Entering the 2009 postseason, the Scarborough baseball team had never won a Class A playoff game.
This time around, the Red Storm have captured two and counting as they advanced to a date with two-time defending state champion Deering in the Western A Final Wednesday afternoon.
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Along the way, Scarborough beat South Portland in the semifinals, ending the Red Riots’ deepest run in five years.
In Western B, top-ranked and defending regional champion Cape Elizabeth had visions of going all the way, but despite a heroic pitching performance, couldn’t find a way to score in an agonizing 1-0, 10 inning home loss to Greely Saturday in the semifinals.
Red Storm roll on
Scarborough, led by Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, senior pitching ace Chris Bernard, went 12-4 this spring (its best record since posting a 15-1 mark in 1995) and earned the No. 3 spot in Western A.
Last Thursday, the Red Storm held off visiting No. 6 seed Bonny Eagle, 4-2, behind Bernard, who hit a two-run homer and threw a three-hitter with seven strikeouts.
Saturday, in the semis, Scarborough hosted a South Portland squad that was on a roll. The Red Riots overcame myriad injuries to go 8-8 and earn the No. 10 seed. After upsetting No. 7 Thornton Academy, 5-4, in the preliminary round, South Portland rallied from a 3-0 deficit to shock No. 2 Westbrook, 5-3, in the semifinals last Thursday.
The Red Storm were able to bring the Red Riots back to earth on Saturday, scoring early and often en route to a 13-6 triumph behind junior Jake Rutt’s three hits (including a home run) and junior Andrew Myers’ solid effort on the mound.
South Portland’s season ended at 10-9, but with several key players back, the Red Riots will look to build on their success in 2010.
Back to Scarborough, it lost 22-4 (in five innings) at home to Deering on May 9, but expected to be much closer with Bernard on the hill. The teams’ only prior playoff meeting came in the 2006 quarterfinals (a 10-9, nine inning, come-from-behind triumph by the Rams).
If the Red Storm were able to spring the upset and end Deering’s 49-game winning streak, they would face either Cony (14-4) or Messalonskee (14-4) in Saturday’s Class A state final at 2 p.m., in Augusta.
No hits, then no win
In Western B, one year after their stunning surge from the No. 9 seed to the regional championship, Cape Elizabeth hoped home cooking would be the secret to their playoff success.
The Capers went 12-4 in the regular year and wound up first in the region. After blanking No. 8 Lake Region 2-0 in the quarterfinals (behind senior Andrew Guay’s three-hitter), Cape Elizabeth welcomed No. 4 Greely Saturday in the semifinals.
The Capers beat the Rangers twice in the regular year (5-1 in Cumberland and 8-3 at home), but the third time wouldn’t be a charm.
Cape Elizabeth senior Ryan Boyington took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and went all 10 frames, yet took the crushing loss. He allowed just one unearned run, a mere three singles, two walks (one intentional), to go with five strikeouts.
How those statistics didn’t spell a win is even more mindboggling.
The game’s first seven innings took just over an hour, as the Capers’ bats were nearly as quiet as Greely’s. Boyington finally gave up a clean single to Rangers senior centerfielder Nate Martin in the seventh.
Was the no-hitter going through Boyington’s mind at any point?
“Yeah it was,” he admitted. “I was keeping them off balance all day and then Nate Martin, I think he won player of the year for Class B, he’s a great player, he just hit a good ball to center field and it dropped.”
Cape Elizabeth had a golden opportunity to win it in the bottom of the eighth after a leadoff single. After a sacrifice bunt from junior Kyle Piscopo and an intentional walk to Guay, Cape Elizabeth had the winning run on second base with only one out, but sophomore Robert MacDonald and junior Sam St. Germain both popped up to centerfield to end the threat.
The 10th inning was the only scoring frame, and it was a strange sequence at that. Martin led things off with a smoked hit past third base. Next was Pat Copp, who grounded the first pitch to St. Germain. St. Germain threw to second base in an attempt to nail the lead runner, but his plan backfired immensely. His throw sailed well out of the reach of the leaping Piscopo, allowing Martin to grab third. If that wasn’t bad enough, the throw back in from MacDonald was off the mark and Copp scampered up to second, setting up a prime scoring situation for Greely.
An intentional walk loaded the bases and drew the infield in. Senior catcher Ryan Howland stepped to the dish eager for a go-ahead base knock. Perhaps overanxious, he grounded Boyington’s first pitch to shortstop Matt Rand, who fired home to get the lead runner. Next up was sophomore designated hitter Matt Labbe. After a fouling off a squeeze attempt, Labbe sent an 0-2 fastball back up the middle past Rand and junior Matti Ingraham (pinch running for Copp) ran 90 feet to score the lone run. Hart also tried to score on the hit, but senior center fielder Zach Breed threw him out. Pinch hitter junior Jake Whiting-Kooy then struck out looking to end the frame, but the damage was done.
The Capers, who stranded two runners in the third inning, two in the seventh, and two in the eighth, just couldn’t get that one clutch hit to plate a run. They went quietly in the bottom of the 10th and their season ended at 13-5 with the 1-0 loss.
“Our team played a heck of a game anyway, to have only two errors through 10 innings is remarkable, we gave everything we had,” said Boyington.
“(Boyington was) absolutely fantastic, what more do you want from him?” said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Hayward. “One unearned run, that’s how it goes. Greely didn’t hit many balls hard, neither did we. Both pitchers were in command of their curveballs. We knew to win we had to push a couple across. We just couldn’t get it done. We had our chances.”
Ryan Robb contributed to this story. Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com.