PORTLAND – The upset happened once before, but the Deering baseball team wasn’t going to let it happen again.

At a time when wins and losses matter the most, the Rams earned their first playoff win in pursuit of defending the state Class A championship.

The top-seeded Rams allowed just two hits in a 4-1 victory over No. 8 Cheverus in a Western Class A quarterfinal Friday at Hadlock Field.

Deering (13-4) will face No. 4 Westbrook in the semifinals at 1 p.m. today at Hadlock Field.

Deering’s first loss of the season came in the season opener April 24 at Cheverus, as the Stags ended the Rams’ 50-game winning streak.

Deering lost three more, and after the Rams beat the Stags last week in the regular-season finale, they took the same perspective into the postseason.

“We wanted to treat this like every other game,” Deering pitcher Jake Nichols said. “Play to our ability, throw strikes, make the routine plays and just try to come out on top again.

“At the beginning of the season, I think the reason we lost was because we couldn’t keep our minds focused on the game. And then come the end of the season, we worked on that and became more of a team.

“There’s better camaraderie between us and we’re really able to focus on what our goal is.”

The Rams (13-4) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Nichols’ two-run double, then added two runs in the fifth.

Nichols allowed one hit through four innings, Nic Lops’ single in the second, but was relieved by Sam Balzano in the fifth because he was suffering from migraine symptoms.

“We’ve talked about overcoming adversity, and when you take Jake out in the fourth inning and come in with a new pitcher and you don’t expect it, that’s overcoming adversity,” Deering Coach Mike Coutts said. “Our guys embraced it and played.”

How quick was the turnaround in the fifth?

“When (Balzano) came in I asked him, ‘Do you think you can pitch today?’ ” Coutts said, “he goes, ‘Yes,’ and then he turned around and started to run to center field.

“I said, ‘No, right now.’ But he did a great job.”

Deering sent eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, and Balzano’s double drove in Matt Bevilacqua to give the Rams a 3-0 lead. They loaded the bases after Cheverus pitcher Joey Royer walked Jon Hardy with one out, and Jamie Ross’ single drove in Balzano for a 4-0 lead.

Balzano went 2 for 4 with a double and a triple and, in relief of Nichols, allowed one run on one hit in the last three innings.

Cheverus attempted to rally in the seventh when Peter Potthoff’s groundout drove in Louie DiStasio, but Lops grounded out to end the game.

“Two hits, that was the story of the game,” Cheverus Coach Mac McKew said. “It seemed like we were off balance the whole time. Even after Nichols came out, Balzano kept us off balance.

“It was an unfortunate way to end the season, and the only way you want to end the season is at St. Joseph’s College (in the state title game). We’ll learn from it.”


Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

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