Just one local softball team remained alive at press time.
Cape Elizabeth somehow kept its undefeated season and Class B state championship hopes alive last week with a narrow win over Poland, followed by the most storied comeback in program history against Yarmouth to earn a date with Wells in Wednesday’s Western B Final (too late for print).
Scarborough’s hopes for a perfect year and a repeat Class A title were dashed in a round that has caused so much frustration over the years, the regional final, as it lost to Thornton Academy.
South Portland fell in its first playoff game, to Bonny Eagle, in what proved to be the swan song for coach Ralph Aceto.
After a dominant 16-0 regular season, Cape Elizabeth was clearly the team to beat entering the playoffs, but the top-ranked Capers couldn’t have asked for a more difficult bracket.
In the quarterfinals last Thursday, the Capers drew No. 9 Poland, which played them tougher than anyone during the regular season. It happened again, as Cape Elizabeth only prevailed, 2-0, behind a two-hit gem from Katie Rabasca. Tess Haller hinted at her flair-for-the-dramatic to come when she homered. She also scored Mary Perkins’ RBI hit.
That brought No. 4 Yarmouth to Cape Elizabeth Saturday afternoon for a semifinal which will be remembered for a long, long time.
The Capers took a 1-0 lead in the first and Rabasca protected it through three no-hit innings.
Then, things got interesting.
The Clippers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth, but Cape Elizabeth produced a two-run, two-out rally in the bottom half to go back ahead, 3-2.
When Yarmouth scored twice against Anna Goldstein in the top of the sixth, the Capers were staggered and when three home runs produced four more runs in the top of the seventh, the top seed was down by five runs and appeared doomed.
But the Capers saved their best for last.
After scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh, Cape Elizabeth put two on with two outs, bringing up arguably the state’s most deadly hitter, junior shortstop Ashley Tinsman.
Tinsman seized the moment brilliantly, taking Clippers pitcher Mari Cooper deep to improbably tie the game.
And before the Capers got done celebrating Tinsman’s shot, Haller followed with another drive over the fence and just like that, moments after its promising season appeared finished, Cape Elizabeth was still very much alive with a 9-8 triumph.
The Capers advanced to meet No. 3 Wells (15-3) in the Western B Final Wednesday at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Cape Elizabeth beat the host Warriors, 11-4, May 30. The teams last met in the playoffs in the 2003 quarterfinals (a 6-2, eight inning win for Wells).
If the Capers were able to advance to the Class B state final for the third time (they lost to Bucksport in 2006 and won it all in 2007), they would face either Gardiner (18-0) or Hermon (15-2) Saturday at 4 p.m., in Brewer.
Defending Class A champion Scarborough was rarely tested during a 16-0 regular season, but the top-ranked Red Storm were pushed to the brink by No. 8 Noble in last week’s quarterfinals. Scarborough fell behind, 5-0, but rallied to eke out a 6-5 victory when Brenna Kent drove in the winner in the seventh.
The Red Storm had a much easier time in Saturday’s semifinals against No. 5 Bonny Eagle, scoring three runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth en route to an 8-2 triumph. Alyssa Williamson threw a four-hitter and had three hits, while Kent also had three hits and Megan Murrell homered.
Tuesday, Scarborough faced No. 2 Thornton Academy in the regional final in Standish. The Red Storm entered the game 15-0 all-time against the Golden Trojans, including a 5-1 regular season victory at Saco, but this time, it wasn’t to be.
Scarborough went ahead, 1-0, in the first, when Murrell singled in Brittany Plowman, but the Red Storm couldn’t solve Thornton Academy’s Bailey Tremblay the rest of the way, managing just one hit after the first.
In the top of the second, the Golden Trojans scored twice, with the second run crossing the plate on a disputed obstruction call.
“My argument was, whether she was obstructed or not, she would have been an easy out at the plate,” longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin said. “The umpire didn’t see it that way. It’s a judgement call. You can’t just call obstruction because she got in the way a little bit. It’s part of a game. I just hate to see a game decided like that. I’d rather see a game decided by a nice hit. What can you do?”
Tremblay didn’t strike out a single batter, but managed to slam the door and Scarborough’s season ended at 18-1 after the 2-1 loss.
“Give (Thornton) credit,” said Griffin. “They had the heart of a champion. I had regarded TA as the second-best team all year. Athlete for athlete, they’re as good as anybody in the league.”
Scarborough fell to 4-7 in Western A Finals dating back to 2003.
“If you get to this point, you have two good teams,” Griffin said. “Sometimes it’s just the bounce of the ball.”
Kent, Murrell and Williamson graduate, but if you think for a second that Scarborough won’t top the list of 2015 favorites, guess again.
“We’ll get ready for next year and we’ll be back,” Griffin said. “We had great seniors, but I have three outstanding pitchers coming back and some very talented freshmen coming into the program. We had a great season and we had a lot of fun doing it.”
Thanks for the memories
South Portland was a pleasant surprise during the regular season, surprising even its coaching staff by going 12-4 and earning the No. 4 seed. The Red Riots weren’t able to advance, however, losing, 11-7, to No. 5 Bonny Eagle in last week’s quarterfinals. Taylor Batcheldor had four hits and Sarah Micucci and Kiley Kennedy both had three, but it wasn’t enough as South Portland finished 12-5.
Following the loss, Red Riots coach Ralph Aceto, who went 96-17 and led the program to its only state title (in 2010) announced he was stepping down, citing difficulties finding time to coach while juggling running a business.
“”I enjoyed every minute (at South Portland),’ Aceto said. “Both ADs (Kevin Woodhouse and Todd Livingston) were great. The kids were great. The parents were great. I’m pleased with what we did.”
Cape Elizabeth sophomore catcher Tess Haller beams as she rounds the bases after hitting a walkoff home run to cap a rally from a five-run deficit in Saturday’s 9-8 victory over Yarmouth in a Western Class B semifinal instant classic.
Cape Elizabeth coach Joe Henrikson can only react with disbelief as the Capers cap an improbable comeback.