Spring season begins
With a wonderful hint of summer in the air, the spring sports season is underway as every sport but track had begun in earnest at press time.
In light of their injury problems, the baseball team that is off to the most successful and surprising start this spring is South Portland (for more on the Red Riots, please see accompanying story).
Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough have had mixed results in early action.
The defending Western B champion Capers opened with an 8-1 home win over Falmouth, but upon returning to league play after a 10-day break, they lost 6-4 at Poland Monday. Cape Elizabeth hoped to right its ship Wednesday (too late for print) when it hosted Gray-New Gloucester. Saturday, the Capers visit Freeport. Monday, they go to Sacopee.
Scarborough got off to a great start Saturday with a 5-0 win at Gorham. Ace senior pitcher Chris Bernard allowed just two hits and two walks. Tuesday, however, the Red Storm had no answer for defending Western A finalist Westbrook in an 11-2 home loss. Scarborough hoped to bounce back Thursday when it hosted Cheverus. Tuesday, the Red Storm welcome Thornton Academy.
On the girls' side of the diamond, all three local teams are looking strong.
South Portland welcomed Portland in its opener Saturday morning. The Red Riots would give new coach Ralph Aceto his first victory, but it didn't come easily. While senior pitcher Lauren Tuttle was superb, her teammates couldn't produce any offense until a risk on the basepaths in the bottom of the sixth inning led to an unearned run.
The rally began innocently when senior second baseman Melissa Thomes beat out a wormburner in front of the plate. She stole second, then Aceto rolled the dice. Sophomore centerfielder Alexis Bogdanovich bunted and was out pitcher to first, but Thomes didn't stop, sprinted for the plate and scored on a throwing error to make it 1-0.
"We hit the ball hard all game, but we hit it right at people," Aceto said. "The book says the leadoff man gets on, you bunt them over. We did that twice. I said I was going to throw the book away and do something a little more active to score the run. Luckily I had a senior at second base. She knew better than to look for a stop sign."
Tuttle (who allowed just five hits in seven shutout innings) slammed the door in the seventh and the Red Riots had a 1-0 win.
"It's really exciting," Tuttle said. "I didn't pitch at all last year. Just two games my sophomore year. I was a little nervous at first, but I was confident through the game. I knew the run would come. I was confident in my team. I think we're going to have a good season."
"Lauren held them at bay," Aceto added. "I can't say enough about her. As a senior captain, I don't think she expected this in her first game. She did an excellent job, as did all the girls. If we play defense, we can play with anybody. It was flawless today."
South Portland hoped to go to 2-0 Wednesday (too late for print) when it visited Cheverus. Friday, the Red Riots are home with Bonny Eagle. Monday, they go to McAuley.
Scarborough is up to its usual dominance. The Red Storm, who haven't lost in the regular season since May 25, 2006, opened with a 4-1 victory at Bonny Eagle, then dispatched McAuley 12-0 (in five innings). In the win over the Scots, junior ace Melissa Dellatorre earned the win with a six-hitter. Freshman Mo Hannan got her turn against the Lions and allowed just one hit, while fanning 14.
Scarborough was at Sanford Wednesday, hosts Kennebunk Friday and visits Deering Monday.
In Western B, Cape Elizabeth is also off to a stellar beginning. After blanking Falmouth 7-0 on April 16, the Capers were idle for 10 days, but returned to action with a vengeance Monday as senior ace Trish Thibodeau threw a no hitter and senior catcher Colleen Martin had four hits in an 11-0 victory at Poland.
Cape Elizabeth hosted Gray-New Gloucester Wednesday, goes to Freeport Saturday and plays at Sacopee Monday.
While Cape Elizabeth was opening its season with a loss to Yarmouth in a rematch of last year's state final, Scarborough and South Portland were enjoying wins.
The Red Storm got quite the battle from Falmouth Tuesday and trailed 5-4 in the third period, but sophomore Connor Gullifer, playing in his first varsity game, scored his third and fourth goals of the contest to put Scarborough ahead to stay and the Red Storm held on for a 7-5 victory.
"Connor had a chance to step in," said Scarborough coach Joe Hezlep. "He'd never played a varsity game in his life. He found out about an hour before the game that he was playing. He sure came up huge for us when we needed it."
"The team moved the ball around really well and our goalie made some key saves which allowed us to bring the ball up," Gullifer said. "Our middies really stepped up on defense and allowed us to control the ball. We've got guys who can step up."
The Red Storm went to Massabesic Thursday, play host to Deering Saturday and welcome North Yarmouth Academy Tuesday.
South Portland opened Tuesday with a 17-2 win at Westbrook. Senior Ben Linscott had five goals and six assists. The Red Riots host Thornton Academy Friday and welcome Greely Wednesday.
On the girls' side, Scarborough looked solid in its opener, taking a 9-4 halftime lead en route to a decisive 15-7 home victory over Greely, the Red Storm's first-ever win over the Rangers. Junior Ellie Morin had a half-dozen goals. Classmate Lindsay Hagerman added three goals and four assists. Scarborough goes to Cheverus Friday, then visits powerhouse NYA Tuesday.
South Portland wasn't able to give new coach Bill Fenton a win in his debut Tuesday as the Red Riots fell 7-4 to Westbrook. South Portland will try again Friday at Gorham. They go to Windham Tuesday.
Cape Elizabeth is the lone local team that hadn't played at press time. The Capers played host to Kennebunk Wednesday, visit Deering Friday and York Monday.
On the hardcourts, Cape Elizabeth's boys have opened with wins over Falmouth (3-2) and NYA (5-0). The Capers girls, however, lost 4-1 to both Falmouth and NYA.
Scarborough's girls opened with a 5-0 win over Massabesic. The boys were due to open Wednesday against the Mustangs.
South Portland's girls beat Cheverus 4-1 in their first match. The boys fell 5-0 to the Stags.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com