South Portland senior Griffin Kelley throws a strike during the Red Riots’ 5-1 home win over Scarborough Saturday afternoon. Kelley improved to 4-0 after throwing a four-hitter.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
S- 000 100 0- 1 4 0
SP- 200 021 x- 5 12 2
N. Troiano singled to left-center, S. Troiano scored. Radziucz hit by pitch, N. Troiano scored.
Caron scored on error.
N. Troiano singled to right-center, S. Troiano and Conti scored.
Conti tripled to center, S. Troiano scored.
SP- S. Troiano 3, Conti, Crockett, N. Troiano
SP- S. Troiano 3, Conti, N. Troiano
SP- N. Troiano 3, Conti, Radziucz
SP- Crockett, Hasson
SP- S. Troiano 3, Conti
Left on base:
Reed, Cookson (6) and Welsh; Kelley and N. Troiano
Reed (W, 2-1) 5.2 IP 12 H 5 R 5 ER 1 BB 4 K 2 HBP
Cookson 0.1 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K
Kelley (W, 5-0) 7 IP 4 H 1 R 0 ER 0 BB 4 K
SOUTH PORTLAND—Despite winning the regional championship a year ago, South Portland’s baseball team didn’t garner a lot of attention entering the 2016 season.
While standout and ace Henry Curran and several others have graduated, the Red Riots remain a powerhouse and Saturday afternoon at Wainwright Farms, this year’s ace, senior Griffin Kelley, and a balanced attack spelled another win against a Scarborough squad which has exceeded expectations so far this spring.
South Portland got the only runs it would need in the bottom half of the first inning, when junior centerfielder Sam Troiano was hit by a pitch from Red Storm senior starter Josh Reed, stole second and third and scored when senior catcher Nick Troiano hit an RBI single. The Red Riots then loaded the bases and went up, 2-0, when senior designated hitter Aaron Radziucz was hit by pitch.
Kelley shut Scarborough down until the fourth inning, when a run scored on an error in somewhat controversial fashion.
But just when it appeared the Red Storm had momentum, the Troianos opened it up in the fifth, as Sam Troiano led off with a single, senior second baseman Ben Conti followed with a single and after the tandem pulled off a double steal, Nick Troiano ripped a two-run single for a 4-1 lead.
In the sixth, Sam Troiano reached again and this time, he didn’t need to steal second, as Conti ripped an RBI triple to extend the lead another run.
Kelley did the rest, closing out a four-hit gem and South Portland prevailed, 5-1.
Sam Troiano had three hits, three runs and three stolen bases and Nick Troiano drove in three runs as the Red Riots improved to 9-1 on the year and dropped the Red Storm to 7-2 in the process.
“I knew we’d be good this year even thought we lost a lot of seniors,” Sam Troiano said. “We’re coming together.”
Both teams passed almost every test to date coming in to play Saturday.
Scarborough, which has taken advantage of the coaching of Mike D’Andrea this spring, opened with wins over host Sanford (8-3), visiting Noble (15-1, in five innings), host Marshwood (4-2), visiting Windham (2-1, in eight innings) and host Biddeford (4-3, in 11 innings). The Red Storm lost at home to Bonny Eagle, 3-1, last Saturday, but bounced back Tuesday to win at Deering, 7-1, then rallied Thursday to edge visiting Massabesic, 4-3.
South Portland opened with a 3-0 victory at Bonny Eagle, then downed visiting Sanford (7-1), host Westbrook (5-0) and visiting Noble (8-5). After a 4-0 loss at Thornton Academy and its ace, Ben Lambert, the Red Riots beat visiting Gorham (7-1), host Cheverus (1-0, in eight-innings), host Massabesic (16-4, in six innings) and visiting Deering, 4-3.
The teams started playing in 2004 and entering play Saturday, Scarborough held an 8-7 edge in the series (see sidebar, below).
Saturday’s game was delayed a few hours by a wet field from rain overnight, but by game time, conditions were nearly perfect for mid-May, as the first pitch was delivered under 71 degree skies.
Regardless of the conditions, Kelley wasn’t to be denied and South Portland evened the all-time record against its neighbor.
Kelley got senior shortstop Nick Lorello to pop out to short and senior third baseman Matt Caron to line back to the mound to start the game. Junior centerfielder Tim Carion then grounded to second, but Conti bobbled the ball for an error. Kelley then got Reed to fly to left for out number three.
