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Portland coach Mike Rutherford is all smiles during the Bulldogs’ 11-1, five-inning win over rival Deering Tuesday evening. The victory was the 300th of Rutherford’s career.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
D- 001 00- 1 6 4
P- 300 53- 11 6 0
Stasium scored on throwing error. King’s fielder’s choice ground ball scored Barnard. Snyder scored on throwing error.
L. Hill singled to center, Harrison scored.
Loranger and Pasquali scored on throwing error. Knop scored on balk. Stasium scored on wild pitch. Tocci grounded out to first, Barnard scored.
Riley singled to right, Loranger scored. Barnard singled to right, Pasquali and Riley scored.
D- Harrison 3
P- Barnard 3
P- Barnard, Loranger, Pasquali, Stasium 2, Knop, Riley, Snyder
D- L. Hill
P- Barnard 2, Riley, Tocci
P- Sawyer, Snyder
P- Barnard 3, King, Snyder, Stasium
Left on base:
L. Hill, Ridge (5) and Lynch; Tocci, Riley (5) and King
L. Hill (L, 2-1) 4 IP 4 H 8 R 0 ER 3 BB 3 K 1 WP 1 Balk
* Ridge 0+ IP 2 H 3 R 3 ER 3 BB 0 K
* Ridge faced five batters in the fifth
Tocci (W, 5-0) 4 IP 5 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 6 K
Riley 1 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K
PORTLAND—How do you attain 300 coaching victories?
You stress pitching and defense, aggressive baserunning and timely hitting and you sit back and watch your talented players execute those tenets.
Tuesday evening at Hadlock Field, the Portland Bulldogs lifted longtime coach Mike Rutherford to the 300-win threshold with a nearly flawless performance against longtime rival Deering.
Portland took advantage of three Deering errors to score three times in the bottom of the first inning to go on top to stay, as junior centerfielder Ben Stasium, junior shortstop Will Barnard and senior third baseman Will Snyder all came home by virtue of miscues.
The Rams got a run back in the top of third, as junior pitcher Luke Hill singled home senior centerfielder Luc Harrison, but the Bulldogs took advantage of more shaky Deering defense to break it open with five fourth inning runs.
Two scored on a Hill throwing error, a run scored on a balk, another on a wild pitch and another came home on a ground ball to make it 8-1.
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, sophomore pitcher Brian Riley, who replaced Portland junior starter Donnie Tocci in the top of the inning, singled in a run and Barnard induced the 10-run mercy rule with a two-run, bases loaded single to give Portland an 11-1 victory.
The Bulldogs took advantage of five Deering errors, didn’t make any of their own, got three hits from Barnard, strong pitching from Tocci and Riley and put it all together to improve to 8-1 on the season, drop the Rams to 5-4 and propel Rutherford into history.
“It’s obviously a great milestone,” said Rutherford, a one-time Portland star who is in his second stint as the program’s coach. “I’m very proud of the program. I’ve been blessed with great players. Playing Deering, our arch-rival, at Hadlock, to get 300 wins, you couldn’t have scripted it much better, but I was nervous. I’m not usually nervous before games, but they usually play us tough.”
Rutherford, 53, who won a Fitzpatrick Trophy playing football for Portland, starred on the diamond for the Bulldogs as well and went on to play at the University of Southern Maine. He took over his alma mater in 1995 and over a 12-year span, won 193 games (losing 61), three regional titles and the 1998 Class A state championship.
“I’d have more championships if Mike D’Andrea didn’t coach at Deering,” Rutherford said. “My best teams were unfortunately up against (Ryan) Flaherty, (Ryan) Reid, (Josh) Stowell and those guys.”
After spending four years at Westbrook, where he went 59-20, leading the Blue Blazes to the regional final on three occasions, Rutherford spent three years coaching the Portland junior varsity squad before returning to the varsity position for the 2015 season.
Rutherford’s Bulldogs went 14-5 that spring (getting to the Western A Final), 13-6 in 2016 (losing to Falmouth in the semifinals) and 13-5 a year ago (again falling to Falmouth in the semifinals).
