The end of the 2011 baseball season came sooner than hoped for Forecaster Country teams.
South Portland made it the farthest. The fifth-seeded Red Riots upset No. 4 Scarborough, 2-1, in eight innings, in their Western Class A quarterfinal round game, then fell to top-ranked Cheverus, 8-2, in the semifinals.
In Western B, No. 3 Cape Elizabeth was upset by No. 6 Falmouth, 2-1, in a quarterfinal.
South Portland posted a 10-6 regular season record, while Scarborough went 11-5. The Red Riots won the regular season meeting, 5-0, at home May 14. The Red Storm took the prior playoff encounter, 13-6, in the 2009 semis.
Friday, with senior ace Andrew Richards on the hill (who blanked Scarborough in the regular season), South Portland held a 1-0 lead into the sixth when a passed ball tied the score. In the top of the eighth, however, senior Paul Reny raced home on an error and and Richards slammed the door, completing his six-hitter, as the Red Riots advanced, 2-1.
“What a credit to the guys on both sides to keep plugging away,” said South Portland’s first-year coach Mike Owens. “All three runs came on mistakes. That’s how playoff games are won and lost. I’m proud of both sides. Two good teams. We’ve been resilient all year. We won’t score 10, 12 runs. I’m proud of how we acted today. When (Andrew) pitches like that, he’s unbelievable. He doesn’t get rattled and keeps throwing strikes.”
Scarborough finished 11-6 and lamented what-if.
“We had some chances and left five guys in scoring position,” said first-year Red Storm coach Mike Coutts. “We just couldn’t get a big hit. Games go like that sometimes. It’s tough from the kids’ standpoint, because they were ready and thought they’d win and when you don’t, it makes it tougher. I wish it didn’t end like that, but it did. We beat both Cheverus and Westbrook this year and they made it to the Western Maine Final. We could have been there. You learn and move on.”
Coutts felt his first year was a resounding success.
“I have no complaints,” he said. “Great kids. They were awesome. They worked hard. People in Scarborough were great. It was an easy transition.”
The Red Storm graduate five starters, but return solid pitching and will be heard from again next year.
“Our future is very bright,” Coutts said. “We have (ace pitchers) Ben Wessel, Joe Cronin and Ben Greenberg back. We have other quality returning guys and young kids ready to step in. Hitting will be the focus next year. We only hit .239 as a team this year, which put a lot of pressure on our pitching and defense. If we can maintain the pitching and defense and hit better, we’ll be a better team.”
South Portland went on to face top-ranked Cheverus in the semifinals. The game was supposed to be played Saturday, but rain moved it to Monday and when the Cheverus field wasn’t playable, the contest was moved to The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.
There, the Red Riots raced to a 2-0 lead behind junior pitcher Matt DiBiase before an eight-run Stags’ fourth proved to be too much to overcome and South Portland finished 11-7 after an 8-2 loss.
“I absolutely think the season was a success,” Owens said. “It’s definitely not the way we wanted to end. We had higher expectations for ourselves than I think other people around the area might have. We built on something. We were better today than we were the first day we were out, and that’s something we shot for as a staff and shot for as a team. You always want to win the last one, but I’m really proud of the way the boys competed and where we got.”
In Western B, Cape Elizabeth wound up third with a 12-4 mark and drew a very tough and hot Falmouth squad, ranked sixth, in the quarterfinals. The teams split in the regular season, but last Thursday, the Yachtsmen grabbed an early 2-0 lead and after a two-and-a-half hour rain delay, the Capers finally got a chance to answer. They finally pushed a run across in the seventh, but couldn’t get the equalizer and their season ended at 12-5 with a 2-1 setback.
“We showed great (fortitude) getting that hit with two outs in the seventh with two strikes, to get us that first run,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Chris Hayward.
A solid group of accomplished seniors will be missed.
“Cam Brown, Pat Tyler, Kyle Danielson and Rob Macdonald are all all-stars, tough to replace,” Hayward said. “Jack Barber is as good an outfielder anywhere. Ben Berman gave great leadership throughout the year. Statistician ‘Cowboy’ Miklavic will also be hard to replace.”
The Capers hope to bounce right back next season.
“We’re getting hit hard by graduation for the second year in a row,” Hayward said. “We were pleased, however, with the poise and performance of junior Will LeBlond and sophomore Sam Kozlowski on the mound. With the return of Matty Pierce, Derek Roberts, Chris Robicheaw, Chris Tinsman, Seth Dobieski, Donald Clark and others, we hope to reload. We’ll have the goal of winning enough games to make the playoffs and try to do some damage there.”
South Portland senior Paul Reny dives into home with the winning run in Friday’s 2-1, eight inning Western Class A quarterfinal victory at Scarborough.
Scarborough junior first baseman Conor McCann stretches to make the out on South Portland senior Nick Conti.