SOUTH BERWICK — South Portland High’s chance to stop Marshwood’s baseball unbeaten streak ended suddenly and unexpectedly.
When Cosmo Romano was ruled to have slid both away from the bag and too far from second base in his effort to break up a double-play attempt, it resulted in the hitter, Robert Graff, also being ruled out at first
It was Marshwood’s third double play of the game and the final out in a 4-3 victory Friday.
“We talk all year about not making excuses. I’ll go out and argue a call and try to defend my players,” said South Portland Coach Mike Owens, who did just that, “but what he explained, if that’s the way it happened, it was the right call. I didn’t see it that way but that certainly wasn’t the difference.”
The difference was South Portland (4-5) making six errors and Marshwood playing above-average and error-free.
The Hawks (8-0) got two hits off South Portland starter Zac Marles.
Robert Jones gained the win with five innings of work, giving up seven hits and three earned runs. Dion Stewart worked two scoreless innings for the save.
“What was good was we had to compete through seven innings,” Marshwood Coach Eric Fernandes said.
“Dion had to work with a one-run lead late in the game. The composure he showed was magnificent.”
Stewart said, “It makes it easier for me knowing I can throw strikes and just let them hit it, and I’ll have the defense with me to back me up.”
Marshwood turned inning-ending double plays in the third and fifth innings.
In the third, Joe DiBiase (2 for 4) and Graff grounded consecutive one-out singles. Nick Whitten then hit a high chopper to short that Max McCoomb aggressively charged and quickly delivered to second. Noah McDaniel made an even quicker pivot and his strong one-hop throw was picked on the backhand by Jake Lebel.
In the fifth, South Portland had already scored three runs on an RBI grounder by DiBiase and a two-out, two-run single by Whitten. Marles drove a Jones pitch to deep center.
“The game changer was (Alex) McLean running that ball down,” Fernandes said. “That ball doesn’t get caught by most center fielders and then to throw a strike to the shortstop?”
McCoomb took the relay throw and zipped another strike that outraced Whitten as he dove back to first.
“Our defense has been huge this year,” McLean said. “If we’re in a jam we always come up with a key defensive play. He hit it pretty deep. I just went back and tried to get it as quick as I can. Max made a great throw to first.”
In contrast, South Portland struggled on defense. Shortstop Romano dropped a hard line drive that would have been the third out in the first, allowing McLean to score.
Marles got himself in trouble with walks to Lebel and designated hitter Luke Stankovich (three walks) in the second inning. After a groundout advanced the runners, McLean softly served a curveball into center to score both men.
In the third, South Portland made three errors to produce another run.
After that the Red Riots settled down. Marles picked off two runners and in the sixth center fielder Whitten gunned down Zach Hodges, who attempted to tag and go to third on a fly ball.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: