PORTLAND – The baseball game began in sunshine as Portland Sea Dogs fans finally enjoyed a summer evening at Hadlock Field in a comfortable 73 degrees.
For a bonus, Drake Britton pitched seven shutout innings in a 7-0 victory over the Trenton Thunder before a crowd of 4,915.
Garin Cecchini continued his sizzling start with the Sea Dogs, going 3 for 4 with three RBI, including his first Double-A home run. In 11 games since his promotion, Cecchini is batting .366.
Peter Hissey doubled and singled, and Shannon Wilkerson had two hits, part of an 11-hit Portland offense.
The victory, Portland’s sixth straight to complete a three-game sweep of the Thunder, solidified the Sea Dogs (44-38) in second place in the Eastern League East Division, four games ahead of third-place Trenton (41-43).
First-place Binghamton (51-30) leads Portland by 71/2 games. The top two teams in the division qualify for the playoffs.
Britton (7-6, 3.51 ERA) looked like the seasoned pitcher he is becoming, stifling the Thunder on seven hits and three walks.
“He’s matured in a lot of areas,” Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles said. “The mound presence. The composure. His stuff plays in the zone. He had a great change-up tonight. He’s got a lot going for him right now.”
Britton struck out four but most impressive is that Trenton rarely hit the ball hard. The longest ball he allowed was a routine fly to shallow center field. Only two other outs were recorded in the air. Britton also induced three ground-ball double plays.
“I’m angling the ball a lot better. I’ve been working on it every day,” Britton said. “I’m very happy with (the groundouts). It allowed me to get into the seventh inning.”
After only 44 pitches and no walks through four innings, Britton’s command began to slip. Still, he battled and finished seven innings with 102 pitches (66 strikes). His fastball still reached 94 mph in the seventh.
Portland backed Britton with plenty of runs. Cecchini, the touted third-base prospect, crushed an inside fastball to right field, a two-run homer in the second. He also doubled in the first and singled in the fourth. His bid for the cycle ended with a liner to first in the sixth.
“That was a pretty impressive outing,” Boles said.
Miguel Celestino preserved the shutout with two no-hit innings.
The Thunder bused out Wednesday night. The teams will meet nine more times, Aug. 22-25 in Trenton, and Aug. 30-Sept. 2 in Portland.
NOTES: Sea Dogs catcher Matt Spring was added to the East roster for the Eastern League All-Star Game Wednesday in New Britain, Conn. The league added two players on each roster for more depth. Spring, who is batting .262 with six home runs in 28 games, will be one of the three catchers for the East, which includes teammate Christian Vazquez. Other Sea Dogs are third baseman Michael Almanzar, and pitchers Anthony Ranaudo and Britton. Almanzar will take part in the pregame Home Run Derby. Britton’s availability is in question since he is scheduled to start Monday for Portland. The Fourth of July game is at 6 p.m. Fireworks will follow.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or: