GORHAM — Ryan Norris has limited varsity pitching experience but the Gorham High senior knew what he needed to do against Thornton Academy.

“I pitched against this team before so I knew the middle of their lineup had a lot of good hitters, so I tried to pitch them to the outside and hit the corners,” Norris said. “My defense helped me out a lot. Our defense, I would argue, is the best defense in the league.”

Norris retired 12 straight hitters from the second through the fifth innings and allowed just two groundball singles in six-plus innings as No. 2 Gorham (13-4) beat the seventh-seeded Golden Trojans, 3-1.

Norris pitched one varsity inning as a junior. His first start – against Thornton Academy – was in the eighth game of the season. Now he’s 5-0.

Thornton got its run in the sixth. Chris Balzano worked an eight-pitch leadoff walk and scored on a two-out single by Cam Seymour.

When Kolby Lambert reached on an error and Norris hit Tim Smith to start the seventh, Gorham Coach Chuck Nadeau brought in right-hander Joe Curesky, who got Cameron Cross to fly to center and then started a game-ending 1-5-3 double play on a hard-hit comebacker by Calvin Christoforo.

No. 2 Gorham will host No. 3 Portland (13-4) at 10 a.m. Saturday in a regional semifinal. Thornton finishes 11-7.

Gorham beat Portland 6-3 in the regular season. The teams also played in the preseason and last weekend in the SMAA tournament.

Portland won the most recent exhibition but it also helped Gorham. Curesky, coming back from a preseason elbow strain, worked four innings, proving he was ready for playoff action.

“There was a time we didn’t know if we would be able to use him this year at all,” Nadeau said. “So to have him now available to us is great. That’s a tough spot for a kid who doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt this year. He’s an experienced kid and we have a lot of confidence in him.”

Gorham jumped ahead in the first on Nolan Brown’s bases-loaded double, scoring Kyle King (single) and Brogan McDonald (walk). Gorham added a run in the third on an RBI groundout by Lucas Roop, the first batter to face Luke Chessie, who relieved Thornton starter Lambert.

Staked to a 3-0 lead, Norris retired the next six hitters on 12 pitches, with Brown making a diving catch in shallow center and shortstop Ben Nelson expertly charging a slow roller and pegging a strong throw to first.

“Norris, he’s pitched twice against us and he has our number,” said Thornton Coach Jason Lariviere.

“He’s not overpowering but he locates.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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