Scarborough gets defensive, earns much needed win
PORTLAND—When you're in dire need of a victory, you go out and achieve one by any means necessary.
Even if it means giving up your body in the process.
Scarborough's baseball team lost its first four games this spring by a grand total of six runs and was eager to get in the win column when it faced the daunting task of visiting Cheverus Tuesday afternoon at MacDonald Field, where it would take a little extra effort on the defensive end to prevail.
It became clear early that runs would be at a premium as not only Red Storm senior ace Ben Greenberg, but also Stags sophomore hurler Alex Jacobs were dealing.
Scarborough managed to push two runs across in the third, on RBI singles from junior designated hitter Zach Carreiro and Greenberg and then turned to Greenberg and its defense to hold the fort.
And did that defense ever sparkle.
Three times in the late innings, the Red Storm made pivotal plays to preserve the lead..
First, senior third baseman Nick Suchecki made a diving stop and throw to end the fifth.
That was a mere appetizer for what occurred in the sixth, as first, Scarborough turned a double play, then, with the tying runs on the verge of touching home, senior centerfielder Matt Hartl made the diving catch of his life to end the threat.
Greenberg slammed the door in the seventh and the Red Storm at last had a victory, 2-0.
Greenberg went the distance, allowing just three hits, and he dropped Cheverus to 3-2 in the process.
"Finally," said Scarborough coach Ryan Jones. "Most of us woke up this morning and had that feeling. We knew Cheverus is tough, but we really wanted to win. We didn't change much. I try to preach to them what we're doing works. We just had to be patient. I think we competed our butts off today. We focused a little bit more today, but we played the same game otherwise. The kids' hard work paid off."
Scarborough entered the season depleted from a year ago, but still optimistic it could contend behind Greenberg. The Red Storm have been competitive this spring, but hadn't been able to find a way to win. After opening with a 4-3 home loss to Noble, Scarborough lost to visiting Marshwood, 4-2, visiting Bonny Eagle, 2-1 and Monday at Biddeford, 4-2. If you're scoring at home, that was four losses by a total of six runs.
Cheverus began by handling host Gorham, 11-1, and visiting Noble, 13-0, in five innings, but then lost at Marshwood, 4-3. The Stags returned to their winning ways Saturday when they rallied past visiting Biddeford, 6-3.
The Red Storm have had the better of this rivalry over the years, winning nine out of 10 times (please see sidebar, below) prior to Cheverus' 5-0 victory last season.
Tuesday, the teams produced another thriller and Scarborough again found away to hold on.
The Red Storm had a chance to get off to a fast start when sophomore shortstop Nick Lorello drew a leadoff walk on a 3-2 pitch, but Carreiro hit into a force play, Greenberg struck out and after Suchecki singled to right, Jacobs got senior second baseman Cam Brochu to ground up the middle where senior shortstop Felix del Vecchio made a terrific sliding play to make the stop, then throw out Suchecki at second in a bang-bang play to end the frame.
Greenberg was mortal in his first inning, as he gave up a bloop single to right-center to senior centerfielder Charlie Mull leading off and after catching senior second baseman Mitchell Powers looking at strike three, walking senior third baseman Chris Tinsman. Greenberg worked out of the jam, however, as he got del Vecchio to ground back to the mound and sophomore first baseman Jensen LaPoint to ground out to third.
Both pitchers had 1-2-3 innings in the second.
Jacobs got Hartl to ground to del Vecchio, who made another nice sliding stop, sophomore rightfielder Jack Hughes to ground out to second and junior catcher Ben Irish to fly deep to center.
In the bottom half, Greenberg got senior designated hitter Ethan Jordan to look at strike three, freshman catcher Logan McCarthy to ground out to short, then caught junior rightfielder Derek Hammond looking at strike three.
The Red Storm broke through in the third.
Senior leftfielder Nate Wessel flew out to right, but Lorello walked on a 3-2 pitch and stole second. Carreiro then came through by lining a single to right-center and Lorello raced home with the game's first run. Carreiro then stole second and came home with a second run when Greenberg grounded a single up the middle (Greenberg took second on the throw).
"Our defense was good for the most part," said Cheverus coach Mac McKew. "But we were lax in holding runners the inning they scored."
Suchecki almost broke the game open with a deep drive to center, but Mull ran it down as Greenberg took third. Brochu then was caught looking to end the inning.
Greenberg remained strong by getting senior leftfielder Brad Carney to ground to third, Mull to ground out to second and Powers on a called third strike.
Scarborough did nothing in the fourth, as Hartl grounded out unassisted to LaPoint at first, Hughes popped out to short and Irish crushed a deep drive to center, but Mull made the running catch.
Tinsman led off the bottom half with a walk and took second on a wild pitch, but Greenberg got del Vecchio to swing at strike three and LaPoint to look at strike three. Jordan grounded to short, but the inning stayed alive when Lorello's throw was off target. With runners at the corners, Greenberg escaped by getting McCarthy to ground out to short.
The Red Storm made two-out noise in the fifth. After Wessel struck out swinging and Lorello was thrown out on a bunt attempt, Carreiro walked and after Jacobs threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt, Greenberg walked as well. That brought up Suchecki, but he couldn't add to the lead as he grounded back to the mound.
Junior Alex Libby pinch-hit for Hammond to start the bottom half and reached on Brochu's error, but Greenberg caught Carney looking at strike three, then fanned Mull swinging. The third out wouldn't come via strikeout, instead courtesy tremendous defensive play number one.
