Scarborough softball overcomes all obstacles; Tough contenders, rain delays fail to derail Red Storm's title quest
When all was said and done, not even Mother Nature could beat the Scarborough softball team.
The Red Storm had to contend with three separate postponements before finally squaring off against Skowhegan in last Wednesday's Class A Final, but it was certainly worth the wait as Scarborough won its second title in three seasons, 3-1.
The Red Storm took full advantage of five Skowhegan errors and got another stellar pitching performance from freshman Mo Hannan to become the final state champion crowned in the 2008-09 school year.
"It was great," said longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. "It was well-deserved. There were a lot of good teams out there this year."
Scarborough has been a powerhouse since last century and has more than held its own since moving up to Class A. The Red Storm finally got over the hump and ended a series of playoff disappointments when they beat Skowhegan 2-0 in the 2007 title tilt. Scarborough was undefeated in 2008, but lost to Biddeford in the regional final.
This spring, the Red Storm expected to be right back near or at the top and were from the get-go, winning their first 12 games behind a bruising, balanced offensive attack and a two-headed pitching monster which also featured junior Melissa Dellatorre, last year's SMAA Pitcher of the Year and Scarborough Spring Female Athlete of the Year.
Scarborough lost 5-4 at Biddeford on May 26 (ending a 47-game regular season win streak in the process), but bounced back and won its final three regular season contests, including a nine-inning no-hit win by Hannan (who struck out 23) at South Portland and a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over visiting Cheverus.
"I thanked the Biddeford coach for getting the monkey off our back," said Griffin. "That was a game we could have and should have won. It wound up being more of a positive than a negative. I expect Cheverus to be the team to beat next year. We had to fight our way back."
Scarborough finished 15-1 and earned the top seed for the tournament. After blanking Bonny Eagle and Biddeford to win the SMAA title, the Red Storm routed No. 9 Noble (12-0, in six innings), downed the No. 4 Scots (6-0) and got past No. 3 South Portland (2-0) to make it to the state game.
Then, the rains came.
Three separate times, Scarborough was supposed to battle Skowhegan, but it didn't happen.
"It was really stressful, but we got through it," said Griffin. "I personally went through this 11 years ago (when the then-Redskins lost to Winslow after an even longer delay). It was deja vu and it wasn't a positive experience then. I like to think we learned something.
"The girls were very sharp. It might be the easiest group I've had to coach. Great attitudes. They were calm and confident. Never any panic or disappointment. They just liked being together and practicing together."
Finally, last Wednesday, with the site moved from Augusta to Brewer, the Red Storm got to play.
They were ready.
Unlike two years ago, Scarborough fell behind quickly as Hannan (who was riding a lengthy scoreless streak) surrendered a single and an RBI triple.
The Red Storm weren't able to rally until the fourth, when they drew even.
Hannan helped herself, singling with two down, then stealing second. Senior Abbey Pelletier then hit a ground ball to short, which was booted, allowing Hannan to speed home to make it 1-1.
Three errors in the fifth put Scarborough ahead for good.
After junior catcher Heather Carrier reached on a miscue, she scored the eventual winning run when senior second baseman Reegan Brackett bunted and the throw was wild. Brackett then scored to make it 3-1 on senior third baseman Catie Funk's ground out (the throw home was wide).
"We knew if we got behind, we could score runs," Griffin said. "We knew we had a good offensive team. We knew we'd put the ball in play. Finally, things bounced our way. They made mistakes at crucial times and we didn't."
That left it up to Hannan, and the freshman sensation was true to the task, slamming the door in the final three innings (allowing just four hits, no walks and fanning nine overall).
"Mo was pitching so well and was so dominant," Griffin said. "She never faltered. It wasn't about Melissa not doing the job. We just had to go with the hot hand. I can't express the first class way Melissa handled it."
Scarborough wound up 19-1 and was truly the premier team in Class A.
"We felt all season that our team separated from the rest of the pack," said Griffin. "We had the pitching, an experienced catcher, outstanding defense and great athletes at every position. We were the strongest offensive team in the league from 1 through 9. The kids at the bottom of the order got on base. That was a key in a lot of our wins."
The Red Storm will graduate six seniors who arguably led the program to its greatest dominance.
"I'm very, very proud of them," Griffin said. We had tremendous leadership from all of them. They're great kids that I'm going to miss."
Funk (.653 batting average, eight home runs, 19 walks and a .750 on-base-percentage) was named the SMAA's Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season and added an SMAA Player of the Year honor to boot.
"You can't replace a Catie Funk," said Griffin. "She's by far the best offensive player in the state."
Brackett, Pelletier and shortstop Bri Mancuso made up the rest of a formidable infield.
"Reegan's probably the most underrated player in the league," said Griffin. "She was probably the best defensive player in the league the last two years. Abbey worked so hard. I'm so proud of her. She had some big hits for us. It's unbelievable how far Bri came. She's a very gifted athlete, but she was raw in her softball skills. She worked hard and everything came together this year. She was my extra leadoff hitter in the No. 9 spot. She hit .350 and stole bases and played great shortstop."
Jenna Libby and Emily Norton rounded out the senior class.
"Jenna was the heart of the team," said Griffin. "She filled in and was a great cheerleader. Emily did a great job when she was in there. She did everything with a pleasant attitude."
Not done yet
While Scarborough will feel its graduation losses heavily, the Red Storm aren't going anywhere. As long as you have pitchers the quality of Dellatorre and Hannan and other contributors like Carrier and junior Jenn Colpitts, another championship will be within reach.
"I have my two pitchers, catcher and outfielders back," said Griffin. "We have some nice kids off the JV team and some very talented freshmen coming in. We have to replace the infield. There's a lot of work to do. It'll be a challenge, but I think we can do it. We'll still be in the thick of things."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com