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SP rallies to shock Scarborough in softball regional final

Sports

SP rallies to shock Scarborough in softball regional final

STANDISH—Maybe being the No. 1 seed isn't all it's cracked up to be.

That's certainly been the case in Western Class A softball the past three years.

Two years after top-ranked Scarborough was upset by lower seeded South Portland and one season after the unbeaten, No. 1 Red Riots were ousted by the lower ranked Red Storm, South Portland got the last laugh again, despite being the No. 3 seed to Scarborough's No. 1 in the Western Class A Final Tuesday afternoon at Richard W. Bailey Field on the campus of St. Joseph's College.

The Red Riots appeared destined for an agonizing defeat, trailing 1-0 entering the sixth inning after a throwing error put them in a hole, but the bats came to life against Red Storm senior ace Mo Hannan and in a matter of minutes, the whole complexion of the game and the season changed.

Successive first pitch singles from freshman second baseman Laurine German and junior Danica Gleason got the rally started and sophomore designated hitter Olivia Indorf pounced on the first pitch as well, bouncing it into centerfield to tie score.

That was just the beginning as Gleason scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch and after an RBI single fro senior first baseman Lindsay Cannon, freshman pinch-hitter and secret weapon Michelle Moreau blew the game open with a two-run triple to cap the five-run uprising.

That left the game in the able hands of junior hurler Erin Bogdanovich, who slammed the door in the sixth and seventh on her two-hit masterpiece and South Portland defeated Scarborough 5-1, improving to 17-2 with its 16th successive win, ending the Red Storm's season at 18-1 and its two-season win streak at 27 games and setting up a Class A Final showdown versus 19-0 Cony Saturday at 3 p.m., back at St. Joe's.

"I felt confident," said Bogdanovich. "It's so exciting. We really deserve it. We're a good softball program. I didn't want to go home today. I was a little worried, but I had confidence in my team behind me. We always get the big hits."

Rite of spring

Since Scarborough and South Portland started playing nearly a decade ago, they've met in the postseason every year except one.

The rivalry has been quite one-sided in the Red Storm's favor (please see sidebar), but if Scarborough's been the best team in the state over that span, the Red Riots have been a close second.

The first ever meeting between the programs came in the 2003 semifinals, where the Red Storm won, 3-0. Scarborough won again in the 2004 regular season and quarterfinals and once more in the 2005 regular season before South Portland broke through with an epic upset in the rain at the Western A Final.

The Red Storm then took the next eight meetings by a combined 23-4 margin, before another Red Riots' regional final upset win, 5-2, two years ago as South Portland went on to take its first Class A state title.

A year ago, the Red Riots appeared to have no peer and beat Scarborough, 3-1, in the regular season, but in the rematch, at the Western A Final, the Red Storm had the last laugh, 1-0, and went on to defeat Messalonskee, 5-0, to win the championship.

Scarborough also took this year's regular season meeting, by the aberrant score of 14-6. That was the third of 16 straight regular season victories for the Red Storm this spring, almost all of them decisive. In fact, Scarborough outscored the opposition, 188-20 in the regular year.

The Red Storm's bats and arms didn't cool off with the arrival of playoffs. In the quarterfinals, Scarborough blanked eighth-ranked Biddeford, 5-0, and in the semis, the Red Storm sent No. 5 Kennebunk packing by virtue of a 12-0 (six inning) romp.

Following its loss at Scarborough, South Portland dropped a 2-0 home decision to Thornton Academy to fall to 1-2, but the Red Riots haven't lost since. They closed the regular year with 13 successive wins, by a combined 151-13 margin.

As the No. 3 seed, South Portland ousted sixth-ranked Sanford, 6-0, then pulled a stunner in Saco Saturday, lighting up Gatorade Player of the Year Julia Geaumont and second-seeded Thornton Academy, 8-1.

Something had to give Tuesday and it took awhile, but ultimately it was the Red Storm who crashed back to Earth.

Hannan was clearly on her game early, getting Bogdanovich to look at strike three and after game efforts, German to foul out to sophomore catcher Megan Murrell and Gleason to loft a foul ball down the rightfield line that junior second baseman Marisa O'Toole snared in foul territory.

In the bottom half, Bogdanovich toed the rubber and was equally strong, getting Hannan to ground out to first, inducing a ground out to shortstop by O'Toole on the 11th pitch and on the first, getting sophomore first baseman Alyssa Williamson to ground out to Gleason.

South Portland got a leadoff infield single from Indorf in the second, as Giles ranged to her left, but couldn't handle the ground ball. After a sacrifice by junior catcher Sam DiBiase, Cannon was hit by a pitch, but Hannan bore down and got sophomore designated player Michaela Willwerth to pop out to first and after falling behind senior third baseman Libby Grant 3-0, battled back and struck her out on a full count pitch.

Giles led off the bottom of the second by taking strike three. Bogdanovich then got Murrell and senior leftfielder Dominique Burnham swinging to fan the side.

In the third, Hannan fanned senior leftfielder Katie Jordan, got Bogdanovich to ground to second then got a nice play from Murrell, who raced toward the third base dugout and made a running catch of German's foul ball to end it.

