PORTLAND—Deering’s seventh inning magic finally ran out Tuesday afternoon and as a result, South Portland is still perfect.
In a compelling early season showdown between contenders at Hadlock Field, the Red Riots got to Rams sophomore starter Colby Dame for a run in the top of the first inning, when junior catcher Nick Troiano doubled home his brother, sophomore Sam Troiano, who started the game for South Portland.
In the top of the second, senior rightfielder Jacob Brown led off with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by classmate Hayden Owen.
Deering got a run back in its half, on an RBI single from sophomore leftfielder Ian Westphal, but that was it for offense.
While Troiano didn’t do so easily, he had five walks and balked four times, he did hold the lead before giving way to senior Brad Sowerby, who made his 2015 debut and shut the Rams down in the fourth and fifth innings. Then, in the sixth, the Red Riots turned to their senior ace, Henry Curran, who slammed the door in the final two innings and South Portland went on to a 2-1 victory.
The Red Riots made it five victories without a loss this spring, snapped Deering’s three-game win streak and dropped the Rams to 3-2 in the process.
“This was the first game we’ve had that start to end was really tight,” said South Portland coach Mike Owens. “We expected a battle. We knew they were 3-1 for a reason. They’re a good team, well coached.”
The last time Deering and South Portland had concurrent winning seasons and both made the playoffs was in 2011. So far in 2015, it appears that both squads are going to be in the race for the long haul.
The Rams, under new coach and former standout player, Josh Stowell, opened with a 5-3 loss at Massabesic, then beat host Gorham, 9-3, rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to shock visiting Biddeford, 6-5, then earned another walkoff victory Friday, 5-4, over Westbrook.
The Red Riots blanked visiting Thornton Academy in the opener, 7-0, then enjoyed wins at Sanford (8-3) and Westbrook (7-2) before downing visiting Noble Saturday, 6-2.
Heading into play Monday, Deering had won 12 of 16 meetings dating back to 2002 (see sidebar, below), but last spring, South Portland erupted for 10 runs in the final two innings to roll at Hadlock, 12-1.
This time around, the Red Riots prevailed in a game that was much closer.
Dame was sharp to start, getting Curran, who started in centerfield, to look at strike three and senior third baseman Matt Beecher to ground out to short, but Sam Troiano beat out an infield hit. With Nick Troiano at the plate, Sam Troiano promptly stole second base. Sam Troiano then took off for third, but he didn’t need the jump as Nick Troiano crushed a ball over the head of Westphal for an RBI double. Senior first baseman Anthony Degifico groundly sharply to second, but after initially stumbling, Rams junior second baseman Patrick Viola threw him out to end the frame.
In the bottom half, senior rightfielder Kevin Goldberg led off and worked the count to 3-1, then appeared to take ball four, but it was called strike two and on the next pitch, Goldberg grounded out to second. Senior shortstop Nick Bevilacqua walked on a 3-2 pitch and was balked to second, but was stranded there. First junior centerfielder Dominick Bernard popped out foul with Nick Troiano making a nice catch up against the screen and after sophomore third baseman James Sinclair drew a walk, Curran balked again, moving the runners to second and third, but Viola struck out looking to end the threat.
In the top of the second, senior rightfielder Jacob Brown led off with a shot over Westphal’s head in left and by the time Bernard ran the ball down at the wall, Brown was able to stretch it into a triple. Junior shortstop Drew Abramson popped out to short, but Owen, the leftfielder got the run home with a nice piece of hitting, lining out to right to bring Brown home easily for a 2-0 lead. Senior second baseman Sam Solomon popped out to second for out number three.
In the bottom half, junior catcher Luciano Minervino led off with a walk. Sophomore designated hitter Orey Dutton struck out looking. After a Troiano balk, junior first baseman Jake Latini struck out looking and after another balk put Minervino at third, Westphal came through with an RBI single to right to get the hosts on the board. Goldberg ripped a single to center, moving Westphal to third and when Curran bobbled the ball, Goldberg moved up to second. Bevilacqua fanned, however, to end the inning.
In the top of the third, Curran bunted out third-to-first on the first pitch he saw and Beecher lined to Viola on his first pitch, but Sam Troiano earned a walk. Troiano then appeared to steal second on a pickoff throw, but he overslid the bag and was tagged out.
In the bottom half, the Rams ran themselves out of a chance to pull even.
