PORTLAND – Ryan Schimpf said he hasn’t found his groove yet.
If the New Hampshire Fisher Cats third baseman ever does discover his rhythm, the rest of the Eastern League is in trouble.
Schimpf homered twice Monday night to take over the league lead and drove in five runs to power New Hampshire past the Sea Dogs 7-3 at a balmy Hadlock Field.
“I’m not where I want to be right now,” said Schimpf, a 5-foot-9 left-handed batter who has 11 home runs despite a batting average of .219. “It’s so early. There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Schimpf homered into the Portland bullpen on a 79-mph fastball from Sea Dogs knuckleballer Charlie Haeger to give the Fisher Cats a 2-0 first-inning lead.
In the ninth, Schimpf launched a 97-mph fastball from reliever Miguel Celestino halfway up the pavilion seats in right field for a three-run homer that broke open what had been a 4-3 game.
“He’s definitely a guy who shows a lot of strength to his pull field,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said of Schimpf. “He put together a pretty good approach.”
The victory was New Hampshire’s fourth in a row and seventh in eight games. The Sea Dogs have lost three of four.
Three times the Dogs scratched back to within a run Monday night, only to see the Fisher Cats extend their lead. Portland held a 10-8 advantage in hits, but stranded 10 runners.
“We collected some hits,” Boles said. “We just missed some opportunities.”
The biggest came in the eighth when a walk to Travis Shaw and singles by Shannon Wilkerson and Kolbrin Vitek filled the bases with one out and the Dogs trailing by a run.
New Hampshire closer Joel Correno came on to face Heiker Meneses, who already had two doubles, and struck him out on a full-count slider.
Correno then fanned Derrik Gibson to squelch the rally and struck out the side in the ninth, all on swing-and-miss sliders.
“It’s a tough pitch because it breaks so late,” said Tom Signore, the former Sea Dogs and current Fisher Cats pitching coach. “He’s actually got three different kinds of sliders. He’s got a soft one, a medium one and a hard one. And he uses his (92 mph) fastball enough to keep hitters honest, so they can’t sit on it.”
New Hampshire starter Marcus Walden (3-4) earned his second decision in six days against the Sea Dogs. After allowing only two hits in a 3-0 victory last week he scattered eight in six innings Monday night.
Tony Thomas tripled and homered for the Sea Dogs, who also received RBI doubles from Meneses and Michael Almanzar. Peter Hissey scored from first on Almanzar’s drive to right and barely beat the tag at home because he strained his groin while rounding second base and hobbled the rest of the way.
Boles, coaching third base, was concentrating on the ball in the outfield and realized Hissey was hurting only after waving him home.
“It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad,” Hissey said. “I was glad I was able to score to make it a one-run game. I didn’t do any more damage.”
“That was tough to watch,” Boles said. “Talk about showing some guts. I told him next time, if you feel something like that, just shut it down, stay at third.”
Haeger (1-1) settled down after early control issues to pitch into the seventh. He allowed seven hits, walked four, struck out four and retired the final seven batters he faced.
He threw a season-high 127 pitches, 66 for strikes.
“That was very impressive,” Boles said. “I know he had some struggles early on but he just kept competing, found his rhythm and controlled the knuckleball.”
Portland’s homestand continues Tuesday night with the second of a four-game series with New Hampshire.
NOTES: Paid attendance was announced as 3,028. …
After a year’s absence, the Sea Dogs return to Boston for a “Futures at Fenway” game on Saturday, July 27, against Harrisburg. Tickets for the noon contest range in price from $5 to $30 and are available at redsox.com beginning Wednesday at noon. An added attraction is a post-game concert by Kidz Bop and, for the first time, an invitation to bring the family dog to Fenway Park free of charge. …
Tim Leiper, a Blue Jays senior advisor for player development, has been filling in as manager of the Fisher Cats for the past week while Gary Allenson attends to a family matter in Florida. Leiper, who formerly coached or managed in the Mets, Expos, Orioles, Pirates, Red Sox and Marlins organizations, lived in Cape Neddick for four years, but now resides in Florida.
On Monday night Leiper lasted only six pitches before being ejected by plate umpire Brian deBrauwere for arguing balls and strikes. Leiper intervened after leadoff batter Kevin Pillar twice started toward first base, on counts of 3-1 and 3-2, before being called out on strikes.
As he jogged off the field, Leiper cracked up the Sea Dogs dugout with a remark about not getting paid to work overtime anyway.
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: