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Portland junior pitcher Brian Riley throws a strike past Thornton Academy senior Toby Pydych during Tuesday’s 4-2 Golden Trojans’ victory.
TA- 040 000 0- 4 8 1
P- 001 000 1- 2 4 1
Nash singled to right, Bowker scored. Reny doubled to right, Pydych, Nash and Chessie scored.
Stasium singled to cener, Knop scored.
Walter walked, Stasium scored.
TA- Bowker, Chessie, Nash, Pydych
P- Knop, Stasium
TA- Reny 3, Nash
P- Stasium, Walter
TA- Reny, Seymour
Left on base:
Chessie, Seymour (7) and Seymour, Christoforo (7); Riley and Knop.
Chessie (W, 3-0) 6 IP 4 H 1 R 1 ER 3 BB 5 K
Seymour (Save, 1) 1 IP 0 H 1 R 1 ER 4 BB 3 K
Riley (L, 1-1) 7 IP 8 H 4 R 4 ER 4 BB 5 K
PORTLAND—Thornton Academy got the key hit and Portland did not and as a result, the Bulldogs fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in an early-season baseball showdown Tuesday afternoon at Hadlock Field.
The Golden Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on an RBI single from junior leftfielder Liam Nash, but it was junior third baseman Joseph Reny who delivered the biggest blow, a two-out, bases loaded double off Portland junior starter Brian Riley to give the visitors a 4-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs got a run back in the bottom of the third, when senior centerfielder Ben Stasium hit a two-out RBI single to score junior catcher Sam Knop, but Thornton Academy senior pitcher Luke Chessie held them at bay through six innings.
Portland then had a final opportunity in the seventh, scoring a run when senior catcher Cam Seymour walked junior third baseman Cole Walter with the bases loaded and two outs, but the Bulldogs couldn’t draw any closer and lost, 4-2.
Thornton Academy improved to 4-1 on the season and in the process, dropped Portland to 2-1.
“Right now, without swinging the bat well, we have to play perfectly,” said Bulldogs coach Mike Rutherford. “The defense was fine and Brian gave us six good innings out of seven. He had just one bad inning.”
Portland opened its 2019 campaign with a 10-0, five-inning victory behind Riley at Kennebunk, then Monday afternoon, blanked visiting Falmouth, 2-0, behind senior Donnie Tocci’s three-hit gem.
Thornton Academy won its first three outings, 5-2 at Gorham, 7-4 at home over Marshwood and 4-1 at Noble before falling at home, 1-0, to Kennebunk.
Last year, in Saco, the Bulldogs took advantage of five Golden Trojans’ errors and got three hits and two RBI from then-junior Ben Sawyer as they prevailed, 8-1.
Tuesday, on a 50 degree, cloudy afternoon, Portland hoped to beat Thornton Academy for the second year in a row, but it wasn’t to be.
Both pitchers were sharp early.
Riley started the game by getting Chessie to line out to center on the first pitch, inducing Reny to chase three and after walking Seymour, who started the game at catcher, on a 3-2 pitch, getting senior shortstop Tim Smith to watch strike three.
In the bottom of the first, Chessie was even more efficient, getting Stasium to fly out to left, senior shortstop Will Barnard to ground out to second on a 3-2 pitch (junior second baseman Christopher Balzano made a nice play ranging to his right before throwing out the runner) and inducing Tocci, the rightfielder, to ground to first with the pitcher covering.
Thornton Academy then had a breakout inning in the top of the second.
Freshman centerfielder Cody Bowker started the trouble with a single to center and senior first baseman Toby Pydych followed with a single to almost the same spot. Senior rightfielder Cameron Cross then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third base line. Nash delivered Bowker with a single to right and on the play, Tocci’s throw got away for an error, allowing Nash to take second base while Pydych stayed at third. Riley got Balzano to ground back to the mound with the runners holding for the second out, but after Chessie was walked intentionally, Reny came up huge, lining the ball the other way, down the rightfield line, and by the time Tocci ran it down, all three runners scored on the double.
“I’ve always been taught middle-opposite approach, so I came up to the plate thinking of driving it to right,” said Reny. “I saw the rightfielder was pretty far off the line, so I knew if I got an outside pitch, I could hit it there.”
Seymour then crushed the ball to deep right, but Tocci caught it to end the inning with the Golden Trojans leading, 4-0.
“We’ve given up runs in just one inning all season, but unfortunately, today we gave up four,” Rutherford said. “I think it was a good coaching move (to walk Chessie). Chessie is one of the best players in the league. We put him on because (Reny) struck out in the first inning pretty easily, but Brian didn’t make a pitch. We were one pitch away from winning 2-1.”
Portland couldn’t counter in the bottom half, as Chessie got senior first baseman Ben Sawyer to fly to center, Walter to swing through a 3-2 pitch and senior leftfielder Jake Loranger to line softly to third base.
Thornton Academy had a golden opportunity to break it open in the top of the third, but left the bases loaded.
