BOX SCORE

South Portland 5 Westbrook 0

W- 000 000 0- 0 2 2
SP- 000 410 X- 5 10 2

Bottom 4th
Thurber scored on Domingos’ squeeze bunt. Hobbs scored on error. O’Connell singled to left, Domingos scored. Poole tripled to right, O’Connell scored.

Bottom 5th
Domingos doubled to right, Thurber scored.

Multiple hits:
SP- Domingos, Poole

Runs:
SP- Thurber 2, Domingos, Hobbs, O’Connell

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RBI:
SP- Domingos 2, O’Connell, Poole

Doubles:
W- Bean
SP- Domingos, Gilboy, Poole

Triple:
SP- Poole

Stolen bases:
W- Kullman
SP- Domingos, Hobbs

Left on base:
W- 6
SP- 6

Eugley, Seavey (6) and Bean; Heffernan and Gilboy.

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W:
Eugley (L) 5 IP 10 H 5 R 2 ER 2 BB 4 K
Seavey 1 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K

SP:
Heffernan (W) 7 IP 2 H 0 R 0 BB 9 K 2 HBP

SOUTH PORTLAND—Last Tuesday, South Portland’s baseball team lost at home to Thornton Academy, then had to sit and think about it for almost a week.

So this week, the Red Riots responded with a vengeance.

After edging Kennebunk Monday, South Portland returned home to Wainwright Farms Tuesday, on a windy afternoon, to face red-hot Westbrook, and with junior ace Andrew Heffernan setting the tone, took care of business in impressive fashion.

Heffernan allowed just two hits in four scoreless innings to start the game, but his teammates couldn’t do anything with Blue Blazes junior starter Ben Eugley.

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Until the bottom of the fourth, when the Red Riots broke through.

It wasn’t a big hit that produced the first run, but a squeeze bunt from senior centerfielder Alex Domingos, who scored senior third baseman Ryan Thurber for the only run Heffernan would need.

South Portland scored a second run on an error, senior designated hitter Finn O’Connell drove in another with a wind-aided single and junior shortstop Johnny Poole finally delivered the big blow, an RBI triple, for a 4-0 lead.

The Red Riots added one more run in the fifth, as Domingos hit an RBI double, then Heffernan did the rest, going the distance and closing out the 5-0 victory.

South Portland won its second game in a row, improved to 8-2, snapped Westbrook’s five-game win streak and dropped the Blue Blazes to 8-2-1 in the process.

“We’ve been swinging the bats well and driving the ball, we’ve just been trying to string hits together,” said Red Riots coach Mike Owens. “We took advantage of a couple mistakes, executed and got the job done when we needed to.”

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Expected and unexpected

South Portland, as the reigning Class A state champion, entered the 2022 season viewed as one of the favorites. Westbrook, meanwhile, was not, but with just a couple weeks left in the regular year, both squads have turned heads.

The Blue Blazes started by beating visiting Bidddeford (9-5). After a 5-5 tie (in a game ended in the ninth inning by bad weather) against visiting Portland, Westbrook rolled at Scarborough (12-2, in five-innings) and upset host Thornton Academy (5-1) before falling at home to Gorham (11-7). The Blue Blazes then blanked host Bonny Eagle (2-0), visiting Massabesic (5-0), host Sanford (2-0) and host Deering (12-0, in five-innings, on Damon’s no-hitter), then made it five straight victories Saturday, beating visiting Windham, 12-1 (in five-innings).

The Red Riots, meanwhile, started by defeating visiting Bonny Eagle in eight-innings (1-0), then downed host Deering (9-0), visiting Cheverus (3-2), host Biddeford (12-5), visiting Portland (4-0) and host Gorham (11-0, in five-innings) before falling from the unbeaten ranks with a 4-3 setback at Noble, followed by a frustrating 6-4 home loss to Thornton Academy. South Portland bounced back Monday to hold off host Kennebunk, 9-7.

Last year, the Red Riots swept a doubleheader at Westbrook, taking game one, 10-0 (in six-innings), then winning the nightcap, 13-9.

