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South Portland junior pitcher Hunter Owen is congratulated by senior catcher Caden Horton after throwing a one-hit shutout against Cheverus Thursday afternoon.
More photos below.
C- 000 000 0- 0 1 2
SP- 103 000 x- 4 5 0
Perron scored on error.
Poole singled to right, Ray-Bolduc scored. Lewis singled to center, Bialorucki and Perron scored.
SP- Perron 2, Bialorucki, Ray-Bolduc
SP- Lewis 2, Poole
SP- Perron, Ray-Bolduc
SP- Lewis, Perron, Poole
Left on base:
Mullen, Galeucia (5) and O’Donnell; Owen and Horton.
Mullen (L, 2-4) 4 IP 5 H 4 R 2 ER 0 BB 4 K
Galeucia 2 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 3 K
Owen (W, 4-0) 7 IP 1 H 0 R 3 BB 11 K 2 WP 1 HBP
SOUTH PORTLAND—South Portland junior Hunter Owen had a terrific morning.
His afternoon nearly became even more memorable.
Owen, the Red Riots’ junior ace, was named Maine’s Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year Thursday morning and Thursday afternoon, he took the mound at Wainwright Farms to face Cheverus in a pivotal late-season contest.
Where Owen produced a gem in a career full of them.
Owen made quick work of the Stags in the top of the first, then got the only run he’d need in the bottom half, when junior centerfielder Anthony Perron doubled, stole third and came home on an error.
When South Portland tacked on three more runs in the third, on an RBI single from junior second baseman Anthony Poole and a two-run single from junior shortstop Noah Lewis, the competitive phase of the game was essentially over, but one important piece of business remained.
Could Owen, who didn’t allow a hit through three innings, keep Cheverus hitless for seven?
He did for six, but in the top of the seventh, senior leftfielder Nathaniel Lapoint grounded the ball through Owen’s legs and while Poole stopped it with a dive, it went for an infield single.
The Stags would eventually load the bases, but Owen put a fitting punctuation mark on the victory, fanning junior Avery Conant to end it, and the Red Riots prevailed, 4-0.
Owen wound up throwing a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts, improved to 4-0 on the year and helped South Portland improve to 13-1, dropping Cheverus to 8-5 in the process.
“It’s been a fun day,” Owen said. “It’s pretty cool. I couldn’t have done it without my family and teammates. I had fun with my teammates today and we bounced back from a loss.”
Both teams have enjoyed their share of success in recent years and both entertain championship hopes this spring.
South Portland, which was the top seed in Class A South a year ago before being upset by Falmouth in the quarterfinals, picked right up where that squad left off and has the inside track to the top seed again.
After being rained out three straight times in mid-April, the Red Riots finally got underway with shutout wins at Windham (8-0) and Sanford (10-0). After a 6-3 victory at Noble, South Portland blanked visiting Massabesic (10-0, in five-innings), to give coach Mike Owens his 100th win with the program, then shut out visiting Falmouth in a playoff rematch (2-0), prevailed at Gorham (9-4), at home over Thornton Academy (11-1, in six-innings) and Portland (6-5, in an 11-inning marathon), at Kennebunk (7-1), at home over Bonny Eagle (9-0), at Deering in eight-innings (2-1) and at Scarborough (2-1). Tuesday, the Red Riots finally fell from the unbeaten ranks, falling, 2-1, at home to Marshwood.
The Stags, meanwhile, started with wins at Marshwood (7-2) and Gorham (2-1, in 11-innings, in a regional final rematch), then downed visiting Noble (14-4, in six-innings) and Massabesic (6-5). After a 3-0 loss at Kennebunk, Cheverus blanked visiting Sanford (6-0), then they dropped a hard-fought 9-8 decision at Thornton Academy and got blanked by visiting Scarborough (4-0). After edging host Biddeford, 2-1, and winning at home over Bonny Eagle, 5-3, the Stags were no-hit at Portland, 1-0, then bounced back Tuesday for an 8-7 home walkoff victory over Falmouth.
Last year, South Portland blanked host Cheverus, 8-0, to make it 16 victories in 24 outings since the start of the 2002 season (see sidebar, below)
Thursday morning, word broke that Owen was this year’s winner of the Gatorade Player of the Year award for Maine.
Owen then took the mound on a chilly (57 degrees at first pitch), cloudy and windy afternoon and immediately served notice that he was going to be impossible to beat.
Stags junior shortstop Luke Knowles tried to bunt his way on base on the first pitch of the game, but Owen pounced on it and threw him out. Owen then got junior third baseman Chris Cimino to ground out to short, then fanned junior second baseman Nate Rogers.
