Windham blanks Portland in Senior Night pitching duel

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Windham senior first baseman Olivia Mora stretches to retire Portland freshman catcher Laini Legere to complete a double play during the Eagles’ 1-0 win Wednesday evening.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Windham 1 Portland 0

W- 000 001 0- 1 5 0
P- 000 000 0- 0 3 0

Top 6th
Wilcox doubled to left, Mora scored.

Repeat hitters:
W- Wilcox
P- Watson

Runs:
W- Mora

RBI:
W- Wilcox

Double:
W- Wilcox

Stolen bases:
W-Mora, Talbot
P- Crosby

Left on base:
W- 5
P- 4

Tardiff and Joy; Brown and Legere

W:
Tardiff (W, 10-1) 7 IP 3 H 0 R 1 BB 5 K 1 HBP

P:
Brown (W, 9-2) 7 IP 5 H 1 R 1 ER 2 BB 10 K  

Time: 1:44

PORTLAND—Portland’s softball team has lived a charmed life this spring.

But not Wednesday evening.

The Bulldogs have made the plays to get the outs when they needed them and their potent bats have delivered key hits in clutch situations and on Senior Night at Payson Park, Portland had ample opportunities to continue those themes, but for one night at least, against talented Windham, the Bulldogs’ luck ran out.

Portland had no answers for Eagles senior ace Danielle Tardiff, who held the Bulldogs to three hits, and when Portland had an opportunity to keep Windham off the scoreboard, it couldn’t make a routine play.

And as a result, the Bulldogs’ quest for the No. 2 seed in Class A South could be in jeopardy.

Tardiff and Portland junior ace Jess Brown matched zeroes for five innings, as Tardiff got out of a bases loaded, one-out jam in the fourth and got Bulldogs senior shortstop Morgan Boyle to hit a shot right at an outfielder to end the fifth.

Then, in the top of the sixth, the Eagles got the game’s lone run.

After senior first baseman Olivia Mora singled with one out and was sacrificed to second, freshman leftfielder Chloe Wilcox hit a little pop fly behind shortstop that appeared destined to end the inning, but the Bulldogs didn’t communicate and the ball dropped for a fateful double to score Mora for a 1-0 lead.

Tardiff did the rest, retiring the final eight batters she faced and Windham ended Portland’s eight-game win streak, 1-0.

Tardiff threw a three-hitter and the Eagles improved to 12-2, dropping the Bulldogs to 13-2 in the process.

“When you get two good teams, it’s going to come down to a play like that,” Portland coach Robbie Ferrante. “The ball fell in. It was a miscommunication and it really hurt us. We’ll work on that.” 

Duel under the lights

Portland opened with an 8-1 home win over Sanford, then rolled at Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy, 19-4, in five innings. After beating visiting Westbrook, 5-1, the Bulldogs outlasted visiting Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth (12-8) and won at Thornton Academy for the first time since 2008, 9-1. After losing, 9-0, at Scarborough, Portland started a win streak by blanking visiting South Portland, 4-0. The Bulldogs then rallied for a key 5-3 victory at Noble, handled visiting Deering (14-2), came back from four runs down to shock visiting Massabesic, 5-4, edged host Marshwood in a playoff rematch, 2-0, held off host, defending Class A champion Biddeford (8-4), pulled away late for a 7-2 win at Deering and Tuesday, downed visiting Gorham, 9-1.

Windham won its first 10 games, due in large part to a staggering offense which averaged nearly 15 runs per game in that span.

The Eagles opened with a 14-4 home victory over Biddeford. Windham then defeated visiting South Portland (11-5), host Marshwood (11-6), host Bonny Eagle (17-1, in five-innings), host Massabesic (11-10), visiting Sanford (17-5, in five-innings) and host Deering (21-0, in five-innings), twice beat Westbrook (16-6 and 17-5) and won at home over Cheverus/NYA (13-5). After being brought back to earth with a 15-0 (five-inning) home loss to Scarborough and a 4-1 setback at Gorham, Windham got back on track last Friday, downing visiting MGA/Falmouth, 7-4.

Last spring, Portland eked out a 3-2, eight-inning victory at the Eagles.

Wednesday, the Bulldogs hoped to do it again, but Windham beat them for the first time since a 6-1 triumph May 11, 2015.

It sure didn’t come easily.

Brown started strong, striking out junior shortstop Lauren Talbot swinging, fanning junior centerfielder Katelyn Troiano (who couldn’t hold up on strike three) and after walking Mora and seeing Mora steal second, Brown struck out senior second baseman Taylor Tibbetts swinging.

Tardiff set Portland down in order in the bottom half, getting Boyle to ground the first pitch to third, junior leftfielder Sydney Gilbert to pop to second and Brown to fly out to center.

Brown recorded another strikeout to start the second, getting Wilcox swinging. Junior third baseman Alex Morang popped out foul to first and junior catcher Megan Joy flew out to left.

Tardiff started the bottom half by striking out senior second baseman Taylor Crosby and junior centerfielder Kit Rosmus before getting freshman catcher Laini Legere to fly to right.

Windham produced the game’s first threat in the top of the third, but couldn’t score.

Tardiff hit a little pop fly behind Crosby on the first pitch and Crosby and senior rightfielder Annie Twombly watched the ball fall for a single. Junior Taylah Piazza came on to run, but when sophomore rightfielder Erin Elder popped up a bunt to sophomore third baseman Grace Stacey, Stacey threw back to freshman Callie Watson to record a double play. Talbot followed by singling through the hole between first and second and stole second base. Troiano walked on a full count pitch, but on a 3-2 pitch, Brown struck out Mora to keep the score 0-0.

