BOX SCORE

Portland 9 Noble 8 (8)

N- 400 101 20- 8 11 1
P- 020 231 01- 9 15 2
* Two outs when winning run scored.

Top 1st
Mathews doubled to center, O’Connor and Place scored. Masse flew out to right, McCabe scored. Locke flew out to right, Mathews scored.

Bottom 2nd
Legere doubled to left-center, Crosby scored. Brewer singled to right, Legere scored.

Top 4th
D. Dumont singled to center, Morton scored.

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Bottom 4th
Brewer singled to center, Legere scored. Gignac singled to right, Brewer scored.

Bottom 5th
Legere doubled to left, C. Winship and Bisco scored. Brewer grounded out, Bibeau scored.

Top 6th
Ramsey flew out to right, Locke scored.

Bottom 6th
Bisco singled to center, Page scored.

Top 7th
Masse grounded out, Place scored. Locke flew out to center, McCabe scored.

Bottom 8th
Bisco singled to left, Moffo scored.

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Multiple hits:
N- Morton 3, Place
P- Legere 3, Bibeau, Bisco, Brewer, Crosby, Gignac, Page

Runs:
N- McCabe, Place 2, Locke, Mathews, Morton, O’Connor
P- Legere 2, Bibeau, Bisco, Brewer, Crosby, Moffo, Page, C. Winship

RBI:
N- Locke, Masse, Mathews 2, D. Dumont, Ramsey
P- Brewer, Legere 3, Bisco 2, Gignac

Doubles:
N- Morton 2, Mathews
P-Legere 3

Triple:
P- Crosby

Left on base:
N- 7
P- 7

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Masse, O’Connor (5) and McCabe; C. Winship, DiMillo (6), Bibeau (7), L. Winship (8) and Becker.

N:
Masse 4.1 IP 9 H 7 R 6 ER 1 BB 2 K
O’Connor (L) 3.1 IP 6 H 2 R 2 ER 0 BB 1 K

P:
C. Winship 5+ IP 6 H 6 R 2 ER 0 B 0 K 1 HBP
Winship pitched to one batter in the 6th
DiMillo 1 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K
Bibeau 1.2 IP 3 H 2 R 2 ER 2 BB 1 K
L. Winship (W) 0.1 IP 1 H 0 R 0 BB 1 K

Time: 2:27

PORTLAND—Portland’s baseball team will never go down without a fight.

That’s because the Bulldogs pride themselves as fighters.

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And as winners.

And Monday afternoon at Hadlock Field, seventh-ranked Portland needed every ounce of scrappiness on its roster to survive a zany, memorable Class A South preliminary round contest against visiting No. 10 seed Noble.

A contest that needed an extra inning to determine a winner, as the Bulldogs and Knights punched and counter-punched in a back-and-forth thriller.

Noble took advantage of consecutive Portland errors to start the game to score four times to grab an early lead.

The Bulldogs got two runs back in the bottom of the second, as senior designated hitter Andrew Legere hit an RBI double and junior rightfielder Andrew Brewer added an RBI single.

The Knights then went up 5-2 in the top of the fourth, on an RBI single from freshman second baseman Dominic Dumont, but in the bottom half, a Brewer RBI single and a clutch two-out RBI base hit from senior third baseman James Gignac pulled Portland within a run.

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Then, in the bottom of the fifth, Legere came up huge once more, hitting a bases loaded double to put the Bulldogs ahead, and Brewer added an RBI ground out and just like that, Portland had the lead, 7-5.

Noble refused to go quietly, getting a run back on a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth, but senior Aidan DiMillo came on to get out of the jam.

After senior second baseman Anthony Bisco hit a two-out RBI single in the bottom half, the Bulldogs were on the brink of victory, as they brought on senior closer Henry Bibeau, but the Knights weren’t ready to go home and pushed two runs across to send the game to an eighth inning.

There, after senior Liam Winship came on to get out of a jam in the top half, Portland won it in the bottom of the inning, as Bisco delivered the biggest hit of his life, an RBI single, to score senior Dominic Moffo, and the Bulldogs prevailed, 9-8.

