Portland heeds lesson, dispatches different batch of Rams

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Portland junior pitcher Jess Brown (7) is congratulated by senior shortstop Morgan Boyle after a key play during the Bulldogs’ 9-1 home win over Gorham Tuesday afternoon. Portland improved to 13-1, marking the first time in a dozen years the program has won that many games in a regular season.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 9 Gorham 1

G- 000 100 0- 1 5 1
P- 113 310 x- 9 12 0

Bottom 1st
Boyle scored on wild pitch.

Bottom 2nd
Boyle singled to center, Stacey scored.

Bottom 3rd
Brown scored on fielder’s choice. Stacey singled to left, Crosby and Rosmus scored.

Top 4th
McGouldrick homered to left, McGouldrick scored.

Bottom 4th
Gilbert doubled to right, Boyle scored. Brown singled to right, Gilbert scored. Crosby tripled to left, Twombly scored.

Bottom 5th
Gilbert singled to left, Watson scored.

Repeat hitters:
G- McGouldrick 3
P- Boyle 4, Crosby 3, Gilbert

Runs:
G- McGouldrick
P- Boyle 2, Brown, Crosby, Gilbert, Rosmus, Stacey, Twombly, Watson

RBI:
G- McGouldrick 
P- Gilbert, Stacey 2, Boyle, Brown, Crosby, Legere

Double:
P- Gilbert

Triples:
P- Boyle 2, Crosby

Home run:
G- McGouldrick

Stolen bases:
G- McGouldrick, Perry

Left on base:
G- 5
P- 8

McGouldrick and Shields, DiBiase (5); Brown and Legere

G:
McGouldrick (L, 6-4) 6 IP 12 H 9 R 9 ER 3 BB 8 K 2 WP

P:
Brown (W, 9-1) 7 IP 5 H 1 R 1 ER 3 BB 8 K  

Time: 1:49

PORTLAND—Last Friday evening, Portland showed up at Payson Park and expected to go through the motions and beat rival Deering.

Five innings later, the Bulldogs were fighting for their life.

Portland managed to pull away and win that game over the Rams, 7-2, but in the process, the Bulldogs learned the valuable lesson that even though they’re in the midst of their best season in over a decade, they can take no foe for granted.

Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon, where Portland welcomed another team named the Rams, Gorham, to Payson Park, and this time, the Bulldogs kept the pressure on for seven innings and started a crucial closing stretch of their schedule with an emphatic victory.

After Portland junior ace Jess Brown set the Rams down in the top of the first inning, senior shortstop Morgan Boyle led off the bottom half with a booming triple and scored on a wild pitch from Gorham junior Grace McGouldrick to put her team ahead to stay.

Boyle added a two-out, RBI single in the second inning and in the third, after one run scored on a fielder’s choice, sophomore third baseman Stacey singled in two more runs to make it 5-0.

McGouldrick got a run back in the fourth, hitting a shot over junior leftfielder Mabel Pence’s head and easily riding her blazing speed around the bases for an inside-the-park home run, but the Bulldogs came right back with three runs of their own in the bottom half on an RBI double from junior rightfielder Sydney Gilbert, an RBI single from Brown and an RBI triple from senior second baseman Taylor Crosby.

A Gilbert RBI hit in the fifth capped the scoring and Brown slammed the door from there as Portland went on to prevail, 9-1.

Brown threw a five-hitter, Boyle had four hits, including two triples, Crosby had three hits and Gilbert and Stacey both had two RBI as the Bulldogs improved to 13-1, their most victories in a regular season since 2005, and dropped Gorham to 9-5 in the process.

“That was a pretty good team we beat today,” said Portland coach Robbie Ferrante. “We jumped on them and I think we scored in just about every inning. The kids responded well. I’m very pleased where we’re at. It’s quite an accomplishment (to win 13 games).”

Hitting shoes on

Both teams have done their share of hitting and winning this spring.

Gorham started with an 8-4 home loss to Thornton Academy, then downed host Deering (17-10), Westbrook (10-1) and Bonny Eagle (12-5) before holding off visiting Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth (10-9) and defending champion Biddeford (13-12). The Rams had no answers for host Scarborough in a 15-1 (five-inning) loss, but they bounced back to outlast host Cheverus (17-15) and blank visiting Bonny Eagle (12-0, in six-innings). After losing at home to Noble (6-1) and at Massabesic (10-1), Gorham beat visiting Windham, 4-1, and outslugged visiting Sanford, 11-6.

