A Homeric effort at the plate finally – after a dozen or more pitches – earned Alex Livingston a walk in South Portland’s last ups vs. visiting Deering on Thursday, May 12. It also thoroughly fired up his teammates – including Ben Conti, who soon blasted a shot to centerfield to bring Livingston home again and secure a 4-3 Riots win.

“Alex had a great at-bat,” said South Portland head coach Mike Owens. “He struggled a little, earlier in the day, and he just really competed in that at-bat. He got down in the count early and fought, fought, fought. It really got the momentum; our bench got louder and everybody got excited.”

The Riots jumped out ahead in the early going, rounding two men in the opening inning. Sam Troiano, the team’s very first hitter, blasted a triple to right-center, then tagged up and scored when Conti flew out. Drew Abramson followed Conti into the box, doubled, and crossed home again two batters later, when Matt Crockett singled to right.

The Rams, however, would answer immediately, tallying three in the top of the second. Spencer Todd, Orey Dutton and Jake Latini all notched runs in the stretch, during which Troiano, the Riots’ starter on the mound, seemed to temporarily misplace his mojo.  

“[Deering] put together some good at-bats,” Owens said, “and Sam lost the zone for a little bit there, put some guys on, gave them some free runners. They had a couple good hits in that frame, and compound that with some mistakes and a wild pitch.”

The scoreboard lingered at 3-2 all the way into the fifth, when South Portland evened things up. Troiano tallied the point; he reached first on a hard grounder single into right, second on a Conti sac bunt, third on a steal during Abramson’s at-bat and home when Abramson flew out. 3-3.

“We’ve been hitting really well lately, and having a lot of energy helped us out with that,” said Livingston of his boys’ determination to tie the game. “And we never get ourselves down – we pick each other up, we’re that kind of team. We’ve been playing with each other for a while.”

Deering threatened in the top of the seventh. Abramson stepped in to relieve Troiano, who’d hit his pitch count, and quickly found himself in trouble. Rams Ian Westphal and Pat Viola pilfered singles off him for men on first and second with just one out. Dom Bernard then grounded to short, where Livingston bobbled to give Bernard the extra split-second he needed to safely push his teammates ahead and himself gain first.

Abramson maintained his composure, though, and soon escaped danger. He lured Spencer into an infield fly for a second out, then nixed James Sinclair on a good old-fashioned swinging K.

“We feel confident with Drew,” Owens said. “He’s pitched some big innings for us. He’s more of a change-of-pace guy; definitely doesn’t throw as hard as Sam. He needs to hit his spots and change speeds. He might have been a little nervous in the beginning. They squared him up a few times. But we could’ve got out of the inning, if we made some plays behind him. 

“Then he settled down a little bit, made some really good pitches. Struck Sinclair out on a change-up, and that’s his best pitch. If he can stay down and hit corners and use his change-up effectively, he’s a really good pitcher…Curveballs and changeups are difficult for even good high school hitters.”

South Portland had one last ups to capture the W, or the game would unravel into extra innings. But the Riots remain one of the top teams in the league precisely because they turn the plays they need to turn, when they need to turn them. Case in point: Livingston’s at-bat to begin the seventh. Though he hadn’t hit well for most of the afternoon, Livingston won his duel with the Deering pitcher, ultimately wringing four balls from him for a walk onto first.

Owens had tactical options from there. Next up at the plate for him were Riley Hasson, Troiano and Conti. “I debated whether to have Riley bunt,” Owens said. “Because I knew they’d just walk Sam and Sam’s our best hitter, but I thought the odds were with us if we got a guy in scoring position with two-three-four coming up.”

He opted at the last second to have Hasson bunt, shuttling Livingston ahead 90 feet and into scoring position. As predicted, when Troiano stepped to the plate, the Rams wasted no time intentionally walking him. But Conti’s no slouch either, and connected quickly for a walk-off shot into the outfield. 4-3 the final.

“I’m just trying to forget about everything that happened in the beginning of the game,” said Livginston of his fateful at-bat. “Trying to put a good at-bat up, you know, lead off and get on base. Ben took care of the rest, and drove me in.”

“It felt good to be able to put the ball in play,” said Conti. “Early in the game, it just wasn’t working for me. I was popping things up. That one, I hit it on the line, got it over his head; it felt good.”

Troiano finished with seven Ks on the day, not to mention two hits and two runs. Conti posted just one hit – but as it was a stylin’ deathblow, he can perhaps be forgiven for not swinging the biggest bat earlier. Abramson, Matt Crockett and Aaron Radziucz each went 1-3.

“It feels good to beat rivals, cross-the-Bridge,” said Conti. “Hopefully, we keep picking up wins.”

The victory bumped SoPo to 7-1 on the year; their lone loss came 4-0 at Thornton (8-1) back on May 3. They picked up another win, this one at home over Scarborough (8-2), on May 14, and traveled to Noble (winless as yet) on the 17th, after the Current’s print deadline. The Riots currently rank second in A South, behind Falmouth (11-0).

South Portland starting pitcher Sam Troiano hurls a ball toward home in the Riots’ win over Deering on Thursday.

Gordon Whittemore in leftfield charges forward to grab a fly for South Portland versus Deering last Thursday.

Nick Troiano leaps off first in the Riots’ win over Deering.

Riots first baseman Matt Crockett pulls down an infield fly versus Deering.

Ben Conti grabs an out in the Riots’ 4-3 win over Deering last Thursday.

Sam Troiano dives for home in South Portland’s win over Deering.

Alex Livingston rounds third, headed for home, on his way to scoring the winning run for South Portland in their matchup with Deering, Thursday last.

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