STANDISH —Behind the pitching of senior Cody Bowker and an offense that kept putting on the pressure, the Thornton Academy baseball team is headed to uncharted territory.

Thornton (19-1), the top seed in Class A South, beat defending state champion and No. 3 South Portland 8-1 Tuesday at St. Joseph’s College to earn its first regional baseball title. On Saturday, the Trojans will meet North champion Bangor in the state title game at Morton Field in Augusta.

A year ago, sixth-seeded South Portland upset No. 1 Thornton 3-0 in the regional final, holding the Trojans to two hits. Thornton was determined to not have a repeat. Coach Jason Lariviere had sent text message pictures to his players of the Red Riots celebrating.

“They responded,” Lariviere said.

Bowker pitched a complete-game three-hitter and put the game out of reach with a three-run double in the fifth inning.

“We worked so, so hard to put ourselves in a position to win and that’s what we did,” Bowker said.

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South Portland (16-4), known for its pitching and defense, struggled throughout the game. Junior ace Andrew Heffernan was touched for eight runs (two earned) on 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings. Five of the hits were of the infield variety but there were also several loud outs and South Portland made five infield errors.

“We knew he wasn’t going to walk us. Our goal was to be aggressive with pitches in the zone and, yeah, the ball bounced our way a few times and we hit the ball hard,” Lariviere said.

“I thought we needed to play a near-perfect game to beat them and we certainly didn’t do that today,” said South Portland Coach Mike Owens.

Thornton scored once in the first on an infield error and a long double by Brady Graffam (2 for 4, two doubles).

South Portland tied the game in the top of the third – the first run allowed by Thornton in the playoffs.

Finn O’Connell drew a leadoff walk on four pitches, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a single by No. 9 hitter Nate Rende. South Portland loaded the bases but couldn’t get the go-ahead run. Bowker induced two grounders to third baseman John Rohner, who made solid throws for outs at home and then first.

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Rohner (3 for 4) produced in the bottom of the third with a sharp two-out, two-run single to center to give the lead back to Bowker.

“I’m not really trying to do too much, nothing too flashy, just get a base hit, get it out of the infield,” Rohner said.

Thornton added an unearned run in the fourth on Christian Schaffer’s RBI single, one of his two hits in the game.

In the fifth, two more South Portland errors and two hit batters by Heffernan led to one run and loaded the bases for Bowker, the SMAA Player of the Year and batting champ, who cleared the bases with a double to right-center.

“We knew we were going to attack, swing, swing, swing, and that’s what we did,” Bowker said.


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