SCARBOROUGH— Two days removed from a disappointing, one-sided home loss to Westbrook, the Scarborough baseball team played what amounted to nearly a perfect game Thursday afternoon.
The Red Storm dominated visiting Cheverus from the get-go, receiving a stellar pitching effort from senior Chris Bernard, a leadoff home run (one of two on the day) from junior catcher Jake Rutt, steady production from everyone in the lineup and errorless defense en route to a stunningly decisive 14-0 triumph over the Stags, in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
“We didn’t look good against Westbrook,” said Scarborough coach Jim Cronin. “Westbrook was a setback. We knew they’d be tough. I’m glad we got it out of the way now instead of at the end of the season.
“Today, we told our guys to lay off the curveball and hit the fastball. Overall, the approach at the plate was great. Jake set a nice tone. It was contagious.”
For the first time since moving up to Class A, the Red Storm are viewed as a top contender. After last year’s 8-9 campaign, which ended with a 5-4 (nine inning) loss to Portland in the preliminary round, the core of this Scarborough team won the Zone 4 Legion title in the summer, providing plenty of confidence for this spring.
The Red Storm began the year with a 5-0 win at Gorham behind Bernard’s arm and bat. Tuesday, however, they were humbled, 11-2, by defending regional finalist Westbrook.
Cheverus is in a similar boat with higher expectations this year. The Stags were 6-10 last season, but return some players who had success in Junior Legion ball last year. That team’s coach, Mac McKew, inherited the Cheverus varsity this spring.
The Stags lost 2-1 at Westbrook to start the year, then bounced back to beat visiting Kennebunk, 5-0, Tuesday.
Thursday’s game was decided quickly.
Bernard allowed just one hit in the top of the first, a two-out single to his counterpart on the mound, Cheverus senior Mick DiStasio. Bernard then caught junior catcher Jake Watson looking at strike three to end the frame and the Red Storm’s bats went to work.
Rutt came up first and wasted no time, crushing DiStasio’s first delivery over the centerfield wall to put the hosts ahead to stay.
“Usually, on the first pitch, guys want to get ahead with a fastball,” Rutt said. “It was a fastball near the plate and I just went with the pitch.”
Scarborough was just getting started.
Senior shortstop Jimmy Rouse followed with a first-pitch single to right-center, then stole second base. Junior centerfielder Brendan Sullivan hit a ground ball to shortstop which went right through freshman Louis DiStasio’s legs and Rouse took third. Sullivan then stole second and Watson’s throw wound up in centerfield, scoring Rouse and moving Sullivan to third. Bernard followed with an RBI double down the third base line and one out later, scored to make it 4-0 on junior first baseman Andrew Myers’ single to center.
“With Mick on the mound, it figured to be a 2-1 or 1-0 game,” Bernard said. “The four runs early were huge. If my team gets me two runs, I feel comfortable. When Jake homered, I felt good.”
Stags freshman third baseman Nick Melville singled to lead off the top of the second, but Bernard got senior leftfielder Dan Foster to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play. Scarborough freshman second baseman Joe Cronin made a nice play on a tough hop to get it started. Bernard then induced the younger DiStasio to fly out to center. The Red Storm went down in order in their half of the inning.
In the top of the third, the Stags got a one-out single from junior second baseman Joseph Falconieri, but couldn’t move him along.
In the bottom half, the Scarborough offense came back to life.
A bloop single to rightfield from Sullivan got the rally started. Sullivan stole second and Bernard was walked. Senior third baseman Ian Ramsdell then hit a sharp ground ball to the right of the pitcher. DiStasio tried to stop it with his bare hand, but deflected it away and wound up in left-center, allowing Sullivan to race home to make it 5-0. Myers followed with a sacrifice fly to right. Senior rightfielder Neil Ravin then put runners at first and second after he fought off several pitches before singling to left. One out later, Cronin walked to load the bases and a DiStasio wild pitch brought in the seventh run.
Bernard set the Stags down in order in the top of the fourth and the Red Storm’s offense proceeded to put the game out of reach.
With one out, Sullivan reached second on a bad throw from Melville. Bernard then crushed a home run to left-center to make it 9-0.
“It was a new pitcher and he was a little wild,” Bernard said. “I wanted to jump on a fastball if he threw one. That’s what happened.”
Ramsdell singled, but Myers struck out for the second out as Scarborough was simply delaying the inevitable. Ravin beat out an infield hit and junior leftfielder Blake Brubach singled sharply to center to score Ramsdell for a 10-0 lead. Cronin followed with a ringing single to center for an RBI and Rutt delivered the coup de grace, sending another home run to deep left-center for a 14-0 advantage.
“He pitched me away a little bit and I just went with it,” Rutt said. “Coach gave me the green light on the 3-0 count and I swung.”
All that was left was for Bernard to slam the door in the fifth and he did so in order, getting the younger DiStasio and sophomore pinch hitter Nic Lops on called third strikes to end it.
The contest ended in a tidy hour and 20 minutes.
Scarborough had 13 hits as Bernard, Ramsdell, Ravin and Rutt all had two apiece.
“We had a good practice yesterday and got a lot of swings in,” Rutt said. “We faced (DiStasio) a couple times last year. We knew what he was going to throw. We were ready. We didn’t want to get embarrassed like we did against Westbrook.”
Bernard allowed just three hits, walked no one, and fanned five in his five innings of work.
“We had great pitching once again,” coach Cronin said. “Bernard was solid. We played errorless defense. Couldn’t ask for much more. We needed it after the last game.”
Consider Thursday’s game affirmation that the Red Storm are capable of beaten anyone on a given day this season.
“We’re a little young, but we got a lot of experience last summer,” Bernard said. “We struggled in every aspect of the game against Westbrook. If we put it all together, like we did in the Zone 4 championship, we can beat Deering or Westbrook. It’ll take a group effort.”
“I think we have the pitching,” Rutt said. “We just need the confidence. Defense wins games and championships. If we start making the routine plays, I think our bats will stay steady.”
Scarborough is back in action Tuesday at home against Thornton Academy. The Red Storm are at Portland Thursday, then face their next litmus test when Deering comes calling May 9.
“We have a tough stretch coming up,” Cronin said.
Cheverus looks to right its ship Tuesday when it hosts Marshwood.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org