Portsmouth downs Pilgrim, lives to play again (gallery)

Portsmouth's Derek Lima dives back to the bag to avoid a pickoff at first base. Photo by Jim McGaw. Portsmouth's Derek Lima dives back to the bag to avoid a pickoff at first base. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Portsmouth's Derek Lima dives back to the bag to avoid a pickoff at first base. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Portsmouth’s Derek Lima dives back to the bag to avoid a pickoff at first base. Photo by Jim McGaw.

PORTSMOUTH — You’ve never seen a coach so disappointed after his team won a playoff game by a seven-run margin.

“I’m not happy,” said Portsmouth High School varsity baseball coach Ron Westmoreland following his team’s 11-4 win over Pilgrim High School at home Friday afternoon.

The victory kept the Patriots alive in the Division 1 playoffs and they’ll play either Johnston or La Salle at home Monday afternoon. PHS lost to Johnston Wednesday, 5-2, in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament.

As it’s done all season, Portsmouth manufactured runs through it’s small-ball style of play.

However, said Mr. Westmoreland, “We didn’t do enough of it. I’ll take the win because there’s no tomorrow, but I don’t think we played very well at all.”

Ben McGuire rounds second base on his way to third for a leadoff triple in the fifth inning. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Ben McGuire rounds second base on his way to third for a leadoff triple in the fifth inning. Photo by Jim McGaw.

He said the team failed to execute “on a half dozen sacrifices, stealing when we shouldn’t have. We’re not going to last that long if we play that kind of baseball against Johnston or La Salle.

“We made a lot of mistakes today, mistakes that aren’t characteristic of us and we’ve got to correct them.”

Although Pilgrim got off to a quick start against Patriots starter Alexander “Z.Z.” Kirby — a home run to left put the visiting team up 1-0 in the top of the first — Portsmouth plated two runs in the bottom frame of the inning after Evan Moore scored on an errant throw to first and Sam Banks’ sacrifice fly scored Neil Powell from third.

Pilgrim came back to tie the game in the next inning, but the Patriots went ahead in a bunt-heavy third inning, knocking Pilgrim’s starter — who was favoring his left leg earlier in the inning — out of the game.

Left fielder Sam Banks catches a deep fly with the bases loaded in the fifth. His subsequent strong throw kept the runner at third base from tagging up. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Left fielder Sam Banks catches a deep fly ball with the bases loaded in the fifth. His subsequent strong throw kept the runner at third base from tagging up. Photo by Jim McGaw.

Kirby himself left the game in the top of the fourth to be replaced by Nick Cipriani, who pitched admirably and got out of several jams.

“Two games in a row,” said Mr. Westmoreland, noting that Cipriani also pitched well against Johnston on Wednesday. “He did great. He came in and through strikes. I’m very proud of him.”

One of those jams came in the top of the fifth, when Cipriani gave up three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases. The next Pilgrim batter hit a deep fly ball to left field that was caught by Sam Banks, but the runner on third did not tag up.

“I was surprised they didn’t send him because he had just beat out an infield hit. He was very quick, obviously. Sam’s got a great arm, but that was a pretty deep ball,” said Mr. Westmoreland.

Cipriani then struck out the next batter to end the threat, leaving Portsmouth’s 6-3 lead intact.

Ben McGuire started the bottom of the fifth off with a leadoff triple. Conor Struckman’s single to right scored McGuire, then an Evan Moore groundout advanced Struckman to second. Derek Lima singled to score Struckman, making it 8-3 after five innings.

Portsmouth gave up one more run in the top of the sixth, but that was it for Pilgrim, which simply left too many runners on base.

“We couldn’t put them away,” said Mr. Westmoreland. “They battled. It would have been easy for them to roll over when they were down five or six earlier, or whatever it was. It certainly was not an easy game for us, and I think we caused that because we could have scored a lot more runs early on to put them away and we didn’t.

“I’m happy to escape with the win.”

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