Coming off a stretch which saw it score just five runs in three games, South Portland knew it needed to get its offense in gear and Perron ensured that would happen, when he drove the first pitch he saw from Cheverus senior starter Jack Mullen into the gap in left-center for a double. With Poole at the plate, Perron took off for third, stole it and when senior catcher Hayden O’Donnell’s throw was wild for an error, Perron came in for a quick 1-0 lead.
“We talk about it all the time with Hunter on the mound, if we can get an early lead, it can plant a seed of doubt in the other team’s mind and it relaxes us a little bit,” said Owens. “Anthony had been struggling a little bit. It was good for him to get on. He can make something happen.”
Poole grounded out to short, Lewis bounced out to second and junior first baseman Tyler Small lined out to left to end the frame.
Owen struck out Lapoint swinging to begin the top of the second, then got sophomore rightfielder Sam Clark to line to left on the first pitch. Owen fell behind O’Donnell 3-0, got back to 3-2, then walked him, but Owen induced senior designated hitter John Welch to ground into a shortstop-to-second force out.
Mullen had his best inning in the bottom half, getting Owen to fly out to center, senior catcher Caden Horton to ground out to second and junior third baseman Gus Lappin to chase strike three.
Owen got some defensive help from Lewis at shortstop in the top of the third, as Lewis, ranging to his left, got to a ground ball off the bat of senior first baseman Andrew DeGeorge and threw the runner out. Sophomore centerfielder Nick Giancotti then grounded out to short on the first pitch and Owen, after falling behind 3-0, battled back to a full count before catching Knowles looking at strike three to retire the side.
South Portland then opened it up in the bottom of the third.
Junior leftfielder Dillan Ray-Bolduc led off with a single to left and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from junior designated hitter Gerik Bialorucki. Perron then worked the count full and fouled off several pitches before chopping the ball to third base, where Cimino mishandled it for an error, putting runners at the corners. Perron promptly stole second and Poole followed with a single to right, bringing home Ray-Bolduc for a 2-0 lead, putting runners at the corners again. Poole then stole second and Lewis delivered the big hit, singling past Mullen up the middle, bringing home both Perron and Poole to make it 4-0.
“I was pleased with our at-bats against Mullen,” said Owens. “It’s progress.”
Lewis stole second, but was stranded, as Small struck out swinging and Owen bounced out to second.
“It was good to get the lead,” Owen said. “That was good for momentum. I knew my defense would make plays, so I just had to do my job and make my pitches.”
The Red Riots produced another nice defensive play to start the top of the fourth, as Lappin hustled to this left, stabbed a ball off the bat of Cimino, spun and threw him out.
“They put the ball in play and my teammates made the plays,” Owen said. “I’m super-grateful for that.”
Rogers walked on a 3-2 pitch, but Owen fanned Lapoint, then got Clark to ground into a second-to-short force out for the third out.
In the bottom half, Horton bounced out to second and Lappin chased strike three, but Ray-Bolduc blooped a double to center. He’d be stranded, however, as Bialorucki watched strike three.
Owen made quick work of Cheverus in the top of the fifth, getting O’Donnell to ground out unassisted to Small at first, Welch to chase the first pitch and bounce out to second and DeGeorge to chase strike three.
Junior Nick Galeucia replaced Mullen on the mound to start the bottom half and he set South Portland down in order, as Perron bounced out to short, Poole watched strike three and Lewis hit a grounder to Knowles at short, who backhanded it and threw to first, where DeGeorge made a nice scoop to retire the side.
Conant led off the sixth, pinch-hitting for Giancotti, and watched strike three. Knowles then got ahead 3-1 in the count and after taking strike two, drew a walk. Cimino also struck out looking and after Knowles moved to second on a wild pitch, Owen blew strike three past Rogers on a full count pitch to move within three outs of a no-hitter.
The Red Riots went quickly in their half of the frame, as Small struck out swinging, Owen did the same and Horton bounced back to the mound.
Owen then took the hill looking to make history, but Lapoint quickly spoiled the no-hit bid, hitting a sharp grounder between Owen’s legs and reaching on a clear infield single despite a nice diving stop by Poole.
“To be honest, I kind of (wimped) out on that one,” said Owen. “I was aware of (the no-hitter).”
“I didn’t know about it until the hit because of the reaction,” Owens said. “It’s too bad.”
Clark then ripped a shot to deep leftfield, but Ray-Bolduc got a great jump on the ball and ran it down for the first out. Owen then caught O’Donnell looking at strike three to get within an out of ending the game, but to their credit, the Stags refused to go quietly.