This season, Portland won seven of its first eight contests to get Rutherford to the brink of 300. The Bulldogs started with a 7-1 win at Noble, then rolled at preseason favorite Thornton Academy (8-1). After a 2-1 loss at Windham, Portland rallied for a thrilling 9-8 home win over Marshwood, erasing a 7-2 deficit in the process. After eking out a 7-4, eight-inning victory at Falmouth, the Bulldogs doubled up host Scarborough, 4-2, blanked host Biddeford (4-0) and downed visiting Sanford (8-2).
Deering, meanwhile, opened with a dramatic 6-5 home win over Windham, then lost to Scarborough, in a game played in Gorham (5-0). After a 7-6, 12-inning home victory over Massabesic, the Rams doubled up host Westbrook (16-8) and beat host Kennebunk (5-2). A 13-3, five-inning home loss to Biddeford was followed by a 3-1 win at Gorham and a 10-2 loss at Marshwood.
Tuesday’s contest was the 190th countable meeting (regular season and state tournament) between the ancient rivals, dating to 1919. Portland had won 100 of them, including seven of the previous nine (see sidebar, below). Last spring, the Bulldogs prevailed, 5-3.
Tuesday, Portland won again with relative ease, thanks in large part to Deering’s generosity.
The Rams threatened in the top of the first, but couldn’t score.
After Tocci started the game by fanning senior catcher Jack Lynch looking, Harrison lined a single to left, then stole second base. Tocci caught senior leftfielder Keegan Stanton looking at strike three, but Luke Hill walked. That left it up to senior third baseman Dan Hill, who struck out on a full count pitch to end it.
The Rams then helped the Bulldogs score three times in the bottom of the frame.
Stasium led off with a ground ball to Hill at third and the ball got past him for an error to open the floodgates. Barnard then beat out a beautiful bunt down the third base line for a single and on the throw to first, Stasium raced all the way to third. After Luke Hill struck out Tocci swinging, Barnard stole second. Snyder then grounded to Dan Hill at third, whose throw home hit Stasium for an error, allowing Stasium to score and putting runners at the corners.
After Snyder stole second, King grounded softly to third. With Barnard coming home to score easily, Hill threw to first, but the throw was in the dirt for another error and Snyder came home as well for a 3-0 lead.
“We didn’t get the ball out of the infield in the first inning, but we got three runs,” Rutherford said.
“We beat ourselves today and that’s the frustrating part,” said Stowell, the former Rams standout who is now the coach at Deering. “We had a couple minor mistakes and that snowballed on us. Defense has hurt us so far. That’s kind of what Portland does. They wait for you to beat yourself and they take advantage.”
King stole third, but Luke Hill prevented further damage by getting junior first baseman Ben Sawyer to ground back to the mound and junior leftfielder Jake Loranger to look at strike three.
Deering tried to rally in the top of the second, as after senior second baseman Bobby Ridge bounced out to Sawyer at first unassisted, senior shortstop Alex McGonagle bounced a solid single up the middle. Junior first baseman Mike Jones was next and he hit a sharp grounder too, but junior second baseman Henry Westphal dove, made the stab, then threw on to first for the out as McGonagle took second. That loomed huge, as Tocci struck out rightfielder Caleb Delano to end the inning.
Luke Hill had a dominant bottom of the second, fanning senior designated hitter Vinnie Pasquali, sophomore rightfielder Sam Knop and Stasium.
The Rams threatened again in the top of the third, as after Tocci got Lynch to ground out to first (with the pitcher covering), Harrison singled to center and Stanton beat out a slow roller to short for an infield hit. This time, Deering came through, as Luke Hill lined a sharp single to center to score Harrison. On the play, however, Stanton tried to go to third and he was thrown out.
“You don’t mind making a second out at third,” Stowell said. “We caught bad luck with the pitcher not backing up, but the ball came right to him. Normally, that’s an easy bag at third. It worked out for them.”
Hill took second on the throw, but was stranded, as Dan Hill grounded out sharply to Barnard at short to keep the score 3-1.
Barnard led off the bottom half with a sharp single to left and after Tocci flew out deep to right, Barnard stole second and went to third when Snyder lined out to right, but he was stranded as King grounded out to McGonagle at short.
In the top of the fourth, Ridge led off with a line drive to left-center, but Stasium got over and caught it, McGonagle chased an off-speed pitch for strike three and Jones looked at strike three.