It didn’t take long for the Red Riots to go on top to stay.
Sam Troiano was plunked by a Reed pitch leading off the bottom of the first and quickly stole second. Conti struck out, but with senior shortstop Drew Abramson at the plate, Troiano stole third.
“I do look to run,” Troiano said. “I time up the pitcher and see how long it takes him to get to the plate and I make my decision off of that. I try to get in scoring position every time I can, so a base hit scores a run.”
Abramson struck out, but Nick Troiano came through with a single to right-center, scoring his brother for a 1-0 lead.
South Portland wasn’t done, as junior first baseman Matt Crockett singled to left and sophomore rightfielder Zack Johnson beat out an infield single to load the bases. That brought up Radziucz, who was hit by a pitch to score Nick Troiano. Senior third baseman Alex Livingston struck out looking, but the hosts were up, 2-0.
In the second, Kelley got sophomore rightfielder Connor Kelly to look at strike three. Sophomore second baseman Morgan Pratt reached on an infield single, but after rounding the bag, he was thrown out. Senior catcher Bayley Welsh then grounded out to the pitcher.
Sophomore leftfielder Riley Hasson doubled down the leftfield line leading off the bottom half and Sam Troiano followed with an infield single, but Conti grounded into a shortstop-to-second-to-first double play and Abramson bounced out to short.
Kelley had no trouble in the top of third, getting senior designated hitter Jack Hughes to ground to third, where Livingston made a nice play moving to his left, senior leftifelder John Timpson to look at strike three and Lorello to ground out to second.
Reed had his best inning in the bottom half, getting Nick Troiano to ground out to third, Crockett to fly to center and Johnson to chase strike three.
Scarborough broke through in the fourth inning, with a little help.
Caron left off with a single to left-center. Carion then blooped a single to left to put the tying runs on. Reed then grounded to Conti, who threw to Abramson for a force out, but with Carion barrelling in on him, Abramson’s throw to first was wild and Caron scored to cut the deficit in half.
South Portland argued that Carion committed interference, but the run stood.
With Reed at second as the tying run, Kelly looked at strike three and Pratt grounded out to first with Kelley covering to keep the score 2-1.
Radziucz led off the bottom half with a single to deep left-center, but senior pinch-runner Jack Kunin was picked off. Livingston drew a walk, but Hasson grounded into a Reed to Lorello to senior first baseman Taylor Cookson double play.
Heading into the fifth, the visitors had all the momentum, but after allowing a leadoff single to center by Welsh, Kelley got Hughes to ground the ball up the middle, where Abramson fielded it, stepped on second for one out, then threw on to first for the double play. Kelley fanned Timpson to end the frame.
“We had to put our foot on the pedal after they scored,” said Kelley. “I couldn’t let them score anymore.”
South Portland added to its lead in the bottom half.
Sam Troiano got the party started by singling off Lorello’s glove. Conti ripped a single to left and a double steal ensued. Abramson lined out to Caron at third, but Nick Troiano came through with a two-run single to right-center. Crockett doubled to deep left, as the ball short-hopped the wall, putting runners at second and third. Sophomore pinch-hitter Jake Poole then walked to load the bases, but the Red Riots couldn’t blow it open, as Radziucz grounded into a double play to keep the score, 4-1.
Kelley made quick work of the Red Storm in the sixth, getting Lorello to ground out to short, Caron to fly to right and Carion to ground to first with the pitcher covering.
In the bottom half, Reed got Livingston to fly out to left and Hasson to ground out to second, but Sam Troiano beat out an infield single to third and Conti ripped a shot to center which Carion tried to dive and catch, but the ball got past him for a triple and Troiano scored his third run.
Cookson replaced Reed on the mound and threw all of one pitch, getting Abramson to ground out to short to end the frame.
Kelley then slammed the door in the seventh, getting Reed to pop foul to first, Kelly to ground back to the mound and Pratt to do the same and in a tidy 1 hour, 27 minutes, South Portland had a 5-1 victory.
“I thought it was a solid performance,” Red Riots coach Mike Owens said. “We made some good defensive plays and did what we had to do to win today. We did a good job hitting the ball today. We adjusted to (Reed’s) curveball. We had good swings. We hit the ball harder than five runs showed, but they made some excellent plays. Scarborough is always competitive. It’s a good rivalry. Coach D’Andrea is a great coach. I respect what he does. We knew we had to come prepared for what they would bring.”
