Baseball: Gorham slides by Westbrook

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Gorham's Ben Nelson jumps off third as teammate Brogan McDonald makes contact at the plate.

WESTBROOK – Gorhamite Lucas Roop rounded the bases twice on Monday afternoon, May 8, scoring on a Nolan Brown groundout in the second and a Blazes fielding error in the fourth. Roop’s tallies pushed the Rams ahead of their hosts in the no-frills contest, and ultimately secured them a 2-1 victory.

“The whole league is on a level playing field, to be honest,” said Gorham head coach Chuck Nadeau, asked about his expectations for the matchup. “There’s not an easy day out there on the schedule. There’s not a lot of great lineups in the league, so not a lot of scoring. So you know, almost every day, that you’re going to be in a tight game.”

“Their pitcher held us to two runs; any other day that kind of gets you the win,” said Logan Drouin, who spent all seven innings on the mound for the Rams. “Today, it was, take the ones you can scratch across.”

Gorham advanced on the result to 5-2 in 2017, while Westbrook slipped to 4-3. Both teams started the season looking strong: The Rams jumped out to 4-1 before dropping a disappointing (but probably eye-opening) bout to Biddeford, and the Blazes began 4-1 before losing narrowly to Cheverus. So the Gorham-Westbrook matchup had the potential to go either way.

It looked, in fact, like it might go the Blazes’ way at first – at least, the Blazes grabbed the early momentum with a run in their opening at-bats. Kyle Champagne kicked off the scoring drive with a hard single to center-left, then rounded all the way to third when Justin Copetta grounded to short and Rams fielder Ben Nelson bobbled the ball.

The next Westbrooker into the box – Bailey Sawyer, who wielded one of the hotter Blazes bats in the slow-burn game – grounded into a double-play: The Rams caught Copetta out at second and Sawyer himself out at first, but Champagne had plenty of time in all the commotion to cover the 90 feet between him and home. 1-0.

Gorham answered in the top of the second. Roop grounded, barely beating the throw to first, then zipped around to third when William Prescott lined a powerful single into wide right. Brown followed Prescott to the plate and promptly grounded to short; Brown went down 6-3 on the play, but Roop scored nevertheless. 1-1.

“We just hope we can limit walks, make them put the ball in play, and that we defend it,” Nadeau said. “And if we do that, and scratch out enough runs, we know we can be competitive in any game. That’s the formula.”

“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” said Drouin. “They’ve been putting up runs all year, so we knew we had to play solid defense, not make too many errors, make ‘em earn what they got. And hopefully we’d do a little bit more than they did.”

Nelson batted first for the Rams in the top of the third, and nearly reached home: He singled into center, then reached second and third on groundouts by Jason Komulainen and Kyle King, but Brogan McDonald, up after King, also grounded out and the inning came to a close.

“We took ourselves out of some innings, but really that was because they made good defensive plays,” Nadeau said. “We tried to put a little pressure on them, on the base paths…We tried to bunt, take some extra bases on some balls that were bobbled, but they did a good job covering the bases and getting the ball where it needed to be and keeping us out of a big inning.”

In the top of the fourth, however, Gorham dealt their second blow of the day – the winning blow, as it would turn out. Roop, still connecting solidly, drove the ball into left to earn a spot on first. He grabbed second on a Drouin sac bunt, third on a Prescott 4-3 groundout and, finally, home on another Brown single.

The remainder of the game tantalized, and delivered a few more fun plays to watch: Sawyer belted a double to the centerfield fence in the bottom of the fourth, but soon got caught stealing third; Komulainen, at catcher for the Rams, threw out Westbrooker Dylan Francoeur, trying to steal second; Nelson nearly had second on a shot to the outfield – but the Blazes relayed to throw him out; and Blazes centerfielder Liam Coolidge turned in a spectacular leaping/stretching/running backwards catch on a deep Roop shot.

Neither team could notch another run, however, and the game ended with a bit of a whimper, Westbrook going 1-2-3 (on an infield fly, a flyout to center and a 6-3 groundout) in their last ups.

“Again, we’re just trying to get baserunners,” Nadeau said, “trying to put people in position to score, and if we can string a couple hits together…The winning run I think was on, like, a 20-foot ground ball today. You take every run you can in this league, because it’s hard to score.”

Nadeau applauded Drouin’s work on the mound. “This year, that was the best we’ve seen him. He did a better job this time out changing speeds; he used his curveball a little bit more, I thought he had a good changeup, and it made his fastball look a little more quick than it does even normally. That was a nice outing today; he looked like a pitcher, instead of a guy trying to blow it by people.”

“I felt great,” said Drouin, who tallied seven Ks and walked none. “Tried to stay low…off-speed stuff. I know a bunch of the guys over there, so…I know how to try and get ‘em out.”

“It was definitely my most efficient performance this year,” Drouin said. “The least amount of pitches I’ve thrown. Quick outs, make my arm feel better throughout the game, and I was able to stay strong.”

Nelson went 3-4 for Gorham on a trio of singles. Roop went 2-4, as did Brown; Drouin and Prescott went 1-4.

Sawyer went 2-4 for Westbrook on a pair of doubles. Champagne went 1-3. Francoeur, who pitched for the Blazes, threw three Ks and walked one.

Next up on Gorham’s docket was Noble, on Tuesday the 9th. The Rams traveled to Sanford on Thursday the 11th, and will host Marshwood on Saturday the 13th. The Blazes faced off at Deering on Thursday, and are slated to host Noble on Saturday.

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.

Gorham’s Ben Nelson jumps off third as teammate Brogan McDonald makes contact at the plate.

Gorham first baseman Brogan McDonald waits on an incoming throw. 

Westbrook pitcher Dylan Francoeur hurls a ball toward the plate.

Westbrooker Justin Copetta fouls one off in his team’s narrow loss to Gorham on Monday.

Westbrooker Bailey Sawyer takes off for third.

Gorham second basemen William Prescott sweeps a tag – after reeling in a long throw from catcher Jason Komulainen – and catches out would-be Westbrook stealer Dylan Francoeur.

Gorham’s Logan Drouin turned in an excellent performance vs. a tough Westbrook squad on Monday.

Westbrooker Kyle Champagne inches off third; Champagne would score momentarily, the Blazes’ lone run in their narrow defeat.

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