Portland holds off MGA/Falmouth in a slugfest

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Portland junior pitcher Sydney Gilbert throws a strike early in Friday’s 12-8 home win over Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth. Gilbert improved to 2-0 on the year while the Bulldogs are now 4-0 on the season.

BOX SCORE

Portland 12 Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth 8

MGA/F 000 400 4- 8 8 2
P- 242 211 x- 12 13 4

Bottom 1st
Brown singled to center, Gilbert scored. Rosmus singled to left, Brown scored.

Bottom 2nd
Boyle singled to center, Stacey scored. Boyle scored on error. Crosby singled to left, Gilbert and Brown scored.

Bottom 3rd
Harmon scored on wild pitch. Stewart singled to right, Stacey scored.

Top 4th
Akey singled to center, Kennedy and Carly Beaulieu scored. Ladd singled to center, Maddy Beaulieu and Amey scored.

Bottom 4th
Brown scored on wild pitch. Stacey singled to right, Rosmus scored.

Bottom 5th
Gilbert grounded out, Twombly scored.

Bottom 6th
Watson grounded out to second, Crosby scored.

Top 7th
Ladd singled to center, Tourville scored. Ladd scored on error. Maddy Beaulieu walked, Fortier scored. Kennedy scored on wild pitch. 

Repeat hitters:
MGA/F Ladd 3, Kennedy
P- Brown, Gilbert, Stacey 

Runs:
MGA/F Kennedy 2, Akey, C. Beaulieu, M. Beaulieu, Fortier, Ladd, Tourville
P- Brown 3, Gilbert, Stacey 2 Boyle, Crosby, Harmon, Rosmus, Twombly

RBI:
MGA/F Ladd 3, Akey 2, M. Beaulieu, Joyce
P- Crosby 2, Boyle, Brown, Gilbert, Rosmus, Stacey, Stewart, Watson

Doubles:
MGA/F Kennedy
P-  Brown, Peterson

Stolen bases:
MGA/F- Ladd
P- Boyle 2, Crosby, Stacey

Left on base:
MGA/F- 6
P- 5

Joyce and Donovan; Gilbert and Legere

MGA/F:  
Joyce (L 2-1) 6 IP 13 H 12 R 9 ER 4 BB 5 K

P:
Gilbert (W, 2-0) 7 IP 8 H 8 R 3 ER 5 BB 9 K 

Time: 2:10

PORTLAND—A 4-0 start was close enough to taste through the fog, but Portland’s softball team just wasn’t able to put the Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth co-op team to bed Friday evening at Payson Park.

The Bulldogs raced to an early 8-0 lead and after the “Sea Lions” cut that lead in half, Portland took a 12-4 advantage to the seventh, but despite her best effort, junior pitcher Sydney Gilbert couldn’t record that elusive final out.

MGA/Falmouth crept back to 12-8 and with the tying run on deck, disaster loomed, but Gilbert, exhausted after throwing over 150 pitches, finally got the home plate umpire to see things her way, as her final toss was good for a called strike three.

Portland produced 13 hits, got hits from 10 different players and scored in every inning as it continued its solid start to the season and handed the Sea Lions their first loss in three outings in the process.

“They didn’t quit,” said Bulldogs coach Robbie Ferrante. “They got some momentum going, but we came back and got some breathing room. We’re not there yet, but we’re having fun and we’re working and we’re feeling good about ourselves.”

In contention

Portland had a breakthrough season a year ago, reaching the Class A South quarterfinals before losing to Scarborough.

The Bulldogs started the 2017 season with an impressive 8-1 home win over Sanford. Monday, Portland rolled at Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy, 19-4, in five innings. Wednesday, the Bulldogs’ home game against Westbrook was rained out and in the makeup Thursday, Portland prevailed, 5-1.

Maine Girls’ Academy (3-13) and Falmouth (6-10) both missed the playoffs a year ago. This spring, they joined forces as a co-op team and opened with a 10-7 victory at Westbrook Monday. Wednesday’s home tilt versus defending state champion Biddeford was rained out, but Thursday, MGA/Falmouth downed visiting Cheverus/NYA, 17-5, in five innings.

Last year, Portland handled visiting McAuley (as the school was previously known), 13-1, in five innings.

This time around, on a pleasant evening, which was warm to start and ultimately featured fog rolling in, the Bulldogs built enough of a cushion to get the job done.

