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SCARBOROUGH—It was a dish of revenge served more wet than cold, but the Scarborough baseball team got a much-needed victory Monday afternoon.
Hosting Portland on a rainy and windy afternoon at “Packy” McFarland Field, the Red Storm bounced back from a painful loss in their last outing and found a way to prevail even on a day when their ace wasn’t his usual dominating self.
Senior Ben Greenberg helped stake Scarborough to an early lead, as he doubled, tripled and scored a run, but his wildness helped the Bulldogs hang around. The Red Storm scored runs by any means necessary, including a squeeze play on which two runners scored and were in control throughout, but couldn’t exhale until the final out was recorded.
Portland, which committed five errors in the field, also let Greenberg off the hook time and again, but it refused to quit and pushed across two runs in the top of the seventh and put the tying runs on base, but Red Storm junior Sam Warren came on in relief and struck out Bulldogs sophomore John Williams to end it, as Scarborough held on for a 7-5 victory.
The Red Storm made it four wins in five outings, improved to 4-5 and dropped Portland to 6-4 in the process.
“Nobody even mentioned it, but I had (last year) in the back of my mind,” Greenberg said. “It was awful losing like that. We were fired up to come out and play today.”
In a year of parity in which long winning streaks are almost impossible, both Portland and Scarborough believe they’re near the top of the list of contenders and both have enjoyed moments of triumph and suffered episodes of heartache.
The Red Storm dropped their first four games: 4-3 to visiting Noble, 4-2 to visiting Marshwood, 2-1 to visiting Bonny Eagle and 4-2 at Biddeford before coming to life to win three straight: 2-0, over host Cheverus, 6-1, over visiting South Portland and 5-4 at Windham. Last Thursday, Scarborough dropped a tough one at Deering, 4-3, a game which culminated with a contested play at first base. Red Storm coach Ryan Jones was ejected in the aftermath and had to sit out Monday’s contest.
The Bulldogs began the 2014 campaign with a 1-0 home loss to Sanford, then avenged a playoff setback with a 2-1 victory at Westbrook and downed visiting Gorham, 7-3. A 5-4 loss at Thornton Academy was followed by a 5-4 home win over Marshwood. Portland’s up-and-down play continued with a 4-2 win at Noble, a 6-4 setback at Biddeford, an 8-0 home win over Bonny Eagle and Thursday’s 9-8 home triumph over Cheverus.
Entering Monday’s contest, Portland held a 7-6 all-time edge Scarborough (see sidebar, below). Last year, in the regular season meeting, the Red Storm romped, 9-2, at Hadlock Field, but their title hopes were dashed by the visiting Bulldogs in the Western A quarterfinals, when they sprung a stunning 5-4 upset.
Monday’s game was originally supposed to be played Saturday, but poor weather conditions in the morning postponed it. For most of the day, it looked like Mother Nature might prevail again, but the show went on and Scarborough, piloted for one day by assistant coach Mike Collar, was able to take advantage of its opportunities and frustrate Portland.
Greenberg proved hittable right away, as Bulldogs senior leftfielder Travis Godbout smoked a shot to center to start the game, but Red Storm senior centerfielder Matt Hartl made yet another claim to being the best defender at his position in the league by making a gorgeous diving catch.
Greenberg then caught senior third baseman Dan Kane check-swinging to no avail at strike three, but Portland would produce some two-out noise, as senior centerfielder Joey Apon singled on a ground ball through the middle and sophomore designated hitter Joe Fusco followed with a single to right-center to put runners at the corners. Up stepped senior second baseman Evan Gallant, who, fresh off a three-hit day against Cheverus, moved up two spots in the batting order, but Gallant couldn’t solve Greenberg and struck out swinging to end the threat.
The hosts then went ahead for good in the bottom of the first.
Greenberg led off and ripped a hit to center. Apon dove to no avail and Greenberg steamed into second with a double. Sophomore shortstop Nick Lorello followed with a walk and after senior third baseman Nick Suchecki struck out, Greenberg and Lorello executed a double steal. It paid off, as senior second baseman Cam Brochu singled to left, scoring Greenberg with the game’s first run and putting runners at the corners. After Brochu moved up on a wild pitch by Portland senior starter Ryan Dixon, junior catcher Ben Irish’s squeeze bunt went for naught and Lorello was caught in a rundown, but Kane threw the ball away and in came the second run. Irish then grounded to Kane, whose only play was to first, and in came Brochu with another run. After Hartl walked, Dixon got sophomore rightfielder Jack Hughes to ground out to second, but Scarborough had a 3-0 lead.
