The Cheverus softball team is ready to measure itself against the best that Class A has to offer.
Last Wednesday, the Stags led perennial powerhouse Scarborough 4-1 after five-and-a-half innings, but watched in agony as the Red Storm rallied to win, 5-4.
Regardless, Cheverus (12-4) capped its best season to date and earned the No. 5 seed for the upcoming playoffs. The Stags will open their legitimate quest for a regional championship Thursday when they go to No. 4 Bonny Eagle (12-4) in the quarterfinals.
Deering is also playoff-bound. The Rams finished the regular season with six wins in their last nine games to wind up 7-9, good for the 11th and final Western A seed. Deering played at No. 6 Gorham (12-4) in a preliminary round contest Tuesday (too late for print).
McAuley (4-12) and Portland (2-14) didn’t make the playoffs this year.
Stags on the rise
Cheverus has impressed this spring under first-year coach Amy McMullin. The Stags lost 5-0 at home to Biddeford in the opener, but won 12 of their next 14 to emerge as a top contender in the region.
Last Wednesday, early home runs from juniors Theresa Hendrix and Keturah Smith put Cheverus up 4-1 at Scarborough, but a pair of bloop hits keyed a Red Storm rally and the hosts pulled out the 5-4 decision, which was both heartbreaking and encouraging for the Stags.
“The kids played well,” said McMullin. “It’s a step in the right direction. We just had a bad inning. Overall, I’m happy.”
Cheverus wound up getting edged out by Bonny Eagle for the No. 4 seed and will go to Standish Thursday for the quarterfinals. On May 4, the Stags lost 2-1 at the Scots in a game where the offense disappeared.
“We didn’t play well against Bonny Eagle the first game, but I’m excited,” McMullin said. “Now, we’re playing where I want us to play. We get better each day. The kids aren’t scared now. Now, we know we can play with anybody.”
If victorious Thursday (in the first-ever playoff meeting between the schools), Cheverus will likely get another crack at the top-ranked Red Storm (15-1) in the semifinals Saturday.
“I’d love to face them again,” McMullin said. “If we can only beat them once, I’m glad it’s not tonight.”
Deering looked like anything but a playoff team when it dropped six of its first seven this spring, but close losses to Scarborough and Biddeford provided optimism. When senior Melissa Bell threw a no-hitter against Cheverus May 14, the Rams took off and wound up qualifying for the postseason for the ninth year in a row.
Deering lost 7-0 at Gorham way back on April 27, but is a much different team in June. The Rams also went to Gorham last year in the quarterfinals and won, 6-2. In 2007, Deering beat visiting Gorham, 4-3, in the quarterfinals.
The winner visits No. 3 South Portland (13-3) in the quarterfinals Thursday. Deering lost 7-1 at the Red Riots May 11. The Rams and Red Riots have met four previous times in the playoffs with South Portland holding a 3-1 edge. The last meeting was in the 2002 preliminary round, a 12-10 Red Riots’ victory.
Looking ahead, the semifinals are Saturday on the field of the higher remaining seed. The regional final is Wednesday of next week at St. Joseph’s College. It begins at 7:30 p.m. The Class A state game is Saturday, June 20 at Augusta, starting at 12 p.m.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org