Gilbert made quick work of the Sea Lions in the top of the first, getting standout sophomore centerfielder Liberty Ladd to fly to right, senior Megan Faucher to ground out to short and sophomore pitcher Jill Joyce to strike out on a full count.

Portland then got the jump in the bottom half.

After senior shortstop Morgan Boyle grounded out to short, Gilbert helped herself by singling to center and moving up on a wild pitch. Junior leftfielder Jess Brown then ripped a single to center, easily scoring Gilbert, and on the throw home, Brown took second base. Senior second baseman Taylor Crosby struck out swinging, but junior centerfielder Kit Rosmus singled to left to score Brown. Freshman catcher Elaine Legere grounded out to short, but the hosts had a 2-0 lead.

Gilbert got MGA/Falmouth first baseman Elizabeth Kennedy to pop foul to junior first baseman Mabel Pence to start the second, but senior catcher Lillie Donovan cracked a single to right. Rightfielder Carly Beaulieu grounded out to second, with Donovan moving up, but senior shortstop Maddy Beaulieu struck out to end the threat.

In the bottom half, the Bulldogs opened things up even more.

Sophomore third baseman Grace Stacey led off with a bloop infield single and she moved up on a Joyce wild pitch before taking third when Pence grounded out. Senior rightfielder Samantha Stewart struck out, but Boyle came through with two outs, lining an 0-2 pitch to center to score Stacey for a 3-0 lead.

Portland wasn’t done, as Boyle stole second and third base and scored on a throwing error as Gilbert drew a walk. Brown then reached on an error by Maddy Beaulieu, putting runners at second and third, and that set the stage for Crosby to come up big with a bloop single to left to score both runners to make it 6-0. After Crosby stole second, Rosmus popped foul to Donovan, but the damage was done.

The Sea Lions produced a threat in the third, but Gilbert held them at bay.

After leftfielder Gabby Begos grounded out to Pence unassisted, second baseman Holly Akey flew out to left, but Ladd singled to left-center and Faucher reached on a single to left. That brought up Joyce, who hit a line drive that appeared ticketed for centerfield, but Boyle, ranging to her left, snared it to end the uprising.

Portland added two more runs in the bottom of the third.

Legere led off with a single up the middle and was replaced by sophomore courtesy runner Casey Harmon, who moved up on a wild pitch. Stacey walked and Harmon took third when ball four was wild. Another wild pitch scored Harmon and Stacey moved up to second. After Pence struck out, Stewart singled to right and Stacey scored for an 8-0 lead. Senior Annie Twombly came into the game to run, but when Boyle lined out to third, Twombly was doubled off for the third out.

MGA/Falmouth finally got its offense going in the fourth, as it cut its deficit in half, thanks to three key hits.

Kennedy led off with a double to right. After Donovan struck out, Carly Beaulieu slapped a ball through Stacey’s legs at third for an error and the Sea Lions had runners at second and third. Maddy Beaulieu walked on a full count pitch, but after fouling off numerous pitches, Begos struck out for the second out. That set the stage for Akey, the number nine hitter, who came up big by lining a single to center, scoring two runners and after Rosmus couldn’t handle the ball, the runners moved up to second and third. That loomed large, as Ladd was next and she ripped a single to center to score two more runs. Faucher grounded out to end the inning, but just like that, Portland’s lead went from 8-0 to 8-4.

The Bulldogs did manage to get two runs back in their half of the fourth, as after Gilbert led off with a flare single to right, Brown doubled off the third base bag and Crosby walked to load the bases. Rosmus hit a sharp grounder to Akey at second and Akey came home for the force out, but Joyce threw a wild pitch to allow Brown to score. After Legere struck out swinging, but strike three was in the dirt, the Sea Lions got a break, as Ladd pounced on the loose ball, acted as if she was going to throw to first and after catching Crosby leaning, picked her off third. Stacey saved the day, however, by singling in Rosmus to make it 10-4 before Pence struck out swinging.

Gilbert returned to form in the fifth, thanks in large part to a nice defensive play.

After Joyce walked and was replaced by courtesy runner Liz Fortier, Gilbert got Kennedy to line to Crosby and with Fortier coming off the bag, Crosby threw to Pence for the double play. Donovan then looked at strike three.

In the bottom half, Portland took an 11-4 lead, as Twombly reached on an infield single, took second on an error and third on a groundout, then scored when Gilbert grounded out to second. Brown bounced back to Joyce to end the inning.

Gilbert made quick work of MGA/Falmouth in the sixth, striking out sophomore pinch-hitter Shannon Birks, getting Maddy Beaulieu to line to right on a 3-2 pitch and catching Begos looking at strike three on a full count offering.

