SCARBOROUGH—The true measure of an ace is how he fares when he isn’t his dominant self.
And there’s no question that Henry Curran is an ace.
Thursday evening at Packy McFarland Field, Curran, South Portland’s senior standout, who’s arguably the state’s finest hurler, didn’t have much margin for error, as he was matched by a strong effort from Scarborough senior Sam Warren, but he found a way to get the job done, even without his usual double-digit strikeout effort.
After the Red Riots produced an unearned run in the first inning when sophomore centerfielder Sam Troiano was hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on an error, then came home on an RBI groundout from senior third baseman Matt Beecher, Curran made sure it stood up.
He did have to work out of some jams, however.
The first came in the bottom of the fifth when the Red Storm put their first two runners on, but after making a catch, Troiano threw to Beecher to complete a double play, short-circuiting the rally.
Then, in the sixth, Scarborough put runners at the corners with just one out, but when Curran had to get a strikeout, he produced one, then retired the next batter to protect the lead.
Curran then slammed the door in the seventh and South Portland snapped a two-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory.
Curran allowed just two hits as the Red Riots improved to 11-3 and dropped the Red Storm to 6-8 in the process.
“This was big,” said South Portland coach Mike Owens. “We’re grinding a little. We weren’t great at the plate again today, but when you have Henry on the mound, you have a stopper. What better way to stop a losing streak than have his turn come up?”
Much was at stake Thursday evening when the two neighboring contenders did battle.
Each team had struggled in recent days.
South Portland blanked visiting Thornton Academy in its opener, 7-0, then enjoyed wins at Sanford (8-3) and Westbrook (7-2) before downing visiting Noble, 6-2, host Deering (2-1) and visiting Cheverus (1-0) to start 6-0. An 11-1 five-inning loss at Marshwood knocked the Red Riots from the undefeated ranks, but they bounced right back to beat visiting Windham (9-3), host Thornton Academy (11-4), visiting Sanford (12-0 in five innings) and visiting Portland (4-0). Saturday, South Portland let a seventh inning lead slip away in a 3-1 home loss to Bonny Eagle and Tuesday, the Red Riots fell at Biddeford, 4-3.
Scarborough won its first two outings: 5-3 at Westbrook and 10-5 at Noble, then dropped home decisions to Gorham (5-4) and preseason favorite Marshwood (5-0) before falling at Portland, 3-0, and at Cheverus, 7-1. The Red Storm then hit their stride, downing visiting Sanford (7-4), host Massabesic (4-0), visiting Noble (12-3) and visiting Westbrook (4-1) before falling at defending Western A champion Windham, 2-0, at home to Deering (6-1) and at Bonny Eagle (1-0).
Overall, the teams began play Thursday with Scarborough having won nine of 15 all-time meetings, including four in a row. Last year, the Red Storm won at home, 6-1.
Thursday, South Portland eked out a victory.
For much of the afternoon, it didn’t appear the game would be played when thunderstorms rolled through the area, but thanks to solid work from the grounds crew, the game managed to be played.
Prior to the start, seniors on both teams were honored and Scarborough wore pink jerseys in honor of Cancer Awareness Night.
It was clear early that runs would be at a premium.
The Red Riots got the only run they’d need with a little help in the top of the first.
On the second pitch of the game, Warren plunked Troiano and that proved fatal.
With Beecher at the plate, Warren appeared to have Troiano picked off, but Troiano took off for second and when the throw from senior first baseman Ben Irish sailed into the outfield, Troiano went to third.
“I was just waiting for (Warren) to come to the plate,” Troiano said. “He didn’t, but I took off.”
Beecher followed with a slow roller to third and Troiano came home for a 1-0 advantage.
South Portland threatened to add more when senior first baseman Anthony Degifico walked on a 3-2 pitch and junior catcher Nick Troiano reached on an error, but Warren struck out senior rightfielder Jacob Brown, then got senior shortstop Drew Abramson to hit a little pop up in front of first which Irish grabbed on a hop before stepping on the base to end the frame.
Curran had trouble finding the strike zone in the bottom half, walking junior shortstop Nick Lorello on a full count pitch, then, after Lorello was thrown out trying to steal by Nick Troiano, Curran caught senior third baseman Zach Carreiro looking at strike three on another full count before inducing a fly out to center off the bat of junior designated hitter Josh Reed.
Warren struck out both junior designated hitter Ben Conti and senior second baseman Sam Solomon to start the second, but Curran singled to center and stole second and Warren again hit Sam Troiano, but Beecher popped out to third.
In the bottom half, after senior leftfielder Nate Wessel lined out to right, Warren drew a walk, but Irish grounded out to third (with Warren moving up to second) and senior rightfielder Ian Corey flew out to right to end the inning.
In the third, Degifico popped out to first leading off. Nick Troiano followed with a double down the leftfield line, but Brown popped out to short and Abramson grounded out to second.
In the bottom half, senior second baseman Wyatt Bridgham drew a walk, but when senior centerfielder Brendan Kane looked at strike three, Nick Troiano threw to Degifico to pick off Bridgham (as Degifico threw to Solomon to record the out). Lorello then lined out to center.
Conti started the fourth by lining out deep to right. Warren then struck out Solomon swinging and Curran looking.
Curran had his first 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half, as he got Carreiro to line to right, Reed to look at strike three, then Wessel to ground out to second.
Sam Troiano led off the fifth with a single to center and stole second, but Beecher grounded to second (Warren covered and recorded the putout) with Troiano moving to third. Troiano was stranded, however, as Degifico looked at strike three and Nick Troiano lined out to second.
Warren broke up Curran’s no-hit bid with a single to left leading off the bottom half and when Irish laid down a bunt and Curran threw it away, Scarborough had runners at first and second with no one out.
