BOX SCORE

Portland 2 Cheverus 1

C- 000 000 1- 1 2 2
P- 000 002 x- 2 8 0

Bottom 6th
Legere tripled to center, Bibeau and Crosby scored.

Top 7th
Guibord singled to left, Kennedy-Jensen scored.

Multiple hits:
P- Crosby, Legere

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Runs:
C- Kennedy-Jensen
P- Bibeau, Crosby

RBI:
C- Guibord
P- Legere 2

Double:
P- Bisco

Triple:
P- Legere

Left on base:
C- 2
P- 6

K. Connolly, Connor (6) and Smith; C. Winship, Bibeau and Gignac, Becker (7).

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C:
K. Connolly (L) 5+ IP 8 H 2 R 2 ER 0 BB 2 K
* Connolly faced three batters in the sixth
Connor 1 IP 0 H 0 R 0 BB 3 K

P:
C. Winship (W) 6.2 IP 1 H 1 R 1 ER 0 BB 4 K 1 HBP
Bibeau (Save) 0.1 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 0 K

Time: 1:22

PORTLAND—Colby Winship wasn’t perfect Tuesday afternoon at Hadlock Field.

But he was pretty darned close.

And as a result, he and his Portland Bulldogs closed the regular season in perfect style, avenging last year’s playoff loss with a memorable victory over the visiting Cheverus Stags.

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Winship, Portland’s senior left-handed ace, threw the best game of his career, as he retired all 18 Stags he faced in the first six innings.

The Bulldogs weren’t able to do anything against Cheverus senior starter Kevin Connolly either, but finally, in the bottom of the sixth, Portland senior designated hitter Andrew Legere produced the game’s biggest hit, a two-run triple, to put his team on top.

Winship then came out for the top of the seventh looking for baseball immortality and he even got the first out, but junior rightfielder Noah Kennedy-Jensen ended the perfect game and no-hit bid with an infield single.

That sparked the Stags, who made things most interesting when senior first baseman Orion Guibord hit an RBI single with two outs against senior reliever Henry Bibeau, but Bibeau closed it out by inducing a fly ball and the Bulldogs had a hard-fought 2-1 victory over their rival.

Winship finished with a one-hitter and Portland finished the regular season 9-6-1, ended Cheverus’ three-game win streak and in the process, dropped the Stags to 7-8.

“I’ve been here forever and we’ve never had a perfect game,” said longtime Bulldogs coach Mike Rutherford. “We’ve had some no-hitters, but never a perfect game. To retire 19 batters in a row against a pretty good Cheverus team is amazing.”

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Wrapping it up

A year ago, Cheverus and Portland produced an epic quarterfinal round playoff game which the Stags needed 10 innings to prevail, 1-0.

Both teams hope to be at their best when the playoffs begin and have played well of late.

Portland started fast, rallying to beat visiting Biddeford, 4-3, in the opener, then downing host Marshwood (7-4) before settling for a weather-induced 5-5 (six-inning) tie at Westbrook. After falling at home to Falmouth, 6-0, the Bulldogs lost at home to Noble (6-3), then fell at reigning Class A state champion South Portland (4-0) and at Sanford (9-4) before bouncing back with a 4-3 home win over Scarborough in a playoff rematch, a 15-1 (five-inning) home victory over Windham, a 21-3 (five-inning) home win over Massabesic, a 4-2 victory at Bonny Eagle and a 5-1 win over Deering before losing a tough one late at Gorham (9-8) and Monday, falling at home to top-ranked Thornton Academy, 8-3.

“It’s a game of runs,” Rutherford said. “We were 2-0-1, then we lost four in a row and didn’t play really well, then we won six in a row. Gorham was a really tough game because I thought we out-played them, but we ran out of pitching, and Thornton Academy is Thornton Academy. We were toe-to-toe with them, which was encouraging.”

Cheverus, meanwhile, started with three straight setbacks, 11-5 to visiting Massabesic, 11-1 (in five-innings) at Gorham and 3-2 at South Portland. The Stags then downed visiting Bonny Eagle (9-1) and Noble (10-0, in six-innings), but would drop four of their next six, losing at Kennebunk (5-1), beating host Marshwood (5-4), falling at home to Falmouth (6-1), edging visiting Sanford in a wild one (13-12), then losing at Thornton Academy (2-0) and at home to Scarborough (10-0, in six-innings). Cheverus then flipped the switch and defeated visiting Windham (12-9), host Biddeford (7-6) and visiting Deering (12-0, in five-innings).

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In addition to last year’s playoff epic, the Stags swept the visiting Bulldogs in a doubleheader during the regular season, 1-0 and 6-5 in 11-innings.

Tuesday, on a day that felt like anything but summer (54 degrees and cloudy at first pitch), after honoring its seniors, Portland went out and beat Cheverus for the first time since May 17, 2019.