Portland improved to 10-6-1, ended valiant Noble’s season at 7-10 and in the process, advanced to a showdown at No. 2 Falmouth (15-2) in the Class A South quarterfinals Thursday at a time to be announced.

“If there’s such a thing as a team win, that was a team win,” said longtime Bulldogs coach Mike Rutherford. “That wasn’t one or two guys. That was all 14 or 15 guys who played. No matter what happens Thursday, our last game at Hadlock was a win, which is awesome.”

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Roller-coaster ride

It took Portland awhile to hit its stride this season, as the Bulldogs were just 2-4-1 at one juncture, but they finished with wins in seven of their final nine games to earn a home playoff game (see sidebar for links to previous stories).

Noble won its first four outings, including a 6-3 win at Portland April 30, but went just 3-9 thereafter.

In the teams’ regular season contest, the Bulldogs were doomed by seven errors and three Knights’ runs in the top of the seventh proved to be the difference.

Noble and Portland had met just once before in the playoffs, a 3-2 Bulldogs’ victory in the 2002 Western A semifinals.

Monday, on a beautiful sun-splashed day for baseball (68 degrees at first pitch), in front of a good crowd, Portland punched its ticket to the quarterfinals.

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But not without overcoming an abundance of obstacles.

On the first pitch of the game from Bulldogs senior Colby Winship, Knights junior centerfielder Aidan O’Connor grounded the ball wide of first, where senior first baseman Grant Crosby got to it, but couldn’t handle the tough hop for an error. Junior shortstop Devin Place then reached on an error by Gignac and after Winship hit junior catcher Connor McCabe with a pitch, the bases were loaded with nobody out.

That set the stage for junior third baseman Maison Mathews, who crushed the first pitch he saw to deep left-center, easily scoring O’Connor and Place and moving McCabe to third. Senior pitcher Maksim Masse then hit a fly ball to right that was deep enough to score McCabe and move Mathews to third. Freshman designated hitter Nathan Locke did the same thing, flying out to right. and Mathews came home with the fourth run. Senior first baseman Christopher Morton then singled to left before Winship got sophomore leftfielder Devon Ramsey to line softly to third to finally end the inning.

“The first ball had some major spin on it and ate (Crosby) up, but the play at third should have been made,” Rutherford said. “After the first inning, nobody got down. Nobody was moping. We knew the way we can hit. I think we’re the best hitting team in the league, we’ve been swinging it really well.”

Portland couldn’t respond in the bottom half, as Masse got Winship to ground to second on a 3-2 pitch, got Bisco to also ground out to second, then induced a fly ball to center off the bat of Bibeau, who started the game at shortstop, for the third out.

Winship settled in in the top of the second, getting Dumont to pop to first on the first pitch before getting O’Connor to pop foul to the catcher and Place to line out to center.

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In the bottom half, the Bulldogs got their bats going and cut the deficit in half.

Crosby got things started by going the other way and lining a triple past senior rightfielder Jared Dumont. Legere then crushed a double to deep left-center to easily score Crosby with Portland’s first run. Brewer then grounded through the hole between first and second for a single and Legere came home and just like that, the score was 4-2.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t add any more, as after Brewer took second on a ground out by senior catcher Ryan Becker back to the mound, Masse picked him off at second and Gignac ended the inning by grounding out to short.

In the top of the third, McCabe got ahead in the count, 3-1, then grounded out to short and Mathews bounced out to third, but Masse singled to right, then stole second when he appeared to be picked off. Locke then crushed the ball to left, but DiMillo, who began the game as the leftfielder, ran it down to retire the side.

Portland threatened in the bottom half, as senior centerfielder Carter Page beat out a routine ground ball to short for an infield single, but Winship hit a sharp grounder up the middle which Masse stabbed, then turned into a double play. That was huge, as Bisco followed with a single off the glove of Dominic Dumont at second before Bibeau grounded into a force out to end it.

Noble then added a run in the top of the fourth, as Morton fell behind 0-2, worked the count full, then doubled down the leftfield line and after Ramsey sacrificed him to third, Dominic Dumont’s single to center made it 5-2. O’Connor bunted into a pitcher-to-first out, then Place grounded out to third.

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Undaunted, the Bulldogs got two runs back in the bottom half.

