The Red Riots can score five runs in a hurry.
Just ask the No. 2 Westbrook Blue Blazes who saw their 3-0 lead transformed into a 5-3 season-ending loss thanks to a five-run sixth inning rally by No. 10 South Portland in Class A West baseball quarterfinal action on Thursday.
So even though No. 3 Scarborough (14-4) pushed five runs across and chased Riots’ starter Matt Lee in the first inning of Saturday’s semifinal at Scarborough’s McFarland Field, any thoughts of an easy win were soon erased as South Portland (10-9) answered back with two in the second inning and threatened more with the bases loaded and one out.
Red Storm starter Andrew Myers got the second out on a liner to second. The third out came when catcher Jake Rutt fired a strike to first baseman Chris Bernard to pick off Chris Gorham and snuff out the South Portland uprising. The Storm tacked on four more runs in its half of the second and went on to a 13-6 win.
Rutt said the pickoff was big in terms of momentum.
“We had momentum going into the inning,” said the junior backstop, who went 3 for 3 with a homer, double, single walk and three runs scored. “We got five runs, then it looked like they were going to come back. It looked like we needed to steal an out. It looked like (Gorham) was getting a little too aggressive, and me and Bernie caught eyes and threw him out.”
Scarborough cranked out 14 hits against five South Portland pitchers and took advantage of five errors by the Riots to advance to the Western Maine finals for the first time since the school moved up to Class A six years ago. The Storm was scheduled to take on Deering, the undefeated top seed and defending state champ, on Wednesday at St. Joe’s College in Standish after this edition’s deadline.
Myers worked five and 1/3 solid innings, allowing five hits, walking four and hitting three batters. Ben Wessel came on in relief, getting two quick outs to close the sixth inning, then allowing one unearned run in the seventh.
“We got some good pitching out of Andrew Myers, and a freshman, Ben Wessel, came in and threw very well,” Rutt said.
While Wessel is young, Rutt said he has the composure of a veteran. “He’s the definition of cool, calm and collected. He doesn’t let anything bother him. The next few years, he’s going to be a dominant pitcher. His ball has got natural movement.”
South Portland, meanwhile, was playing its third road playoff game in four days. Its prelim game against No. 7 Thornton (won by South Portland, 5-4) was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday because of rain, then the Riots shocked Westbrook the following day. With Gorham, the team’s ace, unavailable after going the distance against Thornton, Lee, who appeared twice in relief late in the season after missing most of it with a knee injury, got the start.
After getting the first out, Lee walked the next three batters he faced. Ian Ramsdell got the Storm on the board with a two-run single. Neil Ravin followed with a single to score two, then Will Armishaw doubled to plate Ravin, making it 5-0 and chasing Lee from the game.
“We knew we’d probably have to outslug them today,’ said Scarborough coach Jim Cronin. “We had that approach. They had a kid on the mound who hadn’t pitched much all year.”
“We were disciplined enough that we were swinging at strikes, putting the ball in play,” Cronin added. “We knocked (Lee) out and that was good. It just takes a lot of pressure off our pitcher to put up runs like that in the first couple innings. Now I just have to ask him to throw strikes, that’s all.”
Scarborough was also aggressive on the base paths in the first tinning, stealing five bases.
South Portland made it 5-2 in the second on two walks, two hit batters and an error, but the pickoff at first stopped the Riots from doing further damage.
Jimmy Rouse started off the bottom of the second with an infield hit. Rutt followed with a double and Brendan Sullivan reached on an error, scoring Rouse. Bernard cleared the bases with a two-run double down the third base line and later scored on Ravin’s sacrifice fly, making it 9-2.
Armishaw’s sacrifice bunt scored Ramsdell in the fourth to make it 10-2. A run-scoring single by Ryan Curit and a two-run single by Mike Foley cut the Riots’ deficit to five at 10-5 in the fifth.
Rutt added a solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Blake Brubach drove in a run for Scarborough in the sixth on a sacrifice fly. Joe Cronin followed with an RBI single to make it 13-5.
South Portland got one run in the top of the seventh as Travis Gulliver’s single scored Curit, who reached on an error.
“We didn’t play as well as we had hoped,” said South Portland coach Tony DiBiase “Scarborough hit the ball very well. The better team won, no question.”
But DiBiase was pleased with his team’s playoff run. The team had to overcome numerous injuries to key players this season and started three sophomores in the infield against Scarborough.
“You’re just hoping to win one playoff game, then we beat Westbrook, which was a tremendous win,” DiBiase said. “We’ll try to build on this during the summer. Most of these guys are playing (American) Legion ball. We’ll keep building and moving on and I think the future of the program is very bright.”