PORTLAND—Arguably the best team in Western Class A baseball brought its show to the big stage Thursday afternoon and showed everyone what all the fuss is about.
The undefeated Scarborough Red Storm has run the table behind dominant pitching, steady defense and balanced offense, all of which were on display at Hadlock Field with the Portland Bulldogs finding no answers to any of it.
Scarborough senior lefty Jayme Lappin wasn’t overpowering, but he kept Portland off the scoreboard for six innings, thanks in large part to his defense. The Red Storm offense, meanwhile, had several heroes and put the game away with a six-run fifth inning and Scarborough went on to its 10th victory without a loss this spring, 9-2.
Junior Ben Greenberg had four hits, including two doubles, senior Trevor Sparda had a key two-run double and nine different players had at least one hit as the Red Storm dropped Portland to 5-5.
“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said Scarborough first-year coach Ryan Jones. “If you told me at the start of the season we’d start 10-0, I’d have said you’re crazy. This group of guys works its tails off. They all trust each other and pick each other up. It’s awesome to see.”
Portland and Scarborough were on the short list of contenders when the season began and both have shown signs of potential greatness.
The Bulldogs, who missed the playoffs last spring with a 5-11 record, opened by rolling, 12-4, at Sanford. They then held off host Kennebunk, 4-3, before letting a 3-0 lead slip away in an 8-4 loss at Gorham. Portland got back on track by blanking visiting Noble, 7-0, then earned even more confidence with a 6-3 home victory over Jeff Gelinas and Thornton Academy. That proved to be the high point, as the Bulldogs then lost at home to Windham, 2-0, at Marshwood (8-1) and after a 9-2 home win over Massabesic Monday, dropped a 10-3 home decision to South Portland Wednesday.
Scarborough, which made it to its first Class A state game in 2012, only to lose to Messalonskee (6-3), opened with a 3-0 home win over Thornton Academy, blanked visiting Massabesic (5-0) and host Westbrook (7-0), before finally surrendering a few runs in a 7-3 win at Bonny Eagle. After holding off host South Portland in a marathon, 12-7, the Red Storm eked out a 5-4 (eight inning) home victory over Biddeford it its closest game of the year, handled visiting Noble, 9-3, won in six innings at Kennebunk, 11-1, and Tuesday, stayed perfect with a 6-0 home victory over Deering.
Scarborough entered Thursday’s game one win from evening the all-time series with Portland (which only dates to 2004, please see sidebar, below). The Bulldogs pummeled the Red Storm by a total of 42-1 in the first two meetings, but Scarborough had taken four of the past five coming in, including a pair of decisions a year ago, 5-3 at Hadlock and 5-1 at home.
Thursday, under the brightest and warmest skies of the spring (at least to start), Scarborough demonstrated why it’s been unbeatable and could remain that way.
Portland senior starter Nate Smart was very efficient in the top of the first, getting Scarborough senior rightfielder Aaron Ravin to ground out to short, senior second baseman Brendan Hall to bounce harmlessly to first and senior shortstop Nick Bagley to pop out to first.
In the bottom half, Lappin made quick work of the hosts as Bulldogs senior shortstop Nick Volger led off by grounding out to short, junior leftfielder Joe Apon grounded out sharply to second and senior centerfielder Tim Rovnak lined softly to Hall.
In the top of the second, Greenberg, the first baseman, led off by lining a single just over the leap of Portland junior second baseman Evan Gallant and moved to second when senior catcher Sam Wessel grounded out slowly to third. Senior centerfielder Sam Terry was hit by a pitch and Sparda, the designated hitter, doubled on the first pitch he saw, just past the dive of Bulldogs senior third baseman Mike Scala and down the leftfield line, allowing Greenberg to score easily and Terry to race around from first as well for a 2-0 lead.
It could have been worse for the hosts as senior leftfielder Matt Hartl singled to left, putting runners at the corners, but a line drive off the bat of senior third baseman Kevin Dryzga resulted in a leaping catch by Gallant, who made a heads-up play, doubling Hartl off first to end the frame.
In the bottom of the second, senior designated hitter Caleb Fraser ripped a double to left-center leading off and went to third when Smart flew out to deep right in foul territory, but senior first baseman Kyle Reichert popped out to first and Lappin escaped the jam by striking out junior rightfielder Travis Godbout.
Volger made a nice defensive play to start the top of the third, ranging far to his left to scoop up a sharp grounder from Ravin and throwing out the runner by a step. Hall was hit by a pitch and appeared to be caught stealing second, but he reversed his direction and got back to first safely when Gallant’s throw was in the dirt. Bagley struck out, but Greenberg lined his second hit, a single to center, and Wessel walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the baes. Terry came up and delivered a seeing-eye single through the hole between third and short to score Hall for a 3-0 lead. Sparda then came up (and considering how Lappin was pitching) had a chance to break the game open, but he chased strike three in the dirt to keep the score 3-0.
Gallant led off the bottom of the third by grounding to Hall, who ranged to his right to make a nice play. Scala struck out and Volger grounded to Hall to end it.