Greenberg started the top of the second by getting catcher Ryan Ruhlin to ground out to short, but Dixon helped himself with a single to center. After Williams hit into a force out, senior rightfielder Justin Zukowski drew a walk. Greenberg then escaped another jam by getting Godbout to fly to right.
In the bottom half, senior leftfielder Benito Onorato led off by lining out to rightfield. Warren struck out, but Greenberg ripped a triple to right-center. He was stranded, however, as Lorello hit a fly ball to left.
Portland broke through in the top of the third, due to Greenberg’s wildness.
The Fordham University-bound ace walked Kane leading off and after striking out Apon swinging and Fusco looking, Greenberg walked Gallant and then Ruhlin to load the bases. Dixon was next and he blooped a ball down the rightfield line. Hughes made a dive for it, but fell short and it went for a single with Kane and Gallant scoring. Williams had a chance to tie the score, but after battling Greenberg through a marathon at-bat which featured 12 pitches, he hit a ground ball to second to end the frame and keep the score 3-2.
It didn’t stay that way for long.
In the bottom of the third, Suchecki reached on a Kane error. Brochu then hit a ball back to Dixon, which the pitcher first couldn’t handle, then threw away for a double error, which put Suchecki at third and Brochu at second. Both would come home to score, but not in the way most expected.
Irish laid down a perfect squeeze bunt and as Suchecki crossed the plate, the only play was the first, but on the throw, Collar didn’t hesitate, as he waved in Brochu. Brochu rounded third with a full head of steam and beat Williams’ throw to push the lead to 5-2.
“There was a mound visit and I brought the runners and the hitter over and said, ‘We’re going to squeeze second pitch’ and I told Cam he was going to score,” Collar said. “Ben Irish did a great job, got the bunt down, Suchecki scored easily from third and Cam never broke stride and scored. Their first baseman was caught off-guard and we scored two. That was a set play and we executed it, which was nice.”
“(Coach Collar’s) a really intelligent baseball mind,” Greenberg said. “He came up with that play.”
Dixon then ended the inning by striking out Hartl and Hughes.
In the fourth, Greenberg continued to scuffle, walking Zukowski and Godbout to start the frame, but his defense then bailed him out. Kane hit a sharp ground ball to first. Warren wasn’t able to handle it, but he did knock the ball down and keep it in front of him and managed to throw to Greenberg covering just in time for the first out.
“We played good defense all around,” said Greenberg. “We made a lot of good plays today.”
What could have been a huge inning, wound up only producing one run, as Apon’s ground ball scored Kane before Fusco was fooled by a pitch and his check-swing grounder came right back to Greenberg, who threw him out, keeping the score, 5-3.
In the bottom half, Dixon got Onorato to hit a slow roller to short leading off, but freshman Jake Knop’s throw was off target and Onorato went to second. He wouldn’t score, however. Dixon struck out Warren and after walking Greenberg intentionally and Lorello unintentionally, Dixon fanned Suchecki swinging and got Brochu to ground to Gallant at second, who threw him out to keep the deficit at two.
Greenberg’s pitch count was a concern entering the fifth and his last frame was his finest. After getting Gallant to ground out to short, Greenberg induced Ruhlin to line to Warren at first, then fanned Dixon.
“I thought he’d throw seven, until after the fourth inning,” said Collar. “His last inning was his best, but 118 pitches is 118. We didn’t want him to go more than 120. Fordham wouldn’t like that.”
Dixon was even more impressive in the bottom half, getting both Irish and Hartl to look at strike three, before blowing strike three past senior pinch-hitter Alex Lacognata.
Junior Zach Carreiro came in to pitch the sixth and made quick work of the Bulldogs, getting Williams to chase strike three, Zukowski to ground back to the hill and Godbout to ground out to short.
The Red Storm then seemingly put the game away in the bottom half with two more runs.
