Playoff thrills continue; state games just days away
(For the complete Portland-South Portland and Portland-Westbrook baseball and Cheverus-Portland and Waynflete-Wells boys' lacrosse game stories, with additional photos and box scores, please visit theforecaster.net)
The baseball and lacrosse playoffs produced their share of surprise and excitement last week and with the state championships scheduled for Saturday, this week promises to be memorable as well.
Meanwhile, city track and field athletes turned heads at the New England championships.
Here's a look at what happened last week and what's to come.
Portland's baseball team entered the postseason having lost seven of 11 games and little was expected of the No. 8 seed in Western Class A, but the Bulldogs certainly put it all together at the right time.
Last Tuesday, in the preliminary round, versus No. 9 South Portland, Portland erupted for eight runs in the third inning and went on to an 8-0 victory behind two-run hits from Tim Rovnak and Nick Volger and a three-hit shutout from pitcher Nate Smart.
"It's nice to put together a game like this at the end of the season for playoff time," Volger said. "We had better at-bats. We saw a lot of pitches. We were more selective, looking for our pitches, balls we could drive. We got guys on base and moved them around."
"This means a lot," said Smart. "We have high hopes every year and something had gone wrong every year. We finally put a good game together. Hopefully we'll have momentum going for the playoffs."
"I thought we hit the ball hard all game," Bulldogs coach Tony DiBiase added. "We were right on it all game and had really good at-bats. That was good to see. We relaxed a little bit and got some runs."
If the preliminary round win was impressive, what Portland achieved Thursday was stunning, as the Bulldogs went to No. 1 Scarborough, a team which had pounded the Bulldogs at Hadlock Field, 9-2, May 16, and held on for a stunning 5-4 upset. Portland went up 1-0 in the first, made it 3-0 in the third and after the Red Storm got a run back in the bottom of the third, went ahead 5-1 on single runs in the fourth and fifth. Scarborough got back to 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth, but Caleb Fraser went the distance to earn the win, while Rovnak and Volger both had multiple hits.
The Bulldogs went to No. 4 Westbrook for the semifinals Monday.
Smart gave Portland a strong effort and Kyle Reichert tied the game with a second inning home run, but in the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Blazes' leadoff hitter reached when he struck out, but the ball got away. After a bunt single, a sacrifice and an intentional walk. Smart got a strrkeout for the second out, but Derek Bouchard delivered a single to left to give Westbrook a 2-1 win, ending Portland's season at 10-9.
"The last week has been fun," Volger said. "We haven't played baseball at this level with this many people around. It's fun to be a part of. We brought Portland High baseball back where we should be, competing for championships. We'll go off with our heads held high."
"We played well toward the end of the season," said DiBiase. "It's been a super group to coach. I think the kids enjoyed the season, even though we had ups and downs and in-betweens. This was a great game to end the season."
The Bulldogs lose several key players, but should be a contender again in 2014.
"We have a good nucleus coming back," DiBiase said. "We have a good JV group, 55 kids in the program playing baseball. It hurts now because it meant so much to these kids. The one thing they've done is they put Portland baseball back on the map."
Cheverus, the No. 5 seed in Western A, wasn't as fortunate, dropping its quarterfinal at Westbrook last Thursday, 3-2. The Stags held an early 2-0 lead, but the Blue Blazes rallied and despite a strong pitching effort from Nate Smith and multiple hits from Ryan Casale and Liam Fitzpatrick, Cheverus' season ended at 10-7.
"We are certainly disappointed in our loss to Westbrook," said Stags coach Mac McKew. "We didn't take care of the ball defensively from an infield standpoint and it cost us the game. Hopefully we learned a valuable lesson, that defense wins playoff games. The infield defense that we played against Westbrook was our Achilles' heel much of the season. The other challenge we faced initially was the lack of depth in our pitching staff. Mitchell Powers pitched well, but was not quite the Mitchell that we have been spoiled by in the past. Ryan Casale was not able to pitch at all. So from that standpoint, we had to patch together our pitching staff. Nate stepped up in a big way.
"I was proud of these guys grinding out 10 wins. The seniors, captains Ryan Casale and Drew Ferrick, along with Liam Fitzpatrick and Andrew Cloutier, will be missed. They were all solid players, but more importantly, solid students and people who will win the game of life."
After falling short of the regional final for the first time since 2010, the Stags hope to bounce back next spring.
"We look forward to 2014 with an excellent core group coming back," McKew said. "The lessons learned from 2013 will make us stronger."
In Western C, Waynflete, the No. 9 seed, played a palpitating preliminary round game at No. 8 Old Orchard Beach last Tuesday. The Flyers led 3-0 and 6-4, but the Seagulls rallied to break Waynflete's heart, 7-6, in eight innings, scoring two in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, then winning it in extra innings. The Flyers got two hits apiece from Ryan Carr and Luke Jeton as they finished 8-7.
