Scarborough sophomore Bella Dickinson prepares to throw a strike during the Red Storm’s 6-0 home win over Noble Wednesday. Dickinson went the distance to earn the victory and also homered and drove in three runs.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Portland Press Herald photos.
More photos below.
SCARBOROUGH—Longtime Scarborough softball coach Tom Griffin wanted to keep sophomore Bella Dickinson a secret.
Well, the secret is out.
Dickinson, who broke on to the scene as a freshman shortstop who dazzled with her athleticism and bat, has added pitching to her repertoire this spring and Wednesday afternoon at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, Dickinson did a little of everything to lead the Red Storm, against highly touted Noble, in their closest game to date, to yet another victory.
Dickinson set the undefeated Knights down in order in the top of the first and Scarborough gave her the only runs she’d need in the bottom of the frame, as twice Noble failed to convert easy force outs and an RBI single from senior catcher Hunter Greenleaf and base-running derring-do from senior rightfielder Chloe Griffin spelled a 2-0 lead.
Griffin came up with a huge defensive play to stymie a Noble rally in the top of the second and in the bottom of the fourth, the Red Storm doubled their lead, as senior centerfielder Lindsey Kelley hit an RBI triple and Dickinson singled her home for a 4-0 advantage.
Another Knights threat went by the wayside in the fifth inning, as senior leftfielder Sam Carriero threw out a runner at the plate, and Scarborough broke it open in the bottom of the sixth, as with two outs and a runner on, Dickinson showed her power, hitting an opposite field home run.
Dickinson then slammed the door in the seventh to close out the Red Storm’s 6-0 victory.
Dickinson threw a four-hitter and had two hits and three RBI as Scarborough improved to 6-0 on the season, extended its five-year regular season win streak to an improbable 79 games and in the process, handed Noble its first loss in five outings.
“Bella did a great job,” said longtime Red Storm coach Tom Griffin, who won his 438th game with the program. “I wanted to give her an opportunity to see what she can do in a pressure situation. She’s young and not a lot of people know about her as a pitcher. She pitched great. She passed the test. Now we know we can turn to her.”
Scarborough’s first five games this spring featured four contests ended by the mercy rule, 99 runs scored and just four allowed. The Red Storm opened with an 18-0 five-inning home win over Deering, then downed host Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy in five-innings (22-0) before pulling away to beat visiting Gorham in a regulation contest (12-3) and dominating host Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth (32-0, in five-innings) and host Kennebunk (15-1, in five-innings).
Noble came into the season highly touted and has lived up billing, downing visiting Kennebunk (11-2), blanking host Gorham (5-0) and winning at home over Massabesic (8-1) and at Marshwood (9-1).
Last year, Scarborough downed the visiting Knights, 8-3, its 17th straight win in the series, but that game was closer than the final score indicated. The contest was tied, 3-3, going to the bottom of the fifth, before the Red Storm pulled away.
Wednesday, on a gorgeous, summer-like afternoon (89-degrees at first pitch), Noble sought its first win over the Red Storm since a 1-0 triumph in the 2003 Western A Final, but Scarborough made sure a 3-2, eight-inning home setback to Sanford on May 6, 2013 remained its most recent in the regular season, as it won its 26th game in a row overall over the past two years.
Prior to the game, a moment of silence was held as the game was dedicated to Suicide Awareness in honor of Scarborough student Sam Mercer, who took his life last month.
Dickinson then took the mound and started off by catching sophomore second baseman Kelsey Lessard looking at strike three. Dickinson then fanned her opposite number, freshman Raegan Kelly, swinging. senior catcher Mackenzie Aleva made contact, but grounded out to second, to retire the side.
The Red Storm then got the only runs they’d need, thanks to some help from the Knights.