Bogdanovich made quick work of Scarborough in the bottom half, getting both sophomore rightfielder Brenna Kent and junior shortstop Grace Farnkoff to ground out to second before inducing junior centerfielder Mary Redmond to hit back to the mound.

In the top of the fourth, Gleason hit a soft liner to O'Toole for the first out. Indorf then got her second single, a bloop to center that the wind knocked down, but DiBiase grounded into a force out and Cannon ended the frame by lining down the rightfield line only to see Kent make a nice running catch while battling the wind.

The Red Storm got a couple breaks in the bottom half and pounced.

Hannan led off by lining to Cannon, who got hit in the torso, but managed to scoop up the loose ball and tag first for the out. O'Toole then got Scarborough's first hit, a ringing single to left. The throw back into the infield was high and O'Toole didn't hesitate and took second. After Grant made a nice stop on a wicked ground ball by Williamson and threw out the runner, Bodganovich appeared to get out of the inning by getting Giles to ground weakly back to the mound, but she threw high to first and O'Toole raced home for a 1-0 lead.

"I came back to the dugout and said, 'Why do we always shoot ourselves in the foot?'" Aceto said. "We did it last year too."

South Portland was flustered, but didn't buckle.

"At first, we were kind of shaken up, but we got our heads back in it," Gleason said.

In the top half of the fifth, the Red Riots got a break to start the inning when Willwerth struck out, but reached when strike three was wild and got away from Murrell. Grant sacrificed the runner up. Freshman Kiley Kennedy pinch-hit and struck out and Bogdanovich had a chance to tie things up, but was thrown out by Hannan on a bunt.

In the bottom of the frame, Burnham led off with a single and moved up on a wild pitch, but Kent struck out and Farnkoff and Redmond both grounded out, keeping the game 1-0.

It didn't stay that way.

South Portland got aggressive with Hannan in the top of the sixth and got immediate results.

German led the inning off with a single to left.

Gleason then ripped a single to center,.

"I knew she was throwing first pitch strikes," Gleason said. "I knew it would be my pitch."

Redmond did a nice job playing the ball to keep the runners from moving up, but it didn't matter as Indorf grounded the first pitch she saw up the middle, scoring German with the tying run.

"I just had confidence," Indorf said. "I knew if I didn't hit it, someone else would pick me up. That eases you when you know your team can help you out. I was really relaxed and knew I could do it. I was looking for anything. I didn't have to get a huge hit, just a base hit. Laurine's really fast. I knew I just had to get it through."

"I just got done telling the girls, 'This has got to be it,'" Aceto said. "I said, 'We have 2, 3, and 4 coming up. Start looking for a first pitch strike.' They did."

A high throw to the plate allowed both runners to move up and suddenly, Scarborough was on the ropes.

That was it for Hannan and Williamson took over on the hill.

The lefty made her presence felt initially in the clutch, striking out DiBiase, but with an 0-2 count on Cannon, her off-speed pitch was short of the plate, eluded Murrell and Gleason sped home with the go-ahead run.

"I was taking a bigger lead because if someone grounded out, I needed a better jump," Gleason said. "As soon as it went by, I just went. It felt so good."

"I felt alright with Sam DiBiase at the plate, but Williamson got her to strikeout, then they gave me a gift," Aceto said.

Cannon then grounded the next pitch into right field scoring Indorf to make it 3-1.

Willwerth kept the good times rolling with a ground single to center and freshman Michelle Moreau pinch-hit and ripped the first pitch she saw over the rightfielder's head to push the lead to 5-1.

"I was nervous," said Moreau. "It was my second at-bat all season. I was just looking for a base hit. It went off the bat and I just ran. I wasn't really paying attention. I just kept running. It felt awesome. We just kept our spirits high and kept playing. "

The freshman's teammates and coach certainly believed in her.

"When she came in to hit, everyone knew she'd get a hit," Gleason said. "She's a great hitter."

"When I heard Michelle's name, I had confidence in her" Bogdanovich said. "She doesn't get too nervous."

"You can tell she's a hitter," Aceto added. "She spent all year on JV as a pitcher. Great kid. She can swing the bat. I knew I wanted to do something. I  didn't know if it would be her or (freshman) Sarah Micucci. My gut told me it was her."

That was it for Williamson, who was replaced by Giles, who ended the inning without further damage, but five runs on six hits and an error turned the tide completely.

In the bottom of the sixth, Scarborough had the top of the order up with a chance to get back in it, but one pitch after just missing a sure triple down the rightfield line by inches, Hannan lined out to right.

"We got the bat on the ball, it just wasn't going through," Hannan said. "(Erin) pitched a great game."

O'Toole popped meekly to Bogdanovich and Williamson hit a ground ball back to the mound.

"At 5-1, we were just looking for outs," said Aceto.

Giles managed to hold South Portland at bay in the top of the seventh, setting the stage for Bogdanovich to finish it off.

The end came quickly as Giles popped out to Gleason, Murrell bounced out to first and Burnham grounded out to Grant.

