Portland junior Jake Knop congratulates senior Zach Fortin after Fortin scores a sixth inning run during the Bulldogs’ 7-1 home win over Sanford Saturday afternoon.

Chris Lambert photos.

More photos below.


Portland 7 Sanford 1

S- 000 001 0- 1 4 5 
P- 120 004 x- 7 7 3

Bottom 1st
Dom Tocci singled to right-center, Knop scored.

Bottom 2nd
Ruotolo singled to right-center, Barnard scored. Ruotolo stole home.

Top 6th
Burgess scored on throwing error.

Bottom 6th
Fortin singled to right, Stasium scored. Joyce singled to right-center, Marzilli and Fortin scored. Hunnewell scored on throwing error.           

S- Burgess
P- Barnard, Fortin, Hunnewell, Knop, Marzilli, Ruotolo, Stasium

P- Joyce 2, Fortin, Ruotolo, Dom Tocci

Stolen bases:
S- Burgess, Chase
P- Clayton, Fortin, Knop, Ruotolo, Williams

Left on base:
S- 6
P- 5

Veino, Merrifield (6) and Burgess; Barnard, Marzilli (4), Griffin (7) and King

Veino (L, 0-3) 5.1 IP 7 H 7 R 2 ER 2 BB 4 K
Merrifield 0.2 IP 0 H 0 R 1 K

Barnard 3 IP 0 H 0 R 3 BB 4 K
Marzilli (W, 3-0) 3 IP 3 H 0 R 4 K
Griffin 1 IP 1 H 0 R 1 BB 

Time: 1:52

PORTLAND—An early start, yet another chilly, windy day and a winless foe could have conspired to trip up Portland’s undefeated baseball team Saturday afternoon at Hadlock Field, but these Bulldogs have won games by any means necessary over the past season-and-a-half and with a daunting schedule stretch looming, Portland wasn’t about to fall short against Sanford.

The Bulldogs took the lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single from sophomore second baseman Dom Tocci, then added two more in the second, thanks to an RBI single from junior third baseman Giovanni Ruotolo and a Ruotolo steal of home.

Senior Charles Barnard held the Spartans at bay for three innings, then had to leave the game due to a blister on his pitching hand.

Fortunately for Portland, senior Dan Marzilli was expecting to pitch and he came on earlier than expected and shut Sanford out in the fourth and fifth innings.

After the Spartans scored an unearned run in the sixth, snapping a 23-plus scoreless inning drought, the Bulldogs ended all doubt in the bottom half, as senior leftfielder Zach Fortin hit an RBI single, junior pinch-hitter extraordinaire Tommy Joyce rapped a two-run single and another run scored on an error.

Senior Ben Griffin came on to finish it off in the seventh and Portland closed out its 7-1 victory, as it improved to 7-0 and dropped Sanford to 0-7 in the process.

“Games like this are hard to play, when you’re supposed to win,” said Bulldogs coach Mike Rutherford. “It was a bad day to play. It’s been miserable the past few weeks. The wind was blowing in right off the ocean. It wasn’t a good day to hit, but we did hit some hard balls. We’re a veteran team and we’re doing what it takes to win. We have eight kids returning. They feel pretty confident that when a game is close, they’re going to win.”

Good times roll on

Portland stole headlines a year ago, making a memorable run to the regional final where it fell a run short against South Portland.

The Bulldogs’ play so far in 2016 suggest that last season was not a fluke. 

Portland opened by rallying late to edge visiting Biddeford, 4-3. The Bulldogs then downed visiting Westbrook (6-2) and Gorham (14-8) and won at Massabesic (6-3), Windham (3-2) and Noble (10-3).

Sanford opened with a 4-2 home loss to Windham, then was defeated by host Sanford (7-2), host South Portland (7-1), visiting Thornton Academy (22-2, in five innings), host Cheverus (7-0) and visiting Massabesic (1-0).

Last year, Portland won, 5-4, at Sanford in the regular season finale.

Saturday, both teams’ 2016 trends continued.

Barnard opened the game by getting senior second baseman Xavier Chase to look at strike three, but on a 3-2 pitch, he walked senior catcher Tylar Burgess. Junior leftfielder Brad Bouchard then lined out to left and senior third baseman James Roche grounded out to short.

The Bulldogs struck quickly in the bottom half to take the lead.