Dickinson led off by flying out to left on a 3-2 pitch, but senior shortstop Laura Powell walked on a full count pitch to get things started. Chloe Griffin was next and grounded the ball to senior shortstop Lauren Sanger for an apparent force out, but Lessard didn’t get over to cover in time and Powell was safe. That brought up Greenleaf, who hit a low line drive that landed just in front of senior leftfielder Abbie Sprague to score Powell with the game’s first run. Junior second baseman Courtney Brochu was next and she grounded to Sanger, who threw to second, but again Lessard was beaten to the bag by sophomore courtesy runner Hannah Gower. On the play, Griffin didn’t stop, as she turned third and raced home with the second run.
“When you have a good pitcher like (Kelly), we talk about putting the ball in play and good things will happen,” Tom Griffin said. “They made a few mistakes to help us out early.”
After Carriero grounded out to third, with the runners moving up to second and third, Kelley grounded out sharply to senior first baseman Jordan Boucher, who made the play to retire the side, but the damage was done.
“We were nervous,” said Noble coach Rick Melanson. “We wanted to play with confidence, but we knew it’s Scarborough and we gave them five outs in the first inning. You give them five outs in an inning and look out, they capitalize on everything. They just don’t make mistakes.”
To their credit, the Knights produced a threat in the top of the second, only to have it extinguished by the Red Storm’s defense.
Junior centerfielder Kassidy Lessard led off with a little flare in front of Powell at short, who got to the ball in time to throw on to first for the out. Boucher then lined a single to left, where Carriero slid to prevent the ball from getting into the alley for extra bases. After Sanger walked, sophomore third baseman Emily Sanfacon appeared to line a single to right, but Griffin raced in, grabbed the ball on a hop and fired a strike to senior first baseman Felicia O’Reilly for the rare 9-3 put-out.
“I have all the trust in the world in my defense,” Dickinson said. “I know they’ll make every play. That was a huge play. That was a momentum-setter. That motivated me even more to get it done for (my teammates).”
“That was a great play,” said Melanson. “Give them credit. They make plays when they have to. We could have scored a couple runs that inning.”
Junior rightfielder Abby Lewis drew a walk to load the bases, but Dickinson worked out of trouble by fanning Sprague.
O’Reilly led off the bottom of the inning with a single to center and took second when senior third baseman Emily Jefferds grounded out to short in a bang-bang play. Kelly got out of the jam, however, striking out Dickinson on a check swing, then getting Powell to bounce out to second.
Dickinson set Noble down quickly in the third, getting Kelsey Lessard to look at strike three for a second time, inducing a pop out to first off the bat of Kelly and getting Aleva to fly out to right.
Kelly had her best inning in the bottom of the third, as she got Griffin to fly to center, Greenleaf to ground out to short (where Sanger made a nice play going into the hole before delivering a strong throw) and Brochu to bounce out to short as well.
In the top of the fourth, Dickinson struck out Kassidy Lessard swinging and Boucher looking, then got Sanger to ground back to the mound.
The Red Storm’s offense returned to life in the bottom of the fourth, as two more runs came across.
Carriero took a pitch off her foot leading off, but she was no worse for wear, as she stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before coming home when Kelley ripped a triple to the right-centerfield gap. Kelly struck out O’Reilly and walked Jefferds, which set the stage for Dickinson to ground a single past Sanfacon at third and into leftfield to score Kelley for a 4-0 lead. Powell struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch and Griffin grounded out to short to end the frame.
Noble nearly broke through in the top of the fifth, but again, Scarborough’s defense came up huge.
After Dickinson got Sanfacon to ground out to second and Lewis to ground out to short, she hit Sprague with a pitch and Sprague stole second. Kelsey Lessard then singled to left, but Carriero charged the ball and fired a strike home to Greenleaf, who tagged out Sprague to end the inning.
“Those plays are difference-makers,” Tom Griffin said. “The throws Sam and Chloe made. You make those types of plays and that makes it tough for a team to come back.”
The Red Storm went quietly in the bottom half, as Greenleaf popped back to Kelly and both Brochu and Carriero hit ground balls to short.