Portland started with an 8-1 home win over Sanford, then rolled at Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy, 19-4, in five innings. After beating visiting Westbrook, 5-1, the Bulldogs outlasted visiting Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth (12-8) and won at Thornton Academy for the first time since 2008, 9-1. After losing, 9-0, at Scarborough, Portland blanked visiting South Portland, 4-0, rallied for a key 5-3 victory at Noble, handled visiting Deering (14-2), came back from four runs down to shock visiting Massabesic, 5-4, edged host Marshwood in a playoff rematch, 2-0, held off host Biddeford (8-4) and Friday, pulled away late for a 7-2 win at Deering. 

“To be challenged by Deering was shocking,” Boyle said. “It made us focus more. We made mistakes. We learned we couldn’t just beat anyone. It was a good lesson.” 

Gorham took last year’s meeting, 5-3, on its home field.

Tuesday’s game was supposed to be played Monday, but poor weather/field conditions moved it back a day.

That proved to be a good decision, as conditions were far better (65 degrees with a light wind at first pitch) as the Bulldogs earned their third win in four years over the Rams.

In the top of the first, Brown easily retired senior centerfielder Moira Corbett on a ground ball to short and senior second baseman Carli Labrecque on a grounder to second before McGouldrick slapped the ball to the shortstop and easily beat the throw for an infield single. McGouldrick then stole second base, but Brown stranded her by getting junior first baseman Shayla Harris to bounce back to the mound.

In the bottom half, Boyle quickly ensured that Portland would get the jump by pounding a triple to deep left-center and with Gilbert at the plate, scoring on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead.

Gilbert eventually drew a walk on a full count pitch, but she couldn’t advance, as McGouldrick fanned Brown and after Crosby flew out to right, where junior Michelle Rowe made a sprawling catch, Rosmus also struck out swinging to end the inning.

Brown started the second by fanning freshman third baseman Kiana Tracey. Senior shortstop Noelle DiBiase then popped out foul to Stacey at third and sophomore catcher Emma Shields popped out to first on a full count pitch.

McGouldrick got Portland freshman catcher Laini Legere to ground out to third to start the bottom half, but Stacey drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. After Pence sacrificed Stacey to second, freshman first baseman Callie Watson walked, setting the stage for Boyle, who came through with a single to center, scoring Stacey to make it 2-0. Gilbert struck out swinging to end the damage.

Brown went full to both Rowe and senior leftfielder Abigail Flint to start the third, but struck out both them, Rowe looking and Flint swinging. Corbett then walked on a full count pitch, but Labrecque grounded to Boyle, who threw to Crosby at second for an inning-ending force play.

The Bulldogs got even more breathing room in the bottom of the third.

Brown led off and reached on an error by Tracey at third. After Crosby beat out an infield single to the hole between short and third, Rosmus bunted to Tracey, who looked to third before throwing to first and Rosmus beat the throw to load the bases. That brought up Legere, who hit a ground ball to second. Labrecque threw home, but Brown was safe on the bang-bang play, scoring a run and leaving the bases loaded. Stacey then came through with the big hit of the inning, a single into the hole, which scored both Crosby and Rosmus to make it 5-0. Pence struck out and Watson grounded back to the mound and on the throw to first, Legere tried to score, but she was thrown out at home for a double play to end the frame.

McGouldrick gave the Rams some momentary life leading off the fourth, going the other way and hitting the ball well over Pence’s head and with her speed, an inside-the-park home run was a certainty. McGouldrick probably could have touched five bases if necessary, but she only needed four and the hit cut the deficit to 5-1.

Brown then gave up a single to center off the bat of Harris, but she struck out Tracey swinging and after Legere caught Harris trying to steal, Brown fanned DiBiase on a 3-2 pitch for the third out.

Portland’s bats got right back to work in the bottom of the inning, putting the game out of reach.

Boyle got things started by hitting the ball hard to left and when it got past Flint, she got all the way to third before having to stop with her second triple of the contest.

“I thought it was a home run, but a triple still felt good,” Boyle said.

Gilbert then blooped the ball down the rightfield line for a double, easily scoring Boyle. After Gilbert moved up on a wild pitch, Brown blooped a single off the glove of Labrecque and Gilbert came home. That brought up Crosby, who also made solid contact, crushing the ball over Flint’s head for a triple, easily scoring senior courtesy runner Annie Twombly for an 8-1 lead. Rosmus then hit the ball hard as well, but lined it right back to McGouldrick, who made the catch in self defense, then threw to third to double up Crosby. Legere fanned to end the frame.

In the fifth, Brown struck out Shields swinging leading off and got Rowe to line softly to Boyle at short, but junior pinch-hitter Kali Perry reached on a bloop single to right and stole second and Corbett walked on a full count pitch. Brown then blew strike three past Labrecque to end the threat.

