Portland softball beats Sanford in opener

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Portland senior Morgan Boyle is congratulated by senior Taylor Crosby, left, and junior Kit Rosmus after her second inning three-run home run. The Bulldogs went on to an 8-1 win over Sanford on Opening Day Thursday.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 8 Sanford 1

S- 100 000 0- 1 5 2
P- 331 010 x- 8 10 1

Top 1st
Wilson doubled to left, Allen scored.

Bottom 1st
Legere lined out to left, Gilbert scored. Rosmus singled to right, Brown and Crosby scored.

Bottom 2nd
Boyle homered to left, Pence, Twombly and Boyce scored.

Bottom 3rd
G. Stacey scored on wild pitch.

Bottom 5th
Brown doubled to right, Boyle scored. 

Repeat hitters:
S- Allen
P- Brown 3, Gilbert, Pence

Runs:
S- Allen
P- Boyle 2, Brown, Crosby, Gilbert, Pence, Stabley, Twombly

RBI:
S- Wilson
P- Boyle 3, Rosmus 2, Brown, Legere

Doubles:
S- Wilson
P- Brown, Pence, G. Stacey 

Triple:
S- Boissonneault

Home run:
P- Boyle (1) 

Stolen bases:
S- Allen, Blouin, McNutt
P- Brown, Pence, Twombly 

Left on base:
S- 8
P- 11

Allen, Curley (2) and Blouin; Brown and Legere

S:  
Allen (L 0-1) 1 IP 3 H 3 R 3 ER 1 BB 0 K
Curley 5 IP 7 H 5 R 2 ER 5 BB 2 K 3 WP 

P:
Brown (W, 1-0) 7 IP 5 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 14 K 

Time: 1:36

PORTLAND—One game in, the encore looks pretty promising for Portland’s softball team.

Coming off a dramatic, resurgent season, the Bulldogs know they’ll get every team’s ‘A’ game this spring, but if one game is any indication, Portland will be primed for the challenge.

Hosting Sanford, the second-ranked team a year ago, Portland junior ace pitcher Jess Brown gave up a run in the top of the first inning, but the Bulldogs answered in the bottom half with three, as promising freshman catcher Elaina Legere hit a sacrifice fly to tie it and junior centerfielder Kit Rosmus delivered a two-run single to put Portland on top to stay.

In the bottom of the second, the Bulldogs broke it open, as senior shortstop Morgan Boyle crushed a three-run home run.

With Brown recording the game’s first 13 outs by strikeout, the Spartans weren’t able to muster a rally and Portland added additional runs in the bottom of the third, as sophomore third baseman Grace Stacey scored on a wild pitch and in the bottom of the fifth, when Brown doubled home Boyle.

Brown and the Bulldogs’ defense slammed the door from there and Portland went on to an 8-1 victory to win its season opener and remind everyone that it intends to contend all spring.

“I still think we have an underdog card,” said Brown. “Not every team has seen what we can do. I’m proud of us.” 

New chapter

Portland was the feel-good story of the 2016 season, posting its first winning record in 11 years before rallying to stun Marshwood in a thrilling preliminary round playoff game. The Bulldogs lost, 12-0, in six innings, to Scarborough in the quarterfinals, but the program had returned to relevance.

With ample talent back this spring, Portland is expected to be in contention again.

Sanford also had a terrific 2016 campaign, winning 13 games before losing to eventual state champion Biddeford in the semifinals to wind up 14-4. The Spartans then graduated ace pitcher Jen Jones.

In last year’s opener, host Sanford beat the Bulldogs, 7-1.

This game was scheduled for Friday, but the threat of bad weather pushed it up to Thursday afternoon where Sanford hoped to win its seventh in a row in the series, but instead, Portland beat the Spartans for the first time since June 2, 2010 (12-8 at home).

