Undermanned Deering holds off Westbrook for character win

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Deering senior Riley Bartell throws a strike during Thursday’s 3-1 home win over Westbrook. Bartell went 6.2 innings and allowed just six hits.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Deering 3 Westbrook 1

W- 100 000 0- 1 6 2
D- 002 001 x- 3 5 0

Top 1st
Copetta singled to center, Champagne scored.

Bottom 3rd
Harrison grounded out to short, Gikas scored. Bartell singled to center, Dacey scored.

Bottom 6th
Lynch walked, Ridge scored. 

Multiple hits:
W- Champagne, Sawyer
D- Bartell 

Runs:
W- Champagne
D- Dacey, Gikas, Ridge 

RBI:
W- Copetta
D- Bartell, Harrison, Lynch 

Stolen bases:
W- Champagne, Hebert
D- Bartell, Gikas, Harrison, Stanton 

Left on base:
W- 8
D- 8

Hebert and Sawyer; Bartell, Pelletier (7) and Lynch

W:
Hebert (L, 0-2) 6 IP 5 H 3 R 2 ER 4 BB 6 K 1 HBP 

D:
Bartell (W, 2-1) 6.2 IP 6 H 1 R 1 ER 5 BB 6 K 3
Pelletier (Save, 1) 0.1 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K 

Time: 1:50

PORTLAND—If Deering’s baseball team goes on to do big things later this spring, it will look back to Thursday evening as the moment it turned the corner and discovered that special something that puts a squad over the top.

Hosting Westbrook in a pivotal midseason contest at Hadlock Field, the Rams had to play without two senior stars, Colby Dame and James Sinclair, who were unavailable for an undisclosed reason, yet despite having to put players in unfamiliar positions, Deering found a way to get the job done.

Senior starter Riley Bartell gave up an immediate run to the Blue Blazes, as sophomore centerfielder Kyle Champagne led off with a walk, stole second and scored on a single by junior shortstop Justin Copetta, but thanks in large part to a pickoff, Bartell avoided further damage and the Rams only trailed by one heading for the bottom of the third.

There, Deering’s bats awakened against Westbrook senior starter Kyle Hebert, as number eight hitter, senior second baseman Jacob Gikas, and number nine hitter, senior leftfielder Rob Dacey, both drew walks and after they moved up on a sacrifice bunt, junior centerfielder Luc Harrison’s ground ball scored Gikas to tie it and Bartell singled home Dacey for the lead.

Bartell retired seven straight batters in one stretch, but the Blue Blazes threatened to tie or retake the lead in the sixth, as the first two batters reached and they loaded the bases with two outs, but Bartell induced a pop out to escape the jam.

Then, in the bottom half, an error kept the inning alive and junior catcher Jack Lynch walked with the bases loaded to push home a crucial insurance run.

Bartell got two outs in the seventh, then reached the pitch count limit. That left it up to junior Joe Pelletier, who, with the tying run at the plate, closed out the victory by getting a ground ball and the Rams were able to celebrate a much-needed, much-appreciated 3-1 victory.

Bartell allowed just six hits and struck out six. He also had two hits and drove in a run as Deering improved to 4-3 on the season and dropped Westbrook to 5-4 in the process.

“We needed it,” said Rams coach Josh Stowell. “It’s one of those things where to be a good team, you can’t rely on one or two guys to get it done for you. You need a team effort to make a run. It’s a good character win. The guys not here today have been leaders in the past who have sparked us. The guys here stepped up tonight and that will help us and give us something to build on.”

Middle of the pack

Deering and Westbrook find themselves amid a jumble of teams jockeying for good position in Class A South and both hope to move up as the season progresses.

The Blue Blazes started with a 5-0 home victory over Sanford, then won at Marshwood, 8-2. After a 12-7 loss at Scarborough, Westbrook beat visiting Massabesic, 13-3 (in five innings) and handled visiting Windham, 8-3. After letting a seventh inning lead slip away in a 10-9 loss at Cheverus, the Blue Blazes fell at home to Gorham (2-1). Wednesday, they blanked visiting Biddeford, 3-0. 