Smith struck out leading off, but a passed ball by junior catcher Sam Knop allowed him to reach. That proved to be a moot point when Bowker grounded sharply to senior second baseman Henry Westphal, who threw to Barnard, who threw on to Sawyer to complete the 4-6-3 double play. Riley then walked Pydych and after Cross singled sharply to center, Riley lost Nash on a 3-2 pitch to bring Balzano up with a chance to add to the lead, but he flew out to left to keep the score 4-0.
Portland got on the board in the bottom half.
Knop got things started with a leadoff double down the rightfield line. Knop took third when sophomore designated hitter Danny Tocci grounded out to short, but it looked like he’d be stranded, as Westphal hit a soft liner to second. Stasium then came up big, lining a 3-2 pitch to center for an RBI single. Barnard then reached when his squibber to third was mishandled by Reny. That’s all the damage the Bulldogs could do, however, as Donnie Tocci grounded out to first unassisted.
Riley kept the score 4-1 in the top of the fourth, as he got Chessie to fly out to right and Reny to ground out to second and after Seymour crushed a pitch over Donnie Tocci’s head in right for a double, Riley got Smith to line to right to end the threat.
Great defense held the Bulldogs at bay in the bottom half.
Chessie fanned Sawyer leading off, but walked Walter. Loranger then hit a shot down the third base line, but Reny made a phenomenal off-balance backhanded stab before throwing to second base for the force out.
“I just fielded the ball and made the play,” Reny said. “It was instinct. We played solid defense today.”
Chessie then caught Knop looking at strike three to end it.
In the top of the fifth, Riley had his best inning, getting Bowker to line out to first, striking out Pydych swinging and getting Cross to watch strike three.
Portland had a chance to draw closer in the bottom half, but stranded a pair. Danny Tocci popped out foul to Reny leading off, but Westphal drew a walk and Stasium singled to right-center. Barnard then popped out to second and Donnie Tocci hit the ball hard, but it was right at Bowker in center for the third out.
Riley remained strong in the top of the sixth, getting Nash to line out to short, Balzano to ground back to the mound and Chessie to pop out to second.
Sawyer gave the Bulldogs hope by leading off the bottom half with a single to center, but Smith got to Walter’s ground ball in the hole and threw to second for a force out. Senior Sam Sheils ran for Walter and stole second and after Loranger walked, Chessie fanned Knop and Danny Tocci looked at strike three to end the threat.
Riley started the top of the seventh by getting Reny to ground out to short and Seymour to pop to second, but Smith beat out an infield single down the third base line and Bowker reached on an infield single when his little pop-up between first and second dropped untouched. Pydych then popped out to second to send the game to the bottom of the seventh.
Seymour came on to pitch and made things interesting, getting junior pinch-hitter Max Brown to chase strike three and after walking Stasium on a 3-2 pitch, fanning Barnard on a 3-2 pitch before walking Donnie Tocci on a 3-2 pitch to bring up Sawyer as the tying run. Seymour then walked Sawyer to load the bases. When Walter drew a walk as well, Stasium came home to cut the deficit to two and suddenly, the Bulldogs had the tying run in scoring position, but Seymour rediscovered the strike zone and fanned Loranger to bring an end to Thornton Academy’s 4-2 victory in 1 hour, 48 minutes.
“It’s amazing to win here,” Reny said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. We played our hearts out, hit the ball when we needed to and got the runs we needed. We’re confident in Cam. He let a couple runners on, but he stood tall. We also got a very good start from Luke.”
Chessie improved to 3-0 on the season by allowing just one earned run on four hits in his six innings of work. He walked three and struck out five.
Seymour earned the save, allowing a run on no hits and four walks. He did strike out the side.
Bowker had two hits and scored a run, while Chessie, Nash and Pydych also touched home. Reny had three RBI and Nash also drove in a run.
The Golden Trojans stranded eight baserunners.
Portland got two hits from Stasium, runs from Knop and Stasium and RBI from Stasium and Walter, but that was it for offense.
Sheils stole a base.
The Bulldogs left 10 runners on base.
“We only had four hits and you won’t win many games when you get four hits,” Rutherford said. “It’s the 6-7-8-9 guys where someone has to step up. We can’t win with just Tocci and Sawyer. We have to replace (Will) Snyder and (Cam) King and it might take all year to figure it out. I’m experimenting. I went with Danny Tocci today. I’ve experimented with Max Brown a little bit and maybe some other guys. I have to find some guys to give us some production.”
Riley fell to 1-1 after giving up four earned runs on eight hits in a complete game effort. He walked four and struck out five.
Thornton Academy returns to action Thursday when Deering pays a visit. The Golden Trojans travel to Falmouth Saturday.
“We’re definitely underdogs this year,” Reny said. “We were a nobody coming in, but we’re having a good season so far.”
Portland, meanwhile, visits Sanford Thursday and goes to Gorham for a playoff rematch Saturday.
“Pitching-wise, I know what I’m going to get, but until guys step it up, we’ll have trouble scoring runs,” Rutherford said. “We’re getting baserunners. It’s early in the season. If keep getting pitching, we’ll be alright.”