Onorato led off with a single to center and took second on Warren’s sacrifice bunt. After Greenberg was again walked intentionally, Lorello singled to left to load the bases. Up came Suchecki and he took one for the team, as he was hit by a pitch to drive on Onorato.
That was the end of Dixon’s day and he was replaced by senior Owen Pence, who immediately threw a wild pitch to score Greenberg. Pence settled down and fanned Brochu looking, then got Irish to ground out to first, but Scarborough had a 7-3 advantage.
Portland refused to go quietly in the seventh, as Kane and Apon walked. Carreiro got Fusco to fly out to center, but Gallant ripped a grounder up the middle which took a bad hop past Brochu for a single, loading the bases. Ruhlin was next and representing the tying run, drew a walk to make it 7-4, reloading the bases in the process.
Collar gave Carreiro the collar and turned to Warren, who was close to unhittable for three innings before Deering solved him in the fourth Thursday.
This time, with the game on the line, Warren excelled.
He got Dixon to fly to center, which brought Apon home, making the score, 7-5, then zeroed in on Williams, who represented the go-ahead run.
After firing a pair of fastballs for strikes one and two, Warren threw a textbook off-speed pitch and Williams never had a chance, flailing at it and missing to bring the curtain down on the Red Storm’s 7-5 victory.
“I love those situations, bases loaded, bottom of the seventh,” Warren said. “I was actually pretty excited. I was thinking we just had to get the last two outs. I’ve had trouble in the past leaving fastballs up, so it felt good to close it out. It’s a nice win. I couldn’t do it with the bat today, so I picked it up defensively. We had a lot to prove. They’re another Portland team that’s tough to play. We came out here and played our game.”
“Sam had a rough time in the fourth inning against Deering the other night,” Greenberg said. “I knew he wanted to come in and compete.”
“I don’t think Sam can throw it hard enough for the kid to hit it over the fence, but Zach does, so we took the home run out of play,” Collar added. “Sam did a great job locating two fastballs, then fooled him with the curveball.”
While revenge was served, Scarborough was playing this game more for what happened last week then last year.
“We played this one for Coach,” Greenberg said. “He caught a lot of (flak) from people about what happened, but I’d rather play for someone who stands behind us.”
“The other night was a rough one, but we certainly bounced back,” Collar said. “We just did the same stuff we always do. Baseball’s baseball. Get them on, get them over and get them in. We did that today. We don’t have many guys who played in the playoff game last year, so I don’t know if it even came up. Whenever you see Portland, you want to play harder. We get fired up for every game. Winning a game in the SMAA isn’t easy, we have to come ready to play.”
Scarborough only had five hits, as Greenberg was the only multiple hitter (with his double and triple).
“I’ve been in kind of a slump,” Greenberg said. “I haven’t hit as well as I like to. I was more aggressive today.”
Greenberg scored twice, while Brochu, Hartl, Lorello, Onorato and Suchecki each touched the plate once. Irish drove in two runs, while Brochu and Suchecki both added RBI.
Greenberg improved to 3-1 after giving up three earned runs on four hits and six walks in five innings. He struck out five.
“I was kind of wild,” Greenberg said. “I was all over the place. I couldn’t find the zone. It wasn’t ideal conditions, but I just didn’t have it today. The mound was a little wet and I had trouble with my release point.”
Carreiro gave up two runs on a hit and three walks in 1.1 innings. He fanned one. Warren got his first save after retiring two batters, one by strikeout.
Portland only had five hits, but Dixon delivered two of them. Kane scored twice, while Apon, Gallant and Zukowski also touched home. Dixon drove in three runs, while Apon and Ruhlin each had one RBI.
“We had our chances,” lamented Bulldogs coach Tony DiBiase. “A lot of chances. We had some really good swings against (Greenberg). He put guys on, but you have to take advantage. We didn’t quit. We just needed one key hit here or there.”
Dixon fell to 3-2 after giviing up seven runs (only three earned) on five hits and five walks. He threw a wild pitch, hit a batter and fanned nine.
“I think Dixon pitched pretty well, but he didn’t get help,” said DiBiase. “We haven’t played really good defense all year. We’ve got to tighten that up. We don’t really have strikeout pitchers, so balls will be put in play. There’s nothing wrong with that, you just have to make plays.”