Sanford started strong against Brown in the top of the first, as sophomore pitcher Julia Allen led off with a single to center and after Brown struck out junior second baseman Kaitlyn Farmer, junior centerfielder Marli Wilson blooped a double down the leftfield line and when the ball got past Bulldogs senior leftfielder Annie Twombly, Allen raced home for a 1-0 lead. Junior third baseman Molly Boissonneault drew a walk, but Brown limited the damage from there, fanning senior catcher Abby Blouin and freshman rightfielder Grace Curley.

Portland immediately got the run back, with a couple more for good measure.

Boyle led off against Allen and set the tone by smacking the ball hard, but it was hit right to Boissonneault at third, who made the play for the out. Junior rightfielder Sydney Gilbert got the fun started by singling over the outstretched glove of Sanford freshman shortstop Maddie McNutt. Brown then singled to left and when senior Kaylee Frey bobbled the ball, Gilbert raced to third. Brown stole second and senior second baseman Taylor Crosby walked to load the bases. That set the stage for Legere, who hit the ball hard to left, but it was right at Frey. Gilbert raced home on the sacrifice fly to tie the score and both runners moved up on the throw home. That loomed large, as Rosmus followed by hitting the ball into the hole between first and second and both Brown and Crosby scored easily.

“I knew we’ve hit really well in practice and we could produce offense,” Brown said. “We were only down one run.” 

Sophomore third baseman Grace Stacey then hit the ball hard as well, but lined out to Wilson in center keeping the score 3-1 after one eventful inning.

Brown returned to dominant form in the second, as she got Frey to look at strike three, caught freshman first baseman Abby Migneault looking as well, then got McNutt to chase strike three.

Portland added to its lead in the bottom half, thanks to one big blow.

Curley replaced Allen to start the frame and allowed a single to junior first baseman Mabel Pence, then Curley couldn’t handle Twombly’s bunt, putting runners on first and second. That set the stage for Boyle, who drove a Curley offering deep to left-center, well past the outfielders and by the time the ball was returned to the infield, Boyle circled the bases for a three-run home run and a 6-1 advantage.

“It felt great,” Boyle said. “My last home run was sophomore year. I actually thought (the outfielder) was going to catch it.”

“(Morgan’s) had so many big hits,” Brown said. “I’m surprised this was first home run in two years.”

“I wanted to give them zip in the first inning then score a couple, but we gave up one, then we came right back and got three, then got three more and that took the steam out of them,” said Bulldogs coach Robbie Ferrante. “We hit the ball hard early. I think we can hit the ball better than last year.”

Portland had a chance to add even more runs when Gilbert followed with a single to left and Brown had a bloop hit to left, but Crosby lined out to right, Legere flew deep to left and after a wild pitch moved the runners up, Curley escaped by getting Rosmus to fly out to left, keeping the score 6-1.

Brown struck out the side again in the third, getting Allen and Farmer to chase strike three and Wilson to watch strike three.

The Bulldogs got another run in the bottom half.

Stacey led off by doubling to left-center. Pence then popped to Farmer at second, who couldn’t hold on to the ball, putting runners at the corners. With Twombly at the plate, Curley threw a wild pitch and Stacey came home for a 7-1 lead. Twombly walked and stole second, but Curley got Boyle to look at strike three, fanned Gilbert swinging and after walking Brown to load the bases, got Crosby to pop out to second.

After two easy innings, Brown had to work out of a jam in the top of the fourth, as Boissonneault led off with a triple to center and Blouin walked and stole second. Brown caught Curley looking at strike three, got Frey to chase strike three, then escaped the threat by striking out Migneault swinging.

Portland’s first scoreless frame came in the bottom of the fourth, as Legere walked, but Rosmus flew out to left, Stacey popped out to first and Pence did the same.

Sanford again put runners on second and third with nobody out in the fifth, but Brown had the Spartans right where she wanted them.

McNutt led off and reached on a grounder when Pence couldn’t handle a throw. McNutt stole second and Allen followed by beating out an infield single (with McNutt moving up) and also stealing second. Brown then struck out Farmer swinging before her defenders finally got in on the fun, as Wilson popped out to Crosby at second and Boissonneault flew out to Rosmus in center.