Bernard led off by drawing a walk and when Sinclair did the same, the hosts appeared to be in good shape. But with Viola at the plate, Deering attempted a double steal and Bernard was gunned down at third with Sinclair taking second.
“We went with a fake bunt and steal and tried bring the third baseman in and hopefully distract the catcher,” Stowell said. “Dom’s probably the fastest guy on our team. It wasn’t a great jump. We can work on that, but we tried to get something to happen. You have to take risks sometimes and sometimes they don’t work out. They have a good pitching staff up and down. We had to try and create some chaos.”
Viola flew out deep to left and Sinclair went to third, but he was stranded when Minervino grounded back to the mound.
In the top of the fourth, Nick Troiano flew out to left, but Degifico legged out an infield hit and was balked to second. Dame then bore down and got Brown to fly out to center and Abramson to pop out to second.
Sowerby came on to pitch in the bottom half and got Dutton to ground back to the mound, Latini to look at strike three and after Westphal singled to left, got Goldberg to pop weakly to third.
In the top of the fifth, Sowerby hit the first pitch to first, but it got by Latini for an error. Dame quickly erased the runner, however, by picking Sowerby off, as Latini threw to Bevilacqua for the out. Solomon grounded out to Sinclair, who made a nice play on a high hop. Curran reached on an error at second by Viola, but Beecher flew out to right.
In the bottom half, Bevilacqua struck out, but Bernard reached on an Abramson error. Sinclair struck out looking and Nick Troiano’s throw to first was just late in an attempt to double off Bernard. South Portland wasn’t happy with the call and Bernard noticed second base was unprotected and wisely moved up. After Viola was hit by a pitch, Minervino grounded back to the mound and the Rams were flustered again.
In the top of the sixth, Sam Troiano grounded out to short on the first pitch, but Nick Troiano drew a walk. Degifico struck out swinging and Brown popped to Viola as the game moved to the bottom of the sixth.
There, Curran came on in relief and promptly got Dutton looking at strike three, Latini to strike out on three pitches and Westphal to ground out to third with Beecher making a terrific play going to his left.
“It was a little weird (coming in to relieve), but I knew it was coming,” Curran said. “I didn’t prepare differently. I’m always mentally focused before I go out.”
In the top of the seventh, Abramson walked leading off, but Owen struck out. Solomon then hit a possible double play ball at Bevilacqua, but he couldn’t come up with it cleanly, allowing Abramson to take second and Solomon to reach. Curran then popped out to short and Beecher hit a pop fly to third.
Deering hoped to replicate its seventh inning magic of the previous two games, but Curran didn’t allow it. Goldberg led off with a ground out to short. Bevilacqua hit a foul ball behind the plate which Nick Troiano managed to get to for out number two and Bernard ended the game by grounding out to third on a close play.
While the Red Riots only mustered four hits, the hurling combination of Sam Troiano, Sowerby and Curran proved to be the difference.
Troiano gave up one run on two hits in three innings. He did walk five and committed four balks, but struck out four. Sowerby surrendered just one hit in two solid innings. He fanned three and earned the victory. Curran got his first save thanks to two perfect innings. He struck out two.
“We didn’t draw it up that way, but we had options,” Owens said. “We knew they were available because we have a bye on Thursday. Brad had a back issue. Nothing serious. He just got cleared the other day. He’s been throwing all along. He’d gotten a couple bullpen sessions in. We wanted him to pitch live, but we weren’t going to stretch him and depending on the situation, we knew Henry potentially could go two to three innings. It would have been his bullpen day anyway. We needed him to close the game. He’s not a bad closer to have in my pocket.”
Brown and Sam Troiano scored the Red Riots’ runs. Owen and Nick Troiano had RBI. Two of South Portland’s four hits were for extra bases (Nick Troiano’s double and Brown’s triple). Sam Troiano had a stolen base. The Red Riots left six runners on.
For Deering, Westphal had two of its three hits and had the lone RBI. Minervino scored the run. Bernard had two steals. The Rams left eight runners on.
Dame fell to 1-1 after giving up two runs on four hits and three walks in seven innings. He struck out three and committed a balk.
“Colby was great,” Stowell said. “He was at 65 pitches going into the seventh inning. We preach pounding the strike zone and he did exactly what we asked. He battled. He didn’t get any support from the bats, but he kept us in the game.”
