was done and the Bulldogs were firmly in control, ahead, 9-1.

Gilbert started the second inning by striking out freshman rightfielder Liv Serappa and getting Broda to hit the ball in front of the plate, where Legere pounced on it and threw her out. Sophomore first baseman Ashleigh Mathisen beat out an infield hit on a ball hit to Crosby’s right which the second baseman made a nice play on, but didn’t have a throw. Gilbert then got Helmick to slap the ball back to the mound to end the inning.

In the bottom half, Legere led off with a solid double down the leftfield line. She moved to third when Stacey grounded out to third and appeared to be stranded there when Watson popped up to second, but Twombly’s ground ball wasn’t handled cleanly at short and Legere scored to for a 10-1 lead. Boyle then struck out swinging for the third out.

In the top of the third, Gilbert set the Rams down in order, getting O’Donnell to look at strike three, Giroux to ground out sharply to Crosby at second and Drelich to bounce out to third.

Portland kept the pressure on in the bottom half and was rewarded with three more runs.

After Gilbert flew out deep to left, Brown singled and senior courtesy runner Samantha Stewart moved up on an error which allowed Crosby to reach as well. A wild pitch moved both runners up and Rosmus followed with a single to left, scoring Stewart and Crosby for a 12-1 lead. Rosmus moved up to third on a throwing error on the play and scored when Legere hit a sacrifice fly to left. Stacey grounded back to the mound, but the Bulldogs had a 13-1 advantage.

Deering had its chances to score in the fourth, but couldn’t break through.

Elowitch led off and reached on an error by Stacey, but Legere gunned her down stealing with a perfect throw to Boyle.

“(Elaina’s) been really good,” Gilbert said. “She blocks everything and that helps my confidence. She throws runners out every game.”

“(Elaina’s) just a freshman phenom,” Ferrante said. “She just gets better and better.”

After Kelly reached on a single off Watson’s glove, Watson couldn’t handle a ball hit by Serappa, putting runners at first and second. Gilbert then struck out Broda swinging and got Mathisen to hit a pop foul wide of first that appeared to be going out of play before Watson raced over, reached her glove over the fence, and snared the ball to retire the side.

“We practice that drill, but I haven’t much with her yet because it was just her third varsity game,” said Ferrante.

Portland tacked on one more run in the bottom half, as after Watson popped out to second, senior Arianna Fagone reached second on a throwing error and after Boyle flew out deep to left, Gilbert blooped a single past second base to drive home Fagone.

“We were getting a little bored (in the first inning), but Coach told us to wait for our pitch and that it would come,” Gilbert said. “We wound up getting a few hits. This year, what’s working for us is our hitting. We didn’t hit as much last year.” 

Stewart popped out to third, but the Bulldogs’ lead had reached 14-1.

The Rams needed two runs in the fifth to extend the game, but only managed one.

After Helmick reached on a single down the third base line, O’Donnell lined the ball to Watson, but she couldn’t catch what would have been a sure double play and the ball rolled away, allowing both runners to be safe. After Giroux grounded into a Crosby-to-Boyle force out, Giroux stole second, but Drelich chased strike three when Gilbert pulled the string. Elowitch extended the game by beating out an infield hit to score Helmick and after Kelly walked on a full count pitch, Gilbert ended the game by throwing strike three past Serappa, bringing the curtain down on Portland’s 14-2, five-inning victory, which needed just 89 minutes to be official.

“It feels good to beat Deering,’ Gilbert said. “We were a little nervous at first, but we just relaxed and went back to playing our game.” 

Gilbert, who is quietly putting together a strong season as the Bulldogs’ number two pitcher, improved to 4-0 after allowing just two runs (one earned) on seven hits in five innings. She walked just one, threw two wild pitches and struck out seven.

“My change-up worked tonight,” Gilbert said. “(The home plate umpire) wasn’t really calling outside pitches, so I resorted to the inside and they couldn’t really hit them. Having a big lead helped me relax.”

“Sydney could be a number one pitcher,” Ferrante said. “Our team is fortunate to have her (and Jess) I’m not afraid to use her.”

Offensively, Portland only managed six hits, but still pushed across 14 runs. Boyle, Crosby and Rosmus all scored twice, while Brown, Fagone, Gilbert, Legere, Stacey, Stewart, Twombly and Watson each touched home plate once. 

Crosby had three RBI, while Gilbert and Rosmus both finished with two. Brown, Legere and Stacey had one RBI each.

Crosby and Legere had extra base hits.

The Bulldogs only stranded four baserunners.

Baby steps

For Deering, the offense was dangerous, as Elowitch had a pair of hits, Giroux and Helmick scored runs and Elowitch had an RBI. Giroux stole a base.

The Rams did strand eight runners.

O’Donnell took the loss, her first decision, giving up seven runs (three earned) on one hit and five walks n a third-of-an-inning. She walked five, hit a batter and threw three wild pitches. O’Donnell didn’t register a strikeout.

Helmick went the rest of the way, surrendering seven runs (four earned) on five hits and three walks. Helmick had one strikeout and threw two wild pitches.

“(Portland’s) a good team,” Coyne said. “It was a tough start for us, but we had more hits. Syd gave them a good outing and we had to switch in the first inning. We put a couple innings together offensively. We need to have more of these consecutively.”

See you again

The teams will meet again a week from Friday when Deering will be the home team.

First, the Rams visit defending state champion Biddeford Thursday, host South Portland Monday and go to Thornton Academy Wednesday.

“The girls have to believe in themselves,” Coyne said. “When that happens, it’ll be a better experience for them. I have five seniors and one junior. The other eight are freshmen and sophomores. Most of my infield, with the exception of my second baseman, are underclassmen. The future is looking great. It’s going to be a rough road, but if they have the determination and stick with it, it’ll be good.”

The Bulldogs host Massabesic Friday, play at Marshwood in a playoff rematch Monday, then travel to Biddeford Wednesday.

“We just need to focus on each game at a time,” said Gilbert. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves because we’ve been winning.”

“We have some tough ones coming up,” Ferrante said. “Massabesic is playing well. We go to Marshwood. It’s always hard to play down there and last year, we had the great playoff game with them. We look forward to it.”

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

Portland junior Sydney Gilbert prepares to deliver a strike. Gilbert went the distance and earned the victory.

Deering sophomore starter MacKenzie O’Donnell throws a pitch.

Deering senior Abby Elowitch lines a hit.

Portland freshman first baseman Callie Watson makes a terrific catch of a foul ball at the fence.

Deering sophomore shortstop Maddie Broda fields a ground ball.

Portland senior Morgan Boyle races home to score a run in the first inning.

Portland senior second baseman Taylor Crosby comes home with a run.

Recent Portland-Deering results

2016
Portland 11 @ Deering 5 
@ Portland 6 Deering 2 

2015
@ Portland 9 Deering 6
@ Portland 17 Deering 4 (5)  

2014
Portland 12 @ Deering 5
@ Portland 8 Deering 5

2013
@ Portland 13 Deering 9 

2012
Portland 9 @ Deering 4 

2011
@ Deering 14 Portland 6 

2010
Deering 20 @ Portland 5 (5) 

2009
@ Deering 8 Portland 4 

2008
Deering 9 @ Portland 2
@ Deering 4 Portland 0 (Western A preliminary round) 

2007
@ Deering 8 Portland 1 

2006
Deering 3 @ Portland 0 

2005
Deering 9 @ Portland 5 

2004
Portland 2 @ Deering 1 

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.