PORTLAND — If Shoreline Conference baseball teams did not give Portland much thought heading into the new season, they might want to now.
The Highlanders handed Haddam-Killingworth its first loss and forged their way into a tie for first in the standings with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory Tuesday.
Portland (6-1) scored three runs in its final at-bat to overcome a two-run deficit, and senior right-hander Cole Peterson induced a flyout with two runners on in the seventh for the save.
Senior right-hander Brendan Hickey was the winning pitcher as Portland won its fourth straight.
“I thought we would be a competitive team in the Shoreline and I guess we proved that today,” Portland coach Rick Borg said. “It’s always good to beat Haddam-Killingworth — they’re the class of the league. When you beat them, you sleep well.”
Starter Bryan Dinnis walked in a run in the third — he walked two over five innings, hit three batters and struck out seven. Hickey, who came on in the sixth, allowed H-K’s second run as Jimmy McGoey doubled with two outs and scored on Ryan Kellenbach’s single through the middle.
The Highlanders’ rally in their half of the inning began with H-K starter Christo Garrelts’ leadoff walk to Brett Thivierge, who quickly scored on Peterson’s double to deep left.
After Garrelts got a strikeout, Dinnis hit a wind-blown fly to shallow center that fell in for a hit, moving Peterson to third. Carter Gange followed with a comebacker that looked to be a home-to-first double play that would have preserved H-K’s lead, but Garrelts dropped the transfer and instead had to throw to first to get an out.
Peterson’s run tied it and Dinnis moved up to third to represent the go-ahead run. Garrelts walked Tyler Bordonaro, and when Bordonaro attempted to steal second, catcher Sam Erskine’s throw bounced short of the bag, allowing Dinnis to come across with the deciding run.
“If we’re up 2-0 I expect to win,” H-K coach Mark Brookes said afterward. “We worked hard to get the insurance run at 2-0. With Christo, he hadn’t thrown many pitches, so I felt pretty good (sticking with him). They strung together a few hits and (Dinnis), he pitched well.”
Garrelts, a sophomore who has a good mix of pitches, allowed six hits, walked three and struck out eight. Brookes said the Cougars (6-1) had opportunities to give the right-hander more run support.
“I was anxious to see our reaction to the loss and from what I saw immediately after the game, we seemed to take it in stride,” said the coach, whose club hosts Coginchaug on Wednesday. “I think they genuinely know where they failed and where they need to get better.”
Portland catcher Connor Murray was the game’s only player with two hits. H-K’s Luke DiMauro and Jon Civiello reached base in three of their four at-bats. This was the teams’ only meeting of the regular season.
“When we’re playing at home, we know if we’re within one or two runs, then we have a chance,” Borg said.
Like most Shoreline teams, Portland has three games in four days this week (including a Wednesday game at Hale-Ray), and Borg would have preferred to save Peterson for another day. But after seeing him lock down the win, he was glad he called on him.
“We didn’t have every pitcher available that we would have liked to today but had a chance to win the game so we used Cole,” he said. “He’s very competitive, very athletic. I’m comfortable with him in that spot.”
In other games around the area Tuesday:
Cheshire 4, Xavier 0: Xavier was held to four singles by Cheshire starter Jason Mazzaro in an SCC game at Palmer Field.
Mazzaro went 6 1/3 innings, walked none and struck out five. Reid Kankel got the final two outs.
Kyle Signora, Bryce Hammen, Nico Kulpik and Tyler Lappe accounted for Xavier’s hits. Tyler Lemay took the loss.