After Crosby struck out swinging leading off, Legere doubled to deep left, his second double, but not his last. Brewer then singled up the middle and Legere came home on the play. Brewer stole second and moved to third when Becker grounded out to short and Gignac delivered a timely two-out RBI single over the head of the leaping Dominic Dumont at second to score Brewer and make it a 5-4 game. Page grounded out to short, but Portland had the momentum.

In the top of the fifth, Winship got McCabe to fly to left on a 3-1 pitch, got Mathews to fly deep to center and Masse to loft the first pitch to right, where Brewer made the catch to retire the side.

The Bulldogs then took the lead in the bottom half.

Winship led off with a grounder up the middle which Place got to, but bobbled for an error. Bisco then attempted to bunt, but instead took four straight balls. Bibeau then grounded the ball to the hole where Place slid to prevent the run, but the bases were loaded with no one out. Masse was able to strike out Crosby on a 3-2 pitch, but that was it for his time on the mound, as O’Connor came on in relief.

That set the stage for Legere, who wasted no time coming up huge, crushing the first pitch he saw to deep left. Ramsey ran after the ball and stuck his glove up, but it bounced off for a double and Winship and Bisco came home to give Portland the lead, as Bibeau stopped at third. Brewer then grounded out to short, with Bibeau coming home, and while Becker struck out, the Bulldogs were up, 7-5.

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But not for long, as Noble battled back in the top of the sixth.

Locke got the trouble started with a sharp single to left and that was it for Winship, who was replaced by DiMillo, with sophomore Reegan Buck coming on to play center and Page moving to left. Morton then greeted DiMillo with a sharp double to left, putting the tying runs in scoring position. DiMillo got Ramsey to fly out to right, but in a close play, Locke slid in safely at home to cut the deficit to one. DiMillo then got a clutch strikeout of Dominic Dumont on a foul tip, before inducing O’Connor to fly to right to keep the score 7-6.

Portland got the run right back in the bottom half.

Gignac grounded out to short leading off, but Page singled to left, then stole second before moving to third when Winship grounded out to short. That left it up to Bisco, who hinted at his heroics to come with a clutch, sharp single up the middle to score Gignac to push the lead back to two. Bibeau flew out to center, but he came on to take the mound for the top of the seventh, looking to close it out.

But it wasn’t to be.

Place greeted Bibeau with a first-pitch single to right, then McCabe grounded a seeing eye single between first and second to put the tying runs on. Mathews then worked a walk to load the bases. That brought up Masse, who grounded into a second-to-short force out, with Place coming home to cut the deficit to one. With runners at the corners, Locke then delivered a deep fly out to center and the sacrifice fly brought home McCabe to tie the score. Morton lined out to short for the third out, but the game was extended.

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The Bulldogs had a chance to end the game in the bottom half when Crosby led off with a single into left, but Legere’s line drive resulted in a force out at second, Brewer popped out to left, where Ramsey made a nice running catch, and senior pinch-hitter Mason Rang popped out to short to send the game to the eighth.

Noble would threaten in the top half, but couldn’t push the go-ahead run across.

Ramsey led off with a single just over the head of second baseman Ethan Theriault, but couldn’t initially advance, as Dominic Dumont struck out trying to bunt a 3-2 pitch. Ramsey then appeared to steal second, but was called out due to batter’s interference. O’Connor then worked the count full, appeared to have drawn a walk, was called back to the plate, then officially took ball four to extend the inning. Freshman Adam Dumont came on to run and Bibeau was replaced by Liam Winship.

Place then singled to center, but Winship escaped the frame by getting McCabe to pop out to first and Portland came to bat and ended the contest in the bottom of the eighth.

On the first pitch, Gignac got things started by lining a single to left.

“Gignac had some big hits and he led off that (last) inning,” Rutherford said. “That led to the winning run.”

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Moffo came on to run and moved to second on a nice sacrifice bunt from Page. Liam Winship then batted and popped up the first pitch back to the mound, putting the game on Bisco’s shoulders.

And Bisco wouldn’t be denied, as he went down and got to a low off-speed pitch and cue-balled it to the right of Place at short. Place attempted to get a glove on the ball, but it hit the ground, accelerated and got through into left.