Tuesday, the Blue Blazes looked to beat South Portland for the first time since May 23, 2013 (2-1 at home), but instead, the Red Riots made it 10 in a row in the series.

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South Portland junior starter Andrew Heffernan delivers the first pitch of the game to Westbrook’s Chris Kullman. Heffernan went the distance in the Red Riots’ 5-0 victory. Hoffer photos.

Heffernan set the tone in the top of first, getting senior shortstop Chris Kullman to pop out to a diving Thurber at third base, sophomore second baseman Connor Boulette to ground out to first and senior shortstop Bronson Damon to ground out to short.

“Andrew is so good at setting the pace of the game,” Owens said. “We talked about getting out to a good start and he had us back in the dugout in about a minute. He’s fun to play defense behind. He throws a lot of strikes. He was the perfect guy to get us on track.”

In the bottom half, Eugley got Poole to chase strike three and Heffernan to line out to right, but junior catcher Richard Gilboy was next and he lined the first pitch he saw over the head of Damon for a double. Senior second baseman Jack Houle then hit the ball hard, but lined out to center to keep the game scoreless.

Junior catcher Alex Bean led off the top of the second by hitting a slow roller to third, which Thurber made a nice play on to throw him out. Senior first baseman Garen Post then watched strike three and after senior second baseman Avery MacWhinnie beat out an infield single up the middle, Heffernan caught senior designated hitter Alec Hodgkins staring at strike three to retire the side.

In the bottom half, Eugley caught Thurber looking at an off-speed pitch for strike three, then junior first baseman Nolan Hobbs grounded out to short on a 3-2 pitch, but Domingos drew a walk. Then, with O’Connell at the plate, Eugley picked Domingos off for the third out.

Heffernan started the top of the third by getting senior centerfielder Ayden MacWhinnie to ground to short, then caught junior leftfielder Ryan Stone staring at strike three, but Kullman reached on an error by Houle at second and he stole second before Heffernan snuffed out the threat by getting Boulette to ground out to short.

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South Portland had a chance to get on the board in the bottom half, but stranded a pair.

Westbrook starter Ben Eugley throws a pitch to South Portland’s Andrew Heffernan.

After O’Connell struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch, senior rightfielder Nate Rende lined out to short, where Kullman made a nice play. Poole then lined the ball the other way, into right-center, for a double. Heffernan followed by beating out an infield single to third, to put runners on the corners, but Gilboy grounded out to Post at first to keep the game scoreless.

Heffernan then had to work out of his most serious jam in the top of the fourth.

He fanned Damon leading off, but Bean went the other way and on the first pitch, doubled down the rightfield line. Post then hit a foul ball wide of the third base line, which Heffernan raced over to catch for the second half. Avery MacWhinnie was hit by a pitch to keep the inning alive, but Heffernan got Hodgkins to line the ball to right, where Rende made a nice running catch, to retire the side.

The Red Riots then broke through in the bottom of the fourth.

Houle led off with a slow roller to third and beat it out for an infield hit, but Eugley promply picked him off. Thurber then reached on an error by Kullman at short and with Hobbs at the plate, Owens called for a hit-and-run and it worked beautifully, as Hobbs singled over the head of Post to put runners at the corners. With Domingos at the plate, Hobbs stole second, then Owens rolled the dice and called for a squeeze bunt. Domingos laid it down perfectly and not only scored Thurber with the game’s first run, but he reached safely at first with a single and moved Hobbs to third on the play.

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“It was a little early for my liking to squeeze, but I wanted to get a run so we could settle in and relax,” Owens said. “Alex did a good job getting it down and the team was able to exhale. We had some good at-bats after that.”

Domingos immediately stole second and when Bean’s throw was wild, Hobbs was able to score and Domingos went to third. O’Connell then lofted a fly ball to left, where the wind took the ball away from Ayden MacWhinnie and it landed safely for an RBI single. Eugley got Rende to fly to right, but couldn’t retire Poole, as Poole crushed a drive over the head of Damon for an RBI triple.