The Bulldogs’ final run came in the bottom half, when five straight pinch-hitters came to the plate.

Senior Arianna Fagone drew a walk and was replaced as a runner by Crosby. After sophomore Olivia Ives lined to center, junior Carly Peterson lined a double off the glove of Ladd in center to put runners at second and third. Freshman Callie Watson then grounded out to second, with Crosby coming home, and Harmon lined out to third to end it.

That set the stage for what proved to be a palpitating and interminable seventh inning.

Pinch-hitter Grace Tourville led off by drawing a walk on a full count pitch and she moved up on a wild pitch, then scored when Ladd singled through Gilbert’s legs to make it 12-5. Ladd stole second, but pinch-hitter Keller Gardner took strike three. A wild pitch moved Ladd to third and when Boyce couldn’t handle Joyce’s grounder, Ladd scored.

Fortier ran for Joyce and took second when Kennedy singled to right-center. Donovan grounded out to Pence to put the Sea Lions on the brink of defeat, but Birks walked, Maddy Beaulieu walked to score Fortier and Kennedy scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 12-8.

That brought Begos to the plate, needing only to reach to bring the tying run to the plate with Ladd representing the go-ahead run in the dugout.

Gilbert finally managed to extinguish the comeback, however, catching Begos looking at strike three, and at 9:04 p.m., after 2 hours and 10 minutes, Portland was able to exhale and celebrate its 12-8 victory.

“I’m really happy,” Stacey said. “It was very nervewracking, but Sydney did great. I’m really proud of her. We have two great pitchers. We can depend on either of them.”

Gilbert improved to 2-0 after giving up eight runs (just three earned) on eight hits in a complete game effort. She walked five and struck out nine.

“Sydney was getting tired,” Ferrante said. “She’s not a big, strong girl. She made some pitches. Our hitting helped with breathing room and made things easier decision-wise.”

Portland had plenty of offense, as Brown, Gilbert and Stacey all had multiple hits, keying a 13-hit barrage.

“We hit well today,” Stacey said. “I was impressed. There’s never a dull spot in the batting order. We have good hitters.”

Brown scored three runs, while Gilbert and Stacey touched home twice and Boyle, Crosby, Harmon, Rosmus and Twombly scored one run apiece. Crosby had two RBI and Boyle, Brown, Gilbert, Rosmus, Stacey, Stewart and Watson finished with one each. Brown and Peterson had doubles and Boyle stole two bases, while Crosby and Stacey had one apiece.

The Bulldogs stranded five runners.

Never surrender

The Sea Lions got three hits, three RBI and a run scored from Ladd, who also stole a base.

“(Liberty’s) just a gamer,” said MGA/Falmouth coach Tim Eisenhart. “She picks everybody else up on her shoulders and carries them.”

Kennedy also had multiple hits and scored two runs. Akey, Carly Beaulieu, Maddy Beaulieu, Fortier and Tourville also scored, Akey had two RBI, while Maddy Beaulieu and Joyce each had one. Kennedy doubled.

MGA/Falmouth left six runners on base.

Joyce fell to 2-1 after giving up 12 runs (nine earned) on 13 hits and four walks in six innings. She struck out five. 

“We never gave up,” said Eisenhart. “That’s one of the strongest parts of our team right now. They’re fighters. They laughed and had fun in the dugout and stood by each other. Portland’s a good team. They hit well. It’s early in the season and you could see it in the errors in the field. It’ll be interesting to see what we look like later in the season. We’ll take a lot of positives from this. Kids came around at the bat. We made adjustments in the field. I learned a lot about defensive positioning.”

Big week

MGA/Falmouth is back in action Monday when Marshwood pays a visit. A trip to Gorham and a home game versus Massabesic also loom next week.

“We have a busy schedule coming up, but it’s fun,” Eisenhart said.

Portland’s slate is about to get much tougher.

Monday, the Bulldogs visit Thornton Academy. Tuesday, they play at perennial powerhouse Scarborough. Friday brings a visit from South Portland.

“We’re a quarter of the way through the season,” Stacey said. “It’s good to have teams know we can battle with them. That makes us play stronger. I think we’re ready. We’re ready to bring it for (the strong teams).”

“We play TA and Scarborough back-to-back, so it’s good we’re feeling good about ourselves going into those games,” Ferrante said.

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

Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth sophomore pitcher Jill Joyce delivers a pitch.

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