Dame impressed South Portland.
“(Dame) pitched pretty good,” Curran said. “We got the bat on the ball, but couldn’t get anything together.”
“Their guy did a good job changing speed and we got out in front,” Owens said. “We tried to make adjustments. The first two innings, we had good swings, but he kept getting us out on that front side and they made the plays.”
While Deering fell short, the Rams weren’t in the least bit discouraged.
“It was a stalemate after the second inning,” Stowell said. “Nothing going on at all. I thought we were in trouble (when Curran came in), but at the same time, that shows the respect other teams show for these guys, having to bring in their number one to finish the game. I think we can take that as a confidence-builder for us.”
Deering hopes to bounce back at home Thursday, but will have a tough time as preseason favorite Marshwood pays a visit. The Rams go to Bonny Eagle Saturday, then play at Thornton Academy and host Massabesic and Gorham next week.
“We’ll go back to work and send out the next guy to the mound and he’ll pound the strike zone and hopefully, our bats will wake up,” Stowell said. “The kids are starting to believe what we’ve worked on through the preseason. We’re staying in games. We need to give ourselves a chance.”
South Portland hopes to stay undefeated Saturday when unbeaten Cheverus pays a visit. After going to Marshwood Tuesday, the Red Riots host Windham, then play at Thornton Academy to end next week.
“I think we’re putting it together,” said Curran. “I think we have a ways to go. I think once we do, we’ll be able to roll. We just need to focus more. That’s key. I look forward to that stretch. I think it’ll be good for us. Once we get past that, we’ll see how we can do the rest of the season. Last year we were a close team. This year we’re a close team. It’s fun.”
“We’re in the meat of it,” said Owens. “The conference is tough. It’s good to get off to a good start and position ourselves. I’m pleased so far. We have a long way to go and have to iron out some of the kinks, but I can’t complain about where we’re at.”
Deering sophomore pitcher Colby Dame shows his form.
South Portland senior Brad Sowerby pitched two innings of scoreless relief.
South Portland senior ace Henry Curran closed out the victory.
South Portland junior catcher Nick Troiano rips a first inning RBI double.
Deering junior Ian Westphal lines one of his two hits.
South Portland sophomore Sam Troiano slides into second base with a stolen base as Deering senior shortstop Nick Bevilacqua takes a throw.
South Portland senior Jacob Brown touches home in the top of the second inning with what proved to be the decisive run.
Deering junior Dominick Bernard is tagged out by South Portland senior Matt Beecher on a third inning steal attempt.
South Portland senior Matt Beecher takes a swing.
South Portland senior Anthony Degifico swings and misses.
South Portland senior Henry Curran tries to bunt for a hit.
Deering senior Kevin Goldberg lines a hit.
South Portland sophomore Sam Troiano takes a swing.
Deering 6 @ South Portland 1
South Portland 5 @ Deering 1 (9)
Deering 4 @ South Portland 3
@ Deering 7 South Portland 3
@ Deering 4 South Portland 3
@ Deering 3 South Portland 1
Deering 10 @ South Portland 9
Western A quarterfinals
@ Deering 11 South Portland 3
@ Deering 9 South Portland 1
Western A quarterfinals
@ Deering 2 South Portland 1
@ South Portland 3 Deering 1
@ Deering 6 South Portland 0
Deering 13 @ South Portland 7
Deering 6 @ South Portland 0
South Portland 3 @ Deering 2
South Portland celebrates an early run during Tuesday’s 2-1 victory at Deering.
Jim Allen photos.
More photos below.
SP- 110 000 0- 2 4 2
D- 010 000 0- 1 3 3
N. Troiano doubled to left, S. Troiano scored.
Brown scored on Owen sacrifice fly.
Westphal singled to right, Minervino scored.
SP- Brown, S. Troiano
SP- Owen. N. Troiano
SP- N. Troiano
SP- S. Troiano
D- Bernard 2
Left on base:
S. Troiano, Sowerby (4), Curran (6) and N. Troiano; Dame and Minervino
S. Troiano 3 IP 2 H 1 R 1 ER 5 BB 4 K 4 balks
Sowerby (W, 1-0) 2 IP 1 H 0 R 0 ER 0 BB 3 K
Curran (Save, 1) 2 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 2 K
Dame (W, 1-1) 7 IP 4 H 2 R 2 ER 3 BB 3 K 1 balk