South Portland third baseman Alex Livingston tags out Falmouth’s Chris Camelio during the teams’ Class A South baseball final Tuesday night. The Red Riots weren’t able to repeat as champions, falling, 4-2.
South Portland’s captains receive the runner-up plaque following Tuesday’s loss.
Cape Elizabeth’s baseball team found itself the last team standing at press time, battling upstart Freeport in the Class B South Final, after Scarborough lost in the semifinals and South Portland was ousted in the regional final.
Last year, Cape Elizabeth was the top seed in Western B, but lost an agonizing and controversial 3-1 (eight-inning) decision to eventual repeat champion Greely in the regional final.
Ever since that loss, the Capers had one thing on their minds, getting back to that round and winning.
Cape Elizabeth earned the top seed in Class B South after an 11-5 regular season and dispatched No. 8 Wells (12-0, in six-innings) and fourth ranked Maranacook (7-1) with relative ease in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
Against the Warriors, the Capers broke open a close game with six runs in the fifth, then ended it via the mercy rule with five more in the sixth. Brendan Tinsman drove in four runs, singled, and ended the game with a three-run home run. Marshall Peterson allowed just two hits and struck out seven batters in 5.2 innings. In the win over the Black Bears, Matt Riggle and Dylan Roberts had multiple hits and Nate Ingalls was in control on the mound, only surrendering five hits.
Cape Elizabeth won, 10-0, at Freeport (13-6) back on May 4, but that’s before the Falcons caught fire, winning seven of their final eight games before knocking off Morse in the preliminary round and upsetting York in the quarterfinals and two-time defending state champion Greely in the semifinals to reach the regional final for the first time.
The Capers won the only previous playoff meeting, 4-0, in the 2012 preliminary round.
If Cape Elizabeth advanced to the state final, it will play either Old Town (17-1) or Hermon (14-4) Saturday at 11 a.m. at Mansfield Field in Bangor. The Capers beat Hermon to win their most recent title, 6-2, in 2004.
Scarborough, on the heels of a better-than-expected regular season under the guidance of legendary coach Mike D’Andrea, and defending regional champion South Portland began the playoffs on a collision course and that came to fruition.
South Portland went 14-2 in the regular season, losing only to Thornton Academy and Portland (in extra innings), and earned the No. 2 seed in Class A South. The Red Riots held off No. 10 Marshwood in the quarterfinals, 6-4. Griffin Kelley allowed 11 hits, but gutted out the win and Sam Troiano paced the offense with a pair of hits and two RBI.
Saturday, in the semifinals, South Portland beat No. 3 Scarborough for the second time this spring.
The Red Storm were coming off a 4-0 win over No. 6 Gorham in their quarterfinals. Mitchell Wedge pitched a two-hit gem. Cam Seymour drove in a pair of runs and Tim Carion and Nick Lorello also had RBI. Lorello and Seymour both had two hits, as did Morgan Pratt.
In the semifinal, the Red Riots tried to put Scarborough away, but the win didn’t come easily. South Portland built leads of 5-2 and 8-4, but in the seventh, the Red Storm got a run and loaded the bases, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate, but Drew Abramson, who came on in relief of Troiano in the fourth, retired Lorello to end it. Abramson, Troiano, Matt Crockett, Riley Hasson and Zack Johnson all had multiple hits.
Scarborough got two hits and two RBI from Jack Hughes. Josh Reed took the loss as the Red Storm finished their surprisingly good season at 14-4.
“It was a good game,” D’Andrea said. “We had to play perfectly to win and we didn’t. They hit the ball well and did what they had to do to win. They showed why they were the best team in the SMAA. We had our chances. I’m proud of the guys for hanging in there and playing until the last out.
“I’m so proud to have been a part of this this year and I know the players feel the same. The parents and the Scarborough community were terrific. The Scarborough community is wonderful. The character of the kids showed and that showed the character of the people raising those boys. I thank them. Coming back to the league blind, so to speak, we met my expectations for sure. The coaching staff and the kids worked hard. They never complained. They accepted their roles and did them. They progressed really well and got better every game. Everyone was on the same page and made this happen. The kids deserved what they got.”
Graduation will once again hit the Red Storm hard, but expect them to be in contention again in 2017.
“We lost a lot,’ said D’Andrea, who said back in the spring that he’d decide after the season whether or not he’d return as coach. “All of our pitching pretty much graduates. We do have some good, young arms. Our system is now in place and the younger guys know it. I’ll 100 percent be a part of the program next year in some capacity.”
South Portland advanced to meet top-ranked, undefeated Falmouth in the regional final Tuesday. The teams had no history.
The Yachtsmen scored a first inning run, but in the third, the Red Riots got a couple unearned run off Falmouth ace Cam Guarino, as a run scored on Abramson’s ground ball and another came home on an errant throw. The Yachtsmen then got three unearned runs off Kelley in the bottom of the third and Guarino only allowed one hit all game, retiring the final 14 batters, and South Portland’s season ended at 16-3 with a 4-2 setback.
“It’s tough to win when you only have one hit,” Red Riots coach Mike Owens said. “I thought we had very good swings against Cam. We hit the ball hard at some guys. We just couldn’t find gaps and he doesn’t make mistakes, so we couldn’t string anything together against him.”
Owens said that in retrospect, South Portland achieved more than even he envisioned.
“I’m really proud of this group,” Owens said. “Honestly, if you told me we’d win 16 games, I’m not sure I’d have taken that bet. It’s just a great group. They’ve been together a long time. They play the game the right way. They came to practice every day wanting to be there. They made it fun for me. I had a very enjoyable season. Getting here two years in a row says a lot about these kids.”
The Red Riots graduate eight seniors, but several key players will be back. South Portland has become accustomed to playing deep into June and the 2017 squad should be able to do the same.
“The future is bright,” Owens said. “I hope the younger guys got a taste of it and we can have a good summer and come back next year and compete again. We have good depth. We should be right back in the mix.”