Portland makes early season statement at TA

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Portland’s baseball team celebrates after the final out of Saturday morning’s 8-1 win at Thornton Academy.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 8 Thornton Academy 1

P- 100 400 3- 8 11 0
TA- 000 100 0- 1 4 5

Top 1st
Stasium scored on throwing error.

Top 4th
Sawyer singled to left, Tocci scored. Villani singled to right, Snyder scored. King scored on fielder’s choice. Sawyer scored on throwing error.

Bottom 4th
Pydych grounded out, K. Lambert scored.

Top 7th
Stasium scored on throwing error. Snyder doubled to left-center, Tocci scored. Sawyer singled to left-center, Snyder scored.

Multiple hits:
P- Sawyer (3), King, Snyder, Stasium
TA- Cross

Runs:
P- Snyder, Stasium, Tocci 2, King, Sawyer
TA- K. Lambert

RBI:
P- Sawyer 2, Loranger, Snyder, Villani
TA- Pydych

Double:
P- King

Stolen base:
P- Pasquali

Left on base:
P- 5
TA- 7

Tocci and King; Chessie, Searle-Belanger (7) and Seymour

P:
Tocci (W, 2-0) 7 IP 4 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 4 K 2 HBP 1 WP 

TA:
* Chessie (L, 0-1) 6+ IP 9 H 6 R 1 ER 1 BB 4 K 1 HBP
Searle-Belanger 1 IP 2 H 2 R 0 ER 0 BB 0 K

* Chessie faced one batter in the 7th. 

Time: 1:34

SACO—Prior to the start of the 2018 season, Thornton Academy’s baseball team got more attention than Portland’s.

Rest assured that the Bulldogs noticed.

And Saturday morning, Portland went out and did something about it, making a powerful early statement with a decisive win at the Golden Trojans.

Setting the tone in the top of the first inning, junior centerfielder Ben Stasium beat out an infield single, took second on a sacrifice bunt and didn’t stop, which led to an errant throw, which allowed him to come home to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.

After Portland junior ace Donnie Tocci held Thornton Academy at bay for three innings, the Bulldogs broke it open in the fourth, as four consecutive hits were sandwiched between a pair of errors and the Bulldogs scored four times to take a 5-0 lead.

The Golden Trojans got a run back in the bottom of the fourth, but that’s as close as they would get and in the top of the seventh, Portland scored on a throwing error, senior first baseman Will Snyder hit an RBI double and junior first baseman Ben Sawyer delivered his third hit, an RBI single, to stretch the lead to seven.

Tocci slammed the door from there as he went the distance and the Bulldogs closed out an impressive 8-1 victory.

Portland took advantage of five Thornton Academy errors, didn’t make any of its own and improved to 2-0 on the young season, dropping the Golden Trojans to 1-1 in the process.

“This was a huge game for us,” said Sawyer. “We came in excited having our ace on the mound. We made them throw it around a bit, then got on their pitcher.”

Saturday special

Both teams had played just one countable game entering play Saturday.

Thornton Academy opened with a 12-2 home win over Sanford.

Portland started with a 7-1 victory at Noble.

Last year, the Golden Trojans pulled away for a decisive 16-6 win over the Bulldogs at Hadlock Field.

Saturday, Portland earned its first regular season victory over Thornton Academy since April 30, 2013 as it took advantage of opportunities from start to finish.

Stasium led off the game against Thornton Academy junior starter Luke Chessie by grounding the ball softly to senior shortstop Brogan Searle-Belanger and Stasium beat the throw for an infield single. Junior shortstop Will Barnard, who replaced former standout Jake Knop (who is now at Manhattan College) this spring, bunted back to the mound to sacrifice Stasium to second, but Stasium didn’t stop, as he took off for third and when Golden Trojans junior first baseman Toby Pydych threw wildly past third, Stasium was awarded home for the game’s first run. Tocci bounced out to short and Snyder looked at strike three to retire the side.