In the bottom half, Stacey looked at strike three, but Watson hit a little pop up that fell in front of Tibbetts for an infield single. Twombly sacrificed Watson to second, but Boyle chased a pitch and hit a little pop foul wide of third which Morang caught on the run to retire the side.

Brown got Tibbetts to bounce out to short on a bang-bang play to start the fourth, but Wilcox lined a single to center. Brown then fell behind 3-0 to Morang, but she battled back to 3-2 and got her to fly to center before getting Joy to bounce out to third.

The Bulldogs then had a great chance to break the ice in the bottom half, but Windham’s defense came up huge.

Gilbert started the frame by drawing a walk and after Brown lined softly to short, Crosby ripped a shot to right-center for a single and when Troiano fielded the ball cleanly, Gilbert had to stop at third. After Crosby stole second, Rosmus was hit by a pitch to load the bases, bringing up Legere. Legere hit the ball hard, but it was on a bounce right to Morang at third. Morang then threw home for a force play and Joy threw on to Mora at first to complete the inning-ending double play.

“We only had that one chance,” Ferrante said. “I think if we hit the ball anywhere else, we would have scored.”

Brown set the Eagles down in order in the fifth, getting Tardiff to fly out to center on a full count pitch, Elder to chase strike three (with Legere holding on to a foul tip) and Talbot to watch strike three, as Brown pulled the string on a 3-2 pitch after Talbot fouled the ball off several times.

Portland almost broke the tie again in the bottom half, but again, was frustrated.

Stacey started by lining back to the pitcher on a 3-2 pitch. Watson then reached on another bloop infield hit and took second when Twombly grounded out to second. That brought up Boyle, who this time hit the ball hard, lining a shot to the gap in right-center. For a moment, it appeared ticketed for extra bases and a run, but Elder, who was positioned perfectly, ran it down to end the frame.

The Eagles then scored the game’s lone run in the sixth, with a little bit of help.

Brown got Troiano to chase strike three to start, but Mora reached on a single to center and took second when Tibbetts sacrificed. That brought up Wilcox, who appeared to end the inning with a fly ball behind short. Boyle and Gilbert converged on the ball, but neither took charge and the ball dropped harmlessly to the grass for an RBI double.

“We have the reputation of being a power hitting team, but we got the bloops and we’ll take it,” said Windham coach Travis Demmons.

Morang made a bid to double the lead with a deep drive to left, but Gilbert ran it down to retire the frame.

Portland hoped to answer in the bottom half, but Gilbert struck out swinging, Brown popped to the pitcher and Crosby popped out foul to first.

Brown kept the deficit at one in the top of the seventh, getting Joy to pop to second, striking out Tardiff and getting Elder to chase strike three on a 3-2 pitch.

The Bulldogs could never get the tying run on in the bottom half as Tardiff slammed the door.

After Rosmus popped out to short, Legere missed an extra base hit by inches when her line drive down the leftfield line was just foul. She then grounded out to short. That left it up to Stacey, who couldn’t make contact and Tardiff struck her to out to give the Eagles a 1-0 victory in 1 hour, 44 seconds.

“We knew it would be a tough game coming in,” said Demmons. “When we saw Jess was pitching, we knew runs would be at a premium and we’d have to play clean. We lost an ugly game to Scarborough, then we came back the next day and lost to Gorham. We had a great week of practice coming into this game and we carried it over. I’m really proud of the girls.”

Brown was the hard-luck loser and fell to 9-2 after giving up just one run on five hits in seven innings. Brown walked two and struck out 10.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more than what Jess gave us,” Ferrante said.

Watson had two of Portland’s three hits. Crosby stole a base. The Bulldogs stranded four runners.

“(Tardiff) threw well and kept us off-balance a little bit,” Ferrante said. “We couldn’t get the leadoff batter on. We couldn’t get the hits. Twenty-four hours ago, we got a bunch of them, but it happens.”

For Windham, Tardiff improved to 10-1 with a three-hit, shutout effort. She walked one, struck out five and hit one batter.

“She had offseason shoulder surgery and that was the best she’s thrown,” Demmons said. “She was great tonight. So was Jess.”

Wilcox had two hits, including a double, and had an RBI. Mora scored the run and stole a base, as did Talbot.

The Eagles left five runners on.

Bigger and better things

Windham (currently third in the Class A South Heal Points standings) is home with Noble Thursday, then closes at home versus Thornton Academy in a makeup game Tuesday.

“We still have a lot of (Heal) Points on the table,” Demmons said. “We’d like to wind up second. Robbie and I were talking. We’d love to do it again and hopefully we will.”

Portland (still second in Class A South) has one final playoff tuneup, Friday at Bonny Eagle.

“I think the worst we can do is the third seed,” Ferrante said. “We could still be two. A loss isn’t always the worst thing. Now, we need to get on another streak.”

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

Portland junior ace Jess Brown was her usual strong self Wednesday, striking out 10 and allowing just one run, but she was the hard-luck loser.

Windham senior Olivia Mora steals second base as Portland senior shortstop Morgan Boyle applies the tag too late.

Portland junior centerfielder Kit Rosmus makes a catch.

Portland senior second baseman Taylor Crosby lines a base hit.

Windham senior second baseman Taylor Tibbetts catches a pop fly.

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