Kelley is now 5-0 after allowing one unearned run on four hits in seven innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.
“Henry was really good for us last year and I’m trying to fill his shoes as the ace this year,” said Kelley “I felt strong. I only threw 78 pitches in six innings against Massabesic. I was able to come back pretty quickly. Everything worked well. I was spotting the curveball well. My change-up was diving in. The fastball wasn’t flat. That’s the recipe for success.”
“Everything has worked for Griff,” Sam Troiano said. “Even on tough days, he still throws really well.”
“(Griffin) did an excellent job today,” Owens added. “We left a few runs out there, but Griffin’s so good. He pounds the strike zone. He stayed down, stayed away and changed speeds. It’s hard as a hitter when you’re down 0-1, 0-2. Griffin has separated himself. He’s shown leadership. He came back on three days rest today. He can do that. He has a rubber arm.”
Sam Troiano was the offensive sparkplug with three hits, three runs scored and three steals.
“Sam makes us go,” Owens said. “We talk about dropping him down in the lineup and getting him in RBI situations, but as he goes, we go. When he gets on base, everyone relaxes. He’s a menace on the bases. When he gets on, we’re a different team.”
Conti, Crockett and Nick Troiano had two hits apiece. Conti and Nick Troiano also touched home. Nick Troiano had three RBI and Conti and Radziucz had one RBI apiece. Conti also had a stolen base.
“Everyone in the order is producing right now,” Sam Troiano said.
South Portland left seven runners on base.
Scarborough’s lone run came from Caron. The Red Storm left two runners on.
Reed fell to 2-1 after allowing five earned runs on 12 hits in 5.2 innings. He walked one, hit two batters and fanned four. Cookson faced one batter in relief.
“Griffin Kelley is a strike thrower. When I knew he was pitching, I knew it would be quick,” D’Andrea said. “I knew we’d have to hit the baseball to beat them. They made plays, they got on base, got hits and scored runs. The ball left their bats differently than it left ours. They’re a good team. The fact we were in the game, I’m pleased with that. We did a bunch of things right.”
Both teams have plenty of chances to earn key victories in the games to come, but they won’t come easily.
Scarborough (sixth in the latest Class A South Heal Points standings) returns home Monday to host Cheverus. After playing at Westbrook and Gorham, the Red Storm host Marshwood, go to Windham, then close at home against Thornton Academy and Portland.
“The reality is, eight games from now, anybody can beat anybody and anybody can have a bad inning,” D’Andrea said. “We hope somebody else knocks (South Portland) out and it doesn’t have to be us. Anything can happen in the playoffs.”
South Portland (first in the region) travels to Noble Tuesday, hosts Marshwood Thursday, then has a regional final rematch at Portland Saturday. Home games against Biddeford and Westbrook and a trip to Windham bring the curtain down on the regular season.
“I think we can make another run,” Kelley said. “We have all the tools. We’ve got good pitching and hitting. We’re looking forward to those big games. It’s a tough league.”
“I think we can be just as good as last year’s team, if not better,” Sam Troiano said. “If we keep hitting like this, we’ll go far. Almost everyone was on the team last year and we want to get back there.”
“To be honest, I don’t know if we deserved the attention at the beginning of the year with a lot of young guys,” Owens added. “We had to come out and prove it. We’re starting to build confidence. We’ve come from behind, we’ve been in extra inning games. We’ve been in different situations. There are a lot of good teams. We have to be prepared every single day and take it one day at a time.”
Scarborough senior Josh Reed delivers a pitch.
South Portland senior catcher Nick Troiano lines an RBI single.
Scarborough junior centerfielder Tim Carion catches a fly ball.
Scarborough senior third baseman Matt Caron stabs the ball.
South Portland junior Sam Troiano steals one of his three bases as Scarborough senior shortstop Nick Lorello takes the throw.
Scarborough senior first baseman Taylor Cookson takes a throw but is ruled off the bag, allowing South Portland senior designated hitter Aaron Radziucz to reach safely.
South Portland senior shortstop Drew Abramson turns a double play.
South Portland 1 @ Scarborough 0
@ Scarborough 6 South Portland 1
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