Pence didn’t give up a run or a hit in his 0.2 inning stint. He did throw a wild pitch and struck out a batter.
Both teams turn right around and return to action Tuesday afternoon.
Portland (fourth in the Western Class A Heal Points standings at press time) faces its second ace in 24 hours, as it visits South Portland’s dominant lefty Henry Curran.
“We face Curran tomorrow, which will be tough,” DiBiase said. “I think Curran is on the same level as Greenberg, but if we don’t play better defense, I can’t expect a better result. If we do play better defense, I expect a better result.”
The Bulldogs host Windham Saturday and play Deering at Hadlock Field Monday night. Home games against Massabesic and Westbrook and a trip to Sanford wrap up the regular season.
The Red Storm (now fifth in the region) stay home to face Massabesic Tuesday and Sanford Thursday. After a trip to Westbrook Saturday, Scarborough plays at Thornton Academy, hosts Gorham, then closes at Noble and Marshwood.
This team will only continue to improve.
“We have a great group of guys,” Warren said. “I think we have a lot more in store.”
“We need to compete a little better against lower seeded teams,” said Greenberg. “We always get up for the top teams, but if we can compete against the lower seeded teams, we’ll be in good shape.”
“Tomorrow, we have to bounce back and play better than we did today,” Collar added. “Hopefully, we’ll get to .500. That’s certainly not our goal, but we have to get their first. “
Scarborough senior ace Ben Greenberg throws a strike. Greenberg didn’t produce a vintage performance, but earned a victory.
Portland senior pitcher Ryan Dixon delivers a strike. Dixon threw well, but was betrayed by his defense.
Scarborough senior Cam Brochu races toward first as Portland sophomore John Williams waits for the throw. The throw was wild and the Red Storm scored two unearned runs in the third inning.
Scarborough senior Cam Brochu slides safely into home in the bottom of the third to complete a rarely-seen two-run squeeze bunt.
Portland senior Evan Gallant races down the line.
Portland senior Dan Kane takes a swing.
Portland freshman shortstop Jake Knop fields a ground ball.
Scarborough sophomore Nick Lorello chops a ball foul.
Scarborough senior Benito Onorato makes contact.
Scarborough senior Nick Suchecki is hit by a pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning, but earns an RBI for his trouble.
Scarborough junior Sam Warren (10) is congratulated by senior Ben Greenberg after his clutch stint to close out the win.
Scarborough 9 @ Portland 2
Western A quarterfinals
Portland 5 @ Scarborough 4
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 round
@ Portland 5 Scarborough 4 (9)
@ Portland 4 Scarborough 0
Portland 4 @ Scarborough 0
@ Portland 27 Scarborough 0 (5)
Portland 15 @ Scarborough 1 (5)
Scarborough senior Ben Greenberg is congratulated after scoring a first inning run. Greenberg also earned the win as the Red Storm beat Portland in a playoff rematch Monday, 7-5.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
P- 002 100 2- 5 5 5
S- 302 002 x- 7 5 0
Brochu singled to left, Greenberg scored. Lorello scored on error. Irish grounded to third, Brochu scored.
Dixon singled to right, Kane and Gallant scored.
Suchecki and Hartl scored on Irish’s squeeze bunt.
Apon grounded to short, Zukowski scored.
Suchecki hit by pitch, Onorato scored. Greenberg scored on wild pitch.
Ruhlin walked, Kane scored. Dixon flew to center, Apon scored.
P- Dixon 2
S- Greenberg 2
P- Kane 2, Apon, Gallant, Zukowski
S- Greenberg 2, Brochu, Hartl, Lorello, Onorato, Suchecki
P- Dixon 3, Apon, Ruhlin
S- Irish 2, Brochu, Suchecki
S- Greenberg, Lorello
Dixon, Pence (6) and Ruhlin; Greenberg, Carreiro (6), Warren (7) and Irish
Dixon (L, 3-2) 5.1 IP 5 H 7 R 3 ER 5 BB 9 K 1 HBP 1 WP
Pence 0.2 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K 1 WP
Greenberg (W, 3-1) 5 IP 4 H 3 R 3 ER 6 BB 5 K
Carreiro 1.1 IP 1 H 2 R 2 ER 3 BB 1 K
Warren (Save, 1) 0.2 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K