Scarborough outslugs SP in softball showdown
SCARBOROUGH—Early season softball games between top-ranked rival teams are usually low scoring affairs.
That wasn't even close to the case Tuesday afternoon when the defending Class A state champion Scarborough Red Storm hosted rival and 2010 champion South Portland.
The Red Riots managed to erupt for six runs, the most they've ever produced against the Red Storm, but Scarborough's offense was even more prolific.
The Red Storm shook off an early 2-0 deficit with four first inning runs, then put a stranglehold on the contest by scoring seven times in the second. Three more runs in the sixth were more than enough to produce a 14-6 victory.
Senior ace Mo Hannan was far from sharp on the mound, but gutted out six innings and helped pace the onslaught with the bats by rapping two doubles, scoring twice and driving in a pair of runs. Sophomore catcher Megan Murrell made a highlight-reel catch and hit an opposite field home run and four other Scarborough hitters, juniors Erin Giles, Marissa O'Toole and Mary Redmond and sophomore Alyssa Williamson, all had multiple hits as the Red Storm improved to 3-0, dropping the Red Riots to 1-3 on the year.
"My kids responded really well," said longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. "It's early in the season. We had to figure things out. We have a really good offense. I was pleased we responded."
Cream of the crop
Scarborough and South Portland have been among the best teams in the state for several years, but the rivalry has been largely one-sided.
Staring in the 2003 Western Class A semifinals, the Red Storm won 12 of the first 13 meetings, oustcoring the Red Riots, 40-6, in the process.
South Portland's lone win in that stretch was a 1-0 upset in the 2005 Western A Final. The Red Riots also got their second victory over Scarborough in the regional final, this time by a 5-2 margin in 2010, en route to the program's first state championship.
Last spring, South Portland took a highly anticipated regular season meeting, 3-1, but in the Western A Final, the Red Storm had the last laugh, upsetting the Red Riots, 1-0, as it went in to take the state title.
That means Scarborough entered Tuesday's game holding a 13-3 all-time edge, producing 44 runs in those 16 games to just 14 for South Portland.
The Red Storm's offense was prolific in its first two outings this spring, a 13-0 home win over Biddeford and a 19-2 romp at Portland. Both games ended in the fifth inning due to the 12-run mercy rule.
The Red Riots took their opener Saturday, 6-1.
Tuesday, South Portland made an immediate splash when junior centerfielder Erin Bogdanovich (the team's ace, who in a surprise to those on hand didn't get the start) hammered a pitch from Hannan up against the centerfield fence. Bogdanovich didn't stop until she reached third base for a triple.
Hannan appeared primed to escape the jam when she induced second baseman Abby Young to hit a pop foul to third, then struck out junior shortstop Danica Gleason, but after looking overmatched on a swinging second strike, sophomore pitcher Olivia Indorf got all of the next offering and sent it soaring over the leftfield fence for a stunning 2-0 lead.
"I don't know how she hit that," Hannan said. "She did well."
Hannan, who entered the season with a minuscule career earned run average of 0.37, was shaken, but resolved to atone for the pitching gaffe with her bat.
Hannan promptly did that very thing, ripping a double to right-center to start a rally in the bottom of the first.
"(Being behind) was a little scary, but it fueled our fire to get hits," Hannan said. "We did that and came back."
Junior shortstop Grace Farnkoff drew a walk and a wild pitch put runners at second and third. First baseman Williamson then chased home Hannan with a single to right, but Farnkoff stopped at third. After Williamson stole second, third baseman Giles hit a ground ball to Gleason, who threw home, but it was too late as Farnkoff scored to tie the game.
A walk to senior leftfielder Dominique Burnham loaded the bases and second baseman O'Toole blooped a single to right to score Williamson and put Scarborough ahead to stay. Murrell walked to drive in a fourth run before Indorf settled down and got sophomore Brenna Kent to pop out to first, Redmond to hit into a force out and Hannan to fly to right, limiting the Red Storm to four runs.
Hannan returned to form on the mound in the top of the second, sandwiching strikeouts of first baseman Lindsey Cannon and senior third baseman Libby Grant around a groundout to third by leftfielder Kiley Kennedy.
