Portland meets challenges, extends streak to six with win at defending champs

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Portland junior Jess Brown, right, is congratulated by freshman catcher Elaina Legere and sophomore third baseman Grace Stacey after recording the final out of Wednesday’s 8-4 victory at Biddeford.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 8 Biddeford 4

P- 020 303 0- 8 14 2
B- 001 030 0- 4 8 0

Top 2nd
Boyle singled to left, Rosmus and Stacey scored.

Bottom 3rd
Wildes singled to left, Coolbroth scored.

Top 4th
Brown doubled to center, Twombly, Boyle and Gilbert scored.

Bottom 5th
Chase homered to center, Davis and Chase scored. O’Connor homered to center, O’Connor scored.

Top 6th
Crosby doubled to left, Gilbert scored. Rosmus singled to left, Ives and Crosby scored. 

Repeat hitters:
P- Boyle, Rosmus 3, Legere, Stacey
B- O’Connor, Wildes 

Runs:
P- Gilbert 2, Boyle, Crosby, Ives, Rosmus, Stacey, Twombly
B- Chase, Coolbroth, Davis O’Connor

RBI:
P- Brown 3, Boyle, Rosmus 2, Crosby
B- Chase 2, O’Connor, Wildes

Doubles:
P- Brown, Crosby
B- Stewart

Home runs:
B- Chase, O’Connor 

Left on base:
P- 9
B- 8

Brown and Legere; Stewart and Davis

P:
Brown (W, 7-1) 7 IP 7 H 4 R 3 ER 2 BB 4 K  

B:
Stewart (L, 3-5) 7 IP 14 H 8 R 8 ER 3 BB 6 K 1 WP 

Time: 1:55

BIDDEFORD—A year ago, Portland’s softball team learned how to win.

This spring, the Bulldogs have gotten to the point where they believe that they can win by any means necessary anytime they take the field and Wednesday afternoon, under sizzling skies at Doran Field, playing defending Class A state champion Biddeford, Portland once again overcame a stern challenge and triumphed.

Thanks to, once again, a full team effort.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning when senior shortstop Morgan Boyle delivered a two-run single with two outs. After the Tigers got a run in the bottom of the third on a two-out RBI single from sophomore rightfielder Taylor Wildes, Portland appeared to seize control in the fourth, when junior starting pitcher Jess Brown cleared the bases with a two-out, bases loaded double.

The visitors held a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth, when Biddeford’s bats erupted to make things most interesting.

First, senior first baseman Alex Chase hit a two-run home run. Then, senior leftfielder Abby O’Connor followed with a bomb over the centerfield fence to cut the deficit to a mere run, 5-4.

Brown managed to get out of the inning with the lead intact and in the sixth, Portland went back on top by four, when with two outs, senior second baseman Taylor Crosby belted a two-out double and junior centerfielder Kit Rosmus followed with a two-run single.

Brown managed to go the distance despite the heat and despite not having her best stuff and she recorded the game’s final out with the potential tying run on deck and the Bulldogs prevailed, 8-4.

Boyle and Rosmus had three hits apiece, Brown drove in three runs and earned her seventh victory and Portland improved to 11-1, dropping the Tigers to 4-7 in the process.

“We’re resilient,” Brown said. “We’re generating more offense than we did last year. We have more confidence. Our defense has been solid and our offense has come along.” 

Whatever it takes

Portland turned the corner as a program last spring and arguably its biggest regular season win came May 18 when Brown blanked visiting Biddeford, 2-0. The Bulldogs went on to the playoffs and eventually reached the quarterfinals before losing to Scarborough.

The Red Storm then got to the regional final where they were upset by Biddeford, which went on to knock off Skowhegan, 12-7, for its second Class A state championship.

The Tigers were hit hard by graduation and have been up-and-down in 2017. Biddeford opened with losses at Massabesic (16-4) and Windham (14-4), then downed host South Portland, 8-5. After losses to visiting Noble (11-7) and Thornton Academy (9-4) and host Gorham (13-12), the Tigers edged visiting Sanford, 7-6, A 17-5 loss at Thornton Academy was followed by wins over visiting Deering (14-4) and at Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy (20-12).

Portland, meanwhile, has been even better than a year ago and in a sign of a true contender, the Bulldogs have wrested victory from the jaws of defeat on several occasions.

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, and Monday, edged host Marshwood in a playoff rematch, 2-0.

Wednesday, on a terrific day for softball (80 degrees with a nine mile-per-hour wind at first pitch), the Bulldogs made it two in a row over the Tigers, but not without some anxious moments.

Portland had a chance to get to Biddeford junior starting pitcher Katie Stewart in the top of the first, but couldn’t break through.