The Rams opened with a 1-0 home win over Sanford, then won at Thornton Academy, 4-2, and lost at home to Gorham, 10-1 and at Scarborough 12-3. After doubling up host Massabesic in a slugfest, 20-10, Deering fell at Biddeford Tuesday, 3-1.

Last year, the Rams eked out a 3-2 win at Westbrook.

Thursday, on a chilly (51 degrees at first pitch) evening, Deering found a way to edge the Blue Blazes again.

Westbrook scored in the top of the first, but could have more.

Champagne led off by drawing a walk and stole second base. Copetta then grounded a seeing-eye single up the middle, bringing home Champagne for a quick 1-0 advantage. Copetta took second on the throw home. When senior catcher Bailey Sawyer followed with a sharp single to left to put runners at the corners, the Blue Blazes had the opportunity to hang a crooked number, but Bartell picked off Sawyer and threw him out at second.

“We mixed in that pickoff move,” Stowell said. “I was hoping he’d go to it and he did and we made the play there. There are games where we haven’t made those plays and everything just compounds and it leads to a crooked number.”

Bartell then got senior third baseman Dylan Francoeur to hit the ball back to the mound and he escaped the jam by striking out senior first baseman Derek Higgins.

Deering then threatened in the bottom half, but the visitors turned to their defense to keep the lead.

After Lynch lined out to center, Harrison hit a single to center and Bartell followed by grounding a single to right to put runners at first and second. Sophomore shortstop Luke Hill then hit the ball hard, but it was right at Francoeur at third and Francoeur stepped on the base for one out and threw across the diamond to Higgins, who made a nice scoop, to complete the inning-ending double play.

In the top of the second, Hebert drew a walk and stole second as freshman leftfielder Liam Coolidge looked at strike three. Senior designated hitter Connor Blake grounded back to the mound, but Hebert moved up to third on the play. Senior rightfielder Brandon Grover then watched strike three to keep the score 1-0.

In the bottom half, Hebert struck out the side, getting both junior third baseman Alex McGonagle and junior rightfielder Keegan Stanton to look at strike three before blowing a third strike past Pelletier, who spent most of the game at first base.

Westbrook had a great chance to add to its lead in the top of the third, but Deering showed some double play magic of its own to hold the Blue Blazes at bay.

Champagne led off with a single center and Copetta sacrificed him to second. After Sawyer drew a walk, Francoeur lined a single off the glove of a diving McGonagle at third to load the bases. That brought up Higgins, who grounded back to the mound, where Bartell threw home to Lynch for one out and Lynch threw to first for the double play, with Pelletier making a nice scoop to complete it.

In the bottom half, Hebert got wild and the Rams took advantage and took the lead.

Leading off, senior second baseman Jacob Gikas drew a walk on a full count. After Gikas stole second, senior leftfielder Rob Dacey walked as well. Lynch sacrificed the runners up and a ground ball to short by Harrison resulted in an out, but Gikas came home to tie the score.

Then, on the first pitch he saw, Bartell lined a single back up the middle to score Dacey for the lead.

“We hadn’t been swinging the bats well, but we put the ball in play,” Bartell said. “(Hebert) had a good off-speed pitch, so I was sitting fastball, trying to get something to hit. I was hoping we’d get some more, but I was going to pitch my best.”

“A couple guys got on and guys stepped up behind them with big hits,” said Stowell. “We’ve lacked a big hit lately in a high pressure situation. We’d been striking out too much. We made adjustments today. We showed improvement.” 

Bartell stole second, but Hill lined out to right to end the inning with Deering on top, 2-1.

In the top of the fourth, Bartell set Westbrook down in order, getting Hebert to strike out when he couldn’t check his swing, Coolidge to fly out to right and Blake to ground out slowly to third.

The Rams tried to stir up some two-out magic in the bottom half, but came up empty.

After McGonagle struck out and Stanton grounded out to second, Pelletier lined a single to center and Gikas singled to left-center, but Dacey watched strike three to keep the score 2-1.

In the fifth, Bartell made sure every outfielder had a chance to make a play, as he got Grover to line to right, Champagne to line deep to center and Copetta to fly out to right.

Deering went quietly in its half, as after Lynch flew out to center, Harrison reached on an error and stole second, but Bartell chased strike three and Hill flew out to right.

