Thu, Dec 18, 2014 ●
BathHarpswellTopshamBrunswickCumberlandNorth YarmouthFalmouthFreeportPortlandCape ElizabethScarboroughSouth PortlandChebeague IslandYarmouth

South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview

Sports

South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview

South Portland has several spring sports teams that expect to contend. Baseball made a surprise playoff run a year ago, but won't sneak up on anyone while being very good once again this spring. Softball is always solid and needs to find a way to usurp Scarborough. Boys' lacrosse feels its ready to take the torch and compete for a title. The girls' team hopes to return to the playoffs and add to its win total. Both track teams, as always, have many solid athletes. Boys' and girls' tennis are capable of making it to the postseason.

BASEBALL

Coach: Tony DiBiase (14th year)

2009 Record: 10-9 (Lost 13-6 to Scarborough in Western A semifinals)

Top returning players: Ryan Curit (Senior), Jon DiBiase (Senior), Mike Foley (Senior), Connor Hasson (Senior), John Medici (Senior), Zach Horton (Junior), Evan Indorf (Junior), Paul Reny (Junior), Andrew Richards (Junior), Brendan Horton (Sophomore), John Shannon (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 29 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, May 4 (H) MARSHWOOD, May 13 @ Cheverus, May 18 (H) PORTLAND, May 22 @ Deering, May 25 @ Scarborough, May 27 (H) WESTBROOK

Coach's comment: “People don't realize how far we went last year with so many injuries. It was quite an accomplishment and a lot of young kids got experience. This is pretty much a veteran group. The key will be our pitching. If it holds up, we'll be pretty good. Our position players can match up with anyone. It's going to be quite a battle in the league this year.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland successfully navigated the injury wilderness last year and was at its best in the postseason, when it stunned highly touted Westbrook to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2004. This year, the Red Riots appear healthy and on paper, are one of the top squads in Western Class A. The big addition is senior Matt Lee, a potential pitching ace, who missed almost all of the 2009 season with injury. He'll get help on the mound from Richards (3.00 earned run average last year), Medici (who beat Westbrook in the tournament) and Hasson. Winter Male Athlete of the Year Zach Horton returns behind the plate. He was a second-team SMAA all-star, named to the All-Rookie and All-Defensive teams and led the league in hits last year with 30, batted .517 with eight doubles, a triple, a home run and 13 RBI. Several other big bats are in the lineup. First baseman DiBiase hit .410 with seven RBI a year ago. Rightfielder Curit batted .397 with a pair of longballs and eight runs batted in. Leftfielder Foley (.365, 13 RBI), shortstop Reny (an All-Rookie team member in 2009) and Lee all project to produce offense as well. Indorf and Shannon make up the rest of the infield. Brendan Horton continues his inspirational return from cancer treatment and will play centerfield. This could be the most loaded Red Riots squad in years. South Portland, if it can stay healthy, has front-line pitching and plenty of hitting. After last year's playoff run, the Red Riots know they can play with anyone. Westbrook remains formidable and three-time state champion Deering is always strong, but South Portland is a legitimate threat to win a first regional title since 1991.

SOFTBALL

Coach; Ralph Aceto (second year)

2009 Record: 15-4 (Lost 2-0 to Scarborough in Western A Final)

Top returning players: Stephanie Thibeault (Senior), Alexis Bogdanovich (Junior), Danielle DiBiase (Junior), Amanda Linscott (Junior), Katlin Norton (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 26 (H) KENNEBUNK, April 28 @ Deering, May 10 (H) GORHAM, May 14 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, May 17 @ Scarborough, May 20 (H) BIDDEFORD, May 26 (H) CHEVERUS, May 28 @ Bonny Eagle

Coach's comment: “I'm happy, but we're still not where I want to be. We have good team chemistry. It's still a young, sophomore- and junior-laden team. A lot will depend on us being better defensively. Our biggest question is did we grow and get better as hitters? That was our downfall last year. We couldn't put the ball in play.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland has been a perennial contender the past four seasons, but on three occasions, including last year, had no answer for powerhouse Scarborough in the tournament. Getting past the Red Storm this spring won't be easy either, but the Red Riots are well equipped to be a top competitor. Reigning Coach of the Year Aceto returns for a second season and has a lot of talent to work with. He has three options on the mound. The first is Alexis Bogdanovich. Another is freshman Erin Bogdanovich. Junior Stephanie McDonough, injured last year, can also throw. Thibeault, a captain, will catch. McDonough, along with Alexis Bogdanovich, outfielder/catcher Norton and 2009 Spring Female Athlete of the Year and first-team league all-star DiBiase, will lead the offense. The infield features senior Olivia Whitton (injured last year) at first base, DiBiase at second, freshman Danica Gleason at shortstop and Linscott in the mix as well. South Portland should have no trouble holding opponents at bay. The Red Riots have to find a way to score on a regular basis, however. In their four losses last year, they were shutout twice and held to one run on the other two occasions. If that facet of the game comes along, South Portland will have a great shot at dethroning Scarborough and taking a stab at a first championship.

