PORTLAND — Portland freshman Caleb Fraser craftily navigated his way through the Deering Rams lineup and survived a shaky defensive effort behind him to earn a complete-game, 8-7 victory Thursday at Hadlock Field.
Fraser’s second win of the season was the Bulldogs’ first regular season victory over the tradition-rich Rams in four years.
It was anything but easy. Portland took a 4-1 lead in the fourth and twice held four-run advantages after that, but still needed a little magic to outlast Deering, the three-time defending Class A state champions.
With an 8-4 lead after scoring twice in the top of the seventh, Portland needed just three outs to secure the win, but two errors opened the door enough for the Rams to make it highly interesting with three runs that could have easily been more.
Deering scored on an error before junior Jamie Ross delivered an RBI-single to make it 8-6, but the Rams made the second out of the inning at third base on a crucial base-running blunder that cost them the tying run. Junior Devon Fitzgerald singled to drive home a run one batter after Ross that should have scored two and at least forced extra frames.
Instead, clinging to the 8-7 lead, Fraser got the next batter to pop foul and Portland senior third basemen Max Dismore turned in the play of the game. Ranging to his right toward the Bulldogs’ dugout, Dismore went into a half-slide and gloved the final out in dramatic fashion to preserve the win.
“We didn’t come ready to play,” said Deering coach Mike Coutts. “We came out flat. We do all the fundamental things and they know what they’re doing out there, but if we don’t start coming to play mentally it will be our downfall. We’re not good enough to just show up and turn it on and turn it off. We need to bring our ‘A’ game every time out and take some responsibility. We have players that have been part of the tradition here, but they still need to learn how to prepare and how to win.”
Fraser’s gutsy outing capped by Dismore’s game-ending catch helped the surprising Bulldogs improve to 4-1 with a pair of statement wins already in the books. After knocking off preseason favorite Westbrook in the season opener and now Deering (4-2), the Bulldogs are riding high in Mike McCullum’s second season at the helm.
Fraser was the last man standing for Portland after a marathon 10-9 (nine innning) win at Massabesic the day before exhausted the staff. With fellow freshmen Nick Volger behind the plate, Fraser threw 110 pitches, scattered nine hits, struck out six and issued only one walk. The righthander was touched for seven runs, only three of them earned, as the Bulldogs’ defense committed six errors behind him.
“Fraser’s our No. 2 starter this year and he’s shown a lot of maturity,” said McCullum. “He’s pitching much older than a freshman. He throws a lot of strikes, and he throws three pitches for strikes.”
Portland senior Adam Gould powered the offensive attack, driving in a pair with a single in the Bulldogs’ three-run top of the fourth and hammering an RBI double in a two-run fifth inning for the “sort of” visitors. Senior Ben Dibiase had a knock, reached base three times and scored twice from the second slot in the Bulldogs’ order.
Portland pounded out five hits in the fourth to score three runs and take a 4-1 lead. Dibiase beat out a single to short on a bang-bang play to start things off. Rudy Dimillo, a junior, was thrown out at first by Deering senior catcher Pat Bride on a swinging bunt that pushed Dibiase to second. Gould followed and picked up his first RBI, ripping a single directly over the third base bag to score Dibiase. After stealing second standing up, Gould came around to score the Bulldogs’ third run on an RBI double to center off the bat of senior Scott Briggs. Hitting sixth, Fraser helped his own cause with an opposite field single to right that moved Briggs to third. Another freshman, Kyle Reichert, delivered Briggs with a line single to center.
Deering got one back in the bottom of half of the fourth with a pair of hits, one walk and a fielder’s choice RBI groundout to pull within 4-2. With one out, senior Jake Nichols slammed a long double to the gap in left-center, the hardest ball hit all day off Fraser. Fitzgerald drew a full-count walk, and sophomore Nick DiBiase chopped behind the bag at second and beat the throw to load the bases. Nichols scored to make it 4-2 when junior Matt Bevilacqua grounded to the right side and DiBiase was forced at second.
Portland tacked on two more in the top of the fifth to move ahead 6-2 when Ross surrendered a pair of walks, Gould’s RBI double, and two passed balls victimized the Rams. Volger led off the inning with a walk and promptly stole second. Dimillo grounded to short and reached on a close play as Volger went to third. Gould ripped a double over Deering junior John Hardy in left that easily plated Volger. Dimillo, on first and running on the pitch was not so lucky. Hardy relayed the ball to Deering junior shortstop Nick Colucci, who fired home in time to erase Dimillo at the plate for the second out. Gould scored from second on a pair of passed balls as Portland took its first four-run lead.
The Rams got two back in the home half of the fifth when Fraser labored through the talented top of the Deering order and was victimized by two of the Bulldogs’ six errors. Junior Sam Balzano led off with a single and took second after Fraser had him picked off, but the Bulldogs botched the rundown. Colucci followed with a sharply hit sinking liner to left that got down in time and kept rolling as Balzano scored and Colucci trotted into second with an RBI double.
After catching Balzano leaning at first, Fraser wheeled to catch Colucci at second but his errant throw ended up in centerfield to advance Colucci to third. Nichols plated Colucci with a high chopper over third that cut the Portland lead to 6-4 after five complete.
“We won two games this week with 10 errors,” said McCullum. “The baseball gods have been with us but we’re not going to keep winning like this. I told the guys to be proud of the win but we have a lot of work to do. Imagine what we could do if we improve our defense.”
Ross was done for the day after five complete, leaving a 6-4 game after allowing five runs, striking out six and issuing three walks. The Deering righthander gave up nine hits but three went for extra bases as he struggled to keep the ball down in the zone.
Balzano, a lefthander, came on for Deering and pitched a scoreless sixth, but lacked command in the seventh and was touched for a pair of runs that would come back to haunt the Rams. Volger walked for the second time to start the seventh, stole second for the second time and moved to third when Dibiase blooped a single into short right.
Dimillo followed with a sac-fly to center, and Balzano plunked Gould to put runners on the corners. With no outs, Deering intentionally walk Briggs to load the bases. Balzano got Fraser to bounce to second with the infield drawn in to get the force at home, but walked the next batter for an 8-4 Portland lead after the top of the seventh.
The Rams put three runs up in the seventh but Dismore’s sliding catch in foul territory clinched the Bulldog’s second huge win of the season.
Portland and Deering were both scheduled to play home games on Saturday but were rained out. The Bulldogs will make up the game with Marshwood at home on Friday, but played at Thornton Academy on Tuesday and at home on Thursday against Bonny Eagle.
Deering travels to Sanford Wednesday and hosts Massabesic Thursday.