It took the No. 1 Red Riots extra innings to do so, but they managed to slip past No. 9 Cheverus on Thursday, Robert Graff driving to bring home Anthony Degifico for a 1-0 final. The quarterfinals result retired the Stags for the year at 9-9 while advancing South Portland to a matchup with four-seed Marshwood in Saturday’s semis.

“I thought our kids did an excellent job; they hit the ball hard,” South Portland head coach Mike Owens said of the Cheverus game. “Both teams played unbelievable, defensively.”

On Saturday, however, the Riots fared not nearly so well as they had against two days prior. Marshwood posted one run in the third, and South Portland tied it in the sixth. The teams slogged through four more scoreless innings before the Hawks finally found some offense in the 11th, adding two the Riots couldn’t answer and winning 3-1.

South Portland’s season ends at 15-3. Marshwood was scheduled to face No. 11 Windham in the A West Finals on Tuesday night at St. Joseph’s College.

In the Cheverus-Riots game, both teams landed men on in Thursday’s early action, but neither could get a man around. In the first, Cosmo Romano walked, and Sam Troiano grounded to short, but the Stags’ fielder’s choice to second caught Romano out, and though Troiano advanced on a wild pitch during Graff’s at-bat, Graff himself grounded out to end the ups.

Similarly, Nick Troiano’s drive to center in the second earned him a single, but an ill-timed steal attempt cost him and closed out that inning. Meanwhile, Cheverus was busy stranding their own players – Brad Carney on second in the third, for instance.

Both squads went one, two, three in multiple innings, leaving onlookers feeling like somebody must be due and wondering who exactly it would be. In the seventh, it looked like South Portland: Graff grounded a double down the leftfield line, then took third on Zac Marles’s choppy sac grounder.

The Stags intentionally walked both Jacob Brown and Nick Troiano, evidently intending to generate a force play at the plate, which strategy perhaps prompted the Riots’ own decision to try a suicide squeeze.

Unfortunately, Chris Foley couldn’t contact the ball on the bunt half of that play, and the Stags easily caught Graff, already headed for home.

“We knew that’s a good team,” Owens said. “We beat them 2-0 earlier in the season, and this was a game very similar to that. So I expected that coming in.”

The Riots generated another opportunity in the eighth, though, when DH Degifico smashed a single drive to center. Hayden Owen stepped in to pinch run for Degifico, and got second when Cheverus’s pitcher slipped in the shallow infield grass trying to grab John Vickers’s should’ve-been-a-sac bunt.

Two men on. Romano sac bunted as well, advancing Owen and Vickers to third and second, respectively. The Stags intentionally walked Sam Troiano then, again looking to force a play at home. The Riots next batter – Graff – couldn’t afford to do anything but get a base hit. Which he did, a short club right that scored Owen and gave South Portland the game.

“The way this playoff lines up it’s…everybody, really,” Owens said, referring to A West’s very open field of competitors. “It’s going to be close games all over the place. I really expected that. Cheverus is a heck of a team, and our kids really rose to the occasion. We just did enough at the end to get the win.”

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The Riots’ Cosmo Romano hops away from first as a pitch unfurls toward home.South Portland starter Henry Curran – among the league’s best pitchers – hurls the ball toward home.The Riots’ Nick Troiano arrives on second just behind the throw; Cheverus’s Mitchell Powers gets the out.South Portland second baseman John Vickers reaches for a difficult throw from first as a Stags’ runner dives for the bag. The ball would just elude Vickers’s grasp and skitter into the outfield.South Portland’s Robert Graff beats the throw to second.John Vickers trots back to first.Owen crosses home on Graff’s hit, Riots win over Cheverus

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