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Scarborough softball smacks its way to another title

Sports

Scarborough softball smacks its way to another title

The formula worked again for the Scarborough softball team.

Odd numbered year.

Trip to Disney.

State championship.

The Red Storm made it four Class A titles in seven seasons last week with a stirring come-from-behind regional final win over Sanford and a never-in-doubt triumph over Skowhegan in the Class A state game.

Scarborough, which also won in 2007, 2009 and 2011, seasons which also included an every-other-year trip to the Disney World complex in Florida, stumbled just once this year, at home to Sanford in extra innings, and its 15-1 record gave it the top seed in Western A. After rallying to avoid a quarterfinal round upset and beating No. 9 Marshwood (5-1) in the quarterfinals and pounding No. 4 Thornton Academy behind the arm and bat of junior Alyssa Williamson in the semifinals, 10-1, the Red Storm traveled to St. Joseph's College in Standish last Wednesday for a rematch with No. 3 Sanford, which had upset No. 2 South Portland in its semifinal.

The game didn't begin auspiciously for Scarborough, which gave up two runs in the first and still trailed, 2-0, heading for the bottom of the fifth, when its bats came to life.

Not surprisingly, it was senior Marisa O'Toole sparking the rally. O'Toole had gotten the comeback going against Marshwood and she tied the game with a booming two-run home run.

"We never panicked," said longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. "I was pretty confident when we got to the third time through the lineup. Each time, we made better contact and the kids were more disciplined. We needed to be aggressive. Marisa's been clutch for all her life. She rises to the occasion. She knows how to play at big times."

Williamson then drove in the go-ahead run. Senior Erin Giles added an RBI and in the sixth, freshman Chloe Gorey added an RBI hit account for the 5-2 final score.

"Sanford was tremendous," Griffin said. "They came a long way. They deserved to be there."

Not only did Scarborough get to avoid reigning regional champion South Portland, and its senior ace Erin Bogdanovich, it also didn't have to face defending state champion Cony, and its ace, Sonja Morse, in the state game, as the Rams were upset by Bangor in the quarterfinals.

The Red Storm entered the state game confident and O'Toole, who fought her way back from being down 0-2 in the count, delivered an immediate blow, hammering a home run to put her team ahead to stay.

“Once I [get] down 0-2, it sends me into a different mode where I’m even more aggressive,” said O’Toole. “It’s almost easier for me to take advantage of a pitch I like. I did the best I could to hit it hard.”

"Our key to success was being patient on changeups," Griffin said. "(Skowhegan pitcher Kaitlyn Therriault) didn't throw them for strikes. Marisa absolutely crushed one. I told her to look for a first pitch changeup, but she didn't get it and watched a fastball down the middle. She got down 0-2, but has a great ability to foul off pitches and worked the count to 3-2, got a pitch and handled it."

O'Toole and her teammates kept the pressure on in the second. Gorey had an RBI single and O'Toole followed by going the other way for a two-run triple to make it 4-0.

“I just try to go with the pitch and she gave me a couple outside, so I figured, ‘Let’s see where it goes,’ and got lucky with that,” said O’Toole.

"(Marisa's) so confident," Griffin said. "She always makes contact. It was nice to see her showcase her abilities in the playoffs. She was the catalyst for our success. She came up big on offense and defense as well."

Scarborough added three more in the fourth with one hit, three walks and an error before the Indians got on the board.

Skowhegan finally started catching up to Williamson’s deliveries in the sixth, getting the first run with a solo homer to left-center field from Andrea Quirion.

The Indians tried to rally again in the seventh, after Scarborough had scored twice more on a clutch two-run hit from Brittany Plowman to make it 9-1. Skowhegan got two runs back, but Williamson ended it with a strikeout and the Red Storm had a 9-3 win and the trophy.

“One of our big things is producing runs early so we don’t have to worry about being behind,” said Williamson, who has verbally committed to playing at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “When Marisa hit that bomb, it just gave us a huge feeling of relief. Those first two innings were huge for us and let us know we could do it.”

"I'm awful proud of my kids," Griffin said. "The girls were so loose and confident going in. The two teams we were most concerned about were South Portland and Cony. Those two had the type of pitching that could shut down a good offense. Not facing them made things easier. We got to scout the Eastern Maine Final. Skowhegan's a good team, but we were confident. Alyssa was able to settle in. The defense was comfortable. We didn't have to be perfect.

"We had a big pickoff in the fourth. The kids called it. We'd worked on it all week. The message was not to mess with us. I was so proud of the kids coming off the bench to score in the last inning too. That was an extra cushion. Those kids had to sacrifice this year. Not everyone could play. We were always confident in our ability to score runs. We're very strong 1 through 9. The back end of my lineup was phenomenally productive.

"I questioned our ability to win it all a month ago. We had to work hard on becoming a team and put aside distractions. It's a credit to our captains, Grace (Farnkoff), Erin and Marisa. They made a commitment to making it happen. They didn't want to disappoint, but they got past it."

Williamson struck out nine, walked two, hit one, and scattered seven hits.

“It feels phenomenal,” Williamson said. “We knew this year was going to be our year. We had a huge target on our back throughout the whole season, but we definitely pulled through. We didn’t give up and that’s the biggest thing for this team."

Repeat at last?

The only thing left for Scarborough to accomplish is going back-to-back and winning it in an even numbered year. Perhaps 2014 will be it.

"We'll lose some outstanding athletes and leaders," Griffin said. "We have rely on out pitching and catcher coming back. We had two freshmen and two sophomores involved in the outfield. We'll have to find middle infielders. We do have good JV players and freshmen coming in."

Bangor Daily News staff writer Dave Barber contributed to this story.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.