"What a game, the fans got their money's worth," said Waynflete coach Steve Kautz. "It was painful and still is and seeing that OOB and Sacopee both went on to lose by just one run in the next round tells us we missed a big chance this year, but, no regrets about the game itself because we played hard and competed. The eighth inning was not the difference. We let them off the hook earlier. You don't want to go into extra innings on the road, of course. Tough spot. After the game, one of our kids said, 'It hurts now, but we can look each other in the eye and know we tried our best.' I agree completely.
"The end was disappointing, but it was a good season. We went 6-3 in the conference for our second straight conference title. We even hung with Greely for almost four innings. Four years in a row a playoff team. Didn't seem likely four years ago. I like what we've accomplished and I love these players. They are already working on organizing summer workouts, going to clinics, etc."
Cheverus' boys' lacrosse team, a first-time state finalist in 2012, finds itself one win from a return at press time, thanks to a pair of playoff victories over city rivals.
The Stags, seeded second in Eastern A, opened with a 15-7 quarterfinal round win over No. 7 Portland, which made a stirring late season run to reach the playoffs.
Nick Schleh led the Cheverus offense with six goals, while Jack Sutton and Thomas Lawson both added three.
"I'm no hero," Schleh said. "It was a team effort. We just moved the ball and cleared through. The looks were happening."
"Overall, we played really well," said Stags coach Bill Bodwell. "Portland played with a lot of heart and never gave up. I was pleased with how we distributed the ball. We made good decisions."
The Bulldogs, who got four goals from Max Pierter, finished 3-10.
"We came out fighting from the get-go," Portland first-year coach Mike DiFusco said. "Cheverus got a couple early ones and kept playing well. We weren't expected to make the playoffs. It was a goal for us and we continued to grind. I'm proud of what we accomplished. It's a tough way to end it."
The 2013 campaign was a struggle for the Bulldogs, but they'll be better for it. Next year and in seasons to come.
"We have young guys who got a lot of experience," DiFusco said. "We only have three seniors. We have the majority of guys back. The important thing for them is remembering this feeling. They know what it will take for us to move forward."
The Stags went on to "host" No. 6 Deering in Saturday's semifinals in a game played at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
The Rams advanced by virtue of an 8-7 upset win at No.3 Mt. Ararat in the quarterfinals, as Deering held on for dear life after building a 7-2 lead. Rick Murray had four goals.
In the semis, Cheverus rolled, 11-4, behind four goals from Lawson and two more from Schleh.
The Rams' season ended at 7-7.
"Saturday's game was a tough one for us," said Deering coach Jon Dubois. "We thought that we matched up better with the Stags this time around. We really need to to do as better job with the ball. I had told the guys that we could run with these guys if we possessed the ball and played good defense. I think once they jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first, we had to press a lot more than we like to.
"The season as a whole was great. We had a roster of about 26 kids JV and varsity. With the limited numbers, I was thoroughly impressed with the kids' ability to play with some of the bigger programs around. Anytime you can play .500 ball and win a playoff game, it has to be considered a success. Beating Portland for the fourth year in a row was another great step. I'm proud of this squad and hope that they can look back on the season and see just how hard they worked with each other and enjoy the success they had."
Deering should be in the mix again next spring.
"We lose nine seniors, including our two top point producers and a goalie," Dubois said. "Nonetheless, we have some young kids who are ready to step up and begin their legacy. I look forward to the next chapter. We're excited for next March and anticipate making another playoff run."
The Stags play at No. 1 Brunswick (12-1) in the regional final Wednesday afternoon. The teams don't play in the regular season. Last spring, Cheverus upset the host Dragons, 9-8, in overtime, in the semifinals.
If the Stags can get back to the state game Saturday at 10 a.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium, they would meet either Scarborough (12-1) or Kennebunk (11-3).
In Western B, fourth-ranked Waynflete put on an offensive display in a 21-10 win over No. 5 Wells in last Wednesday's quarterfinals. Henry Cleaves led all scorers with six goals, Timmy Bollinger added five, Harry Baker-Connick had four and Zander Majercik was a one-man stat sheet stuffer, scoring four times, assisting on three other goals, winning 19 faceoffs and grabbing a mind-boggling 19 ground balls.
"I think we're playing our best lacrosse now, which is awesome," Majercik said. "It's been a long time since we played a home playoff game and a long time since we won one. We're really working as a team. We feel like this is our time."
"(Winning a playoff game is) something (this group has) never done," Cleaves said. "We have a lot of talented offensive players. We took care of business and we worked hard."
"The boys came out in the second half ready to play and did a good job both offensively and defensively," first-year Flyers coach Dan Thomsen added. "They brought the energy."
Waynflete's season ended at 7-7 with a 17-4 loss at No. 1 Cape Elizabeth Saturday in the semifinals.
