What was supposed to be the pitching matchup of the season, instead turned into a wild and wacky slugfest that ultimately ended the finest Scarborough baseball campaign in years.
Last Wednesday afternoon at St. Joseph’s College, the Red Storm took part in their first ever Western Class A Final and had to go up against the biggest, baddest team around, the undefeated and two-time defending state champion Rams of Deering.
With senior ace and Maine Gatorade Player of the Year Chris Bernard on the mound, Scarborough had to like its chances and if you asked most red-and-white clad fans what they’d thought of the Red Storm’s chances if they knew their boys were going to push 10 runs across, they would have gone ahead and made plans for the state final, but the one thing about baseball is that you truly never know.
Scarborough indeed posted 10 runs and enjoyed the lead for awhile, but in the end, Deering was simply too much and rallied to win, 16-10, ending the Red Storm’s season at 14-5.
“This team handles itself with maturity and class,” said
Scarborough coach Jim Cronin. “This is the best group of guys I’ve ever
been around. I’m proud of how they played today. We just got outslugged.”
Oh so close
The Red Storm were expected to seriously contend this spring and lived up to billing, winning 12 of 16 regular season games, behind Bernard and a potent offense.
Scarborough earned the No. 3 seed for the playoffs and promptly eliminated No. 6 Bonny Eagle (4-2) and No. 10 South Portland (13-6) to advance to the regional final against a top-ranked Deering squad which was riding a 48-game winning streak.
Even though the Red Storm were pummeled, 22-4 (in five innings) by the visiting Rams back on May 9, they felt confident with their ace on the hill. The University of Maine-bound Bernard steamrolled through the regular season with .088 ERA and 67 strikeouts in just 48 innings pitched.
Deering countered with senior Taylor, Candage, who was 17-0 in his high school career.
That ballyhooed pitching matchup never materialized, falling victim to a tight strike zone and a sudden outbreak of the longball. In its place emerged a homer-happy slugfest with a combined 20 hits, 16 walks and 26 total runs.
Scarborough needed to play a near perfect game, and in just about every way they did. Junior Jake Rutt blasted two home runs and went 4-for-5 with a double and three RBI. Bernard got his Jacoby Ellsbury on with a straight steal of home to give the Red Storm a two-run lead at the time, and the fourth-ranked Red Storm banged out 11 hits and scored 10 runs in the game.
But it still wasn’t enough.
Candage made up for his largely ineffective pitching effort with a
monstrous three-run homer that landed dead-center on the softball
field behind the diamond, erasing a two-run Scarborough lead in the
bottom of the fourth inning to power the Rams nine-hit, 16-run attack.
At least on the hill, Candage didn’t fare much better for Deering,
surrendering two home runs to Rutt, a solo shot with one out in the top
of the first, and a two-run jack over the right-field fence in the
second inning. Candage strapped on the catchers gear after only 3
1/3 innings following a two-run triple by Scarborough junior Brendan
Sullivan that scored senior Jimmy Rouse and Rutt and tied the game at
“In my first at-bat it looked like Taylor was struggling
with his control,” Rutt said. “He got behind in the count and I was
sitting dead-red and got it. I was able to get it elevated and it was a
good start for us. I have to give my dad credit. He tweaked my swing a
little, adjusted my hands, and I felt good. That’s the best we’ve ever
hit as a team and we still lost by six. This was a great year. The
underclassmen contributed and we should be strong again next year.
Bernard did so much for this team. His numbers are unbelievable.”
Candage was replaced by the eventual winner, sophomore Jamie Ross,
who promptly walked Bernard (two walks), threw a high fastball that
tipped off Candage’s glove and allowed Sullivan to score from third to
put the Red Storm on top 8-7 with still just the one out in the top of
Bernard went to third on the passed ball that scored
Sullivan, and then surprised the Deering battery with a straight steal
of home for a 9-7 lead for Scarborough.
Returning to the mound
for the bottom half of the frame, Bernard had a two-run cushion after
his crowd-pleasing steal, but he couldn’t preserve the
Deering senior Matt Powers singled to center, senior Regan
Flaherty walked for the third time, and the left-handed hitting Candage
gave Deering the lead for good with a tape-measure shot over the high
part of the fence in right-center for a 10-9 lead. Deering senior Jack
Heary followed with a slicing triple down the line in rightfield that
skipped off the wall, and Ouimet, also a left-handed hitter, ended
Bernard’s day on the hill when he got extended on a fastball and drove
it over the fence in right for a 12-9 Deering lead.
battled like crazy,” said Deering coach Mike Coutts. “Coming into the game, everyone
was talking about how we had to face Bernard, but I was saying they
have to face Taylor Candage. I never thought it would be a game like
this. It wasn’t pretty. Give Taylor credit, he was down in the dumps
there and he comes back with a big hit.”
The Red Storm handed the
ball to Ben Wessel, a freshman, who more than held his own in a big
spot, surrounding a walk with a strikeout and a pop-up to escape the
fourth unblemished. Wessel, a righthander, allowed four runs, two of
them earned, on two hits, three walks, two strikeouts and one hit
batsmen over the final 1 2/3 innings.
Deering padded its lead
with a four-run bottom of the sixth inning.
Flaherty (6-0) replaced Ross on the hill with
one out in the top of the sixth and stranded a pair of baserunners to
escape the jam. The lefthander went back out for the seventh but
coughed up three-straight hits and was replaced by Powers. A
righthander, Powers hit Bernard to force in the Red Storm’s 10th run,
but whiffed a batter and induced a groundball to
third for the final out.
Bernard had trouble locating his fastball and was tagged with
a season-high 12 runs, 10 of them earned. The league’s stingiest
pitcher walked six, struck out three and scattered six hits before
making an early exit after Candage and senior Marc Ouimet (three RBI)
went deep with only one-away in the Rams’ five-run bottom of the fourth.
definitely expected a low-scoring game,” Bernard said. “We battled out
there but it was not our day. We went further than any Scarborough team
had ever gone. In that aspect the season was a success. We never want
to leave the field on the losing side, but we set a foundation this team
can build on.”
“These guys wanted it bad,” added Cronin. “They worked hard and look at where it got them. Bernard had a great year. We buckled down and got hot at the right time. We reached all of the goals we set for this season. We wanted to lose four or less games and we wanted to win a playoff game.”
Eric Carson contributed to this story. Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org