SP beats Scarborough in softball showdown, 3-1
SOUTH PORTLAND—For the time being, bragging rights go to South Portland.
The defending and unblemished Class A state champion Red Riots softball team finally met up with unbeaten rival Scarborough Tuesday afternoon at Wainwright Farms, eight days and two postponements later than expected, and essentially locked up homefield advantage for the upcoming playoffs with a 3-1 win over the Red Storm.
Senior catcher Katlin Norton, just as she did last June in the regional final, got the offense going with a second inning triple and senior pitcher Alexis Bogdanovich continued her stellar campaign with a strong effort on the mound and a key RBI single as South Portland never trailed and improved to 13-0.
Scarborough, which was very effective at the plate, looked to rally late, but a key out on the basepaths helped seal its doom as it lost for the first time in 11 outings.
"It's always fun to beat Scarborough," said Bogdanovich. "It was a big win for us. It was really important. It boosted our confidence a lot."
Scarborough was South Portland's nemesis for many years prior to the Red Riots' 5-2 upset win in last year's regional final. Heading into that game, the Red Storm had won 12 of the previous 13 meetings (a 1-0 Red Riots' victory in the 2005 regional final was the only exception), including a 5-0 regular season triumph last May 17.
After finally vanquishing Scarborough, the Red Riots went on to win the state championship for the first time, 1-0, over Bangor.
This year, South Portland and not Scarborough is the favorite and the Red Riots have lived up to billing. South Portland won its first six games by a composite 69-0 margin. More recently, the Red Riots passed tests at Thornton Academy (7-2) and Biddeford (5-4, in a 12-inning marathon) and rode a 21-game win streak into Tuesday's game.
The Red Storm were nearly as hot, winning their first nine games by an average of 9-1 (a 1-0 victory at Biddeford May 11 was the only challenge), then downing top contender McAuley by a 7-1 score Monday night.
Something had to give Tuesday and ultimately it this one turned on the defending champion's ability to take advantage of its opportunities.
Both Bogdanovich and Scarborough junior starter Mo Hannan set the opponent down in order in the first inning as Hannan struck out the side, capping it by fanning sophomore shortstop Danica Gleason, who was back in the lineup after missing six games after hurting her ankle May 5 against Noble. Initially, it was feared she'd miss the balance of the season, but there's little question her return bolstered an already potent lineup.
"It was great having Danica back today," Norton said.
"Danica was a little rusty, but she was chomping at the bit to play, so I put her out there," added South Portland coach Ralph Aceto.
In the top of the second, with one out, Red Storm freshman sensation Alyssa Williamson, the rightfielder, battled Bogdanovich through 15 pitches in an epic at-bat before doubling to left-center.
"That kid's everything they say about her," said Aceto, alluding to the Scarborough freshman. "I was very impressed with her."
She'd wind up stranded as Bogdanovich struck out sophomore shortstop Marisa O'Toole and after throwing a wild pitch to move Williamson to third, doing the same to freshman designated player Megan Murrell.
The hosts went on top in their half of the inning.
Norton led off and the player who best exemplifies her team's newfound confidence versus its one-time nemesis, calmly stroked a triple off Hannan, just over the head of junior leftfielder Dominique Burnham.
"I thought she was going to catch it," said Norton, who admitted she didn't make great contact. "I have a mark on my bat where it hit the handle."
Bodganovich was next and she swatted a single to left-center and the Red Riots were ahead to stay.
"I was just trying not to think about it too much," Bogdanovich said. "I didn't want to strike out and just wanted to help us out."
"It definitely gave us a big boost," Norton said. "It's really nice to know we can do it. Having a lead gave us more confidence in the field to make the plays and maybe pitch some pitches we might not pitch with certain counts. Alexis did so well today."
"It's important to get up on a team, especially a Scarborough team," added Aceto. "Just to get a run against Scarborough is a great thing. They play great defense and Mo is Mo. She's one of the best pitchers at the state. I'd rather see her at shortstop."
Bogdanovich struck out the first two hitters in the top of the third but Hannan and Burnham both singled to center. Junior slugging catcher Abby Rutt was next, but Bogdanovich got her to bounce back to the mound to keep it 1-0.
With two outs in the bottom half, sophomore centerfielder Erin Bogdanovich was hit by a Hannan pitch and stole second, but Gleason struck out.
Alexis Bogdanovich surrendered a leadoff single to sophomore third baseman Erin Giles in the fourth, but Williamson hit back to the mound as Giles moved up, O'Toole grounded out to junior third baseman Libby Grant and Murrell took a called third strike.
Senior first baseman Amanda Linscott had a two-out single in the bottom half, but Hannan ended the threat by striking out sophomore rightfielder Kelsey Morton.
Bogdanovich had a strong top of the fifth, fanning senior first baseman Alana Peoples, inducing senior second baseman Lauren Aceto to line out to third and getting Hannan to hit a harmless ground ball to second.
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, the Red Riots got some breathing room.
