PORTLAND—One win could be dismissed as a fluke, but two?
Two is an affirmation.
That Portland’s baseball team is pretty darn good.
Regardless of the competition.
Thursday afternoon, on a gorgeous day at Hadlock Field, the Bulldogs hosted the team they upset on Opening Day, preseason favorite Marshwood, and 24 hours removed from their worst loss of the season, put on an encouraging show.
In all aspects of the game.
Portland senior Dan Marzilli pitched like the ace his team needed him to be, keeping the potent Hawks’ offense off-balance for seven innings thanks to some terrific defense from his teammates.
The Bulldogs finally broke through offensively in the bottom of the fourth inning, thanks to a couple Marshwood errors, then got clutch two-run hits from sophomore Nick Archambault and junior Jack Nichols in the sixth to break it open.
Marzilli slammed the door in the seventh and the game fittingly ended with Portland’s second double play.
The Bulldogs’ 5-0 victory lifted their record to 7-2, snapped the Hawks’ six-game win streak and dropped Marshwood to 6-2 in the process.
“This means a lot,” said Marzilli. “We beat them earlier in the season, but it didn’t feel as good as this one. We didn’t really think we’d win by this much.”
Portland made quite a splash back on April 23, when it welcomed back coach Mike Rutherford with a 5-3 win at Marshwood in the season opener. In that one, Marzilli allowed just one earned run and two hits in five innings and Zach Fortin rapped out three hits and drove in a pair of runs.
The Bulldogs then added victories at Windham (4-2) and at home over Massabesic (4-0). A 3-2, eight inning loss to visiting Thornton Academy dropped Portland from the unbeaten ranks, but the Bulldogs bounced back to blank visiting Scarborough (3-0) and Noble (8-0), then won at Gorham (7-3). Tuesday’s game at Westbrook was washed out by rain and in the makeup Wednesday, Portland lost by a decisive margin for the first time this spring (12-3).
Marshwood came into the season as the odds-on favorite in Western A and after falling in the opener to Portland, hit its stride by winning at Windham (13-0) and Scarborough (5-0), at home over Biddeford (11-1), at Deering (15-6), at home over Westbrook (6-3) and with surprising ease Thursday over previously undefeated South Portland (11-1).
Last season, the Bulldogs edged the Hawks at Hadlock, 5-4.
Thursday, on a perfect mid-May afternoon, Portland did it again.
Marzilli worked out of a jam in the top of the first.
After senior third baseman Zack Quintal grounded out to shortstop, senior centerfielder Zach Hodges beat out an infield hit. A passed ball moved Hodges to second and senior shortstop Noah McDaniel walked, but senior first baseman Jake Lebel grounded sharply past Marzilli and the ball took a fortuitous hop into the glove of Bulldogs sophomore second baseman Dom Tocci, who threw to sophomore shortstop Jake Knop for a force out and Knop threw on to junior John Williams at first to complete the inning-ending double play.
Portland went quickly against Marshwood senior starter Kyle Parmley in the bottom half, as Knop grounded out sharply to second, Tocci grounded out to short on a 3-1 pitch and Williams grounded out to short on the first pitch he saw.
Marzilli got sophomore designated hitter Holden Jackman to look at strike three leading off the second, but junior righftfielder Zach Doyon grounded a single up the middle. After senior catcher Luke Stankovich struck out, Jackman took off for second and sophomore second baseman Cole McDaniel lined a single to center, sending Jackman to third. Marzilli escaped the jam by getting junior leftfielder Ryan O’Neil to pop up into foul territory, where Williams recorded the third out.
In the bottom half, after junior designated hitter Joey Fusco looked at strike three, senior catcher Ryan Ruhlin drew a walk, but Fortin, the leftfielder, popped meekly to first base and Archambault, the centerfielder, grounded out sharply to short to end the frame.
Quintal struck out swinging leading off the third, but Hodges reached on an error. Marzilli quickly picked him off, however, then got Noah McDaniel to flare out to right.
