- By TOM CHARD
WESTBROOK – Westbrook has shown a knack for winning one-run games, doing it eight times so far this season. None was bigger than its latest victory.
Derek Bouchard lined an RBI single into left field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning Monday to give fourth-seeded Westbrook a 2-1 win over No. 8 Portland in a Western Class A baseball semifinal at Olmsted Field.
The Blue Blazes (15-3) will play No. 2 Marshwood (16-2) for the regional championship at 3 p.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph’s College.
The Westbrook-Portland game was moved to Monday because of Westbrook’s graduation Saturday.
Though Westbrook was the home team, the Blue Blazes have been favoring their blue, away uniform, electing to wear those jerseys for home games lately.
“We lost three games with our home white uniforms,” said Bouchard. “We’ve won every game with our blue uniforms.”
The Blazes were 8-0 on the road during the regular season and 5-3 at home.
“Once the playoffs started, the kids wanted to wear the blue jerseys,” said Coach Greg Souza.
Westbrook heads into the regional final with a seven-game winning streak.
The Blazes donned their blue jerseys for the SMAA playoffs on Memorial Day weekend and won two games over No. 1 Scarborough and No. 2 Marshwood for the league title. That was followed by a win over Cheverus in the Western Maine quarterfinals.
Kyle Schumacher struck out leading off the bottom of the seventh but reached base when Portland catcher Ryan Ruhlin dropped the third strike and couldn’t find it right away as the speedy Schumacher easily made it to first. Collin Joyce bunted for a base hit that pitcher Nate Smart bobbled. After both runners advanced on Ryan Gilligan’s sacrifice, the next batter struck out, setting the stage for Bouchard.
“The pressure was on me,” he said.
Bouchard rifled Smart’s second pitch into left field, scoring Schumacher.
“I swung at my pitch. It was right down the pipe. At first I thought it might go foul.
“Coach told us to get the ball in play and things will work out. He was right.”
Zack Bean held Portland (10-9) to five hits. Other than a belt-high changeup to Kyle Reichert, who deposited it over the center-field fence in the second inning to tie the game at 1-1, Bean was in control.
“I really had my curve ball working,” said Bean, a right-hander who improved his record to 5-0. “My fastball felt good coming out of my hand.”
Bean finished with eight strikeouts.
“Bean shut us down pretty well,” said Portland Coach Tony DiBiase. “Other than the home run by Reichert, we didn’t get a runner to third base. After the success we had against Ben Greenberg of Scarborough in the quarterfinals, I thought we could carry the momentum.”
The Bulldogs got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. Trying to do it again in the seventh was asking too much.
“Derek has had big hits for us,” said Souza. “He worked with Ken Joyce last winter on his hitting.”
Smart allowed only six hits while striking out six.
“Both pitchers pitched well,” said DiBiase.
The Bulldogs were one of the league favorites when the season began, but an up-and-down regular season produced an 8-8 record and the eighth seed for the playoffs. With postseason wins over South Portland and Scarborough, Portland showed the form that was predicted.
“It was a good run,” said Portland senior Nick Volger. “We brought Portland High baseball back to where it should be. We ran into a good pitcher in Zack Bean.”
Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at:
Twitter: TomChardPPH CLASS A BASEBALL REGIONAL FINAL
WHO: Westbrook (15-3) vs. Marshwood (16-2)
WHEN: 3 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: St. Joseph’s College
n Pairings for all the baseball, softball and lacrosse regional finals. Page C2