Thanks to an absolute masterpiece.

Winship set the Stags down in order in the top of the first, catching senior centerfielder Richie Tremble looking at strike three, getting Kennedy-Jensen to ground out to second and sophomore shortstop Brian Connolly to bounce out to third, with senior Grant Crosby making a nice scoop at first to retire the side.

Cheverus senior starter Kevin Connolly throws a strike to his opposite number, Colby Winship. Winship would have the last laugh, throwing a one-hitter to lead the Bulldogs to a 2-1 victory. Hoffer photos.

Kevin Connolly then made quick work of the Bulldogs in the bottom half, getting Winship to line to left on the first pitch, senior second baseman Anthony Bisco to fly to left and fanning Bibeau, who began the game at shortstop.

In the top of the second, Winship struck out Kevin Connolly swinging, then got Guibord to fly out deep to center before senior designated hitter Braeden Watson chased strike three for the third out.

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In the bottom half, Portland threatened to take the lead, as Crosby led off with an infield single and he took second when a ground ball off the bat Legere resulted in an error, but Kevin Connolly got junior rightfielder Andrew Brewer to pop up foul and Connolly ran the ball down for the first out. After senior third baseman Mason Rang beat out an infield hit to second base to load the bases, senior catcher James Gignac popped out to third (junior Jacob Lucier actually dropped the ball, but Gignac was out due to the infield fly rule) and senior centerfielder Carter Page lined out to center to keep the game scoreless.

Lucier led off the top of the third with a ground ball to Rang’s left and the third baseman made a nice play to record the out. Junior leftfielder Peyton Mitchell then grounded out to third and Winship made it nine-up, nine down by retiring sophomore second baseman Chris Murphy on strikes.

In the bottom half, Winship grounded to second leading off, then Bisco crushed a drive to deep right. Bisco made the turn around second and raced to third, but Kennedy-Jensen got the ball to Murphy, who fired a strike to Lucier at third, who applied the tag for a huge second out.

Portland senior Anthony Bisco is tagged out by Cheverus’ Jacob Lucier as he attempts to stretch a double to a triple.

Bibeau then grounded out to third to keep the score 0-0 heading to the fourth.

There, Tremble flew out to deep left, Kennedy-Jensen bounced out to third, with Crosby again making a nice scoop, and Brian Connolly popped to first on the first pitch.

The sun made an appearance in the bottom of the fourth and Portland had another chance to break the ice, but couldn’t do so.

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After Crosby flew out to right, Legere singled down the leftfield line and took second when Kevin Connolly’s pickoff throw was wild, but Brewer’s sharp line drive was right at Tremble in center and Rang struck out swinging.

Winship then got some help from Bibeau to retire the Stags in the top of the fifth.

Portland senior Colby Winship delivers to Cheverus senior Orion Guibord.

After Kevin Connolly grounded out to first on the first pitch, Guibord grounded to short where Bibeau slipped, then recovered and made a strong throw just in time for the out. Watson then hit a sharp grounder to Bibeau’s right, where he snagged it before again firing to first to keep Cheverus without a baserunner.

In the bottom half, Gignac led off with a ground ball up the middle, but Brian Connolly was shaded that way and made the play. After Page grounded back to the mound, Winship lined a first pitch single to left, but Bisco grounded into a second-to-short force out to retire the side.

The Stags then bid for their first hit in the top of the sixth, but Lucier flew out to deep right-center, where Brewer made a nice running catch, Mitchell lined a ball right to Page in center and junior pinch-hitter Daxon Austerman grounded to short and while Bibeau’s throw was high, Crosby was able to go up and catch it and land on the bag just in time to keep Winship perfect.

The Bulldogs then finally broke through in the bottom half.

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Bibeau led off by lining a first-pitch single to left. Crosby then lofted a short fly to left-center and while Kennedy-Jensen, Mitchell and Brian Connolly all converged, the ball dropped for a single, putting runners at first and second. Legere then delivered the hit Portland was waiting for, crushing a triple to center, as Bibeau and Crosby both scored easily.

Portland senior Andrew Legere comes up with the game’s big hit, a two-run triple.

Senior shortstop Henry Bibeau races around third to score the first run.

Portland senior Grant Crosby scores to make it 2-0.

“I was just looking for a ball I could hit hard in the outfield and score runs,” said Legere. “He left it over the plate and I crushed it and I was thinking three all the way. I saw it keep rolling to the fence.”

Senior leftfielder Aidan DiMillo came on to run for Legere as Kevin Connolly was replaced on the mound by junior Matt Connor, but he’d be stranded as Connor fanned Brewer, caught Rang looking at strike three, then fired strike three past Gignac to keep the score 2-0 heading to the fateful top of the seventh.