Nichols, the third baseman, led off the bottom half with the Bulldogs’ first hit, a solid single to center, but after junior rightfielder George Chaison-Lapine failed to make contact on a bunt attempt, Nichols was caught between first and second and was thrown out trying to steal. Chaison-Lapine then struck out and Knop grounded to third.
Leading off the fourth, Lebel crushed a shot over Archambault’s head in center. The ball short-hopped the wall (many on hand thought it should have been ruled a ground-rule double after clearing the yellow line) and Lebel was going to stop at second, but the throw back to the infield was wild and Lebel took off for third. He slid in safely, but his momentum took him over the base and Nichols tagged him for an eventful first out.
“I hesitated for a second,” Archambault said. “I’ve never had a ball hit that far over my head. I wasn’t sure what to do, then Jack made a good play. It was a wasted opportunity for them.”
Jackman then grounded to short, with Williams making a nice tag on the throw and Doyon grounded out to first.
Portland got an opportunity to start its half of the fourth when Tocci lined to O’Neil, but O’Neil dropped the ball. Williams then hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Fusco followed with a bouncer that took a bad hop over Cole McDaniel’s glove for a single. Fusco moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on Ruhlin’s sharp single to center. Fortin then grounded to Noah McDaniel’s right. McDaniel got to the ball, but his throw to first was in the dirt and eluded Lebel, allowing Fusco to score the game’s first run and put runners at the corners. Fortin stole second, but Archambault grounded out to short to keep the score 1-0.
In the top of the fifth, after Stankovich got jammed and grounded back to Marzilli, Cole McDaniel walked. O’Neil bunted McDaniel to second and a wild pitch moved him up 90 feet, but Marzilli got Quintal to hit a slow roller to third and Nichols made a nice play to scoop the ball up and throw on to first to end the threat.
In the bottom half, Nichols grounded out to third, Chaison-Lapine looked at strike three and after Knop grounded a single down the third base line, Tocci grounded out to short.
Marzilli had to stare down the meat of the Hawks’ order in the sixth and had his best frame of the afternoon, getting Hodges swinging on a 3-2 pitch, Noah McDaniel to ground out to short, with Knop making a nice play, and Lebel to foul out to Williams.
Riding that momentum, Portland’s offense came to life in the bottom of the sixth and put the game away.
Williams led off and singled through the hole between third and shortstop. Fusco walked and replaced by senior Dom Fagone. Ruhlin then chopped a ball to short and everyone reached safely to load the bases. After junior Joseph Clayton pinch-hit for Fortin and grounded into a second-to-home force out, Archambault came through with the biggest hit of the game, a single to center which scored Fagone and senior Marcus Cross-Robertson to make it 3-0.
“I was just trying to hit the ball hard,” Archambault said. “He threw me a curveball. I just put a good swing on it.”
“Archambault has been swinging the bat pretty good,” Rutherford said. “That was a big hit in that situation.”
Nichols then crushed Parmley’s final offering into the left-centerfield gap for a double, chasing home Clayton and Archambault and the lead was five runs.
“I was so happy Jack could put one in the gap right after (my hit),” said Archambault.
“This was Jack’s first start,” said Rutherford said. “He’s plugged away and got two big hits today.”
Parmley was replaced by junior Nick Landis, who got Chaison-Lapine to ground out to second and Knop to fly out, but the Bulldogs had done their damage.
Marzilli then completed the victory in the seventh, striking out Jackman and after Doyon fought off a pitch and singled to center, he induced Stankovich to ground to Tocci, who flipped to Knop for one out and Knop threw to Williams for the Bulldogs’ second double play of the game, which brought the curtain down on a most impressive 7-0 victory.
“The reason we’ve won all these games is defense,” Knop said. “That gives pitchers confidence and gets the bats going too. It’s why we’ve been winning. That was just the best feeling. I knew it was coming. Tocci made a nice play and flipped it to me. All I had to do was throw it. That was fun.”
“We really struggled yesterday and Coach wondered how we’d respond and I think I was too and we all were,” Archambault said. “This shows how much heart we have, that we can get the job done when it counts.”