Tocci fanned Chessie looking to start the bottom of the first. Searle-Belanger bounced out to second and after senior centerfielder Kolby Lambert walked on a full count pitch, Tocci got junior catcher Cam Seymour to fly out to left.

The Bulldogs weren’t able to add to their lead in the top of the second, as after senior catcher Cam King popped out to Chessie and Sawyer singled to left, junior designated hitter Sonny Villani grounded into a second-to-short-to-first double play to end it.

Tocci got into (and ultimately out of) a jam in the bottom half, as junior second baseman Tim Smith led off with a single and moved up to second on a wild pitch and after Pydych struck out swinging, junior rightfielder Cam Cross singled to center to put runners at the corners. Cross then tried to steal second, but King gunned him down for out number two and senior third baseman Brady Lambert bounced out to third to end the threat.

Chessie made quick work of Portland in the third, geting junior leftfielder Jake Loranger to fly deep to center, sophomore rightfielder Sam Knop to look at strike three and Stasium to ground out to short.

In the bottom half, the hosts went quietly, as senior leftfielder Jacob Laplume popped out to third, Chessie lined out to right, where Knop made a nice stab on the run, and Searle-Belanger bounced out to third.

The Bulldogs then got some breathing room in the top of the fourth.

Barnard grounded out to short to start the frame and Tocci appeared to do the same, but Searle-Belanger’s throw got away and the error allowed Tocci to reach safely. Snyder followed with a single to center and King singled to right to load the bases. That brought up Sawyer, who singled to left to score Tocci for a 2-0 lead.

“We knew it was wet out here, so we tried to run as fast as we could,” said Tocci. “We have a really deep lineup. We try to put pressure on with our offense.”

Villani kept the good times rolling with a single to right, scoring Snyder. Thornton Academy’s defense then betrayed it again, as Loranger’s ground ball to Brady Lambert resulted in a throwing error which allowed King and Sawyer to come home for a 5-0 advantage.

“They made five errors and we made none and every time they made an error, we took advantage,” Portland coach Mike Rutherford said. “We took advantage of errors, then we had big hits.”

Knop struck out on a full count pitch and Stasium grounded into a force out, but the damage was done.

The Golden Trojans tried to rally in the bottom half, but had to settle for a single run.

Tocci momentarily got wild to start the frame, as a pitch grazed the batting helmet of Kolby Lambert and another hit the leg of Seymour. After a wild pitch moved the runners up, Tocci got Smith to pop out foul to King. That brought up Pydych, who hit a sharp grounder up the middle. The ball hit Tocci on the leg and deflected to junior second baseman Henry Westphal, who threw to first for the out with the run scoring on the play. Tocci shook off the glancing blow and got Cross to ground out to Barnard, who made a nice play going to his left, before throwing to first for the out which ended the inning with Portland on top, 5-1.

“It was just a stinger and I had to work through it,” Tocci said. “I wasn’t coming out.” 

Chessie retired the first two Bulldogs in the top of the fifth, getting Barnard to ground out to second and Tocci to bounce out to second, but he hit Snyder with a pitch and King singled to left-center (the runners moved up on the throw). Chessie then got Sawyer to ground out to short to end the threat.

In the bottom half, Tocci surrendered a single to Brady Lambert leading off. Lambert was sacrificed to second by Laplume and moved to third on a groundout back to the mound by Chessie, but Searle-Belanger bounced out to second to end the threat.

Portland threatened again in the top of the sixth, but couldn’t add to its lead thanks to a couple outs on the basepaths.

Villani looked at strike three leading off, but Loranger singled to left. Loranger was picked off by Chessie, but Knop walked on a full count pitch. Knop then tried to steal second, but Seymour threw him out.

In the bottom of the sixth, Tocci gave up a ground ball to second off the bat of Kolby Lambert on a full count pitch and induced a fly out to left by Seymour. After walking Smith on a 3-2 pitch, Tocci fanned Pydych swinging.

The Bulldogs ended any lingering doubt in the top of the seventh, scoring three more runs.

