BERLIN >> Portland junior pitcher Cole Ogorzalek was speechless. Senior centerfielder Hayden Manning, who made a catch for the ages, didn’t think something like this could happen. And Highlanders coach Rick Borg talked about having lucky charms.
If you haven’t guessed by now ….the Portland Highlanders are headed to the Class S state championship game.
Ogorzalek fired a complete game one-hitter and Mike Bordonaro and Leo Thomas had key RBI’s in a three-run sixth inning as No. 17 Portland defeated No. 21 Trinity Catholic, 4-0, in the state semifinals Tuesday afternoon at Sage Park in Berlin.
The Highlanders (15-10) will meet Thomaston (24-3) in the finals at Palmer Field this weekend. Thomaston defeated No. 2 Cromwell, 5-4, in the other semifinal.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Borg. “We went 11-9 in the regular season and now we’re going to the state finals. And we’ve looked like a great team in our playoff run. We haven’t done anything wrong. You saw defense today that you wouldn’t expect to see in a high school game. We have a lucky charm in our pocket right now. And our pitching has been pretty damn good too.”
Ogorzalek, who was brilliant in Portland’s second round upset over top-seeded East Hampton, was even better against Trinity Catholic (13-11). The crafty righthander struck out nine and walked one. The Crusaders only hit came in the first inning on a single to center by Dom Colarossi.
“Everything starts on the mound in high school baseball and I thought their pitcher was outstanding,” said Trinity Catholic coach Tracy Nichols.
Portland took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second against Crusaders starter Anthony Hoegemann. Portland senior Josh Scovill bounced a one-out single into left field, reached second on a passed ball, stole third and scored on a wild pitch.
Ogorzalek then retired 12 batters in a row after Cam Greig reached on an infield error to lead off the second inning.
“I just tried to mix up my pitches, same thing as East Hampton, and tried to locate,” Ogorzalek explained. “My centerfielder made probably the best catch I’ve ever seen. My defense picked me up the whole game. It was a great team win.”
After Highlanders rightfielder Jason Staub robbed Matt Fraioli of a hit with a sensational diving catch in the third inning, Manning made a memorable catch on a ball laced deep into left center by Tom Castigan in the fourth.
“I read it well off the bat and I saw it going to left so I just gave it my all and laid out,” said Manning. “I had to make that catch. We’re all feeding off each other’s energy and the seniors are really picking it up at the end.”
Castigan came up again in the top of the sixth with two outs and the tying run at second base. But Ogorzalek got him looking at a 3-2 fastball for the final out.
“I was almost going to throw a 3-2 curve but I thought he’d be expecting that because I did that a few times before so I went with the fastball on the outside corner,” said Ogorzalek.
Portland then took advantage of three Trinity Catholic errors in the bottom of the sixth to take a 4-0 lead. Manning, Staub and Scovill all reached on infield errors and all three scored. Manning came home on a throwing error, Bordonaro added a deep sacrifice fly and Thomas singled up the middle to score Scovill.
Ogorzalek then set the Crusaders down in order in the seventh.
“There are good players on this team and they’re putting it together at the right time,” added Borg.
Hoegemann allowed just five hits and walked five. Trinity Catholic, from the FCIAC, was coming off an 8-6 win over Seymour in the quarterfinals.
“Portland deserved to win the game today,” said Nichols. “And Portland deserves to win the state championship as far as I’m concerned. I think they’re kind of a destined team right now.”