Scarborough stays unbeaten with win at SP
SOUTH PORTLAND—The Scarborough baseball team faced its first dose of adversity this season and it came in the form of a fallen player in the first inning of Thursday afternoon's game against South Portland at Wainwright Farms.
Senior Greg Viola had to be removed from the premises in an ambulance after suffering a severe ankle injury, but his team rallied around him and produced yet another victory.
Behind another gem from junior ace Ben Greenberg and a balanced hitting attack, the Red Storm took a 12-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, but the Red Riots refused to go quietly.
South Portland scored six times in the sixth, added another run in the seventh and got within two batters of bringing the tying run to the plate, but senior Nick Bagley finally slammed the door and the Red Storm improved to 5-0 with a 12-7 victory, dropping the Red Riots to 4-2.
"It was tough," said Greenberg. "We've never had a big injury like that. I thought we bounced back pretty well."
Team to beat
Scarborough was a couple bad fielding innings away from winning its first Class A title a year ago, falling to Messalonskee in the state game, 6-3.
This spring, despite some major graduation losses and a coaching change (Ryan Jones replaced Mike Coutts), the Red Storm has emerged as the favorite, dominating the opposition behind its pitching.
Scarborough opened with a 3-0 home win over Thornton Academy, blanked visiting Massabesic (5-0) and host Westbrook (7-0), before finally surrendering a few runs in a 7-3 win at Bonny Eagle. Starters Greenberg and senior Jayme Lappin didn't allow a run in any of those games.
South Portland, which was ousted in the preliminary round a year ago, enjoyed a 6-0 home win over Biddeford in its opener, then defeated visiting Noble, 6-5. After falling, 13-8, in a slugfest at Thornton Academy, the Red Riots eked out a 4-3 victory at Massabesic and downed visiting Sanford, 10-3.
Overall, the teams began play having split 12 prior meetings (including a Scarborough victory in the 2009 semifinals and a South Portland win two years ago in the quarterfinals). Last spring, the Red Storm eked out a 6-5 win at the Red Riots, behind a three-run rally in the top of the sixth inning. Greenberg got the win.
Thursday, on a day devoid of the recent sun and warmth we've enjoyed, Scarborough stayed a perfect Storm.
Scarborough got things going in the top of the first inning, when senior second baseman Brendan Hall set the tone by beating out an infield hit with one out. Bagley then reached on an error and Greenberg singled to center to load the bases.
South Portland junior pitcher Zac Marles got senior catcher Sam Wessel to fly to shallow right for the second out, but Viola followed with a line shot just over the glove of junior shortstop Cosmo Romano into left-centerfield, scoring Hall and Bagley for a 2-0 lead.
After an error on Romano scored Greenberg to make it 3-0, Lappin, the first baseman, singled to right. Viola tried to score, but the throw from sophomore rightfielder Matt Beecher got there first and senior catcher Adam Helmke applied the tag for the third out. On the play, Viola tried to elude the tag, landed wrong and immediately it was apparent that his injury was serious.
Play was stopped for 25 minutes.
"It's tough seeing a fellow teammate go down, but to be honest, they were pretty self-motivated to come back," Jones said. "Greg's intensity rubs off on guys. He was in good spirits, smiling, laughing for about 10 minutes, then the pain kicked in. I think adrenaline took over."
Greenberg wasn't affected by the delay and worked around an infield single by Beecher and an error by getting junior third baseman Robert Graff to pop out to Wessel.
"Coach told me to stay loose," said Greenberg. "I know we were all shocked on the bench, but we came back."
Marles worked around a one-out single by senior rightfielder Aaron Ravin in the top of the second.
In the bottom half, junior designated hitter Chris Foley led off with a single, but Greenberg got junior leftfielder Joey DiBiase to fly out and caught both Romano and senior first baseman Dillon Burns looking at strike three.
The Red Storm then broke it open in the top of the third.
Bagley led off with a single, Greenberg beat out a dribbler up the third base line and Bagley took third when Graff couldn't handle the ball. Wessel then beat out an infield single to score Bagley for a 4-0 lead. After Wessel stole second, senior Eric Pemberton (who entered the game after Viola left) struck out looking, but senior designated hitter Trevor Sparda singled to center, scoring Greenberg and Wessel.
Sparda took second when senior centerfielder Sam Terry was hit by a pitch and scored the seventh run on an RBI single from senior third baseman Kevin Dryzga. Terry came home to make it 8-0 on a fielder's choice and Scarborough was firmly in control.
"(Scarborough) found a lot of soft spots and we made some key mistakes and they took advantage," lamented South Portland coach Mike Owens. "That's a good team. We knew we'd have to be solid defensively. We made mistakes and with a guy like Greenberg on the mound, that's all they needed."
Senior centerfielder Nick Whitten had a two-out single in the bottom of the third, but Greenberg stranded him at first.
In the top of the fourth, with two down, Wessel walked and Pemberton had a base hit, but Marles kept it an 8-0 game by striking out Sparda.
Greenberg retired the Red Riots in order in the bottom of the fourth and Scarborough added to its lead in the top of the fifth, as Marles was replaced by DiBiase.
Senior Mike Linehan, pinch-hitting for Terry, led off by drawing a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Senior Ryan Collins pinch-hit for Dryzga and grounded out, moving Linehan to third, but pinch-hitter Matt Hartl drew a walk and stole second. Hall then hit a ground ball to short and Linehan came home on the play to make it a 9-0 contest.