"We came out here and did what we know how to do," said Gleason. "We know we can hit. Hitting's contagious. When we start, we all hit. We weren't supposed to be here. We knew we had nothing to lose."

"I knew we'd be a playoff team," Aceto said. "I thought with a little luck we could get to St. Joe's for the Western Maine Final. I knew it would take a little luck. These kids came together. It was a work in progress. I was juggling lineups up until game seven or eight. I still get kids in and out when I have the need. It's been a great group. These kids enjoy being around each other. They really do. In my experience you don't find that. These girls truthfully enjoy being together."

The Red Riots had fun and made noise from the start and were clearly not phased by their surroundings.

"We made buckets last night to bang around," said Gleason. "The umpire said we couldn't do it when (Hannan) was pitching, which made us mad, but we started clapping and cheering and being even louder."

"Coming into this game, we knew we had to cheer loud and get up on them," Indorf said.

"They're as loose as loose can be," Aceto added. "You can tell by the noise in the dugout. That's just how they are. I don't care, as long as they play between the lines. They have fun."

Bogdanovich caught the final out of the 2010 regional final win as her older sister, Alexis, earned the win. Tuesday, she went the distance and improved to 12-1, allowing one unearned run on a mere two hits and no walks in seven innings. Bogdanovich struck out four and threw a wild pitch.

"No one can really hit (Erin)," Gleason said. "She's had great games against TA and now. She keeps improving."

"Erin's everything Alexis was," Aceto said. "She still shows too much emotion on the mound, but that will come."

The offense was sparked by Indorf's three hits. Cannon, German, Gleason, Indorf and Willwerth all scored runs. Moreau drove in two runs, Cannon had Indorf one RBI each. Moreau had the lone extra base in the game, the triple that broke it open.

Hannan ended her stellar high school career by taking the loss and falling to 3-1 after allowing three runs on five hits in five-plus innings. Hannan didn't walk a batter, but hit one and threw a wild pitch. She fanned five.

"I don't think I've been at my best all year," said Hannan, who missed time earlier in the season with mono. "This game wasn't my best. They came up with the hits. It is bittersweet. I had a great year. It was nice. It was a great four years. I couldn't ask for anything more."

Williamson gave up two runs on three hits in a third of an inning. She struck out one and threw a wild pitch. Giles mopped up and retired all five hitters she faced.

"I told the three pitchers it would be a team effort," Scarborough coach Tom Griffin said. "There was a good chance Mo would conk out at some point. I wasn't convinced she would go seven innings. All three were warmed up. She'll never admit she was getting tired, but her velocity was down."

Burnham and O'Toole had the lone hits and O'Toole scored the only Red Storm run.

"(South Portland) deserved it.," said Griffin. "They hit the ball. We thought the defense was going to win the game for us. They came up with a string of hits. They weren't cheap. (Bogdanovich) pitched really well. She was tough. I'm looking forward to someday when there's not a Bogdanovich on that mound. I have to wait another year. 

"I knew from the beginning that three teams could win this. They didn't throw Bogdanovich the first time. I don't know why. If they did, it would've been a game and who knows how the regular season would have ended up. They didn't. They had their reasons. They're not a Cinderella team. They have quality athletes at every position. My hat's off to them. I'm not convinced they're the better team, but they played one solid offensive game and deserved to win and we didn't. "

Scarborough goes home heartbroken at 18-1, but once again, produced a sensational season.

"It was a great season," Griffin said. "I have no complaints. We laid it on the line. The kids are fantastic young ladies. They gave it everything they had."

Expect the 2013 Red Storm to make another deep run and perhaps finish the job.

"We lose two four-year starters (Burnham and Hannan)," said Griffin. "We'll move on. I have nice looking jV and freshmen coming in next year. I have two strong pitchers coming back. South Portland certainly will be back. Maybe next year will be our turn."

One more

South Portland has played twice before in the state final, losing to Messalonskee, 7-4, in 2005 and beating Bangor, 1-0, two years ago.

Saturday, the Red Riots will take on 19-0 Cony, a team they haven't faced.

They'll go into one final game loose and full of confidence, hoping to add a final chapter to their fairy tale run.

"We're ready," Moreau said. "We're very confident with (Erin pitching). She's dominant."

"We're not getting too ahead of ourselves," said Gleason. "We need to make sure our bats get going from the start."

"If we stay focused and play the way we know we can play, we can do it," Indorf said.

"I haven't seen Cony, but I've coached against Rocky (Gaslin)," Aceto added. "I expect a lot of small ball. Bunts, double steals. I suspect we'll see a lot of balls put in play. They'll have trouble with Erin, but they'll do whatever they can to pull one out."

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

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

South Portland senior ace Erin Bogdanovich delivers a strike Tuesday. Bogdanovich surrendered just two htis and didn't allow an earned run.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Scarborough senior ace Mo Hannan delivers a pitch. Hannan blanked the Red Riots for five innings, but they got to her in the sixth.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

South Portland freshman second baseman Laurine German attempts to lay down a bunt. German started the Red Riots' sixth inning rally with a base hit.

Photo: Mike Strout / For The Forecaster

Scarborough junior third baseman Erin Giles takes a swing.