“Today we played Portland baseball,” Rutherford added. “We got timely hitting, good pitching and played great defense. We turned two more double plays. That’s 13 for the year. Knop and Tocci are great up the middle.
“We were playing such good baseball up until yesterday. We took a step back. I was questioning last night if we were the young team I thought we were going to be. I didn’t know if we could step up. Marshwood’s played good baseball. This could have been an ugly two games in a row. They were hungry after we beat them at their place. On paper, it didn’t look good, but my kids showed they’re old-fashioned Portland kids. We don’t play until Monday. If we lost today, it would have been a long weekend.”
Marzilli stole the show, improving to 3-0 by allowing just five hits in seven shutout innings. He walked two and struck out five.
“I felt like I just needed ground ball outs,” Marzilli said. “I didn’t worry about striking them out. We were able to turn two and that minimized my pitch count. I know that I can just throw it and all my fielders will back me up. It feels good we had multiple double plays and great catches. My change-up worked at the beginning. Halfway through, my curveball came through. My fastball worked well setting up the curveball and change-up.”
“He’s the best pitcher we’ve had in awhile,” said Knop. “He hits his spots consistently and gets hitters off-balance.”
“That’s what a number one pitcher is supposed to do,” Rutherford added. “He was my guy today. They’re a really good hitting team and Danny shut them down. Twice. He kept us in the game. He proved he’s one of the top players in the league, by far.”
Offensively, Nichols and Ruhlin had multiple hits, Archambault, Clayton, Cross-Robertson, Fagone and Fusco all scored and Archambault and Nichols drove in two runs apiece. The Bulldogs left five runners on base.
Parmley fell to 0-1 after giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks in 5.1 innings. Parmley struck out three and threw a wild pitch. Landis retired both batters he faced. Doyon had two hits, but the Hawks didn’t have much offense beyond that. They left four runners on.
Marshwood (third in the Western Class A Heal Point standings) is right back in action Friday, when it goes to Massabesic. Windham pays a visit Tuesday.
As for Portland (sixth in Western A), it’s back at Hadlock Monday, when Windham pays a visit. After going to Biddeford Tuesday, the Bulldogs’ brutal slate continues Thursday with a trip to South Portland.
“I think we just have to be consistent,” Archambault said. “We’ve proved we’re for real. We’re not pretenders. We’ve beaten the best team in the league twice. We have to keep improving, offensively especially. We have to keep playing great defense.”
“This is big for our confidence,” Knop said. “Taking a beating from Westbrook, then beating the number one team today. We’re doing really well. We only have one returning varsity hitter. All these young guys have come up and made plays. It’s been huge.”
“We’re playing our best,” Marzilli said. “It was good to be under the radar. No one expected much from us at the beginning of the season. Now we’ll see the other team’s best pitchers. I think we have a very good chance.”
Portland senior Dan Marzilli delivers a pitch. Marzilli threw a five-hit shutout for his third win of the season.
Marshwood’s Kyle Parmley delivers a pitch.
Portland junior first baseman John Williams fields a pickoff throw.
Portland junior Joe Fusco takes a swing.
Portland’s Jack Nichols makes contact. Nichols hit a key two-run double in the sixth.
Portland senior Marcus Cross-Robertson slides home with the Bulldogs’ third run.
Portland sophomore Nick Archambault crosses home plate with his team’s final run.
Portland’s baseball team celebrates Thursday’s 5-0 home win over Marshwood.
Jim Allen photos.
More photos below.
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Fusco scored on error.
Archambault singled to center, Fagone and Cross-Robertson scored. Nichols doubled to left-center, Clayton and Archambault scored.
P- Nichols, Ruhlin
P- Archambault, Clayton, Cross-Robertson, Fagone, Fusco
P- Archambault, Nichols 2
Left on base:
Parmley, Landis (6) and Stankovich; Marzilli and Ruhlin
Parmley (L, 0-1) 5.1 IP 8 H 5 R 4 ER 2 BB 3 K 1 WP
Landis 0.2 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K
Marzilli (W, 3-0) 7 IP 5 H 0 R 2 BB 5 K