PORTLAND >> Behind another terrific performance from senior pitcher Jason Staub, more great defense anchored by senior shortstop Nick Adamsons, and some timely hitting, in this case a big two-run triple by Staub, Portland cruised into the Class S semifinals with a 3-1 victory over Lyme-Old Lyme on Friday at Dyer Field.
The No. 17 Highlanders (14-10) will meet No. 21 Trinity Catholic (13-10) on Tuesday (3:30 p.m.) at Sage Park in Berlin. The other semifinal pits No. 2 Cromwell (23-3) versus No. 3 Thomaston (20-3).
It is Portland’s first appearance in the semifinals since 1988 when the Highlanders defeated Shepaug Valley, 4-1, in the Class S championship game.
“It feels great,” said Staub. “This is what we’ve been working for since our freshman year. It’s exciting to be here.”
Staub, who blanked Coventry 3-0 in the tourney opener, scattered four hits, walked three and struck out six.
“Our pitching has been excellent,” said Portland coach Rick Borg. “Old Lyme gives you a battle every at-bat so Jason had to gut it out and we have all the confidence in the world in him.”
Staub’s counterpart, Wildcats tall lefthander Will Visiglio, allowed just five hits in five innings. But three of those hits came in one inning and that proved to be the difference.
“I thought Will did a good job for us being a sophomore in that position,” said Old Lyme coach Randy St. Germain. “He did exactly what we were asking him to do. Both teams played pretty good baseball. They just strung three (hits) together and we couldn’t do it.”
With two outs in the bottom of the third, Adamsons lined a single to center. Hayden Manning followed with a base hit to left field and Staub brought both runners home with a long triple to the fence in right.
“He threw a fastball away and I just took it where it was thrown,” said Staub.
Old Lyme (11-13) closed the gap to 2-1 in the top of the sixth when Trent Garbati lined a two-out single to right, scoring Billy Buscetto, who was hit by a pitch leading off the inning.
Dave Peck went to third on Garbati’s hit and after Garbati stole second, the Wildcats had the tying and potential winning runs in scoring position.
But Dan Chapman, who blasted a double in the second inning, hit a long fly ball to right that was tracked down beautifully by junior Jon Dolan for the third out.
“I didn’t have my greatest stuff but I felt like I got through and made some pitches when we had to get some outs,” said Staub. “And my defense made the plays and picked me up when we needed it.”
Said Borg, “Our shortstop (Adamsons) played a great game today. He made every play defensively and was on base every time he was up. He’s our No. 2 hitter so he makes our offense go. We struggled offensively at times during the year but we’ve hit a little better now that the tournament’s come around.”
Portland added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Staub (2-for-3) doubled and pinch-runner Austin White went to third on Roland Thivierge’s sacrifice bunt. Mike Bordonaro drew a walk and White scored when the Wildcats failed to turn a 1-6-3 double-play on Leo Thomas’s comebacker to the mound.
“You’ve got to go for the double-play, we just didn’t execute it,” said St. Germain. “I’m not really big on moral victories but considering we were 9-11 and we got to the quarterfinals I’m proud of the way the kids came together at the end.”