MIDDLETOWN — Cole Peterson didn’t think Grant Collins was going to score. Bryan Dinnis wasn’t so sure, either.
Collins figured it would be a bang-bang play at the plate.
They were all wrong.
Collins scored all the way from first on Peterson’s line-drive to the left-centerfield gap in the eighth inning on Friday night at Palmer Field, giving Portland its first Shoreline Conference championship via a 2-1 win over Haddam-Killingworth.
With one out, Collins worked back from a 1-2 hole and drew a walk. Peterson, the Shoreline Conference Player of the Year, followed with his gapper that scored the speedy Collins, who beat the relay throw to home by a good margin.
“I struggled all day, and finally got a good piece of metal on it and we came out with the win,” Peterson said.
“I see the line drive, and I saw Josh Doring’s hit up the alley in left-center, I know the grass is super-thin,” Collins said. “Once I see the ball bounce twice, I’m thinking I’m scoring right away. I rounded second, I saw their backs turned and I had to turn on the jets. I had to get there.”
Portland walks off on HK in the bottom of the eighth as Cole Peterson hit an RBI double scoring Grant Collins, to win the Shoreline title.
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It certainly helped that the Highlanders had their best hitter at the plate and their fastest runner on the bases.
“It couldn’t be any better scripted if you tried,” Portland coach Rick Borg said. “Off the bat, I didn’t think it was gonna go to the wall. I’m glad I had ‘scatback’ on the bases. He was a little tired when he scored. We don’t get a lot of hits lately. We have to try to manage the ones we get into runs, so I was sending him.”
Portland, which had scored on a walk-off steal of home on Wednesday and had come back for a 3-2 win over H-K earlier in the season, had never even been to the Shoreline Conference title game since joining the league in 2007.
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“It’s amazing,” Collins noted. “When you win a championship, you’re gonna be remembered forever, whether it’s a conference championship, a state championship, whatever it may be. To etch our names in history, that’s something very special.”
Dinnis, the league’s Pitcher of the Year, allowed just four hits and an unearned runs over 7 1/3 innings before leaving the final two outs to Brandon Hickey.
“We ride behind our ace,” Peterson said of Dinnis. “He’s our guy. He’s been doing great this whole year, and that’s why we’re here — because of him.”
“Can’t say enough about the season that kid had,” Borg added. “If you look up ‘gamer’ in the dictionary, I bet his picture is there.”
After the game, Borg was also named conference Coach of the Year.
“I just brought the bats and balls,” he quipped.
Portland got on the board first in the second inning, when Dinnis led off with a walk and stole second. After Ty Bordonaro was hit by a pitch, H-K starter Carmen Rosa tried to pick Dinnis off second but threw wide of the bag, into centerfield, allowing Dinnis to score all the way from second.
H-K tied it in the sixth, but it could have been so much more. The Cougars loaded the bases with no one out and clean-up hitter Jimmy McGoey at the plate. McGoey hit a sharp liner to left field that was caught by Hickey. Jon Civiello scored from third, but Hickey doubled up Darren Hiller at second.
Sam Erskine struck out looking to end the potential big inning.
“It means everything,” Dinnis said of the championship. “We put in so much work, and it’s finally paid off.”