Boyle led off and after several foul balls, including one that sophomore third baseman Chantel Perreault couldn’t corral, she reached on an infield single and moved to second when junior designated player Sydney Gilbert laid down a sacrifice bunt. Brown, after just missing an extra base hit on a long foul ball down the leftfield line, grounded out slowly to short, moving Boyle to third, but Crosby popped out to short to keep the game scoreless.

In the bottom half, Brown got junior catcher Brook Davis to fly out deep to right, Stewart to ground back to the mound and Chase to ground out to Crosby at second.

The top of the second inning featured the Bulldogs producing some two-out magic to take the lead for good.

Rosmus led off by beating out an infield single on a slow ground ball to short and after freshman catcher Elaina Legere flew out deep to left, sophomore third baseman Grace Stacey reached on a bloop infield single. Freshman first baseman Callie Watson struck out swinging, but senior rightfielder Annie Twombly walked on four pitches, loading the bases for Boyle, who didn’t disappoint, lining a single to left to score Rosmus and Stacey for a 2-0 lead. Gilbert then looked at strike three for the final out.

Brown then worked out of a major jam in the bottom half.

O’Connor lined a single up the middle leading off and Wildes walked on a full count pitch. When senior shortstop Amber Magnant beat out a bunt hit, the bases were loaded, but Brown got Perreault to pop out to short, struck out senior centerfielder Chantel Gagnon looking, then left the bags full by getting sophomore second baseman Lexi Matteau to pop out foul to Legere.

Brown looked at strike three to start the third and Crosby flew out deep to right for the second out. Rosmus then singled to left, but Legere popped out to second.

Biddeford cut its deficit in half of the bottom of the third, scoring an unearned run.

Davis grounded back to mound leading off, but Stewart cracked a double the other way, to the gap in right-center, and after Stewart was replaced by sophomore courtesy runner Harmonie Coolbroth, Chase reached on an error by Boyle at short. Brown caught O’Connor looking at strike three, but Wildes singled to right to score Coolbroth. Crosby then made a nice play to retire the side, catching Magnant’s pop fly on the run for the third out, keeping Portland on top, 2-1.

The Bulldogs then got their bats going in the fourth to open it back up.

Stacey led off with a single to center and after Watson struck out, Twombly singled to right. Boyle followed with a pop fly to shallow center, but neither Magnant or Gagnon could get to it and the ball dropped for a single, loading the bases for Gilbert. Gilbert grounded out to Perreault at third, who threw home to Davis for a force out for the second out of the inning. That left it up to Brown, who came through in a big way, crushing a pitch over the head of Gagnon in center, all the way to the fence, and Twombly, Boyle and Gilbert all raced home on the double for a 5-1 lead.

“I knew I had to get something to the outfield to get those girls home,” Brown said. “Luckily, it went to the right spot, but I was hoping it would go over the fence.”

Crosby then grounded out to short to end the frame.

In the bottom half, Brown got Perreault to pop out foul to Watson at first, Gagnon to ground out to second and Matteau to pop out to Brown for the third out.

The Bulldogs threatened in the fifth, as after Rosmus flew out to left, Legere singled to left, but Stacey grounded into a third-to-second force out and senior pinch-hitter Samantha Stewart struck out.

Biddeford then put on a power display in the bottom half, but couldn’t come all the way back.

Davis led off with a sharp single to center and after Stewart popped to second, Chase got all of a fastball and sent it over the fence in left-center for a two-run home run to cut the deficit to 5-3. Before the Tigers’ excitement over that blast dissipated, O’Connor turned on another Brown fastball and sent it over the head of Rosmus in center and over the fence as well to make it a one-run game and suddenly make things very interesting.

Brown would settle down, however, and caught Wildes looking at strike three and got Magnant to ground out to Watson at first, who barely beat the runner to the bag to retire the side.

With the game slipping away, Portland could have buckled, but instead, befitting the championship contenders they see themselves becoming, the Bulldogs got the three runs right back.

Twombly popped out to second and Boyle flew out to the wall in left to start the top of the sixth, but Gilbert sparked a rally with a single to left and after Stewart threw a wild pitch, Brown drew a walk and was replaced by sophomore courtesy runner Olivia Ives. Crosby then came up with a clutch double down the leftfield line to score Gilbert and on the play, Ives went to third.

“(Their comeback) was definitely nervewracking, but we knew we could hit,” Crosby said. “This was a good day for hitters. We had confidence and took care of it. I was just trying to get a hit. We needed a run and I hadn’t been hitting well. I kept my weight back and ripped it.”

Rosmus then came through in a big way as well, singling to left, bringing home Ives and Crosby to extend the lead to 8-4. 

