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Portland senior Donnie Tocci delivers a strike to Falmouth freshman Brady Coyne to start Monday’s contest. Tocci threw a three-hit shutout and the Bulldogs prevailed, 2-0.
F- 000 000 0- 0 3 0
P- 000 020 x- 2 9 1
Sawyer singled to center, Barnard and Tocci scored.
P- Barnard, Sawyer
P- Barnard, Tocci
P- Sawyer 2
P- Barnard, Knop, Sheils, Tocci
Left on base:
Tracy, Kidder (6) and Kiely; Tocci and Knop.
Tracy (L, 0-1) 5 IP 8 H 2 R 2 ER 2 BB 4 K 1 HBP
Kidder 1 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K
Tocci (W, 1-0) 7 IP 3 H 0 R 1 BB 12 K
FALMOUTH—Considering how little time each team has been able to practice outside, it wasn’t a big surprise that Monday afternoon’s baseball game between Portland and Falmouth didn’t feature much offense.
Rust wasn’t the only reason, however.
Both starters were on at Hadlock Field and that made for an entertaining early-season pitcher’s duel where one big hit proved to be the difference.
Portland senior ace Donnie Tocci and Yachtsmen senior Garrett Tracy matched goose-eggs for four innings, but in the bottom of the fifth, the Bulldogs broke through, as senior rightfielder Ben Sawyer produced a two-run single.
Tocci slammed the door from there, allowing just three hits and one walk, as Portland went on to a 2-0 victory.
The Bulldogs improved to 2-0 on the young season with their second consecutive shutout and handed Falmouth a loss in its long-awaited opener.
“I’m very happy with back to back shutouts,” said Portland coach Mike Rutherford.
Falmouth and Portland have established a nice little rivalry over the past few seasons, meeting in the playoffs in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (the Yachtsmen won two of three, see sidebar, below) and in the regular season last spring, a 7-4, eight-inning win for the Bulldogs.
Portland, a preseason favorite, opened its 2019 campaign with a 10-0, five-inning victory at Kennebunk.
The Yachtsmen, meanwhile, had games at South Portland rained out both last Tuesday and Wednesday, a home game postponed due to poor field conditions last Thursday and a home tilt versus Portland rained out Saturday.
Monday, under (finally) sunny skies, with a game-time temperature of 55 degrees and winds blowing 14 miles per hour, it was clear early that runs would be at a premium, but ultimately, the Bulldogs produced just enough offense to prevail.
Tocci made quick work of freshman second baseman Brady Coyne leading off, striking him out swinging, but junior shortstop Conner Coffin worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch. After Tocci got sophomore centerfielder Sam Kidder to ground back to the mound (Tocci threw to first, with Coffin taking second), he fanned junior catcher Ike Kiely on a 3-2 pitch for the third out.
In the bottom half, Tracy got senior centerfielder Ben Stasium to ground to third, but senior shortstop Will Barnard went the other way and lined a single to left. Tocci then lofted a routine fly out to center, but Sawyer singled to center with Barnard running and when Barnard ran to third, Sawyer tried to take second, but was thrown out by junior third baseman Josh Lefevre.
Tracy led off the top of the second by flying out to center. Junior designated hitter Jackson Quinn then chased strike three and senior first baseman Sam Manganello watched strike three.
Tracy then worked out of trouble in the bottom half.
After striking out senior designated Sonny Villani, Tracy allowed an infield single down the third base line off the bat of senior leftfielder Jake Loranger and a sharp single to left on the first pitch off the bat of junior third baseman Cole Walter. Tracy then caught junior catcher Sam Knop looking at a 3-2 pitch and got senior second baseman Henry Westphal to ground to third to end the threat.
Tocci remained dominant in the top of the third, getting Lefevre to fly to left before catching sophomore leftfielder Gus Ford looking at strike three and blowing strike three past Coyne.
Portland threatened again in the bottom half, but again came up empty.
Stasium led off by grounding out to second, but Barnard was hit by an 0-2 pitch and stole second. Tocci was out on a foul pop to Kiely behind the plate, but Sawyer took three balls, then was walked intentionally, setting the stage for Villani, who made contact, but bounced out to third to keep the game scoreless.