Leading off against Sanford junior pitcher Frankie Veino, junior shortstop Jake Knop grounded to Roche at third and Roche threw high, allowing Knop to go to second. Tocci followed with a single to right-center and Knop scored without a throw. Tocci then appeared to have second base stolen easily, but for some reason, he slowed up and was tagged out, despite a high throw. Senior first baseman John Williams grounded out to first and junior centerfielder Nick Archambault grounded out to third to end the inning.

Veino started the top of the second by grounding right back to the mound. Senior designated hitter J.D. Bissonnette chased a Barnard curveball for strike three and senior first baseman Devin Gouin drew a walk, but senior centerfielder Mike Ravesi’s liner was stabbed coolly by Tocci at second.

In the bottom half, Portland extended its lead.

Senior designated hitter Joe Fusco looked at strike three, but Barnard reached when his grounder went through the legs of Chase at second and he moved to second when Fortin grounded out slowly to Chase. That brought up Ruotolo, who lined a single to right-center to score Barnard for a 2-0 lead. With Ruotolo running, senior rightfielder Joe Clayton grounded a single into the vacated hole between first and second to put runners at the corners, bringing Knop to the plate. Clayton then took off for second and when Burgess threw through, Ruotolo raced home to complete the double steal and make it 3-0. Veino escaped further damage by getting Knop to ground out to third.

Barnard protected the lead in the third, getting sophomore shortstop Nate Martineau to chase strike three and after walking Chase on a 3-2 pitch, he fanned Burgess looking (with Chase stealing second) and got Bouchard to ground out to third, with Williams making a nice scoop at first to record the third out.

In the bottom half, Tocci led off with a walk and moved to second when Williams grounded out to first. Archambault popped out to second, but Fusco walked. That brought up Barnard, who wasn’t able to help himself, getting caught looking at strike three.

Barnard then had to come out of the game prior to the top of the fourth.

“It was a blister,” Rutherford said. “He also had a finger issue in another game.”

That brought in Marzilli, who was greeted by Roche, who flared a single over Tocci’s head into right for a single. Veino then flared the ball to almost the same place. This time Tocci got there, but bobbled the ball. The Bulldogs got a break, however, as Roche was running back to first and Tocci’s throw to Knop recorded the force. Marzilli got Bissonnette to chase strike three, but it got away from sophomore catcher Cam King, allowing Veino to move to second. Marzilli stranded him there by getting Gouin to ground out to Knop.

“I knew I was supposed to come in today,” Marzilli said. “I didn’t expect it would be the fourth inning. I was prepared and ready to go whenever they needed me. I was pretty warm already. I felt fine going in to pitch. I didn’t have to psyche myself up differently. I had to attack the hitters. If I didn’t, it would be a longer game for me, not having seven innings to fix what I was doing. That lead helped a lot and made me feel comfortable with what I wanted to pitch.”

Martineau produced the game’s biggest defensive gem to start the bottom of the inning, diving to rob Fortin of a hit, then throwing him out by a step. Ruotolo popped out foul to first and Clayton grounded out to second.

Marzilli kept a ‘0’ in Sanford’s run column in the fifth, as Ravesi swung at the first pitch and grounded out to third, Martineau fanned on three pitches and after senior Matt Webber singled to right, Marzilli picked him off.

In the bottom half, Knop lined out to left, Tocci grounded out to second and after Williams beat out an infield single and stole second, Archambault struck out.

Sanford finally broke through in the sixth, snapping a 23-plus inning scoreless drought.

Burgess reached on an error by Ruotolo and after Bouchard struck out looking (with Burgess stealing second), Roche grounded out to second. Burgess took off for third on the play and Williams’ throw across the diamond got away for an error and Burgess came home to break the spell. Veino then singled to center to bring the tying run to the plate, but Marzilli caught junior pinch-hitter Keith Kerrigan looking at strike three.

Portland got the run right back in the bottom half and added three more for good measure.

Fusco reached when Martineau made a bad throw. Senior Nick Stasium ran for Fusco and moved up to second when Marzilli beat out an infield hit (Stasium was running on the play, taking the shortstop out of position and allowing Marzilli to reach). Fortin followed with a single to right, scoring Stasium and moving Marzilli to third. Fortin stole second, but senior pinch-hitter Jack Nichols grounded out to Veino, who made the out unassisted. That brought up Joyce, who delivered yet another clutch hit, a single to right-center, which scored Marzilli and Fortin.