“If I have a bad inning, I know our whole lineup can help me out,” Brown said.

“We just don’t quit,” Portland coach Robbie Ferrante said. “We got those three runs after two were out.”

Legere kept the inning alive with an infield single, but Stacey bounced back to the mound to finally end the uprising.

Brown walked Perreault on a full count leading off the bottom of the sixth, but she caught Coolbroth looking at strike three, then got Matteau to pop out to first and Davis to fly out deep to right-center, where Rosmus made a nice catch on the run.

The Bulldogs couldn’t add to their lead in the seventh, as after Watson struck out swinging on a full count pitch and Twombly grounded back to the mound, Boyle walked, but Gilbert popped out to second.

That left it up to Brown to finish it up and she would do so, despite a hit and an error.

Stewart hit the first pitch she saw on the ground to Crosby for the first out. Chase then reached when Crosby couldn’t handle her slow roller. O’Connor tried to spark a comeback by hitting the ball sharply to the left side, but Boyle made a tremendous backhanded stab before throwing to Crosby for the force out. Wildes kept hope alive by reaching on a hit just over Boyle into centerfield. That brought up Magnant, who had a chance to reach and bring the tying run to the plate, but Magnant hit a little pop foul near the Biddeford dugout and Legere camped under it and caught it to bring the curtain down on Portland’s 8-4 victory after an intense 1 hour and 55 minutes.

“We’re very confident in ourselves this year,” Crosby said. “We’ve had a similar team for a couple years. We know what we can do. We know there are a lot of teams we can stick with. We know how to win.”

“We got out in front and (Biddeford) didn’t quit,” Ferrante said. “I didn’t think they would. They’re a good hitting team. They got momentum with those two home runs.”

Brown wasn’t her most dominant self, but she did go the distance and improved to 7-1 after allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits. Brown walked two and struck out four.

“Coming from what we’ve been used to, the heat seemed like a lot,” Brown said. “It reminded me of summer ball. I hate to admit it, but it got to me. (The home runs) frustrated me, but we still had the lead. I used the frustration to help me with energy. It made me push a little harder to get to the end of the game.” 

“Jess keeps doing her thing,” Crosby said. “I’m really proud of her. She does a lot.”

“Jess wasn’t at her best, but she gutted it out,” Ferrante added. “Sydney was sick, so I had to stick with Jess.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs produced 14 hits and were led by three apiece from Boyle and Rosmus and two each from Legere and Stacey.

Gilbert scored twice, while Boyle, Crosby, Ives, Rosmus, Stacey and Twombly all touched home once.

Brown drove in three runs, Boyle and Rosmus both had two RBI and Crosby added one.

Brown and Crosby had extra base hits.

Portland left nine runners on base.

For Biddeford, Stewart fell to 3-5 after allowing eight earned runs on 14 hits. She walked three, fanned six and threw one wild pitch.

O’Connor and Wildes had multiple hits, Chase, Coolbroth, Davis and O’Connor scored runs and Chase had two RBI, with O’Connor and Wildes each driving in one run. Stewart doubled and Chase and O’Connor homered.

The Tigers left eight runners on.

Closing stretch

Biddeford (clinging to the 12th and final playoff spot in the Class A South Heal Points standings at press time) still has work to do to qualify for the postseason. The Tigers host Marshwood in a key game Friday, visit Bonny Eagle Monday and MGA/Falmouth Tuesday, then close the regular season at home versus Westbrook and Scarborough. 

Portland, which is now two wins shy of tying the program’s most regular season wins since 2005, is at Deering Friday, hosts Gorham Monday, then has a key home showdown versus Windham Wednesday of next week. The Bulldogs (second to Scarborough in the Heals at press time) finish at Bonny Eagle two days later.

“At this time last year, we were just working to get into the playoffs,” Brown said. “Now, we have to polish a few things. We need to make games less close. If everything comes together, we should do well.” 

“We have to work on a few key things,” Crosby said. “We’ve had some errors here and there. We have to stay confident and keep our energy up for a whole game. We can definitely go somewhere this year. I’m super-excited.”

“This was another big step for us,” Ferrante added. “We want to finish as high as we can. Last year, we were happy to make the playoffs. Now, we want more.”

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

Portland junior pitcher Jess Brown gets Biddeford junior Brook Davis to take a swing.

Portland freshman Callie Watson catches an infield pop up off the bat of Biddeford sophomore Lexi Matteau.

Biddeford senior Alex Chase (arms raised) is greeted by her teammates after hitting a fifth inning home run.

Portland sophomore Grace Stacey races home with a second inning run. 

Portland freshman catcher Elaina Legere catches the final out of the game.

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