BOYS' LACROSSE

Coach: Tom Fiorini (third year)

2009 Record: 8-6 (Lost 20-2 to Portland in Western A semifinals)

Top returning players: Adam Burpee (Senior), Alex Catrett (Senior), Ian Raymond (Senior), Garret Reuscher (Senior), Travis Wibby (Senior), Billy Darling (Junior), Harrison Keithly (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 21 @ Cheverus, April 24 (H) DEERING, May 18 (H) THORNTON ACADEMY, June 2 @ Kennebunk

Coach's comment: “We're strong in-close defense and on offense. We should be OK on both ends. If our middies play like they should, we'll be OK. Every kid on the roster saw varsity time last year. We're a veteran team with a lot of experience. We want to go farther this year. I've coached these kids since eighth grade. I think this team has an opportunity to get to the regional final. It would be nice for us to take it to the next step.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland appears to have turned the corner and is knocking on the door of becoming an elite contender. Last year, the Red Riots shook off a 3-4 start, won four of their last five and got to the semifinals. With a lot of talent returning, optimism is high this year and got ratcheted up another notch Saturday when South Portland rallied to beat Scarborough, 8-7, on Reuscher's overtime goal (his third of the game). It's believed to be the first time the Red Riots have defeated their accomplished neighbors. Reuscher has plenty of help on offense. Keithly was the leading scorer a year ago, managing 33 goals with 29 assists. He had three goals Saturday. Burpee, Raymond (the faceoff man), senior Chad MacLeod, sophomore Mike Salvatore and freshman Linden Mazur will also be heard from. Defensively, Catrett and Darling (11 groundballs in the opener), along with senior Colton Carr, who is returning from injury, will hold the fort in front of Wibby (20 saves against Scarborough) in goal. The Red Riots' schedule is very favorable and it's likely South Portland will eclipse its previous best of eight wins in a season (set in 2007). If the Red Riots can avoid overconfidence and stay healthy, they'll have a great shot at homefield advantage for the playoffs. A playoff rematch with Scarborough is likely, but South Portland should be able to hang tough with anyone. This could be a history-making year for the Red Riots.

GIRLS' LACROSSE

Coach: Bill Fenton (second year)

2009 Record: 4-9 (Lost 9-8 to Portland in Western A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Kate Lagios (Senior), Hannah Noll (Senior), Victoria Brookings (Junior), Michelle Callou (Junior), Felicia Farnham (Junior), Nikki Laplante (Junior), Anh Nguyen (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 30 @ Gorham, May 4 @ McAuley, May 18 (H) MCAULEY, May 25 (H) DEERING, May 28 @ Portland

Coach's comment: “I'm impressed with the girls I have, as far as their stick skills. We have a strong junior class. We should do well and be very competitive. We definitely have good athletes and experience. We hope to make the playoffs again.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland ended a four-year playoff drought last season and hopes to improve even further this year. The Red Riots lost some good players to graduation, but return several others who are eager to make their mark. Leading the way on attack will be Brookings (who will also handle draws), Farnham, Lagios, Laplante, Noll and new junior Becca Roberts, a transfer from Cheverus. On defense, Callou and Nguyen, an All-Rookie team selection in 2009, will protect new goalie, freshman Iris SanGeavani. South Portland will be able to compete with every team on its schedule this year. Some early victories would create confidence that could pay off with a playoff berth. The Red Riots are certainly a program on the rise.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coaches:

(Boys) Dave Kahill (third year)

(Girl) Bob Zinchuk (20th year)

2009 Results:

(Boys) 13th @ Class A State Meet

(Girls) No score @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Brian Arsenault (Senior), Miles Blackwell-Orr (Senior), Nick Brown (Senior), Jon Clement (Senior), J.C. Esquibel (Senior), Savattaro Kong (Senior), Joey Michaud (Senior), Brian Campbell (Junior), Matt Clement (Junior), Tom Redstone (Junior), Adrian Reid (Junior), Darryl Wilkinson (Sophomore), Steven Zanis (Sophomore)

(Girls) Faith Abraham (Senior), Karleigh Bradbury (Senior), Bobielynn Fisher (Senior), Kristen Jerome (Senior), Tanya Wilkes (Senior), Annelise Donahue (Junior)

Top foes: Cheverus, Gorham, Scarborough

Coach Kahill's comment: “We're a very focused, hardworking and athletic team. We have a great group of upperclassmen who provide strong leadership on and off the track. We're talented and have depth in all areas and we're versatile in multiple events. We should be very competitive throughout the regular season and the championship meets.”