“Coming in in that spot, I’ll take whatever I can get,” Joyce said. “I just like being in there. I just try to stay loose in the dugout and just come in. I was just looking for something up, so I could get it in the air and get the run in. We always do it in the late innings, even last year. We always have guys step up late and find ways to win.”

“Joyce has pinch-hit every game,” Rutherford said. “That was a nice hit. His role is he has two JV at-bats, then he comes here and pinch-hits every game. He has good genes. He’s probably a varsity player on any other team, but we’re so deep. That hit allowed me to take Danny out. Getting Marzilli out of there after three innings means (both he and Barnard) can go Tuesday.”

That was it for Veino, who was replaced by senior Shawn Merrifield, who got Knop to ground to short, but Martineau again threw wild, putting runners at the corners. With Tocci at the plate, it appeared Burgess had a chance to pick off senior pinch-runner Jake Hunnewell at third, but his throw was wild and Hunnewell came home with Knop moving to second. Knop stole third, but was stranded there when Tocci looked at strike three and Williams lined out to left.

Senior Ben Griffin came on to pitch the seventh and after senior pinch-hitter Noah Scarpelli blooped a single to right, Ravesi walked. Ryan Connarton pinch-hit for Martineau and grounded to Knop, who tagged second for an out. His throw to first to attempt the double play was high, but Williams pounced on the ball and threw home to King to nab Scarpelli for the second out. Webber then popped foul to Williams end it as Portland wrapped up its 7-1 victory in an hour and 52 minutes.

“We knew going in that Sanford would scrap,” Rutherford said. “They made us work for it last year. We got up 3-0 with the wind blowing in and it felt really safe.”

The Bulldogs didn’t have a multiple hitter, but had seven hits.

Seven different players, Barnard, Fortin, Hunnewell, Knop, Marzilli, Ruotolo and Stasium, all touched home plate.

Joyce had two RBI, while Fortin, Ruotolo and Tocci also had RBI.

Five players, Clayton, Fortin, Knop, Ruotolo and Williams, had stolen bases.

Portland stranded five runners.

Barnard lasted three innings and didn’t allow a hit or a run, but he didn’t pitch long enough to earn the decision. He walked three and struck out four.

Marzilli improved to 3-0 after allowing just three hits in three scoreless innings. He fanned four.

“That’s probably the best Danny’s pitched,” Rutherford said. “He’s progressed and gotten stronger every game.”

Griffin allowed just one hit in a scoreless inning of relief. He walked one.

Veino fell to 0-3 for Sanford after allowing seven runs (just two earned) on seven hits and two walks in 5.1 innings. He fanned three. Merrifield didn’t allow a run or a hit in 0.2 innings. He struck out one.

No easy games

While Sanford looks to get in the win column Tuesday, when it hosts Noble, Portland will play host to Marshwood.

That begins a stretch of challenges that pretty much runs the rest of the regular season. The Bulldogs also play at Cheverus and Bonny Eagle next week. The following week brings a trip to Thornton Academy, a home showdown with Deering and a home tilt versus South Portland in a rematch of last year’s regional final. Portland closes with a home game versus Massabesic and trips to Gorham and resurgent Scarborough.

“We’re doing really well right now,” Marzilli said. “We’re working as a team, day-in, day-out and getting prepared for each game. We’re ready for those teams. We’re not scared of anyone. We’re excited to play the better teams and we look to come out with wins too.”

“Obviously Cheverus, Thornton Academy and South Portland are big Heal Point games,” Rutherford said. “Cheverus will be a battle like last year. We’ll see (ace Alex) Jacobs. Thornton Academy, we’ll probably see (ace Ben) Lambert. South Portland, we’ll probably get (ace Sam) Troiano. I think the kids would rather play those games. We want to keep on taking care of business and winning games.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter:@foresports.

Portland senior starter Charles Barnard throws a pitch. Barnard had to leave before the start of the fourth inning due to a blister.

Portland senior John Williams steals second.

Portland senior Joe Clayton makes contact.

Portland senior first baseman John Williams applies a tag on Sanford’s Tylar Burgess.

Portland junior centerfielder Nick Archambault makes contact.

Portland junior Jake Knop slides into third base.