“I knew it was a curveball,” said Bisco. “I didn’t think it would get that low, but I just poked it right off the ground. I just put my head down and ran. Thank God that got through.”

“Bisco had a great day,” Rutherford said. “He came through with that little hit, good for him. He’s a great kid and he’s battled hard.”

Moffo raced home and scored easily and at 7:03 p.m., after nearly two-and-a-half hours of palpitating, back-and-forth action, the Bulldogs were able to celebrate their 9-8 victory and advanced in the tournament.

Portland’s Dominic Moffo jumps for joy as he crosses home plate with the winning run. Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald

“I looked over and saw Dom sliding in safe and I saw everyone rushing at me and I knew I was about to get bombarded,” said Bisco. “To be honest, I thought of getting a walk-off hit before the game.

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“It’s a team win. We were down 4-0 but no one was down about it because we’ve been in that situation before. We just came back and won the game. We never quit. We’re Portland kids. We knew it would be a close game. We won. That’s all the matters.”

“This is what’s great about baseball,” Rutherford said. “Dominic Moffo hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time. He’s only played in one game. Liam Winship hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time, but guess what happens? Liam gets the win. Dominic scores the winning run. I feel happy for them. There’s two seniors who are great teammates. The seniors came through.”

Legere paced the offense with three doubles, two runs scored and three RBI.

“Andrew Legere is a first-team designated hitter and he showed why he’s the best designated hitter in the league,” Rutherford said. “Even the out he made, it was a missile. He’s been like that all year.”

Bibeau, Bisco, Brewer, Crosby, Gignac and Page all added two hits.

Bibeau, Bisco, Brewer, Crosby, Moffo, Page and Colby Winship also scored runs.

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Brewer also had three RBI, while Bisco added two and Gignac had one.

Portland left seven runners on.

Colby Winship shook off his shaky start and wound up with a no decision after giving up six hits and six runs (just two earned) in his five-plus innings of work. Winship didn’t walk or strike out a batter. He hit one.

DiMillo was sharp in his inning of relief, giving up one hit but no runs. He didn’t walk a batter and fanned one.

Bibeau surrendered two earned runs on three hits in his 1.2 innings. He walked two and struck out one.

Liam Winship wound up getting the win in relief, after giving up one hit and striking out one in his third-of-an-inning of work.

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“Colby kept us in the game and got us to DiMillo and DiMillo kept us in the game,” Rutherford said. “Henry didn’t have it for the first time and that’s why I went to Liam.”

For Noble, Morton had three hits, while Placed added two.

McCabe and Place both scored twice, while Locke, Mathews, Morton and O’Connor all touched home once.

Locke, Masse and Mathews all had two RBI, while Dominic Dumont and Ramsey each had one.

The Knights stranded seven base runners.

Masse got a no-decision, giving up seven runs (six earned) on nine hits in 4.1 innings. He walked one and struck out two.

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O’Connor took the loss, giving up two earned runs on six hits in 3.1 innings of relief. He didn’t walk a batter and fanned one.

On to Falmouth

Portland could do nothing with Falmouth junior ace Eli Cowperthwaite in the teams’ regular season meeting, losing at home, 6-0, April 28. The Bulldogs will likely see him again in the quarterfinals and will throw junior Liam Fay-LeBlanc.

The teams have met three previous times in the playoffs with the Navigators holding a 2-1 edge. The most recent encounter was a memorable nine-inning showdown in the 2017 Class A South semifinals, won by Falmouth, 4-3.

Portland knows it’ll be the underdog, but the Bulldogs like it that way and baseball fans will be treated to yet another chapter of the Rutherford-Mike D’Andrea battle of coaching legends.

“It was really windy and we made some big errors the first time we played them,” Bisco said. “There’s no one we’re afraid of. We’ve got nothing to lose.”

“We’re fired up to play Falmouth,” Rutherford said. “The first time we played them, we gave up five unearned runs. Fay-LeBlanc has been throwing great. He’s pitched in some tough games. He wants the ball and he’s improved. The way we’re swinging the bats, I like our chances. Anything can happen.”

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

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