Bartell then had to work out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the sixth.

Sawyer led off with a single off the glove of McGonagle and Francoeur drew a walk. Bartell threw strike three past Higgins and got Hebert to look at strike three on a full count pitch, but after going full with Coolidge, Bartell walked him to bring Blake to the plate with a chance to put Westbrook on top.

It didn’t happen, as Bartell got Blake to sky a foul ball wide of first and Pelletier snared it to retire the side.

“Riley’s great,” Stowell said. “He’s had some days where he’s struggled with his command. The zone was a little tight today, but he didn’t let it rattle him. He got his curve ball going in the third, fourth inning, the second time through the lineup. He pitched out of jams. I can’t be more proud of what he did today.”

The Rams added to their lead, thanks to some Hebert wildness, in the bottom half.

Junior pinch-hitter Dan Hill grounded out third, but Stanton reached on an error and stole second and Pelletier walked and was replaced by junior courtesy runner Bobby Ridge. After Gikas grounded into a force out at third, Dacey was hit by a full count pitch and Lynch drew a walk on five pitches to score Ridge to make it 3-1. Harrison then grounded out to Copetta at short, with Higgins making a nice scoop at first, to end the inning.

“That third run was big,” Stowell said. “It let us breathe a little bit. Guys had great at-bats in that inning as well.”

In the seventh, Bartell got Grover to fly to right, Champagne singled to left, but Copetta grounded to second, which led to a force out for the second out.

Bartell had reached the 110 pitch plateau and Stowell replaced him with Pelletier.

Pelletier didn’t have much time to warm up, but he rose to the occasion, getting Sawyer to hit a sharp grounder toward the second base bag where Gikas grabbed the ball and stepped on the base to close out Deering’s inspirational 3-1 triumph.

“I was nervous, but I was confident in Joe,” Bartell said. “He keeps the ball low and gets ground balls. It’s a huge victory. We played really well as a team. We had to come out and come together.”

“We didn’t have a chance to get (Joe) loose, but he didn’t need a lot of time to get loose,” Stowell said. “He’s good throwing strikes. I had a lot of confidence in him out there.

“I had guys in positions who hadn’t played those positions at the varsity level, if ever, but we buckled down and got it done.”

Bartell improved to 2-1 after allowing just one earned run on six hits in 6.1 innings. He walked five, but struck out six.

“I felt like I had to throw a good game,” Bartell said. “I wanted to limit them and give us the best chance to win that I could. My fastball and curve ball worked. This is the first game action for my curve. I was able to throw it for a strike. That was a big confidence builder. They couldn’t just sit fastball and change-up.”

Pelletier retired the only hitter he faced to earn his first save.

Bartell paced the offense with a pair of hits, a stolen base and an RBI. Dacey, Gikas and Ridge scored the runs. Harrison and Lynch also drove in runs. Gikas, Harrison and Stanton also stole bases.

Deering stranded eight baserunners.

Westbrook got multiple hits from Champagne and Sawyer. Champagne scored the run and Copetta had the RBI. Champagne and Hebert stole bases.

The Blue Blazes also left eight runners on base.

Hebert fell to 0-2 after giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits in six innings. He walked four, struck out six and hit a batter.

Another tough stretch

While Westbrook returns home Saturday to face Noble, Deering will play a key game at Cheverus (see theforecaster.net for game story). After going to Windham Tuesday and hosting Marshwood Thursday of next week, the Rams welcome South Portland May 20.

“We have a tough stretch and Cheverus will be tough,” Bartell said. “We have to get the bats going again. Baseball’s a game where any team can win. We’re excited.”

“Cheverus is the team,” Stowell said. “I’ve said it since the beginning of the season. They’ve proved it so far. We have a puncher’s chance. If we come focused like today and we battle, why not?”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter:@foresports.

Deering junior centerfielder Luc Harrison makes a running catch.

Deering junior first baseman Joe Pelletier lines a hit.

Deering senior Riley Bartell eludes the tag of Westbrook junior shortstop Justin Copetta and steals second base.

Deering junior rightfielder Keegan Stanton makes contact.

Deering senior Riley Bartell lines a go-ahead, RBI single in the third inning.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.