Falmouth got its first hit in the fourth, but couldn’t score. After Tocci got Coffin to ground out to second and Kidder to bounce back to the mound, Kiely gave an outside pitch a ride and sent it over the head of Sawyer in right. By the time the ball stopped rolling, Kiely had a triple. He wouldn’t come home, however, as Tocci got Tracy to fly out to right.
Lefevre made a nice play to start the bottom of the fourth, getting to Loranger’s slow roller and throwing out the runner in a close play. Tracy then fanned Walter, but Knop reached on an infield single, as his “excuse me” swing got past Tracy. Knop then stole second and Westphal walked on four pitches, but Stasium chased the first pitch and bounced back to Tracy to end it.
After Tocci struck out Quinn swinging on a curveball to start the top of the fifth, Manganello beat out a single to the hole and he took second when Barnard’s throw got away. Tocci then bounced back and fanned both Lefevre and Ford to strike out the side and send the game to the bottom of the fifth.
Where Portland finally broke through.
Barnard led off with a little bloop single behind shortstop that Kidder couldn’t get to. Tocci then hit a sharp grounder that Coyne couldn’t quite reach and Barnard went all the way to third on the single. After Tocci stole second, Falmouth coach Kevin Winship decided not to walk Sawyer and Sawyer singled to shallow center, scoring both Barnard and Tocci for a 2-0 lead.
“(Portland) got a seeing-eye single and a bloop and that was the difference between winning and losing,” Winship lamented.
Tracy settled down and fanned Villani, then got Loranger to fly out to center. After senior pinch-runner Robert Sheils stole second, Walter flew out deep to center to end it, but the damage was done.
Tocci took care of business in the top of the sixth, getting Coyne to line to center on a 3-2 pitch, getting Coffin to hit a pop fly into foul territory along the first base line which Tocci caught, then fanning Kidder.
Senior Jack Kidder came on to pitch the bottom of the sixth and after getting Knop to ground out to second, he got junior pinch-hitter Max Brown to ground to short, where Coffin made a nice stab before throwing out the runner. Coffin couldn’t handle a grounder from Stasium with two down and Stasium reached on an infield hit, but he was thrown out stealing to end it.
Tocci then put it away in the top of the seventh, although Falmouth got the tying run to the plate.
Kiely led off with his second hit, a single through the hole between short and third, but Tracy struck out swinging, Quinn looked at strike three and Manganello grounded out to short to end it in 1 hour, 46 minutes.
Tocci earned the win in his first start, going the distance, pitching a shutout with 11 strikeouts, while walking just one and allowing only three hits.
“We didn’t give Donnie the game ball because that’s what we expect,” Rutherford said. “He gives us that once a week. He’s our leader and he can throw strikes.”
Barnard and Sawyer had two hits apiece, Barnard and Tocci scored runs and Sawyer had the key two-run single.
Barnard, Knop, Sheils and Tocci all stole bases.
The Bulldogs stranded eight runners.
Falmouth got two hits from Kiely and left four runners.
Tracy (0-1) was the hard-luck loser, giving up two earned runs on eight hits in five innings. He walked two, struck out four and hit a batter.
“Tracy is good,” Rutherford said. “I knew he’d give us trouble.”
“It was a great pitcher’s duel,” said Winship. “Garrett did very well too. They didn’t hit him hard.”
Jack Kidder pitched a scoreless inning, giving up one hit.
“Overall, we played very well, they just took advantage and we didn’t make a play when we needed to,” Winship said. “We got Tocci in our first game after facing no live pitching and it was tough. He was on. He’s one of the best in the state. Ike did well and others had good at-bats, but we didn’t get enough hits. It’s tough when he’s pounding the strike zone like that.”
Both teams will be busy in the days to come.
Falmouth hosts Windham Tuesday, goes to Biddeford Thursday and welcomes Thornton Academy Saturday.
“For us, consistency is key,” Winship said. “We’ll keep on plugging along.”
Portland is back in action Tuesday at home versus Thornton Academy, visits Sanford Thursday and goes to Gorham for a playoff rematch Saturday.
“The bats will come around and the runs will come,” Rutherford said. “I like how we’re getting on base. We just need hits. TA will be a top four team this year. It will be a test for (junior pitcher Brian) Riley. If we keep getting pitching and get the bats going, we’ll play like I expect us to play.”
Class A South semifinals
@ Falmouth 4 Portland 3 (9)
Class A South semifinals
Falmouth 5 Portland 0
Western A semifinals
Portland 4 Falmouth 0