Portland’s final run came in the bottom of the inning, as after Stacey struck out swinging and senior pinch-hitter Samantha Stewart looked at strike three, Watson reached on a bloop single to right, Boyle beat out an infield single to short for her fourth hit of the day and Gilbert followed with a ringing single to left to drive in Watson. Brown bounced out to short to end it, but the Bulldogs had a 9-1 lead.

McGouldrick started the top of the sixth with her third hit of the day, a bloop single to center, but Harris popped foul to Legere and Legere then managed to throw out the speedy McGouldrick trying to steal.

“It feels nice to throw out a base stealer,” Legere said. “It feels like I’m proving myself in the league. I’ve felt really welcomed (on the team). They’ve all been inclusive and supportive. I feel like a really big part of this team. I didn’t think I’d make varsity. I was surprised to get the starting catcher’s position. It’s been really fun and I’ve learned a lot from Jess and Sydney. They’re quality pitchers.”

“Laini’s not a freshman anymore,” Ferrante said. “She gets better every day. She knew if someone (steals) the first time, she says, ‘Coach, I got this.'”

A pop out to short off the bat of DiBiase ended the inning.

The Bulldogs appeared primed to score again in the bottom half when Crosby led off with a single off the glove of DiBiase at short, but Rosmus bounced out to short, senior pinch-hitter Arianna Fagone struck out looking and Stacey flew out to center.

Brown then slammed the door in the seventh, striking out junior pinch-hitter Emily Murray, getting Rowe to hit a little foul ball wide of first which Watson caught on the run, and inducing a ground ball back to the mound off the bat of Perry to end the game in 1 hour, 49 minutes.

“Last year, we had trouble hitting off this pitcher and they beat us,” said Boyle, who was in kindergarten the last time Portland won 13 games in a season. “It’s good to come back and redeem ourselves. We got the bat on the ball. They didn’t have a lot of hits. We hit the ball better than them, to be honest.” 

“We put the ball in play hard,” Ferrante said. “She’s a good pitcher too. We had some good hits. We had a good game on defense too. If we play like that, we’ll be tough.”

Brown improved to 9-1 after allowing just one run on five hits. She walked three and struck out eight.

“Jess hit her spots,” “Legere said. “She did really well tonight.”

“Jess is starting to become a pitcher,” Ferrante said. “She’s not getting 12, 15 strikeouts, but she’s moving the ball around and is remembering who she’s pitching to. That’s important.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs had a dozen hits, paced by four from Boyle (including two triples), three from Crosby (including a triple) and a pair from Gilbert (including a double).

Boyle scored twice and Brown, Crosby, Gilbert, Rosmus, Stacey, Twombly and Watson also touched home.

Gilbert and Stacey both had two RBI, while Boyle, Brown, Crosby and Legere had one apiece.

Portland left eight runners on base.

McGouldrick paced Gorham’s offense with three hits, including the home run. She also had the Rams’ lone run and only RBI. McGouldrick stole a base, as did Perry.

The Rams stranded five runners.

McGouldrick fell to 6-4 on the season after giving up nine runs on a dozen hits in six innings. She walked three, struck out eight and threw a pair of wild pitches.

Right back at it

Neither team has any time to think about Tuesday’s game, as both return to the field for pivotal tests Wednesday.

Gorham (now eighth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) is at Marshwood before closing the regular season at South Portland Friday.

Portland (second to Scarborough in Class A South) welcomes Windham on its Senior Night Wednesday. The Bulldogs then finish Friday at Bonny Eagle.

“I wasn’t expecting 13-1, but I think we’ve earned every bit of it,” Legere said. “It’s a pleasant surprise. We have to stick together as a team and back each other up. We have to keep playing like we have. It’s a lot of fun.”

“It feels good to be a part of bringing Portland back,” Boyle said. “Especially since this is the sport that I love to play. This game helped us because Windham also has a good pitcher, same speed. This game will prepare us. We have bigger goals this year. I hope we can play for a few more weeks.”

“I hope this carries over,” Ferrante added. “We want to peak going into the playoffs. We’re getting greedy. We want the meal and we want dessert too. The seniors especially. They’re great leaders.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Portland junior pitcher Jess Brown throws a strike. Brown allowed just one run on five hits.

Portland junior Sydney Gilbert slides into second base.

Portland junior Kit Rosmus makes contact.

Portland freshman first baseman Callie Watson connects with the ball.

Portland senior shortstop Morgan Boyle tags out Gorham junior Grace McGouldrick on a stolen base attempt in the sixth inning.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.