Greenberg's final inning was the bottom of the fifth and he went out in style, sandwiching groundouts back to the mound from Romano and junior second baseman Jon Vickers around a strikeout of Burns.
In the top of the sixth, Wessel walked leading off, was wild pitched to second and came home on a Sparda single. An infield hit by Linehan sparked another pitching change as DiBiase departed in favor of Vickers. Vickers caught Dryzga looking at strike three, but Ravin singled to score Sparda and after an infield hit from Hall, Bagley singled to left scoring Linehan to make it 12-0.
In Maine high school baseball, a game can end by the mercy rule if a team leads by 10 runs or more after the fifth inning. Scarborough only needed to end the bottom of the sixth without allowing more than two runs for that to take effect, but the Red Riots refused to go quietly.
Senior reliever Damian Ramsdell hit the first batter he faced, Joe Gleason. Junior Dylan Farrell-Reny followed with a single, as did junior Austin Mills to load the bases. After a strikeout, Foley came through with a single to center, scoring Gleason and reloading the bases. Ramsdell then balked home Farrell-Reny. A single to center by DiBiase delivered Mills to ensure the game would go the full seven innings and Brad Sowerby sliced a double down the leftfield line, scoring three runs to cut the deficit to 12-6.
Ramsdell got Vickers to ground out, then got a tremendous defensive play from Dryzga on a tough hop off the bat of Beecher to end the inning.
"We've got some guys on the bench who haven't been in games yet," said Jones. "We wanted to give them an opportunity. Damian threw the ball over the plate. He did his job. South Portland found some holes. Good for both teams. Good for them to know they can still compete down 12-0. Good for us to know we still need to go hard with a big lead."
After Scarborough went 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh, South Portland had one more uprising against Bagley in its half.
Whitten led off by tripling to left-center. Mills reached on an error and after Graff bounced back to Bagley, a walk to Foley loaded the bases.
A big hit in that spot might have made things very interesting, but Bagley got DiBiase to fly to right (Whitten came home on the play) and induced a line drive to left off the bat of Romano to end it.
It took a shade over two hours, but the Red Storm had prevailed, 12-7.
"(South Portland's) always scrappy and comes back," said Greenberg. "It was cool to have Bagley come in and close it out."
The Scarborough offense produced 17 hits, including three from Bagley and two apiece from Greenberg, Hall and Sparda. In all, 12 different Scarborough players had at least one hit, a staggering number.
"We've hit the ball better than we did last year," Greenberg said. "We're happy with that. I had an off day today, but if one guy doesn't hit well, someone else picks them up."
"I knew coming into this year, our pitching and defense would be exceptional," Jones said. "The question was our hitting. We're starting to produce. Our motto is, 'Put it in play.' We won't hit it out of the yard. We have guys with speed, who can control the bats. We want to put the pressure on the defense. We did a good job in that respect today."
Bagley, Greenberg, Linehan, Sparda and Wessel all touched home plate twice. Sparda drove in three runs, while Ravin and Viola each had two RBIs.
Greenberg improved to 3-0 with yet another shutout effort, allowing just three hits and three walks in his five innings. He struck out six.
"I didn't have my best stuff, but I felt good," Greenberg said.
Jones was certainly impressed.
"Ben's been phenomenal for us all year," Jones said. "It's fun to watch. He tries to locate his fastball until he has to go to his breaking pitch. That was his best pitch today. I don't think he threw a single curveball for a ball today. Jayme and Ben have done a phenomenal job of just throwing strikes and letting their defense play behind them. I haven't needed to work with them too much. They're polished pitchers. They know how to get it done on their own."
South Portland got two hits from Foley. Sowerby and Whitten both had extra base hits.
Marles fell to 2-1 after allowing eight runs (seven earned) on 11 hits and a walk in four innings. He hit a batter and fanned four.
"We talked to the kids all year about playing seven innings, whether we're up big, down big or something in between," Owens said. "I'm proud of how the kids continued to battle."
Scarborough and South Portland will meet again in the regular season finale, May 28, at the Red Storm.
In the meantime, both teams hope to keep winning and earning Heal Points.
South Portland looks to get back in the win column Tuesday when it goes to Gorham.
"We're about where I thought we'd be," Owens said. "We beat the teams I thought we should and could. We're competing with better teams. We haven't gotten over the hump yet. I was concerned about the offense heading into the season, but we're swinging well. I want to win them all, but I'm pleased. We're young and still learning. We have a tough part of our schedule coming up. We want to get in (to the playoffs) and who knows from there."
Scarborough will welcome Biddeford Saturday and plays host to Noble Tuesday.
"We still have to beat some tough teams," said Greenberg.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Scarborough-South Portland history
Scarborough 6 @ South Portland 5
@ South Portland 5 Scarborough 0
Western A quarterfinals
South Portland 2 @ Scarborough 1 (8)
@ Scarborough 7 South Portland 2
Scarborough 7 @ South Portland 4
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 13 South Portland 6
@ Scarborough 7 South Portland 5
@ South Portland 5 Scarborough 2
@ Scarborough 6 South Portland 5
@ South Portland 4 Scarborough 1
@ South Portland 7 Scarborough 0
South Portland 2 @ Scarborough 1