Scarborough rallies to edge TA
SCARBOROUGH—Scarborough's powerhouse softball team is used to running roughshod over the opposition, not having to play from behind, so it would have been understandable had the Red Storm not positively responded to a stunning 5-0 first inning deficit Wednesday afternoon on its home field against a very good Thornton Academy squad.
Instead of buckling, however, it took the Red Storm all of two innings to catch up.
First, senior starter Erin Giles settled down and after she and her teammates battled back with their bats, Giles gave way to junior Alyssa Williamson to hold the Golden Trojans at bay until Scarborough went on top.
That happened in the bottom of the sixth inning, courtesy an unlikely hero.
Sophomore Sophia Burnham came in cold off the bench to pinch-hit with one out and runners on second and third and promptly singled up the middle, putting the Red Storm ahead to stay. Williamson added a much-needed insurance run with a double, then worked out of a jam in the seventh, stranding the tying runs in scoring position, as Scarborough held on for an 8-6 victory.
Williamson earned the win in relief and had three hits and two RBIs to pace a 10-hit attack as the Red Storm improved to 5-0, dropping the Golden Trojans to 3-3 in the process.
"It's not exactly how we wrote the script, but I'm proud of the kids," said Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. "It wasn't our best effort, but I'm really happy we had to go through this. It showed our character. It showed we can dig deep and be gritty and find a way to come back. I couldn't be happier. We found a way and that's what we need to do."
Entering Wednesday, Thornton Academy had never beaten Scarborough in 12 previous meetings (see sidebar). That includes playoff games in 2005, 2010 and 2011.
The Red Storm beat the Golden Trojans, 1-0, in 10 innings in the first meeting back in 2004 and had outscored its neighbor by a 48-9 composite margin through last year's come-from-behind 6-3 triumph in Saco.
Scarborough entered Wednesday's contest on a roll, having downed host and reigning regional champion South Portland (15-5), visiting Gorham (17-1, in five innings), host Bonny Eagle (7-1) and visiting Portland (5-0).
Thornton Academy handled visiting Biddeford (9-1) and host Portland (18-1, in five innings) to start the year. A 6-2 home loss to South Portland followed, but the Golden Trojans got back on track with a 12-4 win at Gorham. Monday, they were beaten by visiting Bonny Eagle, 12-3.
Wednesday, Thornton Academy certainly made a noisy first impression.
The top of the first inning began inauspiciously enough as Giles retired first baseman Erin Brayden on a fly ball to centerfield and got third baseman Brooke Cross to line softly to third, but the trouble began when pitcher Bailey Tremblay singled to right and catcher Sam Schildroth followed with a base hit to center.
Giles then lost the strike zone, as leftfielder Emily Richard drew a base on balls to load the bases, second baseman Taylor Lux looked at ball four to force in a run and shortstop Morgan Dube did the same.
Rightfielder Aleisha Cross then blooped a ball to center, which Red Storm senior centerfielder Mary Redmond might have momentarily lost in the sun. The ball landed for a single, chasing home Richard and Lux, then Dube scored as well, when Redmond failed to come up with the ball cleanly.
Just like that, Thornton Academy had a seemingly commanding 5-0 lead.
Giles avoided further damage by fanning centerfielder Aurora Connolly, but the Red Storm was firmly behind the eight ball, facing its biggest deficit in memory.
With this offense, however, there simply wasn't any panic and Griffin delivered a simple message before senior second baseman Marisa O'Toole led off the bottom of the first.
"I was still pretty confident," Griffin said. "It was a difficult situation for the kids and they haven't had to deal with (being behind like that) too often. To be behind like that to a team like that with a good pitcher, that's tough to swallow. I told them, 'You don't have to get it back all at once. Swing the bat, get some runs and get back in it.' They know they can bat around the order."
O'Toole drew a walk to get the inning started. After senior shortstop Grace Farnkoff popped out, Williamson made her big bat felt with a single to right. Giles then helped herself with a single to center, scoring O'Toole. Junior catcher Megan Murrell followed with a base hit off the glove of Brooke Cross at third and Williamson scampered home. Junior rightfielder Brenna Kent delivered a base hit to left to score Giles and on the play, two errors allowed Murrell to score, while Kent was thrown out on the basepaths. Freshman third baseman Maggie Murphy struck out to end the inning, but the Red Storm had come almost all the way back and with six innings to go, only trailed by one, 5-4.
"This is probably the best offensive team we've ever had at Scarborough," Williamson said. "We knew we'd get our bats going and pick each other up. When we came back, it gave us the mindset we could do it. We didn't give up on ourselves."
"(The girls) responded," Griffin said. "They showed a lot of confidence and character. The captains showed leadership."
Giles got out of another jam in the top of the second, courtesy a tremendous defensive play from her second baseman.
After Erin Brayden led off the inning singling off Giles, Brooke Cross popped out foul to Murrell. Bailey Tremblay then drew a walk, bringing up the dangerous Schildroth, who ripped a line drive that appeared ticketed for centerfield, but O'Toole ranged to her right, made the catch and with Erin Brayden running on contact, O'Toole had to simply touch second base for an unassisted double play to end the inning with the deficit still one run.
"Sometimes you need a little luck," Griffin said. "We've been on the good end and the bad end of those kinds of things."
Scarborough tied the score in its half of the second.