Dickinson remained strong in the top of the sixth, getting Kelly to ground out to third, Aleva to ground back to the mound and Kassidy Lessard to chase strike three.
Scarborough then put it away in its half of the inning, thanks to one mighty swing from Dickinson.
Kelley grounded out to the pitcher to start the frame, but O’Reilly followed with a single to left and after Jefferds grounded back to Kelly, who threw to second for a force, Dickinson redirected a fastball to deep right-center and the ball kept carrying until it cleared the wall for a two-run home run and a 6-0 lead.
“It was just good timing and the right speed,” Dickinson said. “I was just watching it. It felt good to see it clear the fence.”
Powell then doubled over the head of Lewis in right and moved to third on a wild pitch, but Griffin struck out to end the inning.
Dickinson gave up a leadoff single to Boucher leading off the seventh, but she got Sanger to ground out to second before catching Sanfacon to look at strike three and Lewis to chase strike three to end the game in a tidy 90 minutes.
“I felt like it was a great team effort,” said Dickinson. “Everyone put the ball in play and did their job. A close game was good for us. It was a chance for us to hit good pitching.”
“This was great for us,” Tom Griffin said. “It’s been hard because we haven’t been able to do some of the things we wanted to do. We’ve had to take off the bunt and hit-and-run in the second inning of some of our games. (Noble) played a good game and their shortstop was great, but I’m really pleased with how we did.
“I think we’re ahead of last year, especially defensively. I didn’t have to create an infield this year. Offensively, we’re getting production in the back end of the lineup like we did last year. We know we’ll get production at the front end, but if we get production from our 6, 7, 8, 9 hitters, and we are, we’ll be solid.”
Dickinson threw her first complete game and improved to 3-0 after giving up just four hits. She walked two, hit a batter and struck out nine.
“This was my first full game and I wanted to go the distance,” said Dickinson. “The heat was great. Better than pitching in the cold.”
Dickinson also paced the offense by scoring a run, producing two hits and driving in three.
“(Bella) struggled hitting the first couple games,” Tom Griffin said. “We made some changes, some subtle things, getting her hands back and tilting the bat a little bit. A few mechanical things. All of a sudden, she started hitting. She’s such a great athlete and she’s so coachable. She’s willing to listen and work.”
O’Reilly also had two hits.
Carriero, Dickinson, Gower, Griffin, Kelley and Powell scored runs. Greenleaf and Kelley also had RBI. Carriero had a stolen base.
Scarborough left six runners on base.
The Red Storm haven’t lost a regular season game in five years, but Tom Griffin has no interest in focusing on that amazing feat.
“We don’t talk about that,” Griffin said. “It’s the last thing I want the kids to think about. I just want them to have fun. It’s a game that’s supposed to be fun.”
Noble go two hits from Boucher and a stolen base from Sprague, but stranded five runners.
Kelly fell to 4-1 after giving up six runs on seven hits in six innings. She walked two, hit a batter, threw a wild pitch and struck out four.
“I feel like we can play with (Scarborough),” Melanson said. “Right now, they’re better than us, but we know what we need to do. I told the girls, let’s make it a goal to be as good as Scarborough, if not better, by the end of the year. Hopefully we’ll learn from this. These are great games to be in. We’ll be OK.”
Noble goes home Friday and looks to get back on track when Sanford pays a visit. A showdown at Thornton Academy looms Monday.
Scarborough has a potentially tricky road contest Friday when it plays at Massabesic. The Red Storm host Sanford Tuesday and also play at Portland in a regional final rematch and at rival South Portland next week.
“Our team is starting to peak at the right time,” Dickinson said. “We just need to keep communicating and everything will fall into place.”
“We’ll have some tests,” Tom Griffin said. “Massabesic is coming on strong. Windham is very talented. They have good athletes and obviously, Thornton Academy can match up with us.”
Scarborough senior Sam Carriero steals second base as Noble shortstop Lauren Sanger takes the throw.
Noble sophomore pitcher Raegan Kelly throws a pitch.