In the fourth, Smart settled down and fanned Hartl and Dryzga, but Ravin drew a walk and Hall whistled a single just past Smart’s ear into centerfield to put runners at first and second. Smart then threw a wild pitch putting the runners in scoring position, but he got Bagley to fly out to right.
Lappin made quick work of the Bulldogs in the bottom half, inducing three ground balls, and Scarborough went out and put it away in the fifth.
Greenberg led off by ripping a shot to deep right-center. He thought about going for a triple, but stopped and settled for a double.
“I just kept my weight back and tried to put my bat on the ball,” Greenberg said. “I think I’ll stick to that.”
Wessel followed and hit a ball to the same spot and he wasn’t content with two bags, racing to third with an RBI triple. Wessel came home when Terry singled up the middle with the infield in to make it 5-0.
Sparda was hit by a pitch, Hartl sacrificed the runners up and Dryzga was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Ravin. Ravin served a single to left to score Terry, reloading the bases and Hall followed with a sharp single to center to score Sparda. Bagley grounded to Volger, who stepped on second for an out, but he couldn’t complete the double play, allowing a run to score. Greenberg was hit by a pitch as well and that ended Smart’s day.
Godbout came on to pitch and got Wessel to hit a grounder to Volger, but his throw to Gallant for the force was too late and another run crossed the plate. Godbout struck out Terry, but the damage was done and Scarborough was in command, up, 9-0.
“We’re all hitting,” Greenberg said. “It’s good to see. If one guy doesn’t have his best day, another guy picks him up.”
Lappin started quickly in the bottom of the fifth, getting Smart to ground out to third and Reichert to pop out foul to Wessel, who made a nice catch in the wind, but Godbout walked and Gallant singled to center, before Lappin got junior pinch-hitter Dan Kane to line to left.
In the top of the sixth, Godbout worked around a two-out single by Dryzga, who went to second on an error and third on a wild pitch, catching Ravin looking at strike three to end it.
In the bottom half, Volger led off by grounding out to second, but senior pinch-hitter Tyler Strauss ripped a single to left. Rovnak’s bid for a double was denied by Dryzga, who made a superb backhanded stab before throwing to second to force Strauss.
“We just try to keep the ball in front and make the simple plays,” Dryzga said. “When we have to make the good plays, we try to do that too. (The pitchers) go out and throw decent innings. They know if the batters put the ball in play, we’ll make the plays behind them.”
With Fraser at bat, Lappin wild pitched Rovnak to second and then to third before getting out of it when Fraser hit a ground ball to the hole and Bagley made an impressive throw across the diamond.
“We always stress the routine plays need to be made,” said Jones, mindful that seven errors in one game killed Scarborough’s title hopes last June. “If you give a team an extra out, it’s deadly. If they think they have a hit and it turns into an out, that’s deadly too.”
In the top of the seventh, Hall struck out and Bagley appeared to pop up for what should have been the second out, but Godbout (who had the best shot at the ball) was called off by Kane and the ball fell in for a hit. Greenberg then crushed hit fourth hit (and second double) deep to right, but Bagley held at third. Godbout got out of the jam by fanning Wessel looking and getting Terry to fly deep to right.
In the bottom half, Hartl came on to replace Lappin and Portland finally broke through.
Senior Chip Webber (who came in to play rightfield in the top of the inning) led off with a double to right-center and moved to third on a groundout. A groundout to second off the bat of senior pinch-hitter Ted Hamilton scored Webber to avoid the shutout. Gallant then ripped a triple over the rightfielder’s head and scored on a single to left by Kane. Volger ended it, however, by lining out to right, giving Scarborough the 9-2 win.
“Overall, it was a great game,” Jones said. “Pitching, hitting and defense all came to play. It’s good to put it all together like that. You can’t take any team lightly, especially Portland. That last inning, they were pushing runs across the plate. It was good to stay focused for all seven innings.”
Lappin improved to 3-0 with six shutout innings, allowing just three hits. Lappin walked one, fanned two and threw a wild pitch.
“It was a good game,” Lappin said. “A lot of fun. It was my first time pitching here. I try to go for ground balls. (My fielders) got plenty of action today and it worked out well. I like to have a lot of runs so I can go out and mess around with pitches. With all those runs, I know I’m pretty much safe.”
Greenberg, who has done his share of dazzling on the hill this spring, was impressed with Lappin’s work.
“I love watching Jayme pitch,” Greenberg said. “It’s good to know there’s another guy who can come in and throw strikes. Jayme looked good from the beginning. He’ll sneak up on you.”
Jones is glad to have a pair of aces.
“Ben throws 90 and Jayme throws 80, so it’s totally different, but it’s awesome,” Jones said. “It makes our job as coaches easier. It lets our defense relax. Even the pitchers know that the way the defense has been playing, they just have to throw the ball over the plate and the play will be made, so they don’t have to do too much. Every time Jayme goes out to the mound, I have faith in him. He knows how to pitch. Today was no exception.”
Hartl closed it out, allowing two earned runs on three hits in his one inning of work.
