PORTLAND – The Portland High baseball team is doing the things it failed to do last year and the result is a good start to this season.
Portland (4-1) used an inside-the-park home run by Tim Rovnak, a key double play and solid pitching Tuesday to beat Thornton Academy 6-3 in an SMAA game at Hadlock Field.
The Bulldogs already have won nearly as many games as they did last year (five) when they struggled to score.
“In the three years I’ve coached this group, this is the best quality win we’ve had,” said Coach Tony DiBiase, formerly the longtime coach at South Portland.
“We were facing a quality pitcher in Jeff Gelinas. We showed good discipline at the plate and had some quality swings. We’re tacking on runs and playing good defense.”
Portland was 7 of 7 in stolen bases.
The Bulldogs broke a 2-2 tie with a two-run fifth inning: Joe Apon singled to right-center to score Mike Scala, who led off with a walk and stole second. Apon was out in a rundown after getting caught off first base but Rovnak, the next batter, drove a Gelinas pitch to deep center and came all the way around, sliding across the plate ahead of catcher Josh Coffin’s tag to make it 4-2.
“It was my first home run in high school,” said Rovnak, a fleet center fielder. “It doesn’t get more exciting than that.
“This was a huge win. It was a challenge for us to face a good pitcher and to see where we are as a team. We really put forth a good effort and I like the direction our team is going in. It was guys just doing their jobs. It was a team win for sure.”
The Bulldogs went 5-11 last season.
“We have a lot of motivation because of last year,” said Rovnak.
Portland starter Caleb Fraser pitched five innings before being relieved by Nate Smart.
Thornton (1-4) scored in the sixth and could have had more if not for the double play started by Scala, the third baseman.
Fraser, who was bothered by blood under his nail on his right thumb, walked the first two batters. In came Smart, who got Alex Fallon to ground sharply to Scala, who stepped on third for the force and threw to first for the double play.
The next batter, Cam Jackson, singled to left for a run.
Portland added two runs in the sixth for a 6-3 lead. Fraser scored on a wild pitch and Evan Gallant drove in Chip Webber with a sacrifice fly.
The Golden Trojans threatened in the seventh with a leadoff walk and then a hit batter. Had one more batter reached base, it would have brought up the power-hitting Gelinas, who slugged two homers in a recent game against South Portland.
But it didn’t come to that because Smart got Ryder Kenney to pop out to first baseman Kyle Reichert to end the game.
“We knew Gelinas was on deck,” said DiBiase. “We had to get that out.”
The Golden Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the second when Fallon reached on an infield hit, stole second and scored on Matt Rutherford’s ground single through the middle.
In the fifth, Gelinas hit a high drive that fell just shy of the left-field wall for a double. He went to third on Fallon’s infield hit and scored one batter latter on Drew Lavigne’s sacrifice fly to left.
“Things are just not going our way at the moment,” said Thornton Coach Ray Petit. “We’re not getting the timely hit. We’ve been in every game with the exception of the Deering game in which we didn’t play well. We need a big hit or a late-inning win to turn the corner.”
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org