Deering falls to defending champ in opener
PORTLAND—The Deering baseball team didn't do many things wrong Tuesday afternoon in its opener at Hadlock Field, but the Rams learned that in the early going especially, their margin for error is slim.
Hosting defending state champion Westbrook, Deering suffered a couple lapses in the field and failed to capitalize on a golden scoring opportunity and that proved to be too much to overcome.
The Blue Blazes took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, added another run in the second and after the Rams left the bases loaded with no one out in the fourth, Westbrook pushed its advantage to 5-0 before going on to a 5-1 victory.
"It's typical of a first game of the year," said Deering coach Tim Eisenhart. "The kids' timing was way off. The weather hasn't been at the point where we've been able to get outside. We did do some things well."
While Westbrook entered the year defending a championship for the first time, Deering was confident it will be vastly improved from last year's 2-14 record.
Among those 14 losses last spring were a pair to the Blue Blazes, 7-3 at Hadlock Field and 2-1 in Westbrook.
Entering Tuesday, over the past decade, the teams had played 15 times with Deering holding a 9-6 edge (please see sidebar, below), but the rivalry had been streaky. The Rams won every meeting from 2004 through 2009 (including the Western A Final in 2008), but the Blue Blazes have won every game since (including a semifinal round triumph in 2010).
Deering's last win over Westbrook came May 11, 2009 (7-2 at Hadlock Field).
The Rams hoped to end their skid Tuesday, but it wasn't to be.
Junior pitcher Sam Luebbert got off to a good start, getting Westbrook senior leadoff man and leftfielder Kaleb Kent to bounce out to shortstop and catching senior rightfielder Ryan Gilligan looking at strike three, but senior shortstop Collin Joyce drew a walk, stole second and after a pop foul fell harmlessly off the bat of senior standout catcher Kyle Heath, Heath grounded to shortstop, but senior Will Barlock couldn't come up with the ball and Joyce, never slowing, raced home for the game's first run. Luebbert prevented further damage by fanning senior first baseman Austin Blake swinging.
In the bottom half of the first, against Westbrook starter Ethan Nash, Deering senior leftfielder Mike Marzilli grounded out to short, senior first baseman Ben Peterson bounced out to second and Barlock struck out.
The Blue Blazes doubled their lead in the top of the second.
Leading off, senior centerfielder Andrew St. Clair crushed a double to left. He moved up to third on a wild pitch. Sophomore third baseman D.J. Henrikson then grounded back to the mound. The ball deflected off Luebbert's glove to sophomore Pat Viola at second, who threw Henrikson out with St. Clair holding.
That all proved to be moot when sophomore second baseman Jack McCullough lined the next pitch over Viola's head into right-center and St. Clair cruised home to make it 2-0. After sophomore designated hitter Corey Walker hit into a force play, Walker stole second and Kent walked, but Luebbert kept the deficit at two by inducing Gilligan to ground out to second.
In the bottom half, junior shortstop Nick Bevilacqua flew out to center, but senior catcher Ryan Carmichael reached on an error. Nash then struck out junior designated hitter Kevin Goldberg and got Viola to ground out to short (after the ball deflected off the pitcher's glove) to end it.
Luebbert had a strong inning in the top of the third, getting Joyce to ground out to short, fanning Heath and after Blake drew a walk, inducing a pop out off the bat of St. Clair.
Nash had another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half, fanning sophomore centerfielder Dom Bernard, getting senior rightfielder David Fowler to ground to third and retiring Marzilli on a fly ball to left.
Luebbert set the side down in order in the top of the fourth, getting Henrikson to look at strike three, McCullough to ground out to second and Walker to squib a ball in front of the plate on which Carmichael made a nice play to throw out the runner.
The Rams then had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the fourth, but ultimately squandered it.
Leading off, Peterson drew a walk. Barlock then lined a shot just to the right of Henrikson for Deering's first hit. Bevilacqua laid down a bunt which Nash grabbed, but his momentary peek to third allowed Bevilacqua to reach safely and the bases were full with no one out.
Nash began to dig his way out of the jam by striking out Carmichael on a high fastball. Goldberg then ripped a shot to right, but Gilligan, playing in, made the catch. Peterson tried to tag and score, but Gilligan's throw came to Nash, whose relay to Heath was in plenty of time to tag out the runner and end the threat.
"We try to generate runs early in the year since (the other team is) rusty as well, but that was tough to recover from," said Eisenhart.
Westbrook added a third run in the fifth.
After Kent led off with a walk, he stole second. Gilligan grounded back to Luebbert, but Joyce followed with a single to left, Gilligan scored and Joyce took second on the throw. After Heath was walked intentionally, Luebbert got Blake to ground to Viola, who tagged Heath and threw to first to complete the double play.
In the bottom half, Deering went in order, as Viola grounded out to short (Joyce made a stellar play by going deep into the hole, then firing a strike across the infield), Bernard struck out and Fowler grounded out.
The Blue Blazes effectively ended the competitive phase of the game in the top of the sixth by adding two runs.
After St. Clair reached on an error, Luebbert was pulled in favor of sophomore Dan Marzilli, who was greeted by a ringing single to right off the bat of Henrikson. The runners moved up on a wild pitch and McCullough walked to load the bases. After Marzilli caught freshman pinch-hitter Bailey Sawyer looking at strike three, Kent laced a single to right-center, scoring both St. Clair and Henrikson to make it 5-0. Marzilli prevented further damage by striking out Gilligan and getting Joyce to fly to right.
In the bottom half, Nash got Mike Marzilli to fly to left and both Peterson and Barlock to line out to Joyce at shortstop.
Viola made a terrific defensive play to begin the top of the seventh, when he dove to rob Heath of a hit and his throw was dug out nicely at first by Peterson. Blake followed with a walk and St. Clair did the same, but Dan Marzilli got Henrikson to ground to Barlock, who started a double play.
Deering could have gone quietly in the bottom of the seventh, but it refused to be shut out.
Bevilacqua drew a walk leading off and Carmichael then ripped a double to the left-centerfield gap and Bevilacqua raced home to get the Rams on the board. That's as close as Deering would come, however, as Nash struck out Goldberg swinging, fanned Viola swinging, then ended the game by catching Bernard looking at strike three.
"I challenged them at the end of the game and the kids responded and got a run," Eisenhart said.
Luebbert suffered the loss after surrendering four runs (three earned) on three hits and five walks in five innings of work. He struck out four and threw a wild pitch. Dan Marzilli gave up one earned run on two hits and three walks in his two innings. He fanned two and also threw a wild pitch.
Deering's offense, as it was, featured one hit apiece from Bevilacqua and Carmichael.
Nash went the distance and earned the win after allowing just one run on two hits and two walks. He struck out eight.
"We were way ahead on (Nash's) fastball," Eisenhart lamented. "We expected a heavier thrower and the kids couldn't catch up. He kept us off-balance. He mixed up his changeup a little bit. His changeup is a little slower than his fastball, which is already slow, and he just used it effectively."
St. Clair scored twice and Kent drove in two runs. Westbrook stole four bases.
Just getting started
Westbrook returns to action Friday when it hosts Portland in a rematch of last year's exciting semifinal round playoff game.
As for Deering, it hopes to get in the win column when it goes to Massabesic Friday.
"We'll concentrate on getting the bats going," Eisenhart said. "It's just playing games. We're not there yet. That's going to be typical around the league. We've got a long way to go."
The Blue Blazes and Rams meet again when they close the regular season June 3 in Westbrook.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
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