Portland junior Donnie Tocci (20) is congratulated by classmate Jake Loranger after scoring the first run of Tuesday’s 4-2 victory at Scarborough.
Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.
More photos below.
P- 000 202 0- 4 5 1
S- 000 000 2- 2 5 2
Snyder singled to center, Tocci scored. Sawyer grounded out to second, Snyder scored.
Tocci scored on wild pitch. King singled to second, Snyder scored.
P- Snyder, Tocci 2
S- Martin, Pratt
P- King, Sawyer, Snyder
P- King, Tocci
Left on base:
Riley and King; Clark, Thompson (5) and Cleary
Riley (W, 1-1) 7 IP 5 H 2 R 1 ER 1 BB 5 K 1 WP
Clark (L, 0-2) 4 IP 4 H 2 R 2 ER 0 BB 3 K
Thompson 3 IP 1 H 2 R 1 ER 2 BB 5 K 1 HBP 1 WP
SCARBOROUGH—In a balanced league without a clear favorite, the secret to securing a top seed might just be winning on the road.
And that’s something the Portland Bulldogs have been very effective at doing in the first half of the season.
Including Tuesday afternoon at Packy McFarland Field, where the Bulldogs got the better of the well-coached and always-dangerous Red Storm of Scarborough in a midseason Class A South baseball showdown.
Portland sophomore Brian Riley and Red Storm junior Jack Clark each pitched three scoreless innings, but the Bulldogs strung together some hits in the fourth to take the lead for good.
With one out, junior rightfielder Donnie Tocci doubled and senior third baseman Will Snyder singled him home. After senior catcher Cam King doubled, junior first baseman Ben Sawyer’s ground ball brought Snyder across the plate for a 2-0 advantage.
With Riley continuing to stymie Scarborough, Portland doubled its lead in the sixth, as Tocci scored on a wild pitch and King’s single off the glove of Red Storm junior centerfielder Nolan Lamontagne allowed Snyder to score to make it 4-0.
Scarborough didn’t go quietly, however, as it loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, where Clark grounded into a force out to score senior shortstop Morgan Pratt and another run came home on a throwing error.
Riley slammed the door from there, however, and the Bulldogs prevailed, 4-2.
Portland won its third game in a row, improved to 5-1 and in the process, dropped the Red Storm to 3-4.
“This team knows how to put it together in critical moments,” King said. “We’ve done it all year. We might have one or two bad innings, but we know how to come back. We don’t give up. We fight all the way through.”
Portland started with a 7-1 win at Noble, then rolled at preseason favorite Thornton Academy (8-1). After a 2-1 loss at Windham, the Bulldogs rallied for a thrilling 9-8 home win over Marshwood, erasing a 7-2 deficit. Saturday, Portland eked out a 7-4, eight-inning victory at Falmouth.
Scarborough struggled out of the gate, losing at home to Bonny Eagle (9-4) and Noble (5-4). After getting in the win column at Westbrook (6-2), the Red Storm blanked host Deering, 5-0. A 6-4, nine-inning home loss to Gorham followed before Scarborough earned a key 5-2 victory at South Portland Friday.
Last year, Portland won at home, 3-2, to take a 9-8 all-time lead in the series (see sidebar, below).
Tuesday, on a breezy but comfortable (57 degree) afternoon, there wasn’t much offense to be found, but the Bulldogs did enough to get out of town with a victory.
Clark made quick work of Portland in the top of the first, getting junior centerfielder Ben Stasium to ground out to second, then catching both junior shortstop Will Barnard and Tocci looking at strike three.
In the bottom half, Riley was equally as effective, catching sophomore leftfielder Zach Alofs looking at strike three, before inducing a ground out to short off the bat of junior rightfielder Noah Frink and a grounder to third off the bat of junior centerfielder Nolan Lamontagne.
The Bulldogs got their first base runner in the top of the second, but it didn’t lead to anything.
Snyder led off with a ground ball to the hole between short and third, but Pratt got to it, then fired a strike across the diamond for the out. King reached on an error by sophomore third baseman Dominic Spina, but King was thrown out stealing by sophomore catcher Chase Cleary. Sawyer then bounced out to second for the third out.
Pratt led off the bottom of the second with the game’s first hit, a single to center. Junior designated hitter Nicholas Martin grounded slowly to third to move Pratt up to second and Pratt took third when junior first baseman Nicholas Thompson grounded to first with Clark covering. The Red Storm were then left frustrated when Clark grounded to Barnard, who made a nice stop on a tough hop, before throwing out the runner to send the game to the third.
