SOUTH PORTLAND — Last season, Gio Ruotolo was used sparingly and pitched three innings for Portland. This season he already has three wins.

The senior right-hander kept South Portland off balance with a well-spotted mid-70 mph fastball and a sharp-breaking curve in Tuesday’s seven-hit, complete-game 5-2 victory.

“Just come out throwing strikes. (Coach Mike Rutherford) thinks that the curveball is my best pitch and it was just keeping them off balance and working low in the zone,” Ruotolo said. “He’s using me as a senior leader this year.”

It was the first time this year a South Portland game had been decided by more than two runs.

“You’ve got to give credit to Gio,” Rutherford said. “Here’s a kid who threw three innings last year and he had a huge win against Scarborough, beat them 3-2, and (South Portland) is going to be good.”

Ruotolo was also helped by his defense, particularly left fielder Jacob Loranger who threw out a runner at third in the third inning, started a 7-5-2 play to cut down a run at the plate in the fourth and made a nice running catch in the seventh inning.

“Our starting left fielder was sick today and that’s my JV left fielder,” Rutherford said.

South Portland’s Sam Troiano is out after being tagged by Portland’s Will Snyder before sliding into third base in the third inning. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Jake Knop’s two-run, two-out double in the third inning opened the scoring. It came after an infield single from Cam King and Dom Tocci’s two-out walk against South Portland starter Sam Troiano, who worked six-plus innings.

“He threw me two curveballs in that at-bat,” Knop said. “The first one I wasn’t expecting and was out in front but the second one I was able to get my weight back and I fouled it off and was right on it, so I think he knew I was right on his curveball so he came with his fastball and I jumped on it.”

Knop then scored on an RBI single by Tom Joyce.

Knop, who has signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at Division I Manhattan College, also drew a walk, singled and drove a ball to deep right center that was tracked down by South Portland’s Khem Johnston.

“I thought Sam pitched well. He had that one tough inning,” said South Portland Coach Mike Owens. “He walked that guy and then they got to the meat of their order.”

Pitcher Gio Ruotolo has emerged as a senior leader for the Bulldogs, who improved to 5-2 with a 5-2 win over South Portland on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

South Portland (4-2) rallied for two runs on four hits in the bottom of the third with Riley Hasson (2 for 4, two superior diving stops at shortstop) and Zach Johnson delivering key singles but Loranger’s assist helped lessen the damage.

Ruotolo hit three batters to load the bases in the fifth, the last two on 0-1 pitches with two outs. He got out of it by getting an infield pop and then recorded four of his five strikeouts in the last two frames.

“You’ve just got to bounce back. No one intends to hit three batters. Bases loaded, you’ve just got to work out of it,” Ruotolo said.

Portland (5-2) padded its lead with single runs in the fourth and seventh. Tocci (two runs) singled to score Ben Stasium in the fourth and pinch-hitter Ben Sawyer dropped a single over a drawn-in infield in the seventh to score Tocci.