The Bulldogs scored their final run in the bottom half, as after Twombly bounced out to second, Boyle walked and was sacrificed to second by Gilbert and she took third base on the throw. That set the stage for Brown, who blooped a double down the rightfield line, allowing Brown to score easily. Crosby grounded out to third, but Portland’s lead was 8-1.

Brown made quick work of Sanford in the sixth, getting Blouin to line out to Boyle, who made a nice play going to her right, Curley to foul out to Pence at first and Frey to ground back to Brown, whose low throw to Pence was dug out.

In the bottom half, after Legere reached on an infield single off Boissonneault’s glove, senior pinch-hitter Samantha Stewart popped out to second and junior pinch-hitter Carly Peterson popped out to short. Pence followed with a bloop double and sophomore pinch-hitter Olivia Ives walked to load the bases, but Boyle’s sharp grounder was collected by McNutt at short, who threw to Boissonneault for the inning-ending force out.

Brown then slammed the door in the seventh, bringing the curtain down on the victory.

After Brown caught Migneault looking at strike three for her final strikeout, McNutt reached on a bloop infield single and after Allen lined out to center, Farmer also reached on an infield hit before Brown got Wilson to pop out to Crosby at second to end it.

“We remembered how we played last year and we were able to get ahead,” Boyle said. “(Falling behind) made us a little nervous, but we stuck together as a team. Coming back will help us out later on, knowing we didn’t get discouraged. I think we’re better than last year. We encourage each other a lot.”

Brown earned her first win of the season by allowing just one run on five hits and two walks. She fanned 14.

“I did a lot better than I expected to,” Brown said. “I just had to hit my spots. I think there’s a lot I can build on. The trouble (early) came from figuring out what the batters wanted to hit. I had to hit my spots and remember not to throw those girls the wrong pitch in the same spot.” 

“I didn’t think Jess threw as hard as she’s thrown in the past, but it’s early,” Ferrante said. “A couple times, they had second and third and no outs and she got out of it.”

Both Brown and Ferrante credited Legere for her steady play in her varsity debut in replacing Gianna Gaudet.

“I’m glad to have (Elaina) behind the plate,” Brown said. “She’s silent but deadly. She’s not as vocal as ‘G’ from last year, but she’s adjusted really well.”

“She’s a find,” Ferrante said. “I think we have a top catcher for four years.”

Offensively, Portland was led by Brown, who had three hits. Gilbert and Pence also had multiple hits. Boyle scored twice, while Brown, Crosby, Gilbert, Pence, Stacey and Twombly all touched home once. Boyle had three runs batted in, while Rosmus drove in a pair and Brown and Legere had one RBI apiece. Brown, Pence and Stacey all doubled and Boyle homered. Brown, Pence and Twombly stole bases. The Bulldogs stranded 11 runners.

Sanford got two hits and a run from Allen and an RBI from Wilson, who also doubled. Boissonneault tripled and Allen, Blouin and McNutt had stolen bases. The Spartans stranded eight runners.

Allen took the loss after giving up three runs on three hits in her one inning. She walked one batter. Curley surrendered five runs (just two earned) on seven hits in five innings. She walked five and threw three wild pitches while fanning two.

Busy week

Sanford gets to play at home for the first time Monday, but things don’t get any easier when powerhouse Scarborough pays a visit. 

Portland, meanwhile, will see a couple of its rivals next week, going to Cheverus Monday and after hosting Westbrook Wednesday, welcoming Maine Girls’ Academy Friday.

“We’ve got stuff we can clean up,” Ferrante said. “The girls have to go out and prove it every game.”

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

Portland junior ace Jess Brown shows off her form. Brown struck out 14 in the victory.

Portland junior centerfielder Kit Rosmus prepares to make contact on a first inning, two-run single.

Portland junior rightfielder Sydney Gilbert crosses the plate.

Portland senior shortstop Morgan Boyle prepares to touch home plate on her second inning home run.

Portland junior first baseman Mabel Pence takes a swing.

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