STANDISH — South Portland senior Bradley McMains can be a good pitcher or, as he was on Thursday night, a dominant one.
McMains threw a two-hitter to lead the Red Riots to a 3-0 win over top-seeded Thornton Academy in the Class A South baseball championship game at Larry Mahaney Diamond.
Thornton had only three base runners, and one of them was picked off. McMains issued no walks.
“He’s been good all year, but I don’t think as good as today,” South Portland Coach Mike Owens said. “He was sharp, throwing both pitches (slider and curve) for strikes, locating on both sides of the plate.”
Sixth-seeded South Portland (15-5) will play for the state championship Saturday at 1 p.m. at Mahaney Diamond against Bangor, a 6-2 winner over Skowhegan in the North final.
While Bangor (14-6) is a regular in the state title game, including five straight championships from 2014 to 2018, this will be only the Red Riots’ second final since 1991 (both losses, including a 5-4 defeat to Bangor in 2015). South Portland’s last state title was in 1952.
During the regular season, Thornton (16-4) and South Portland split two games, and the winning pitcher in each game faced each other Thursday – McMains and Cody Bowker for the Trojans. Bowker allowed only four hits and two earned runs.
The Red Riots manufactured runs with hit-and-runs, sacrifice bunts and an attempted squeeze play that turned into a steal of home.
“Cody, if he’s not the best pitcher in the state, he’s one of them,” Owens said. “We knew we had to make something happen.”
South Portland scored an unearned run in the first inning. Connor Dobson reached on an infield throwing error, and advanced to third on Richard Gilboy’s perfectly executed hit-and-run ground-ball single to right field. Dobson scored on a wild pitch.
“That boosted me,” McMains said. “Going all zeroes was my mindset.”
The Red Riots made it 3-0 with two runs in the fifth, on three singles and a steal of home.
Finn O’Connell led off with a single up the middle, moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on Nolan Hobbs’ sacrifice bunt. South Portland then tried a squeeze bunt, which McMains missed, but the ball was in the dirt and O’Connell scored before the catcher could come up with it.
“We got a little lucky,” Owens said.
McMains followed with a single on a chopper to left and advanced to second on a groundout. He raced home on Johnny Poole’s line-drive single to center.
McMains struck out eight.
“He was absolutely competing his heart out,” South Portland catcher Noah Dreifus said. “He was focused and stayed on top of the count.”
Thornton went quietly. After Jeremiah Chessie’s leadoff double in the fifth, the next nine Trojans were retired.
“McMains is tough. He kept our hitters off balance,” said Thornton Coach Jason Lariviere. “They took chances and got a couple of big hits. Four hits to two hits; sometimes that’s how playoff baseball goes.”
Bowker, who hit a double in the first inning, struck out seven in six innings.