Coach Zinchuk's comment: “This could be a very exciting season for us. We will be very competitive in every meet and hope to qualify many athletes for the state meet.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Both South Portland outdoor track teams have the potential to turn heads in 2010.

The boys' squad graduated two of its three state scorers (Tony Haeuser and David Hardison), but return Redstone, who was fourth in the racewalk at the Class A meet. He'll also run the mile and two-mile this year and will be joined in the distance by John and Matt Clement and Wilkinson. Middle distance runners include Esquibel and sophomore Logan Gaddar. The hurdles feature Campbell, Esquibel, senior Will Carter, sophomore Sacre Bahati and freshmen Joe Feely and Ryan Tuttle. In the sprints, keep an eye on Arsenault, Bahati, Blackwell-Orr, Carter, Kong, Michaud, Reid, Tuttle and sophomore Dan Grazewski. On the field side, top throwers include Brown, Zanis, Carter, Gaddar, seniors Spencer Bowring and Chris Harle, sophomore John Foley and freshman Bobby Jordan. Brown and Jordan compete in the pole vault. Bahati, Blackwell-Orr, Bowring, Campbell, Gaddar, Harle, Jordan, Kong, Michaud, Reid, Tuttle and Grazewski take part in the jumps. There is plenty of depth and talent on the roster. Look for the Red Riots to be very strong in the league and to make a run at a first top 10 state finish since 2005.

On the girls' side, South Portland's 14-year streak of scoring at states ended last year, but that should be an aberration. This year's team will be led by Donahue in the distance races. Several seniors add depth. That group includes Abraham in the pole vault, Bradbury in the sprints and relays, Fisher in the sprints, pole vault and relays, Jerome (hurdles) and Wilkes (middle-distance). Keep an eye on newcomers Cheyenne Coombs, Sophia Desjardins, Bridget Mulligan, Angela Tirabassi and former middle school standout Nyajock Pan, as they seek to make an immediate impact. South Portland will only get better as the season progresses and could make some noise at the championship meets.

BOYS' TENNIS

Coach: Tom Hyland (second year)

2009 Results: 7-6 (Lost 4-1 to Marshwood in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Aidan Boyce (Senior), Chris Carter (Senior), Matt Morey (Senior), Greg Reinhold (Senior), Roman Davydov (Sophomore), Joey Hendricks (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 26 (H) DEERING, April 28 @ Windham, May 17 @ Scarborough, May 21 (H) PORTLAND, May 25 @ Cheverus

Coach's comment: “We lost five of our top seven from last year. We're certainly in a rebuilding mode, but we should be able to compete with a lot of teams. It's a great group of kids with super attitudes. We have good singles experience. Greg has skyrocketed to first singles. I think we'll compete for one of the last playoff spots. We're hoping to build for next year.”

The Forecaster's forecast: A year ago, South Portland enjoyed its first winning campaign since 2004 and reached the quarterfinals. This year, the Red Riots should once again be in the hunt in Western Class A. Reinhold has made great strides and will be in the first singles spot this spring. Boyce plays No. 2 singles, while Morey will be in the third singles spot. The doubles teams will include Carter, Davydov and Hendricks, along with freshman Tanner Hyland. There are only a couple teams at the top this season and South Portland has every reason to believe it will be in the next tier. The Red Riots should show great improvement between now and the end of the season and have a very good chance to reach the playoffs.

GIRLS' TENNIS

Coach: Elizabeth Scifres (12th year)

2009 Results: 7-7 (Lost 5-0 to Portland in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Alison Dolbow (Senior), Savannah King (Senior), Courtney Perruzzi (Senior), Amanda Junkins (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 26 @ Deering, May 5 (H) GORHAM, May 6 @ McAuley, May 17 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 21 @ Portland, May 25 (H) CHEVERUS

Coach's comment: “We have 40 girls on the team this year. We're not going to be flashy, but we'll be playing smart, hard and having fun.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland has reached the playoffs 10 years running and could have a very competitive team again in 2010. Junkins will move into the top singles spot. She was No. 2 a year ago. Junior Kelsey Berglung moves up from the junior varsity team to take the second spot. Dolbow, a captain, comes up from doubles to play No. 3 singles. King and Perruzzi have experience at doubles and will be joined this year by junior Morgan Lundgren. The Red Riots figure to be in the middle of the pack, but they have found a way to win enough matches to qualify for the postseason for several seasons. Look for that trend to continue this spring.

Photo: File photo

Junior Zach Horton led the SMAA in hits last year. He and his teammates have high hopes this season.

Photo: File photo

Senior captain Stephanie Thibeault is the leader of a very good South Portland softball team.

Photo: File photo

Olivia Whitton returns from injury and hopes to lead South Portland deep into the playoffs.

Photo: File photo

Senior Hannah Noll and her teammates hope to make it back to the playoffs in 2010.

Photo: File photo

South Portland senior Faith Abraham looks to score in the pole vault this spring.