Loranger led off the top of the third with a fly out to deep left, but senior designated hitter Vinnie Pasquali followed with a single to right, then stole second. Sophomore second baseman Sam Knop struck out swinging and Stasium hit a ground ball to Spina at third, who waited for Pasquali to run into his glove for the third out.
“We’re averaging four guys thrown out on the bases every game,” Portland coach Mike Rutherford lamented. “We have to clean that up or it will cost us in the playoffs. If we have four outs on the basepaths, that only leaves us with 17.”
In the bottom of the third, Spina led off by grounding the first pitch to second for an out. Cleary followed by striking out swinging, but Alofs kept the inning alive with a single to center. That brought up Frink, who grounded out to second with Sawyer making a nice scoop at first to end the frame.
The Bulldogs’ bats then awakened in the fourth.
Barnard led off with a deep fly out to center. Tocci then crushed the ball as well, but this time, it fell in the left-centerfield gap for a double. Snyder then delivered the game’s first run with a sharp ground ball single to center. King turned around a Clark fastball and hit it over the head of Alofs in left for a double, moving Snyder to third.
“I was looking for a pitch anywhere close where I could put the bat on the ball,” King said.
Clark was able to retire Sawyer on a grounder to second, but Snyder came home with the run. Loranger bounced back to the mound, but Portland had a 2-0 advantage.
Scarborough hoped to answer in the bottom half, when Lamontagne led off with a single to center, but Pratt grounded in a force play, Martin chased strike three on a 3-2 pitch and Thompson bounced into a force out to end it.
Thompson came on to replace Clark in the fifth and with his very first pitch, he hit Pasquali, but Thompson picked Pasquali off and caught Knop looking at strike three. After Stasium walked on a 3-2 pitch, Barnard grounded out for the third out.
In the bottom half, Riley got Clark to hit a sharp ground ball that appeared ticketed for rightfield, but Knop dove to make a highlight reel stop before throwing on to first base for the out.
“That was the play of the game,” Rutherford said. “Knop didn’t have a good at-bat and didn’t get a sacrifice down. He struck out, but he went out and made that play. That was the leadoff hitter of the inning, a big out.”
Spina then popped out to short and senior pinch-hitter Zach DeQuattro struck out swinging.
The Bulldogs doubled their lead in the sixth, with a little help.
Tocci led off with a walk on a full count pitch. Snyder then grounded to Clark, who had taken over at third, but Clark threw the ball away, putting runners at second and third. Tocci then scored on Thompson’s wild pitch, with Snyder moving to third. King then lined the ball to center. Lamontagne came in and dove and got to the ball, but it bounced off his glove for a single, scoring Snyder to make it 4-0.
“We’re still making a lot of errors and that’s the disappointing piece,” said Scarborough coach Mike D’Andrea. “We’ve dropped four fly balls in the outfield in seven games. I don’t think that’s happened four times in the past five years.”
Thompson recovered by striking out Sawyer, Loranger and Pasquali.
Riley continued to hold the Red Storm at bay in the bottom of the sixth, striking out Alofs, getting Frink to line out to left and Lamontagne to ground out to third.
Portland hoped to add to its lead in the seventh, but Lamontagne’s heroics in the outfield prevented that from happening.
Junior Graedy Black pinch-hit and struck out before Stasium appeared to line a hit, only to see Lamontagne lay out and make the catch. Barnard then did the same with Lamontagne again racing in and diving before grabbing the ball to retire the side.
Scarborough then made things very interesting in the bottom of the seventh.
Pratt started the rally by singling down the leftfield line. After Riley wild pitched Pratt to second, Martin walked on a full count pitch. When Thompson followed by blooping a single to center, the bases were loaded.
Riley got Clark to ground out to Barnard, who threw to Knop for a force out with Pratt scoring. Knop then tried to throw on to first for the double play, but the throw was wild for an error and Martin scored with Clark taking second.
Spina came up as the potential tying run, but he popped out to third.
That left the game in the hands of sophomore Brian Austin, who grounded out to Snyder at third, who threw Austin out to end Portland’s 4-2 victory in 1-hour, 41-minutes.
“I’ve been in that situation before, so it wasn’t really that tough,” Riley said. “I just had to trust my fielders. I got pitches down. They pounded them down to our fielders who were incredible. I think we’re a lot better than people thought we’d be. It shows we always have guys ready to play.”
