Take two: Cheverus passes quarterfinal test

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PORTLAND — It took an extra day, but the top-ranked Cheverus baseball team is headed to the Western Class A semifinals.

The Stags, behind a three-hit complete game from junior Louie DiStasio, overcame an early deficit with a pair of runs in the third inning and three more in the fourth on their way to a 5-2 home win over No. 8 Thornton Academy in Friday’s quarterfinal.

The teams originally tried to play the game on Thursday, but lightning caused a delay in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Stags leading, 3-0. After a 90-minute stoppage, the game was officially called off by the umpires, meaning the teams had to begin anew the next day.

Cheverus (15-2) was just three Thornton outs from an official win on Thursday (and junior pitcher Harry Ridge was cruising along with a one-hitter) when the lightning struck, so the delay and eventual cancellation tested the Stags’ mettle while essentially giving the Golden Trojans (10-7) a new lease on postseason life.

“Mentally, it was a little tough,” said Cheverus senior catcher Nic Lops. “We were sitting there for a couple hours just waiting and wondering if we were going to play. But coach preaches three things: character, effort and energy. It’s the type of thing that really tests your character, to come back and get it going on day two — to just kind of get rebooted. It’s not an easy thing to get up and do it all over again, but it’s what we do. It’s what we love to do. The more baseball, the better for me.”

And Lops certainly made the most of his three additional at-bats on Friday. He doubled to the hill in centerfield in the first inning, singled and scored in the third, and laced a single up the middle in the fourth that plated two insurance runs. He finished with half of the six Cheverus hits.

A solo homerun by Thornton Academy senior Matt Turnage gave the Golden Trojans a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, but Cheverus struck back in the home half of the third.

Ridge led off with a ground-rule double to rightfield, then advanced to third on junior Spencer Cooke’s sacrifice bunt. Ridge scored on a wild pitch to knot the score. Lops followed with a single to right, then stole second. He came home when senior Peter Potthoff blooped a single to short right that dropped in between three Thornton Academy players. The Stags led 2-1.

Cheverus added to its lead in the fourth when it sent eight batters to the plate. Senior Joey Royer walked to lead off, then came all the way around to score when junior Tyler Flaherty crushed a double to leftfield. Two Cheverus outs followed before Cooke reached on an error and DiStasio was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Lops found the hole up the middle with single that scored Flaherty and Cooke, making it 5-1.

While Thornton junior Dillon Dunbar was able to use his curveball to keep many of the Cheverus hitters off balance, he had nothing that could fool Lops.

“He mixes his speeds very well and keeps the ball low,” Lops said. “You’ve just got to anticipate fastball. Even though you know that curve is going to be thrown to you somewhere in the sequence, you’ve got to wait for the fastball and not jump on the curveball too early in the count. You’ve just got to wait on the pitches, then make it hurt when he leaves one up.”

After allowing the second-inning homer, DiStasio found his groove, retiring 11 of the next 13 batters he faced (the two that reached base were walked). He ran in to a bit of trouble in the sixth inning, but escaped major damage thanks to some Golden Trojan baserunning blunders.

Thornton junior Jack Kenney led off the sixth with a single and advanced to second on an error. He came home to make it 5-2 on sophomore Jeff Gelinas’s single down the first base line. It took a tough hop on Royer and bounced off his glove into right field. Gelinas tried to take second, but rightfielder Potthoff was quick to the ball and gunned him down.

“Potthoff made a great throw to get him at second, so that got us an out right there. That definitely helped,” DiStasio said.

DiStasio hit the next batter, senior Alex Newton, with a pitch and junior Cam Madden came on to pinch-run for Newton. But Madden was soon erased from the basepaths as well after breaking for second before DiStasio began his delivery. DiStasio alertly turned and threw to junior second baseman Nick Melville who caught Madden in a run down and applied the tag. DiStasio fanned senior Jon Dupee to end the inning.

DiStasio finished with seven strikeouts.

“He was motivated today,” said Cheverus coach Mac McKew. “He knew what he needed to do. He was 3-0 coming in. He was just solid — a solid pitcher and solid competitor. That’s what he does every time he goes out there.”

The game ended when Royer made a diving catch on a sinking liner.

Cheverus advances to play No. 5 South Portland (11-6) on Saturday. The Red Riots were 2-1 winners over No. 4 Scarborough in extra innings in their quarterfinal game. Cheverus beat South Portland 7-1 when the teams met in early May.

McKew said Royer will get the start for Cheverus, with freshman Mitchell Powers and senior Jack Bushey ready to take the mound if needed in relief. Royer has pitched minimally over the past four weeks, as he’s been dealing with tendinitis, but McKew said his velocity is back and it will just be a matter of how deep into the game he can go.

Ridge is unavailable after throwing four innings on Thursday.

Cheverus junior Spencer Cooke puts down a sacrifice bunt.

Cheverus junior Nick Melville gets ready to tag out Thornton Academy junior Cam Madden in a rundown.

Cheverus junior Louie DiStasio tossed a three-hitter to earn the win.

Cheverus freshman Mitchell Powers prepares to catch a throw to force out Thornton junior Dillon Dunbar at second base.

Cheverus senior Nic Lops is congratulated after scoring a run in the third inning. He finished with three hits and two RBI.

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Cheverus players (from left) Nic Lops, Louie DiStasio, Nick Melville and Joey Royer meet in the infield to exchange high-fives after Royer’s diving catch ended the game, giving the Stags a 5-2 win over Thornton Academy.

More photos below.

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