Offensively, Greenberg had four hits (two singles, two doubles), while Hall and Terry each had two hits. Greenberg and Terry both scored twice, while Dryzga, Hall, Ravin, Sparda and Wessel all touched home plate once. Sparda and Terry each had two RBI, Bagley, Hall, Ravin and Wessel one each.
“Our hitters’ approach has been fantastic,” Jones said. “If they get in the hole 0-1, they don’t lose focus. Their focus is the whole at-bat and from at-bat to at-bat.”
For Portland, Smart wound up allowing nine runs (eight earned) on 11 hits in his 4.2 innings. He walked two, struck out four, hit five batters and threw a wild pitch as he fell to 1-3 on the season.
Godbout was solid in relief, shutting out Scarborough on three hits. He threw two wild pitches, but struck out five.
The offense was paced by Gallant, who singled, tripled and scored a run. Webber also scored. Hamilton and Kane had the RBIs.
“We got outplayed,” said Portland coach Tony DiBiase. “(Scarborough) played really well. I thought we put the ball in play, but they made all the plays. They’re a solid team. With the exception of Greenberg, they don’t have a lot of power, but they hit 1 through 9. I thought a positive for us was that our young kids played well.”
Portland’s schedule remains tough, as it goes to Westbrook Saturday and visits Cheverus Tuesday. Home games versus Deering and Biddeford and a trip to Windham close the regular season. The Bulldogs (seventh in the latest Western Class A Heal Points standings) know they still have work to do if they want to end their three-year playoff drought.
“We’re .500 now going into the last six games of the year,” DiBiase said. “We’ll see what happens. We haven’t played up to expectations, obviously. We all understand it’s disappointing, but the season’s not over and we’ll keep at it. We do our best. It’s a very coachable, great group of kids.”
As for Scarborough, ranked third, it’s home versus Windham Saturday, plays at Sanford Monday and after hosting Gorham Tuesday, goes to Cheverus and Marshwood (for a pivotal showdown May 25) before closing at home versus South Portland.
The top seed and homefield advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs are within the Red Storm’s grasp, but it still needs to play better to win that elusive first Class A crown.
“We still have work to do,” Lappin said. “We have 15 seniors. We really want to end it the right way this year.”
“We’re trying to keep our confidence down a little bit,” Greenberg said. “We can’t get cocky. We have to keep playing solid D, pitching and hitting the ball.”
“Windham will be a really good game,” Jones added. “Marshwood will be a great game, no matter what happens between now and then. Something to look forward to. There are little things we still need to work on. We’re doing a lot of good things and we do those well, I don’t think anybody can beat us.”
Scarborough senior Nick Bagley takes a rip.
Scarborough senior Brendan Hall races back to first after deciding against stealing second base.
Portland junior Travis Godbout chases a pitch.
Portland senior Nate Smart throws a pitch.
Scarborough senior lefty Jayme Lappin delivers a pitch during Thursday’s win. Lappin allowed just three hits and no runs in his six innings of work.
Portland sophomore catcher Ryan Ruhlin makes a throw.
Scarborough 5 @ Portland 3
@ Scarborough 5 Portland 1
@ Portland 6 Scarborough 1
@ Scarborough 8 Portland 1
Scarborough 1 @ Portland 0
@ Scarborough 7 Portland 5
Western A preliminary
@ Portland 5 Scarborough 4 (9)
@ Portland 4 Scarborough 0
Portland 4 @ Scarborough 0
@ Portland 27 Scarborough 0 (5)
Portland 15 @ Scarborough 1 (5)
Scarborough junior Ben Greenberg (25) congratulates senior Sam Terry as he scores in the second inning to put the Red Storm ahead, 2-0, at Portland. Scarborough went on to a 9-2 victory, its 10th in a row this spring.
More photos below.
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Sparda doubled to left, Greenberg and Terry scored.
Terry singled to left, Hall scored.
Wessel tripled to right-center, Greenberg scored. Terry singled to center, Wessel scored. Ravin singled to left, Terry scored. Hall singled to left, Sparda scored. Dryzga scored on fielder’s choice. Ravin scored on fielder’s choice.
Webber scored on Hamilton groundout. Kane singled to left, Gallant scored.
S- Greenberg 4, Hall, Terry 2
P- Gallant 2
S- Greenberg, Terry 2, Dryzga, Hall, Ravin, Sparda, Wessel 1
P- Gallant, Webber 1
S- Sparda, Terry 2, Bagley, Hall, Ravin, Wessel 1
P- Hamilton, Kane 1
S- Greenberg 2, Sparda
P- Fraser, Webber
Smart, Godbout (5) and Ruhlin; Lappin, Hartl (7) and Wessel
Lappin (W, 3-0) 6 IP 3 H 0 R 1 BB 2 K 2 WP
Hartl 1 IP 3 H 2 R 2 ER
Smart (L, 1-3) 4.2 IP 11 H 9 R 8 ER 2 BB 4 K 1 WP 5 HBP
Godbout 2.1 IP 3 H 0 R 5 K 2 WP