Scarborough's offense went back to work in the bottom half and it got plenty of help from South Portland.
Farnkoff led off by drawing her second walk. Williamson then laced a single to right-center, putting runners at the corners. A single to center by Giles scored Farnkoff.
"Erin broke out with some hits," Griffin said. "She's a monster. She hit six balls in a row over the fence in practice."
It looked like the Red Riots would escape the inning without further damage when Burnham lined out to left and O'Toole grounded out to shortstop, but then, disaster struck for South Portland, as the team committed three errors and Indorf walked three batters.
A ground ball by Murrell to Gleason appeared to end the inning, but instead of throwing to first, the shortstop ran to third and tagged the bag, thinking there was a force play in order.
There was not and Williamson scored, making it 6-2.
Another error allowed Giles to score and Kent followed with a bullet to center that Bogdanovich reached, but couldn't handle. The ball got away and junior pinch-runner Paige Moore-Haskell came home as Kent got all the way to third on the single and error.
"If (Danica) made that play, we're out of the inning, then Erin misplayed the fly ball to centerfield," lamented South Portland coach Ralph Aceto. "I'm not used to seeing that. When those things happen, you know it'll be a long day."
After a walk to Redmond, Hannan hit her second double, this one down the rightfield line, as Kent scored for a 9-2 advantage.
"The offense was there today," Hannan said. "That was good. I think the adrenaline was there. Everyone wanted to do well. Last year, we had a good lineup, but this year I'm even more confident. That's nice for a pitcher. "
After Farnkoff walked for a third time, loading the bases, Indorf walked Williamson to force in a run and Aceto came to the mound and made the change to Bogdanovich.
Bogdanovich's outing began inauspiciously as a pitch slipped out of her hand for a wild pitch, allowing Hannan to score the seventh run of the inning. Bogdanovich finally ended the frame by inducing a groundout by Giles, but after two, Scarborough was firmly in control, up 11-2.
To its credit, South Portland kept battling.
First, a Hannan strikeout and a sensational catch of a foul pop by Murrell, who banged into the fence, started the top of third inning,
"I personally didn't know the fence was there," Murrell said. "I was going for the ball, hoping it would go in my glove. I hit the fence and everyone was cheering. I was able to hold on."
Young then drew a walk, Gleason laced a triple to left-center to drive in a run, then came home when Indorf blooped a single to left-center, cutting the deficit to 11-4.
Bodganovich got out of the bottom of the third allowing just a one-out infield single to O'Toole, but a leadoff single by Laurine German in the top of the fourth went to waste as Hannan got Kennedy to ground out before fanning Grant and Kelsey Morton.
The Red Storm threatened in the bottom of the fourth as Redmond led off with a single and stole second and with one out, Farnkoff was hit by a pitch, but Williamson hit into a force out and Giles grounded out to end the inning.
Bogdanovich led off the top of the fifth with a single, but was stranded as Hannan struck out Young, got Gleason to ground into a force, then fanned Indorf.
In the bottom of the fifth, Scarborough reawakened on offense.
With two outs, Murrell drove a pitch the other way and it cleared the leftfield fence for her first high school home run.
"I got all of it," Murrell said. "I don't always opposite field hit. To make that connection felt good. It gives me confidence for the rest of the season."
The first-year catcher continues to impress.
"I'm proud of her," Hannan said, of her battery mate. "She's come a long way. She's worked hard in the offseason. She's calling pitches better. Her throws are better. She improves every game. She's hitting well too."
"Megan does a great job," Griffin said. "She has a nice feel for the game. She has a nice presence and takes charge for a sophomore. She's an easy going, fun loving kid. She's a kid you can feel comfortable with. She plays the game the right way. I have two catchers. Paige probably has a stronger arm. I can combine the two of them and it's one heck of a catcher. We're fortunate to have two kids who work hard."
Moore-Haskell then blooped a single to right, Redmond ripped a double to left-center to drive in a run and went to third on a throwing error. She scored when Hannan reached on an error and the lead was 14-4.
