SACO – Derek Bouchard’s second-inning drive to left on Monday afternoon ignited a slow burn for the Blue Blazes, who then smoldered their way through Thornton Academy to pick up a 3-1 win in Saco.

Westbrook, fourth place in Class A West, improves to 12-3 on the season, while seventh-ranked Thornton falls to 8-7.

“Big win against a hot team,” Blue Blazes head coach Greg Souza said after the game. “We knew [Thornton’s Jeff] Gelinas is a good pitcher, and we needed to take advantage of the things we could get … steal some bases, bunt guys over, go in on a ground out.”

The first inning passed with no score, but some noteworthy fireworks. Westbrook’s Kyle Heath got caught in a pickle and tagged out at first, Westbrook pitcher Zach Bean intentionally walked Gelinas, and Trojan Alex Fallon grounded into a 5-3 double-play.

Westbrook notched the game’s first run in the following inning, when Bouchard belted the ball into left field, bringing home pinch runner Josh Richards all the way from second to make the score 1-0. Thornton couldn’t generate runs, though they made occasional contact. Gelinas nailed a shot to left-center, but it never dropped.

“[We] played good defense,” Souza said. “[Leftfielder Kaleb Kent] made a great catch on Gelinas’s ball he hit to left, which could’ve changed the whole momentum of the game. [We] moved [Kent] over to left field against South Portland; he made a catch like that against them too so I think he’s more of a leftfielder than a centerfielder. He gets great looks over there.”

Kent’s look at Gelinas’s hit was so good, he had time to shoot the ball to shortstop Collin Joyce, who passed it along to second baseman Brett Goodenow for the game’s second double-play, 7-6-4.

The Blue Blazes tallied another run in the fourth, when Kyle Heath walked to first, then stole second on Keenan Lowe’s at-bat. Lowe grounded out, but Bouchard again launched the ball into left, giving Heath plenty of time to make it home. Westbrook added its final run an inning later. as Kent’s fly to centerfield dropped for a single; he stole second early in Goodenow’s at-bat, and dashed to third on Goodenow’s 4-3 ground-out to first. Kyle Schumacher also 4-3 grounded out to first, but the play gave Kent all the time he needed to cover the 90 feet to home. Westbrook stood on top, 3-0, after five.

The Trojans sparked some heat of their own in the sixth, making trouble for Bean, who struck out Kenney to start the inning, but then hit Gelinas with a pitch, putting him freely on first. Fallon then lined the ball to left, taking first for himself and pushing Gelinas to second. Lavigne sent the ball in the opposite direction right field and Gelinas sped home, narrowing Westbrook’s lead to 3-1. Bean walked Matt Rutherford, loading the bases.

Souza had faith in Bean to navigate the situation, though, and left him in.

“Beanie pitched great had a little knot, tightening up his shoulder…[But] I don’t know if he was errant so much as the zone got a little smaller,” the coach said. “He did what he had to do. He’s a great pitcher; he’s one of the top five guys, I think, in the state.”

Trojan Cam Jackman flew out to first base, giving Bean two outs. He escaped the inning without suffering further damage when Evan Wright struck out swinging. The score wouldn’t change again.

“We just didn’t get the timely hitting,” Thornton head coach Ray Petit said. “We put the pressure on late, we needed to get it on early. We just didn’t get that big hit when we needed it …We’ve got to be more consistent at the plate. When we make pitchers work, we succeed. We get a little greedy in swinging at first pitches; it doesn’t help us. We’ve got to have better at-bats to succeed.”

Petit was satisfied with other aspects of his team’s play, though. “[Gelinas] pitched a great game,” he said. “Three runs, and they manufactured one of them; they steal a base and bunt the guy over. [Gelinas] pitched well enough to win … I was really happy with the way he threw.”

Souza is confident about his team’s standing, but not focusing on playoffs just yet.

“This should solidify us, I think, in the fourth spot.” he said. “It’s a big win; there were some [Heal] points, but I don’t know if we can maybe get to three. But I think this should make sure we’re top five, top four.

“I’m just hoping that we’re [in the playoffs.] That’s my goal for the season…we’ve got two bulldogs who can pitch; we’re playing really good defense and smart baseball.”

Westbrook’s last regular-season matchup is at home against Deering on Tuesday, May 28 at 4 p.m. Thornton’s final bout is away at Massabesic, also on Tuesday, May 28 at 4.

Westbrook first baseman Keenan Lowe leans out to catch the throw, but Trojan Drew Lavigne beats the ball.
Westbrook’s Derek Bouchard leads off first, manned by Thornton’s Cam Jackman.
Westbrook pitcher Zack Bean unleashes the ball.
Trojan Drew Lavigne in the box.
Westbrook’s Keenan Lowe jumps back to avoid the tag, but can’t escape the reach of Trojan first baseman Cam Jackman.

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