But the Red Storm couldn’t chase home the run.
Corey lined a shot to center, which Sam Troiano tracked down. Then, as Warren tried to take third, Troiano threw to third ahead of the runner. Beecher had to go to his right to catch the ball, then got back to the bag to tag out Warren to complete a double play.
“I saw him tag and I wound up and threw as hard as I could,” Troiano said. “(Beecher) had to come back for the tag. That was a really good play. That hyped us up.”
“That was a huge play,” said Owens. “That took them out of that inning.”
Senior pinch-hitter Tim Ross then lined out to center to keep the score 1-0.
After Brown bunted out back to the mound to start the sixth, Abramson beat out an infield single, but senior pinch-runner Hayden Owen was thrown out trying to steal. Warren then got Conti to line out right, giving the Red Storm another chance to answer.
Scarborough got the bottom half off to a promising start when junior pinch-hitter Jack Hughes singled to center. Lorello struck out, but a wild pitch moved Hughes to second and a passed ball put him at third and Carreiro walked, putting runners at first and third. Reed came up with a chance to tie the score, but Curran didn’t allow it to happen, blowing strike three past him.
“My team was cheering me on,” Curran said. “That helps a lot. I bore down and tried to locate.”
“When he needs to, he can rare back and get the strikeout,” Owens said. “That’s the advantage of having a strikeout guy on the mound. He went out and got it.”
Curran then got Wessel to ground out unassisted and the Red Riots held on to the lead.
South Portland went quietly in the seventh, as Solomon grounded out to first, Curran bunted into an out pitcher to first and Sam Troiano popped out to second.
Curran didn’t allow the Red Storm any life in the bottom half, as he slammed the door by getting Warren to pop out foul to Beecher, striking out Irish and getting Corey to ground out to Degifico to end it.
“I didn’t think it would be 1-0,” Curran said. “I thought we’d get our hitting together, but 1-0 is a win and we’ll take it. This is definitely big for us to get our mindset back into it.”
Curran improved to 6-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.67 by throwing a two-hit shutout. He walked four (after giving up just eight free passes in his six previous appearances), struck out six and threw a wild pitch.
“Everyone has one bad game and I’ll take this one as my bad game,” Curran said. “My arm’s been sore lately, so spots were hard to hit. I couldn’t overpower kids.”
“I credit Scarborough for having a very good plan at the plate,” Owens said. “Henry might have not have been his best, but he had good velocity and got ahead in counts. He wasn’t sharp with his location, but his breaking ball was as good as it’s been all year. They didn’t chase high fastballs. They’re a good, well-coached team.”
For Scarborough, Warren didn’t surrender an earned run in his seven innings, but was the hard-luck loser. He gave up four hits and a walk while striking out six and hitting two batters.
The Red Storm’s offense only mustered two hits and stranded four runners.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, but we’re not losing by much,” said Scarborough coach Ryan Jones. “They did what they needed to when they needed to, but I thought we put the pressure on the defense and limited our strikeouts. We had a chance. We stressed putting balls in play. We competed for seven innings tonight against the best team and lost by one run. Our compete level was very high. I’ve been really happy with the guys. It would be easy for them to get down in a year where we don’t have a great record, but they haven’t. We just haven’t gotten that timely hit. Our defense and pitching is there. We hope to get that hit that falls.”
Scarborough (14th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, where only 12 teams make the postseason) still has two chances to earn a pivotal win and get into the playoffs. Saturday, the Red Storm host Biddeford. Monday, they close at Thornton Academy.
“Two wins would obviously get us in,” said Jones. “We want to go .500 and make the playoffs. I’m confident we’re doing the right things in practice. We just have to translate it to a game.”
South Portland (first in the Heals) has a legitimate chance at winding up atop the heap. The Red Riots host Massabesic Saturday and close at Gorham Tuesday.
“This puts those losses behind us,” Sam Troiano said. “We hope to be number one. I think we can make a run.”
“We have to get the bats going if we want to do anything in the playoffs,” Owens said. “We have to put balls in play and create things. We did it earlier in the season. We can’t win games 1-0.”
South Portland senior Henry Curran throws a pitch. Curran wasn’t as overpowering as he’s been in other starts, but still lowered his earned run average to 0.67 with seven shutout innings.
Scarborough senior Sam Warren shows his form.
Scarborough senior Ben Irish makes contact.
South Portland senior Henry Curran stretches for the bag, but is called out on a seventh inning bunt attempt.
Scarborough senior Nate Wessel chases a pitch.
@ Scarborough 6 South Portland 1
Scarborough 12 @ South Portland 7
@ Scarborough 2 South Portland 0
Scarborough 6 @ South Portland 5
@ South Portland 5 Scarborough 0
Western A quarterfinals
South Portland 2 @ Scarborough 1 (8)
@ Scarborough 7 South Portland 2
Scarborough 7 @ South Portland 4
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 13 South Portland 6
@ Scarborough 7 South Portland 5
@ South Portland 5 Scarborough 2
@ Scarborough 6 South Portland 5
@ South Portland 4 Scarborough 1
@ South Portland 7 Scarborough 0
South Portland 2 @ Scarborough 1
South Portland sophomore Sam Troiano steals second as Scarborough junior shortstop Nick Lorello takes the throw during the Red Riots’ 1-0 win Thursday night.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
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Beecher grounded out to third, Sam Troiano scored.
SP- Sam Troiano
SP- Nick Troiano
SP- Sam Troiano 2, Curran
Left on base:
Curran and N. Troiano; Warren and Walsh
Curran (W, 6-0) 7 IP 2 H 0 R 4 BB 6 K 1 WP
Warren (L, 0-1) 7 IP 4 H 1 R 0 ER 1 BB 6 K 2 HBP