By Mike Zhe email@example.com June 5, 2019
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Nervous? Not this group.Down to its last seven outs in a regional quarterfinal game it desperately wanted to win on Wednesday, the Marshwood High School baseball team trumped Portland’s small-ball with one big inning. Sophomore DJ Cagnina delivered the two-out hit that spawned a three-run rally in the bottom of the fifth, and the fourth-seeded Hawks are headed to the Class A South semifinals after beating No. 12 Portland, 4-1.
“That’s how our team’s different,” said junior catcher Connor Caverly. “We’ve got the biggest collection of goons out there. A bunch of goons who can play baseball.
“We didn’t freak out. We didn’t stress out. We just stayed calm, cool and got after it.”
The Hawks (12-5) will play either at No. 1 South Portland or at home against No. 9 Biddeford in Saturday’s semis. Those two teams play their quarterfinal Thursday.
Coach Eric Fernandes opted to go with his ace, Marshall Smaracko, who finished with a complete-game eight-hitter, dancing around potential trouble from the Bulldogs (8-10) all evening.
“My curveball wasn’t there, like usual,” he said. “I tried to keep the ball in the zone and let the defense make the plays. They always seem to make them.”
The Bulldogs scored first, with leadoff hitter Donnie Tocci pulling a grounder inside the first-base line for an RBI double in the top of the third.
On the mound, Sonny Villani of Portland was racking up four no-hit innings, facing the minimum number of batters after third baseman Danny Tocci started a second-inning double play to nab Caverly, who’d been hit by a pitch.
“We were impatient swinging at tough off-speed,” said Fernandes. “Was I worried? I guess I’m always worried when I’m behind, but I didn’t have that (bad) feeling. There wasn’t panic.”
The bottom of the fifth soothed everything.
After Villani retired the first two batters, Gabe Place drew a walk and Adam Doyon hit a liner toward the shortstop that bounced funny and reached the outfield to put two runners on, the first semblance of a rally the Hawks had enjoyed all day.
The next batter, the left-handed swinging Cagnina, lined a ball through the right side of the infield that scored pinch-runner Cole McShane. The throw got past the catcher and Doyon was awarded a second run after umpires determined a collision on the basepath was interference.
“I was trying to hit the ball hard, hit it on the ground, find some green,” said Cagnina. “Things happened.”
His biggest hit of the season?
“I’d say so. Yeah,” he said.
“The last game we played here, against Noble, he had three or four really good at-bats,” said Fernandes. “He’s a line-drive hitter; when he doesn’t try to do too much he sees the ball. … But he does have ice in his veins, that’s for sure.”
The next batter, Jay Lyman, beat out a bunt to plate another run and it was 3-1. The Hawks added another run in the sixth when speedy Trevor Chase bunted for a single, took third on an errant pickoff and scored on Quinn McDaniel’s sacrifice fly.
Portland lamented its missed early chances. It ended up leaving eight runners on base. Donnie Tocci and Max Brown each had two hits.
“We had plenty of opportunities to make it 2-0, 3-0, 4-0,” said Portland coach Mike Rutherford. “That would make it a completely different game.”
The Hawks’ defense kept things within range, including the UMaine-committed Caverly, who knocked down several pitches in the dirt, kept runners from advancing or scoring, and threw out a would-be base stealer at third in the top of the sixth.
“Their catcher was knocking down balls,” said Rutherford. “He saved three runs today.”
Smaracko wasn’t at his sharpest, admittedly. But he finished strong, retiring the last four batters he faced to set the Hawks on course for the semis.
“All season they’re waving the bat at it,” said Caverly. “He worked his butt off this offseason and it’s showing.”