Baseball: Windham sneaks past Thornton, 1-0

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SACO—The lone run in Windham’s road bout vs. Thornton Academy on May 3 came in the second inning – and it belonged to the Eagles. Derek Foss belted the fateful ball, bringing home Tanner Bernier for a 1-0 lead that eventually turned into a 1-0 win.

“We’ve played five games, and we’ve scored a total of 12 runs,” Windham head coach Brody Artes said of the day’s low tally. “So we’re not a great hitting team, overall, but it’s one of those things where it’ll come. We’re trying to take advantage of the opportunities we do get, trying to move runners as best as possible. Derek stepped up early to get that huge hit to drive in the run early on in the game.”

Eagles leadoff hitter Brady Afthim singled to begin the game, then stole second on teammate Cam McCartney’s at-bat. McCartney struck out to TA starting pitcher Cam Seymour, however, as did his two followers to the plate, Bryce Afthim and Chris Naylor.

Bryce Afthim, the Eagles’ own starter on the mound, struck out the first TA batter he faced, Luke Chessie, then lured Chessie’s fellow Trojans Matt Merrill and Brogan Searle-Belanger into a 4-3 groundout and a 6-3 groundout, respectively.

“Bryce pitched well,” Artes said. “His pitch count was up early; he had a hard time locating early in the count. He fell behind a lot of hitters today – but he bounced back when he pitched to contact and let the defense do the work. He did a good job overall. He’s a tough kid. He had a good summer last year, and I expect big things from him this spring also.”

“We’re fortunate enough that we’ve got some good pitching that can keep us in games, so we don’t have to score a ton of runs right now,” Artes said. “But we will down the road.”

“It was okay,” Afthim said of his work. “I kind of got a little wild. I just wanted to try to throw some strikes, let our defense do the work. I wasn’t really trying to overpower any batters. I think I only had maybe three strikeouts.”

Perhaps the biggest story to come out of the contest was Windham’s collective defensive effort. The team turned in some spectacular plays, after all. Afthim successfully covered first for Ryan Sargent in the bottom of the fourth, for instance, completing a 3-1 groundout Sargent had to jump away from the bag to grab.

Then, in the bottom of the sixth, the Eagles really retired the Trojans in style. Brady Afthim, catching for his big brother, grabbed an attempted TA sac bunt for the first out of the stretch, whirling and hurling to Sargent in the nick of time. Next, the elder Afthim repeated his earlier maneuver: Sargent managed to knock down a hard Trojans shot in his direction, but had to dive off base to do so and couldn’t regain his footing in time to get back to the bag; luckily, Afthim was there to reel in the toss. Two outs. Finally, Foss, a reliable force in rightfield for the team, closed out the inning with a spectacular diving catch on a TA shot – a low, hard, shallow flyball, almost a line drive. Foss’s catch was particularly important, as a hungry Trojan was headed for home when he made it.

“We had some huge, huge plays,” Artes said. “Derek Foss had a great day in rightfield to end the inning. That saved a run for us, so that was huge, obviously. Ryan Sargent was fantastic at first base today; he made a couple diving plays that were unreal, then he had the last three outs on flyouts.”

“Our defense has been pretty steady all year,” Artes said. “That’s going to be a key for us to have continued success this year overall. That’s kind of the name of the game nowadays in high school baseball; you’ve got to play good defense and throw strikes. We’re off to a good start there. We want to make sure we get better at that, but really this week has been a good week for us defensively.”

“Our defense did a hell of a job today,” Bryce Afthim said. “Derek Foss’s catch in right field, that saved the game. Ryan Sargent at first base, knocking down those balls. Me having to run over there is kind of stressful, but he made at least two or three great plays over there. And Tanner Bernier at short, he’s usually not there and he made some great plays today too.”

Windham earned the game’s only run after Bernier walked onto base to kick off the top of the second. Bernier stole 90 feet during Kyle Herzig’s at-bat. When Herzig then took off for first on a dropped third strike and Trojans catcher Calvin Chistoforo misfired the ball to his baseman, sending it a bit high, Bernier dashed on over to third. Foss’s drive single to right scored Bernier for 1-0.

The scoreboard never changed after that, though Windham did come close to notching a second run in the top of the sixth. Once again Bernier reached base, this time on an error at third. He rounded almost all the way to home when Herzig followed him into the batter’s box and blasted a ball to deep centerfield. The Trojans, however, caught Bernier out at the plate with a mile-long, 8-2 throw. For his part, Herzig made it all the way to third on the hit, though (obviously) he never made it any further.

The victory bumped Windham to 3-2 on the spring. The Eagles picked up another win the following day, slipping past Cheverus 3-1. They traveled to Sanford on Tuesday the 8th, winning 13-1, and welcomed Massabesic on Thursday the 10th. The team travels to Bonny Eagle on Saturday the 12th.

Windham currently sits in second in A South. Portland occupies first and Noble third.

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

Windham runner Brady Afthim slides into second on a steal, just ahead of the throw to Trojans baseman Luke Chessie.

Kyle Herzig fields a ball for the Eagles in their narrow win over TA.

Windhamite Tanner Bernier, leading off third, watches a ball sail high into the air off the bat of teammate Derek Foss – watches and waits, presumably hoping for an opportunity to break toward home.

Kyle Herzig Hungers for home plate.

Windham pitcher Bryce Afthim threw a four-hit, three-strikeout, complete-game shutout vs. TA last Thursday.

Windham rightfielder Derek Foss (right) celebrates with centerfielder Cam McCartney after Foss’s spectacular diving catch to end the sixth inning on Thursday.

Nick Kilgallon arrives home – a hair too late – for the Eagles in the top of the seventh on Thursday. There was some controversy on the second half of the play, which ultimately resulted in a strange double-play and Windham’s runner at third being called out as well.

Windham shortstop Tanner Bernier reels in a throw in hopes of tagging out a TA runner.

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