Senior Finn O’Connell comes home to score on junior Johnny Poole’s RBI triple.

After his big hit, Poole shows his excitement.

Heffernan finally ended the frame by grounding out to second, but the damage was done as South Portland led, 4-0.

“It was a tough day to hit with the wind and their pitcher did a good job early, keeping us off-balance and holding runners, so we changed our strategy at the plate and I told the guys to start going to right-center,” Owens said.

Prior to the start of the fifth, Owens stressed the importance of his defense putting up a ‘0’ and holding the fort and that’s exactly what happened.

Heffernan fanned Ayden MacWhinnie got Stone to pop to Poole, who made the catch while back-pedalling, then he got Kullman to hit a more conventional pop-up to short for the third out.

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“Every time we had a big inning yesterday, Kennebunk answered,” Owens said. “It’s so important to have a shut-down inning after scoring a lot of runs. We want to win inning after inning, then slam the door when we have a big inning.”

South Portland then returned to its scoring ways in the bottom half.

Eugley retired Gilboy on a fly ball to center and Houle on a grounder to short, but Thurber got things going with a single into left and Hobbs drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. That set the stage for Domingos to launch a drive to deep right and it went over Damon’s head and resulted in an RBI ground-rule double. O’Connell struck out looking, but the lead was up to 5-0.

Heffernan had another quick inning in the top of the sixth, getting Boulette to ground out to short before fanning both Damon and Bean.

Junior Quincy Seavey came on to pitch the bottom half for the Blue Blazes and he struck out Rende, got Poole to fly out to right and Heffernan to ground out to second.

Westbrook had one final chance and would put a couple runners on, but Heffernan closed it out in shutout style.

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After Post struck out swinging leading off, Heffernan hit Avery MacWhinnie with a pitch and senior pinch-hitter Bryce Hodgkins reached on an error by Hobbs at first.

But that only delayed the inevitable, as Heffernan struck out senior pinch-hitter Reid Garber before getting Stone to ground back to the mound to bring the curtain down on the Red Riots’ 5-0 victory.

“We were prepared for Westbrook,” Owens said. “I knew they were playing well. I’m very pleased to beat them.”

Heffernan went the distance, giving up no runs on just two hits. He hit two, didn’t walk a batter and struck out nine. Heffernan is now 4-0 with three shutouts. In 29 innings so far this spring, he’s given up just nine hits and three walks and has surrendered only two runs, both unearned.

“(Andrew’s) relentless,” Owens said. “He just comes after the hitter. He throws harder than people give him credit for. He mixes his pitches and doesn’t throw anything straight. He knows how to manipulate the hitter. He misses barrels and doesn’t hurt himself. He throws five pitches, all for strikes, and works quickly. He makes a team get three or four hits in an inning and that’s tough for a high school team to do.”

Offensively, eight different South Portland batters produced hits, with Domingos and Poole leading the way with two apiece.

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“We had good all-around production today,” Owens said. “It’s a deep lineup.”

Thurber scored two runs, while Domingos, Hobbs and O’Connell all touched home once.

Domingos had two RBI, while O’Connell and Poole each finished with one.

The Red Riots left six runners on.

Westbrook also left six runners left on base.

Eugley took the loss, giving up five runs (two earned) on 10 hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out four.

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Seavey had a perfect inning of relief with one strikeout.

Finishing kick

Westbrook (fifth in the Class A South Heal Points standings at press time) hopes to begin a new win streak Saturday, when Noble pays a visit.

South Portland meanwhile, is back in action Thursday at Sanford. The Red Riots (who are currently second in Class A South) then host Marshwood Saturday before welcoming Falmouth for a pivotal showdown next Tuesday.

“We have two more tough opponents this week,” Owens said. “We saw Sanford in the playoffs last year. We haven’t seen Marshwood in a few years because of COVID, so that’ll be fun, then Falmouth will be tough. Those games will test our depth. We want to finish strong and want to play our best at the end. We’ve shown some glimpses of it.”

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

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