Waynflete's powerhouse girls' lacrosse team was two wins shy of another state championship at the start of the week.
The Flyers, who went 12-0 in the regular season to earn the top seed in Western B, "hosted" No. 4 York in Saturday's semifinals, in a game moved to the turf at Yarmouth High School due to poor field conditions at Waynflete.
The Flyers shot to a quick 4-0 lead behind three goals from Martha Veroneau and another from Sadie Cole. After the Wildcats, who had a series of upset wins over top teams this spring, got on the board, Ella Millard scored on a free position, Cat Thompson (from Leigh Fernandez), Veroneau, Isabel Agnew and Cole (twice) all tickled the twine for a 10-1 advantage. York got back to 11-4 at halftime (Agnew had Waynflete's goal in that stretch) and made it 14-8 at one point in the second half, but the Flyers gradually pulled away in the second half to prevail, 18-8, as Cole had seven goals, Veroneau added five and Agnew finished with three.
"We came out hard," said Waynflete coach Cathie Connors. "York had some good moments. I didn't want to stop scoring."
The Flyers advanced to set up a delicious showdown with No. 2 Cape Elizabeth (10-3) in the Western B Final Wednesday. Waynflete won both regular season games, 10-8, on the road and 8-4 at home. The Flyers have defeated the Capers in 21 straight encounters, including each of the past two years in the regional final, including a triple-overtime epic last spring.
"We have our hands full," Connors said. "They make me nervous."
If Waynflete advances to its seventh Class B Final in eight seasons, it will battle either Yarmouth (6-7) or Morse (9-5) in the state game Saturday at 5:30 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
In Eastern A, Cheverus, a regional finalist each of the past two seasons, earned the No. 2 seed after a stellar 9-3 campaign. The Stags opened their playoff run with a 15-2 romp over No. 7 Mt. Ararat last Wednesday in the quarterfinals, as Alex Logan scored five times and Elyse Caiazzo and Meredith Willard both added four goals.
Saturday, in the semis, against No. 6 Windham in a game moved to Fitzpatrick Stadium due to poor field conditions, Cheverus got off to a slow start and trailed, 4-2, but the Stags rallied and went on to a 15-8 triumph, as Willard had five goals and Caiazzo, Abby Biegel and MaryKate Walsh all scored three times.
"We knew what to expect," said Cheverus coach Jamie Chamberlain. "(Windham) wanted to feed their tall players. Early on, we were out of synch off-ball, but we adjusted. Alex controlled the draws. That and our ride was big. We created a lot of turnovers in the midfield. After it was 4-2, our offense wore out their defense."
The Stags then got a gift as top-ranked Messalonskee was upset by No. 4 Cony (11-3), allowing Cheverus to host the Rams Wednesday in the regional final. It will be the Stags' fifth regional final appearance and their third in a row, but they've never broken through.
This could be the team that takes the next step.
"The kids wanted to get back to this position and take it further," Chamberlain said. "No one's satisfied. I don't know a whole lot about Cony. They're fairly young. The strength of their team is the midfield. We won't take anyone lightly. We have to play hard for 50 minutes and see where it takes us."
If Cheverus reaches its first ever Class A state final, Saturday at 3 p.m., at Fitzpatrick Stadium, it will square off against either Massabesic (11-3) or Kennebunk (9-5).
Portland, the No. 5 seed in Eastern A, lost at Cony in the quarterfinals, 12-8, despite four goals from Isabel Stehli. The Bulldogs finished 7-6.
Deering throwing standout Jared Bell capped his high school career at the New England championships Saturday in Connecticut, winning the shot put with a top throw of 58 feet, 10 inches. Bell was also fourth in the discus (172-0).
Cheverus' James Campbell came in fifth in the 400 (49.93 seconds). Matt Cushing was sixth in the javelin (178-2). Elijah Yeboah came in ninth in the 300 hurdles (40.16) and was 30th in the 110 hurdles (16.77). Brady Foshay was 15th in the 800 (1 minute, 58.10 seconds). Nick White came in 17th in the discus (141-5). Jake Dixon placed 20th in the 200 (23.26). Isaac Yeboah finished 21st in the 300 hurdles (41.87). Tim Jerome was 23rd in the javelin (149-2).
The Stags' 1,600 relay squad (Elijjah Yeboah, Dixon, Foshay and Campbell) placed 10th (3:25.98). The 400 relay team (Campbell, Foshay, Dixon and Jackson McMann) placed 16th (44.13). The 3,200 squad (James Hannigan, Colin Grove, Gerry Wagner and Andrew Rose) came in 30th (9:12.74).
On the girls' side, Cheverus' Sarah Mount was 21st in the 400 (1:02.17). Anne Slattery placed 22nd in the 300 hurdles (48.83). The Stags' 1,600 relay team (Slattery, Emily Perry, Georgia Caso and Mount) came in 23rd (4:15.62).