Portland then broke it open in the bottom help, with some more help from the Rams.
Sawyer led off with a solid double up the gap in right-center, but he was out at third when he tried to move up on a ground ball by Loranger. Pasquali reached on catcher’s interference. Knop then bunted in front of the plate and Hill pounced on it, but he threw wildly to third and the ball caromed down the leftfield line, allowing both Loranger and Pasquali to come home and Knop to take second.
Knop moved up to third on a passed ball with Stasium at the plate and Stasium eventually walked. With Barnard at the plate, Hill was called for a balk, allowing Knop to come home and Stasium to move to third. Barnard then walked and stole second and Stasium came home on a wild pitch with Barnard moving to third.
Barnard scored the fifth run of the inning when Tocci grounded out to first, where Jones made a nice play to record the out. Snyder then hit a pop fly behind second that dropped for a double and King walked on a full count pitch before Sawyer lined out to left to finally end the frame.
Tocci was replaced by sophomore Brian Riley to start the fifth and Riley fanned Delano swinging, got Lynch to ground slowly to third where Snyder made a nice play and after Harrison singled up the middle, Stanton bounced out to short.
Portland then put it away in the bottom of the fifth
Ridge came on to pitch and immediately walked Loranger and Pasquali. Riley then lined a single to right to score Loranger and move Pasquali to third. Stasium walked to load the bases and Barnard came up with a chance to end it.
He did exactly that, lining a sharp grounder down the first base line and off Jones’ glove for a two-run single, bringing Pasquali and Riley home to end it.
“I know Deering’s been our rival forever,” Barnard said. “I was waiting for my pitch and I was ready to attack it. It wasn’t necessarily the greatest walk-off, but I’ll take it any day.”
At 8:34 p.m,, the Bulldogs celebrated their 11-1 win, then set about mobbing Rutherford.
Portland doused its coach with water, then posed for a photo in front of the Hadlock Field scoreboard.
“I feel completely honored to be part of this team and be a part of this win,” said Barnard. “It’s really special to me. I’m speechless. I’m really happy for (Coach). He’s so good when it comes to breaking it down and how you can do it better. He might get upset, but that just shows he cares. He knows a lot about the game and that’s a big key to being a good coach.”
Following the win, Rutherford reflected on his accomplishment.
“When I look back on it, to win 300 games in 20 years, that means we’ve won 15 games a year,” Rutherford said. “I’m really proud of our consistency over 20 years. We’ve never finished below (the 5 seed). I’ve only coached in one prelim game. We’ve been to a 11 Western Maine championships, so that means half the time, we’ve appeared in the big game.”
“(Coach Rutherford) been doing it for a long time and he’s had some great players,” Stowell said. “His players are well coached. They won today on baserunning, putting the ball on the ground and playing solid defense. That shows they’re well-coached and know what’s going on.”
Rutherford (241-77 with the Bulldogs) is now second in wins in program annals to Edson J. Hadlock (283-200), the legendary coach for whom Portland’s ballpark is named.
He isn’t done yet.
“I’ve got 10 years to go until retirement and if I win 10 a year, I’ll get to 400,” Rutherford said. “I’m looking forward to seeing (assistant coach) Mike Fullerton’s boy Noah. He’ll be just playing high school baseball when I retire. To have a former batboy with me for 400 would be great.”
The Bulldogs only mustered six hits, but Barnard had three of them. He also scored twice, stole three bases and drove in two runs while playing flawless defense once again.
“Billy is hitting around .500 and has made almost every play at shortstop,” Rutherford said. “If I had an MVP right now, it might be Billy Barnard. Without him, we could have two or three more losses.”
Loranger, Pasquali and Stasium also scored two runs, while Knop, Riley and Snyder all touched home once.
Riley and Tocci each had one RBI.
Sawyer and Snyder each doubled for the game’s lone extra base hits.
King, Snyder and Stasium had one stolen base apiece.
Portland stranded six runners.
Tocci improved to 5-0 by allowing just one run on five hits in four innings. Tocci walked one batter and struck out six.
“Donnie Tocci will go out and compete and give you everything he has every game,” Rutherford said. “I’ve been throwing him on three-days rest. He wants the ball.”