Stasium led off by beating out an infield single to third and that was it for Chessie, who switched places with Searle-Belanger. Searle-Belanger gave up a sacrifice bunt to Barnard and got Tocci to ground the ball to short, but Chessie’s throw was wild for another error, allowing Stasium to score and Tocci to take second. An errant pickoff attempt from Searle-Belanger moved Tocci to third and Tocci scored easily when Snyder doubled to left-center. After King popped out to second, Sawyer followed with an RBI single to right-center.

“In the preseason, I was rolling over the ball a little bit, so I’ve been trying to go the other way when I get pitches on the outside of the plate,” said Sawyer.

“They went from having a huge inning and only got one run, then we scored again in the next inning and they deflated,” Rutherford said. ‘The key to baseball in my opinion is stay out of the big inning. We feel we won that inning and they felt like they didn’t win. That was a big key to the game.” 

Senior pinch-runner Vinnie Pasquali stole second, but was stranded when Villani bounced out to second.

Tocci gave up an infield single to Cross leading off the bottom of the seventh, but he fanned Brady Lambert looking, got Laplume to fly out to right and on a 3-2 pitch, retired Chessie on a grounder to short to end the game, 8-1, in Portland’s favor, in a tidy 1 hour, 34 minutes.

“The game’s about throwing strikes and playing defense,” Rutherford said. “That’s our second game with no errors. We made some really good plays. We’re solid all the way around defensively. We do the little things and I think that’s why we’re a top team every year. The kids work really hard on defense. I didn’t know being so young, how we’d match up against a team with veterans.

“It’s a big win for us. I knew we were going to be good. We won the summer wooden bat league last year with underclassmen. I knew we’d have Donnie on the mound and would have good defense. The key was replacing Jake Knop and Dom Tocci. They were Gold Glove in the league three years in a row. Now we have Billy Barnard and Henry Westphal and in the first two games, they’ve made every play.

“In the end, TA will be very good. They’ll have 12, 13, 14, maybe even 15 wins. We’re TA fans the rest of the way for Heal Points. They can swing the bats and pitch.”

Tocci improved to 2-0 on the young season by allowing just one earned run on four hits in seven innings. He walked two, struck out four, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.

“I felt good the whole way,” Tocci said. “My curve ball was on. My change-up was a little shaky, but it’s early in the season.”

“With Tocci on the mound, we can beat anybody,” Rutherford said.

Tocci’s defense was perfect behind him.

“Donnie threw strikes and that’s what we need with our fielding being spot-on,” Sawyer said.

Offensively, the Bulldogs got three hits from Sawyer and a pair apiece from King and Stasium. 

Snyder, Stasium and Tocci all scored twice, while King and Sawyer touched home once.

Sawyer drove in two runs, while Loranger, Snyder and Villani also had RBI.

Portland left five runners on base.

Thornton Academy got a pair of hits from Cross. Kolby Lambert scored the run and Pydych had the RBI. The Golden Trojans stranded seven base runners.

Chessie fell to 0-1 after giving up six runs (just one earned) on nine hits in six-plus innings. He walked one, hit a batter and fanned four.

Searle-Belanger surrendered two unearned runs on two hits in one inning of work. He didn’t register a walk or a strikeout.

Long road ahead

Thornton Academy plays a makeup game at Cheverus Monday, visits Kennebunk Tuesday and hosts Windham Thursday.

Portland is back in action Tuesday at Windham. Thursday, the Bulldogs host Marshwood. Saturday of next week, Portland travels to Falmouth for a playoff rematch.

“We work hard every day and don’t take any days off,” said Tocci. “We come out and do our thing. Pitch and field well, hit well. Everything is clicking so far.”

“There’s always stuff to improve on,” Sawyer said. “We can always hit better. Our baserunning is a little shaky at times. We just have to play more games. I think we’re really good. I know we lost Jake Knop and Dom Tocci, but we’ve replaced them with players who we think can compete and they’re competing well right now. We’re only going to get better.”

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

Portland junior Donnie Tocci delivers a pitch during Saturday’s victory.

Portland junior Donnie Tocci crosses the plate with a second inning run.

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