“We wanted to leave it up to Brian to win it or lose it,” Rutherford said. “We’ll miss Snyder next year. He made tough plays look easy. He’s so solid over there. The whole infield is playing well. I’m very happy with Billy Barnard, (junior) Henry Westphal and Sammy Knop. I had to replace (Dom) Tocci and (Jake Knop) and I think we’ve made two errors in the middle infield in six games.”
Portland only produced five hits, but King had two of them. Snyder and Tocci both scored twice. King, Sawyer and Snyder had RBI. Pasquali stole the lone base of the afternoon. The Bulldogs stranded four runners.
Riley evened his record at 1-1 after surrendering just two runs (one earned) on five hits in seven innings. He walked just one batter, struck out five and threw a wild pitch.
After the game, Riley gave credit to his battery-mate.
“It’s so important to have Cam,” Riley said. “He gets pitches I never thought would be called strikes strikes and he stops everything.”
Riley’s effort impressed both teams.
“Brian has improved a lot,” King said. “He’s hitting all his spots. He’s always around the zone. He puts the ball on the bat and we field it.”
“We finally won a game without Tocci pitching,” Rutherford said. “(Brian’s) a good one. I don’t think the ball was hit hard off him. He pounded the zone and we made good plays. If we play good D, he’ll throw strikes. He threw just like that against Windham and we didn’t get breaks.”
“Give all the credit in the world to Brian Riley,” D’Andrea said. “He came out and pounded the strike zone and showed great composure. I’m impressed with his outing. He’s worked very hard. He’s a classic example of a guy who is very determined to play at the next level and from what I saw today, he’s in line to. Our downfall today was a lack of intensity in the batter box. Give Brian credit, but we need to compete in the batter’s box. We got ourselves out today.”
Scarborough got two of its five hits from Pratt, who scored a run, as did Martin. Clark had an RBI. The Red Storm stranded four runners.
Clark fell to 0-2 after giving up two runs on four hits in four innings. He didn’t walk a batter and fanned three. Thompson surrendered two runs (one earned) on one hit and two walks in three innings. He struck out five.
“Our approach today was to give them two looks,” D’Andrea said. “Not let them see one guy three times.”
“(Clark) changed speeds well and (Thompson) was really good, but we got the hits we needed,” Rutherford said. “We made it happen. Scarborough’s young, but they’re better than their record. They’ll be playing good baseball by the end of the year.”
Scarborough looks to bounce back Thursday at Kennebunk. Saturday brings a visit from Falmouth and Monday, the Red Storm host Marshwood in a makeup game.
“The kids are putting in the work in practice,” D’Andrea said. “They just have to go out and do it. I feel like we’re growing as a team and we’re figuring some things out. We have to grow in confidence. That’s what separated us today. Portland had confidence and you could see it. We have to figure out how to win.”
Portland stays on the road Thursday to face Biddeford. The Bulldogs return to Hadlock Field Saturday to meet Sanford and next Tuesday, they battle rival Deering.
“It’s my last year playing for Portland and it couldn’t be any better,” said King. “We have a lot of energy. It’s a great group of guys to be around. We have to finish games strong. We have to keep fighting and that will take us far.”
“We always struggle at Biddeford, I don’t know why,” Rutherford said. “They have a good record. That’ll be a big one. If we can keep playing like this, we’ll be OK. We have big games to come. It’s a veteran team. They’ve played a lot together.”
Portland sophomore pitcher Brian Riley went the distance for the victory.
Scarborough junior starter Jack Clark throws a strike.
Portland senior Vinnie Pasquali is tagged out by Scarborough sophomore third baseman Dominic Spina.
Portland senior third baseman Will Snyder prepares to line a hit.
Portland junior Will Barnard throws out a baserunner.
Portland senior Cam King is caught stealing as Scarborough senior shortstop Morgan Pratt applies the tag.
@ Portland 3 Scarborough 0
Scarborough 9 @ Portland 2
Western A quarterfinals
Portland 5 @ Scarborough 4
Scarborough 5 @ Portland 3
@ Scarborough 5 Portland 1
@ Portland 6 Scarborough 1
@ Scarborough 8 Portland 1
Scarborough 1 @ Portland 0
@ Scarborough 7 Portland 5
Western A preliminary round
@ Portland 5 Scarborough 4 (9)
@ Portland 4 Scarborough 0
Portland 4 @ Scarborough 0
@ Portland 27 Scarborough 0 (5)
Portland 15 @ Scarborough 1 (5)