Riley gave up one hit in one inning of relief, fanning one.
“Brian has been great too,” Rutherford said. “He had a big hit tonight.”
Portland once again didn’t make an error.
“Practice is where good defense starts,” said Barnard, who replaced former standout Jake Knop at shortstop this season. “Our biggest focus is taking grounders, practicing double plays, any situation in a game. We work on it as best we can.
“I remember practicing with Jake last year and the year before. He helped me a lot just by watching how he did things. He made me the player I am today. I was lucky to play behind him. Filling that spot is tough, but I’m happy to do it. I’ll do my best with it the rest of the season.”
“We really emphasize pitching and defense,” Rutherford said. “If you do that, you’ll win 10-plus games a year. You start stressing that when they’re freshmen. Billy Barnard and Henry Westphal are playing great baseball and they’ve worked at it. I thought we’d be a double figure win team, but I didn’t know how the middle infield was going to recover after losing Knop and (Dom) Tocci. I’ve been happy. We had one bad inning with two errors against Marshwood. Otherwise, we make less than one error a game.”
The Rams got three hits from Harrison, who also stole a base and scored their run. Luke Hill had the RBI.
Deering left five runners on base.
Luke Hill fell to 2-1 after giving up eight runs on four hits in four innings. He walked three, struck out three, threw a wild pitch and balked.
Ridge didn’t record an out, giving up the final three runs on two hits and three walks.
Four physical errors, combined with other miscues, proved fatal.
“I thought we were solid at the plate to start,” Stowell said. “We hit the ball well against their best guy. If we can play a clean game, I think we’re just as good as those guys.”
The busy slate continues for both teams.
Deering (now 10th in the Class A South Heal Points standings) welcomes Cheverus tomorrow afternoon, plays at South Portland Thursday and is home with Falmouth Saturday.
“We’re in a good spot still at 5-4,” Stowell said. “I’m not too upset where we’re at. We’ve done just fine with what we’ve had to work with. We’ll move on to tomorrow. We want to make it to playoffs and be ready to go at the end of the season.”
Portland (first in the region) is home with Westbrook tomorrow night, then welcomes Gorham Friday and South Portland Saturday before playing at Cheverus Tuesday of next week.
“We’re doing solid right now, but we have to stay focused and we can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Barnard said. “We have some tough games coming up, but we’ll stay focused and we won’t get cocky. We’ll do the best that we can.”
“Three-hundred is great, but we’re hopefully on to 301 tomorrow,” Rutherford said. “We’ve got a good team, but there are a lot of good teams out there, so you never know what will happen at the end.”
Portland starter, and winning pitcher, Donnie Tocci goes into his motion.
Deering junior starter Luke Hill delivers a pitch.
Portland junior Ben Stasium eludes the tag of Deering senior third baseman Dan Hill.
Deering senior Luc Harrison scores the Rams’ lone run.
Portland junior shortstop Billy Barnard makes an off-balance throw to first base.
Deering senior Luc Harrison dives back into first base as Portland junior first baseman Ben Sawyer takes a throw.
Portland junior Ben Stasium scores a run as Deering senior catcher Jack Lynch can’t handle the throw.
Portland junior pitcher Donnie Tocci receives congratulations after escaping a jam.
Portland senior Vinnie Pasquali is congratulated after scoring a run.
Portland coach Mike Rutherford, center, surrounded by his players and assistants, celebrates win number 300 following Tuesday’s victory.
Portland 12 @ Deering 4
Western A quarterfinals
@ Portland 4 Deering 3
Portland 3 Deering 2 (8)
Deering 11 Portland 0 (5)
Portland 8 Deering 7
Deering 14 Portland 6
Western A quarterfinals
Deering 10 Portland 0 (6)
Deering 5 Portland 3
Deering 4 Portland 3 (9)
Deering 11 Portland 6
Western A Final
Deering 2 Portland 1 (8)
Portland 2 Deering 1
Western A semifinals
Portland 6 Deering 0
Deering 7 Portland 0
Portland 5 Deering 2
Western A semifinals
Portland 9 Deering 6
Deering 3 Portland 0 (11)
Deering 9 Portland 4
Western A Final
Deering 12 Portland 0 (5)