"Mary's a nice athlete," Griffin said. "She wasn't noticed too much. She has raw skill. Every day she gets better. She's a nice hitter in that No. 9 spot."
German was hit by a pitch with one out in the top of the sixth, but South Portland couldn't capitalize. In the bottom half, Giles singled and O'Toole doubled, but the runners were stranded.
The Red Riots made the most of their final opportunity at the plate, but the deficit was just too great.
With Giles on in relief of Hannan, Bogdanovich drew a one-out walk and with two down, Gleason tripled in a run and Indorf singled to center to drive in Gleason. DiBiase followed with a single and German was hit by a pitch for a second time to load the bases, but Giles finally brought the curtain down on the 2 hour, 12 minute contest, fanning Kennedy to give Scarborough the 14-6 victory.
"I didn't expect a two hour game," Hannan said. "We can learn from it. We still need some work. We still have tough games coming up."
"Starting off behind was weird to us because we weren't expecting it, but we pulled through and worked hard together," Murrell said. "(Mo) didn't let it get to her. She stayed strong. We have a stacked lineup. It's nice. You have to watch out for us."
Hannan had her rockiest outing on the mound, giving up four earned runs on six hits in six innings. She walked one batter and hit another, but struck out 11 in improving to 1-0 on the young season.
"It wasn't my best game, that's for sure," Hannan said. "I was pumped up for the game, but my spots weren't there."
Giles gave up two earned runs on three hits in her one inning. She walked and hit a batter, while striking out the side in an unconventional manner.
Hannan, along with Farnkoff, Giles, Moore-Haskell, Redmond and Williamson all scored two runs. Giles, Murrell and Williamson had two RBI apiece. Giles, Redmond and Williamson all had stolen bases.
"The production at the bottom of my lineup has been great all year," Griffin said. "That's what I've been really excited about. It's not just a couple kids carrying the team. It's everybody."
For South Portland, Indorf fell to 0-1 after giving up 11 runs (seven earned) on seven hits, seven walks and a wild pitch in 1.2 innings of work. Bogdanovich went 4.1 innings and gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits. She didn't walk a batter, but hit one and threw a wild pitch while striking out six.
"If I knew we'd put up six (runs), I would have thrown Erin from the get go," said Aceto. "We have two tough back-to-back games. It's my call. I thought we'd throw Olivia into the fire. We didn't do her any favors. She had a few bases on balls, but we shot ourselves in the foot in the outfield."
Scarborough was surprised to face Indorf instead of Bogdanovich.
"I was surprised (Erin didn't start)," Griffin said. "These are big games. We're playing for homefield advantage. That's why we work so hard in the regular season. We try to win every game. I'm not saying they didn't, but they certainly took a risk throwing their No. 2. They're young. They made some mistakes. Even some of their better players made uncharacteristic mistakes. It got away from them so quickly. They didn't settle in defensively. I expect them to bounce back."
Offensively, Indorf excelled with three hits, including the home run, a run scored and four RBI. Bogdanovich and German also had multiple hits. Bogdanovich and Gleason each scored twice. Gleason, who tripled twice, had two RBI.
"We can swing the bats," Aceto said. "I'm pleased as punch at that. If we can clean it up and play defense I'm used to seeing, we'll be a better team at the end than we are now. Hitting was never a concern for me with this team. We have holes we need to straighten out. My biggest concern is defense. We have yet to play well defensively. We had five or six physical errors and at least four or five mental errors Saturday against Bonny Eagle. You can't do that against a good club like Scarborough."
Work to do
South Portland's road gets no easier as the Red Riots host highly touted Thornton Academy Wednesday. The Red Riots play at Noble Friday.
"We have TA tomorrow," Aceto said. "The kids are loose."
As for Scarborough, it goes to Gorham Wednesday and hosts Bonny Eagle Friday. The Red Storm's next big test comes Wednesday of next week, at Thornton Academy.
"Anybody can beat anybody, but it will be tough to beat us," Griffin said. "I like my kids. I'm really happy. The girls really prepared themselves well going into the season. Physically, they're beyond where I expected."