There, Winship got Tremble to chase the first pitch and pop out to Crosby at first.

“Going into the last inning, I felt a little extra going to the mound,” Winship said. “It was a relief to know my teammates had my back at the plate. Pitching with a lead is fun. Less stress. My teammates talked about (the perfect game) a little bit in the dugout and I got a little excited.”

But two outs from Winship making history, Kennedy-Jensen managed to hit a sharp grounder to the right of Rang. Rang fielded the ball, but after struggling for a split second to get the ball out of his glove, his throw to first was too late and Kennedy-Jensen had an infield single.

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“(Rang) didn’t bobble it and it got stuck in his glove, so it’s not an error,” Rutherford said.

Winship needed to quickly return to the matter at hand.

“I wouldn’t say it was disappointing,” Winship said. “I just wanted to win. I’ll do anything for the team.”

Brian Connolly then grounded the ball up the middle, where Bisco made a nice stop before throwing to Bibeau for the force out, putting Portland on the brink of victory.

But it wouldn’t come easily, as Winship hit Kevin Connolly with a pitch and just like that, the Stags had the tying runs on.

“Give Cheverus credit,” Rutherford said. “We let them hang around.”

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That would spell the end of Winship’s day, as he pulled in favor of Bibeau.

Cheverus refused to go quietly, as Guibord slapped a single to left, scoring Kennedy-Jensen to cut the deficit in half, while putting the tying run in scoring position.

Watson then came up hoping to play the hero, but Bibeau ended matters by inducing a fly ball to right and after a tidy 82 minutes, the Bulldogs were able to celebrate their dramatic 2-1 victory.

Portland senior catcher Ryan Becker congratulates classmate Henry Bibeau after the final out.

“I knew Bibeau would come in and close the door like he did,” Winship said. “I have a lot of confidence in Bibeau.”

“We played errorless defense, which for us is a work in progress,” said Rutherford. “Bibeau made a couple nice plays at shortstop and Crosby had to dig out a couple balls. We have been playing better lately.”

Winship was the main story, going 6.2 innings, allowing one run on one hit. He didn’t walk a batter, hit one and struck out four.

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“I was feeling good,” Winship said. “I had all my pitches going in the bullpen before the game. It was Senior Night, so I had a lot of energy going into it.”

“Colby had great movement on his pitches and they couldn’t hit him,” Legere said. “He has the best change-up in the league.”

“Colby’s pitched that way all year and he’s had some tough luck,” Rutherford added. “He’s been great. He’s our horse and we can ride him into the playoffs.”

Bibeau earned the save, giving up one hit in his third-of-an-inning.

Offensively, Portland got two hits apiece from Crosby and Legere. Bibeau and Crosby scored the runs and Legere had two RBI.

The Bulldogs stranded six base runners.

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For Cheverus, Kennedy-Jensen scored the lone run and Guibord had the RBI.

The Stags left two on.

Kevin Connolly took the loss despite pitching very well, allowing two runs on eight hits in five-plus innings. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two.

Connor struck out the side in his hitless, scoreless inning of relief.

“We finally got our bats going a little bit and put some pressure on them at the end,” Cheverus coach Tony DiBiase said. “We put the ball in play and had some hard-hit balls, but (Winship) did a good job keeping us off balance. We couldn’t string good at-bats together.”

Encore?

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There is a chance that Cheverus could come back to Hadlock Field next week for a preliminary round game against Portland, although that is yet to be determined.

The Stags (currently ranked 11th in the Class A South Heal Points standings) will wrap up their regular season Wednesday at Westbrook.

“We’ve had some injuries,” said DiBiase. “Our top three guys have been hurt. We’ve battled through a lot of things. I give the kids credit for battling through and having a successful season. We’ve been competitive. We’re in games. Baseball’s different than football or basketball. You have a legitimate shot at an upset in the playoffs. We’ll see what happens.”

The Bulldogs (seventh in Class A South) will await their preliminary round playoff foe (likely Noble on Monday).

They’re confident they can match up with anyone.

“We have good pitching and good hitting and that’s all we need,” said Legere.

“We have way more confidence than at the start of the season,” Winship said. “We’re playing like winners now. We’re hot and we’ll try to stay hot.”

“It’s nice to go into playoffs with a win instead of a three-game losing streak,” Rutherford added. “Going into the year, I thought we could win nine games and anything more would be a bonus, so I think we wound up where I thought. The seniors have been great. This is one of our best groups. Great leaders, they’re fun. I’m having a great time with them.

“Anything can happen in the playoffs. We feel good going in. After South Portland, Thornton Academy and maybe Falmouth, everyone else is the same. Any team can beat you. We’d love to get another shot at Noble, but we won’t take anybody for granted. We’ll be here Monday.”

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

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