Powers ripped a ball that appeared ticketed for the leftfield line, but Suchecki dove to his right to snare it, popped to his feet and threw across the diamond to nip Powers, much to the chagrin of the Cheverus coaching staff.
Brochu led off the sixth with a single to left-center and took second when Hartl grounded out softly to Powers. A groundout to short by Hughes moved Brochu to third, but he was stranded there when Irish looked at strike three.
Scarborough's defense took center stage again in the bottom of the frame.
Tinsman led off with a sharp single to left and del Vecchio followed by hitting the ball hard as well, but it was right at Brochu, who fielded it, threw to Lorello at short and Lorello threw on to junior first baseman Sam Warren to complete a clutch double play.
LaPoint kept hope alive by drawing a walk and Jordan beat out an infield hit to put runners at the corners, setting the stage for the catch of the young season so far.
With the Red Storm outfield shaded to the right, McCarthy made solid contact and sent a deep drive to center. Hartl got a good jump on the ball and gave himself up, diving and stretching until he cradled the ball in his glove as he hit the ground.
"You have to be ready in the outfield at all times, especially when Ben's pitching," said Hartl. "When your pitcher has a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, you shift all your outfielders because they can be really late. Someone can get a piece of it and it can go a long way. I had a pretty good jump on it. I realized I had to dive and spread out for it."
As Cheverus and its fans groaned in agony, Scarborough exulted as Hartl's heroics ended the threat.
"I got big-time help from the defense," Greenberg said. "I put my head down. I didn't think he'd catch it. He was willing to lay out like that for the team. Earlier in the season, I think we played scared a little bit and were afraid to make errors because we're young, but today the guys behind me played great."
"That catch by Hartl was phenomenal," Jones said. "We also had the backhanded play by Suchecki. The double play. Those plays were all huge. Two of them ended an inning."
"He made a great catch or the game was going to be tied," McKew lamented. "It saved the game. I think the wind helped hold it up a little bit."
Hammond replaced Jacobs to start the seventh and he managed to keep the score 2-0. Wessel led off with a ground ball that deflected off Hammond for a single, but Lorello grounded out to first with Wessel moving up, Carreiro chased strike three and after Greenberg was walked intentionally, Suchecki struck out.
Greenberg entered the bottom of the seventh with a high pitch count, but he got the green light to finish and he never let the Stags taste any hope of a rally.
After striking out Hammond, Greenberg got Carney to ground out to short and ended it by getting Mull to ground out to Suchecki, who fittingly got the final assist, throwing to Warren to slam the door on the 2-0 victory.
"It's about time," said Greenberg. "We needed to get one under our belts. We've been right there every game. We were a few untimely hits and costly errors away from winning every game. Today, Coach talked about playing with intensity and competing a little bit harder and I think it worked."
While Scarborough mustered only five hits, it did push two runs across, as both Carreiro and Lorello touched the plate. Carreiro and Greenberg had RBIs. Carreiro and Lorello also had stolen bases.
Greenberg evened his record at 1-1 on the season after allowing just three hits and three walks in seven shutout innings. He fanned nine and threw one wild pitch.
"I felt good today," said Greenberg. "I knew I faced the tough part of the order the inning before, so I just wanted to get them out (in the seventh). Powers and Tinsman are great hitters. I did my best to keep them off balance because they can rip the fastball."
"He was at 84 pitches going into the sixth," said Jones. "We knew he had 30 more. His mentality and focus meant we didn't need anybody else. He finished strong. He pitched great all game."
Jacobs pitched well, but fell to 1-1 after giving up two runs on four hits and four walks in six innings. He fanned four. Hammond allowed a hit and a walk in his scoreless inning of relief, striking out two.
"This was the kind of game you expect," McKew said. "I'm thrilled with Jacobs and Hammond holding them to two runs. You have to score runs if you expect to win. They're a much better team when Greenberg's pitching. He's the great equalizer. There's no margin for error when you compete against a pitcher like that."
Cheverus has its next three games on the road, beginning Thursday when it visits Bonny Eagle. Trips to South Portland and Portland follow.
The Stags will bounce back.
"This season is going to be a grind," McKew said. "The league's a grind. There's no clear-cut favorite. It's only game number five. We have 11 more. We move on to Bonny Eagle on Thursday."
Scarborough returns to action Saturday, when it hosts a red-hot South Portland squad.
Now that the Red Storm has a victory to their credit, look out.
"Coach says we're driving at night right now," said Hartl. "We're looking 10 feet ahead, instead of all the way down the road. We'll take it one game at a time."
"We've got a long way to go, but it's a long season," said Jones.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Cheverus-Scarborough results
Cheverus 5 Scarborough 0 (played @ OOB)
@ Scarborough 2 Cheverus 0
Western A Final
Scarborough 7 Cheverus 5
Cheverus 4 @ Scarborough 1
Scarborough 6 @ Cheverus 3 (14 innings)
Scarborough 4 @ Cheverus 2
Scarborough 2 @ Cheverus 0
@ Scarborough 2 Cheverus 1 (8 innings)
@ Scarborough 12 Cheverus 2 (6 innings)
@ Scarborough 6 Cheverus 3
@ Cheverus 17 Scarborough 2
Western A preliminary
@ Cheverus 6 Scarborough 2