One strike from victory, Owen plunked Welch with a pitch, then he appeared to strike out DeGeorge to end it, but strike three got away and DeGeorge raced to first to load the bases.
That brought up Conant, suddenly representing the tying run, but Owen had delayed matters long enough and he blew strike three past Conant to bring an end to South Portland’s 4-0 victory in 1 hour, 39 minutes.
“I’m glad we got the ‘W’ and that’s all that mattered,” Owen said.
“That’s a good team over there,” said Owens. “We didn’t expect them to roll over.”
Ultimately, it was the Hunter Owen Show. He allowed just the one hit in a shutout performance, walking three batters, hitting one and striking out 11, including six Ks in the final two innings.
“That was quite a performance and believe it or not, Hunter didn’t have his good fastball today,” said Owens. “But he really pitched well. I’m so proud of him. He threw more changeups today than the rest of the year combined and they were good ones. A few strikeouts were on changeups. He threw his curveball at will to get ahead. He put the ball in play a little more than usual, but we made some nice plays.”
Ray-Bolduc sparked the offense with two hits and a run scored. Perron scored two runs, while Bialorucki also touched home.
Lewis had two RBI, while Poole also drove in a run.
Lewis, Perron and Poole all stole bases.
The Red Riots stranded just two runners.
Cheverus managed just one hit, but produced base-runners, stranding six of them.
“We kept battling,” said Stags coach Mac McKew. “Our goal was to not get no-hit twice in six days and we managed that much. We had some good swings, but they played them well (defensively). We knew what we were up against coming here. When you get opportunities, you have to capitalize.”
Mullen was again the hard-luck loser, falling to 2-4 after giving up four runs (two earned) on five hits in four innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.
“All four of his losses, (Jack’s) been the victim of a shutout,” McKew said. “We knew coming in that there was no margin for error. We had to play a perfect game and obviously, we didn’t.”
Galeucia threw two scoreless, hitless innings of relief. He didn’t walk a hitter and fanned three.
Cheverus (ranked fifth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) is back in action Saturday at home versus Deering. After visiting Westbrook Tuesday, the Stags close at home against Windham in a makeup game Wednesday.
“Our team batting average is not great, but we’ve faced Hunter Owen, (Thornton Academy ace) Luke Chessie, (Portland ace) Donnie Tocci and (Scarborough ace) Nick Thompson,” McKew said. “It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact. We’ve gotten the other teams’ best.
“We hope to finish strong. Hopefully, we can make a run and avoid a prelim.”
South Portland (first in the region) hosts Westbrook Saturday, then finishes at Biddeford Tuesday.
“We just have to fix our mistakes,” Owen said. “There’s never pressure when we’re playing baseball. I think everyone on the team could say that. We’re all just having fun.”
“It’s the same guys, but they’re a year older,” said Owens. “It’s a different offense, but we have a lot of threats. We have pop, guys who can run. Noah is so much better than last year and Hunter is more in command than last year. Other guys like Gus Lappin, (junior Garon Kelley) and (sophomore) Brad McMains have been great for us. We’re more prepared for the tournament this year with the depth of our pitching.”
South Portland junior Hunter Owen delivers a pitch to Cheverus junior Luke Knowles to start the game.
South Portland junior Anthony Perron lines a pitch from Cheverus senior pitcher Jack Mullen for a double leading off the bottom of the first. Perron came around to score the game’s first run.
South Portland 8 @ Cheverus 0
South Portland 1 @ Cheverus 0 (8)
@ South Portland 1 Cheverus 0
@ South Portland 2 Cheverus 0
Western A quarterfinals
@ South Portland 1 Cheverus 0 (8)
@ South Portland 9 Cheverus 6
@ Cheverus 9 South Portland 4
Cheverus 7 @ South Portland 1
Western A semifinals
@ Cheverus 8 South Portland 2
South Portland 4 @ Cheverus 3
Cheverus 4 @ South Portland 3
Cheverus 5 @ South Portland 4
South Portland 6 @ Cheverus 3
Cheverus 9 @ South Portland 3
South Portland 6 @ Cheverus 3
@ South Portland 7 Cheverus 0
@ South Portland 4 Cheverus 3
South Portland 5 @ Cheverus 4
@ South Portland 15 Cheverus 5 (6)
@ South Portland 11 Cheverus 6
South Portland 4 @ Cheverus 3
@ South Portland 10 Cheverus 2
@ Cheverus 14 South Portland 4 (5)