Grant led off with a single to center. Senior leftfielder Stephanie McDonough followed with a ground ball that resulted in a fielder's choice and both runners being safe. Senior second baseman Danielle DiBiase then beat out a bunt and the bases were loaded with no one out.
Hannan appeared to get a break when she got Erin Bogdanovich to ground to Giles at third. Giles' throw home was ahead of Grant, but Rutt couldn't handle it and the ball bounced off her glove, allowing not only Grant to score, but McDonough as well, as DiBiase took third and Bogdanovich second. Hannan got out of further trouble, fanning Gleason looking, getting Norton to pop out to the mound and inducing Alexis Bogdanovich to ground out to shortstop, but it was now a 3-0 lead for South Portland.
Scarborough had a great chance to answer back in the sixth as Burnham blooped a single to right to start and Rutt followed by blasting a shot over Erin Bogdanovich's head in center. Burnham scored easily, but as Rutt rounded second, DiBiase faked a throw home, then tagged Rutt out to short-circuit the rally.
"That changed momentum definitely," said Norton. "They have a strong lineup all the way through."
"That was kind of by accident," Aceto added. "Danielle had the ball and was going to throw home and I said, 'Hold it!' and she heard me and got the out. They had the middle of their lineup hitting."
Instead of having a runner at second with no outs and the tying run up, the Red Storm had one out and the bases empty. Alexis Bogdanovich then got Giles to pop back to the mound and Williamson to fly to center to keep it 3-1.
Linscott was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the sixth, but after a sacrifice, Hannan struck out Grant looking and McDonough swinging for her 12th and 13th Ks of the afternoon.
When O'Toole singled to left to start the seventh, the visitors had the tying run at the plate, but Bogdanovich got sophomore pinch-hitter Grace Farnkoff to hit into a shortstop-to-second force out, then got sophomore pinch-hitter Paige Moore-Haskell swinging before ending the game with a flourish, fanning Aceto looking.
"We've never beaten (Scarborough) in the regular season in my four years," said Norton. "It feels really good, but it would be better if it was a playoff win. We're all pretty mentally tough after last year and after losing some key players this season."
"It's nice," Aceto added. "These kids don't have that stigma of the teams that lost to Scarborough. They came ready to play.
The 3-1 win was due in large part to Bogdanovich's seven-hit, one-run, no-walk and nine-strikeout performance. She did have a wild pitch as she improved to 8-0 on the season.
"I wanted to hold them as long as I could," Bogdanovich said. "I knew they're a good hitting team and I had to get them one batter at a time."
"Alexis threw one of her better games today," Aceto added. "She stayed low. When she was keeping it down in the zone, they weren't doing much with her."
Offensively, South Portland only managed five hits (Norton's triple was the lone extra base hit). Alexis Bogdanovich had the only RBI. Grant, McDonough and Norton scored runs.
Scarborough got a stellar pitching effort from Hannan, who, in addition to her 13 strikeouts, allowed just one earned run and five hits, while walking no one. She did hit two batters as she fell to 3-1 on the year.
"Mo's throwing better every time out," said Red Storm coach Tom Griffin. "She's throwing harder and wants the ball. We talked about pitching around some kids, but she said no."
Offensively, Burnham was the game's only multiple hitter, while Williamson doubled, Giles scored the lone run and Rutt had the RBI.
"We had solid hits," Griffin said. "We just didn't string hits together and we made boo-boos and it cost us. I don't think you can walk away saying (that between us and South Portland) there's a better pitcher, offense or team. We're two good teams and it could go either way. I thought we responded pretty well and gained good experience. I'm not disappointed. It's not discouraging. In many ways it was encouraging. We didn't get dominated by (Bogdanovich) like we did last year. We just have to string hits together. The winner of this game didn't decide the championship."
See you soon?
Scarborough and South Portland would love to square off again in the Western A Final June 15 at St. Joseph's College in Standish, but both have work to do.
The Red Storm (second to the Red Riots in the Western A Heals) go to Sanford Wednesday, have a home test versus Kennebunk Friday, then play a doubleheader Saturday (home versus Cheverus and at Deering). They finish the regular season Tuesday of next week at Bonny Eagle.
"Kennebunk should be competitive Friday," Griffin said. "We'll keep our pitchers going and keep swinging the bat. Hopefully we'll get some games in at the league playoffs. We gained information in this game that we can use, but there's no guarantee to play again. I'd like to see them again, but anyone can get knocked out. We have make sure we take care of our business and hopefully we'll get that opportunity."
The Red Riots (now a solid first in the standings) are at Cheverus Wednesday, host Bonny Eagle Friday, then close at McAuley Tuesday.
"It gives us confidence that we can definitely do it again," Bogdanovich said. "We've done it twice (in a row). This is even better than last year."
"It gives the girls confidence going into the playoffs," Aceto added. "This shows how we're capable of playing. I don't want to say no doubt, because both of us could lose and not be there, but I anticipate to see them again."