With one out, Redmond walked, O'Toole beat out an infield hit and after Farnkoff grounded into a shortstop-to-second force out, Williamson came through in the clutch, singling to center on an off-speed pitch to bring Redmond home to tie the game, 5-5.
Then, the contest settled down for several innings.
In the top of the third, Giles had her best frame, setting Thornton Academy down 1-2-3.
In the bottom half, Murrell fouled out, Kent grounded out and Murphy went down swinging.
When Giles walked Aleisha Cross to start the fourth, Griffin pulled her in favor of Williamson, whose last effort on the mound resulted in a no-hitter versus Portland Saturday.
Williamson did wild pitch Cross to second, but fanned Connolly, got Erin Brayden to fly out and induced a ground ball back to the mound from Brooke Cross to escape the frame.
Scarborough's first two hitters went down in the bottom half of the fourth before O'Toole poked a single to left. She was stranded, however, as Farnkoff popped out to short.
Bailey Tremblay reached on an error to start the fifth, but Williamson struck out the next two hitters. Tremblay moved to second on a steal, but Williamson got Lux to ground back to the mound to end the inning.
Tremblay had her best inning in the fifth, setting the Red Storm down 1-2-3.
In the sixth, Aleisha Cross singled with one out, but Williamson stranded her there, setting the stage for the offense to come through once more.
With one down in the bottom half, Murphy got the rally started with a bunt base hit down the third base line. Senior leftfielder Paige Moore-Haskell then laid down a bunt, which Brooke Cross couldn't handle and the runners took second and third.
With Redmond due, Griffin elected to give Burnham a chance and she delivered, big-time, with a base hit to center, which scored both runners for a 7-5 lead.
"It felt good," Burnham said. "I just wanted to get a hit, get it on the ground to move the runners. I tried not to over-think it, so I wouldn't get stressed out. I knew we could come back. I knew we had the hits to do that."
"I'm so proud of (Sophia)," said Williamson. "She's worked so hard and she definitely proved herself today. She came up big."
"I'm always going into a game picking and choosing when Sophia will hit," Griffin added. "I have another senior, Sydney Litrocapes, I was ready to use too. Both have been fantastic in pinch-hitting roles. We're pretty deep. I like to give those kids an opportunity. Sophia's a well-trained hitter. We talked about safety squeezing, but I needed her going out there knowing she could do what she did. I knew the infield would be in and Sophia can drive the ball hard. She went with the pitch well. She did a great job."
The Red Storm wasn't done as O'Toole walked (reaching base for the fourth time) and after Farnkoff hit into a rarely seen left-to-third force, Williamson ripped a double over Connolly's head in center, easily scoring O'Toole. Farnkoff was thrown out at home, but Scarborough took an 8-5 lead to the seventh.
Fittingly on this day, the final three outs didn't come easily.
Williamson did strike out Brooke Cross to start the frame, but Bailey Tremblay blooped a single to center and Schildroth drew a walk. Richard followed with a ground ball to O'Toole, but her throw was dropped at first by Kent, loading the bases. Lux grounded slowly to Williamson, who threw to O'Toole covering at first for the second out, but Tremblay scored and pinch-runner Kaylee Burns and Richard both wound up in scoring position.
It came down to Williamson vs. Dube and Williamson won the duel, getting Dube to ground back to the mound. Williamson threw her out and Scarborough had survived, 8-6.
"We never take any team lightly," Williamson said. "They showed us they're a good team today. I had to take a deep breath and relax. It all worked out."
"It's a big win for us," Griffin said. "It puts us closer to where we want to be. We want to win every game and we learn from every game. Even if you go undefeated, you still have peaks and valleys."
The Scarborough offense featured three hits from Williamson (including the lone extra base hit of the contest) and two from O'Toole. Redmond scored twice, while Burnham and Williamson each had two RBIs.
Williamson improved to 3-0 with four innings of two-hit, one-unearned run relief. She walked just one and fanned six, while throwing a wild pitch.
"Coach makes sure we're both loose all the time," Williamson said. "I made sure to pick (Erin) up. Every pitcher prefers to start, but you have to have the mindset that you might need to come in and get it done."
Giles allowed five runs (four earned) on four hits, with five walks and a strikeout in her three-plus innings.
"It wasn't Erin's day," said Griffin. "Everything was up in the strike zone. She couldn't make the adjustment. We were fortunate that Alyssa came in and did the job. We're lucky to have two powerhouse pitchers. It worked to our advantage."
Aleisha Cross and Bailey Tremblay both had two hits for Thornton Academy. Tremblay also scored twice. Lux had two RBIs.
Tremblay fell to 3-3 after allowing eight runs (four earned) on 10 hits and three walks. She struck out two batters.
Eyeing the top spot
It's never too early for Scarborough to think about the No. 1 seed and making a run at another Class A title, but Wednesday's game made it clear the Red Storm still has work to do.
"We know we can do better," Williamson said. "Our hitting is going to keep coming along. It's just a matter of time."
The Red Storm is back in action Friday at Noble, a team that was highly touted in the preseason. Scarborough hosts Sanford, coming off a decisive win over South Portland, Monday.
"We have to keep plugging away and stay confident because it doesn't get easier," said Griffin. "Some of the teams have really stepped up. It's not a two-pony race anymore."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Scarborough-Thornton Academy meetings
@ Scarborough 5 Thornton Academy 2
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 2 Thornton Academy 0
Scarborough 8 @ Thornton Academy 3
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 4 Thornton Academy 0
@ Scarborough 3 Thornton Academy 0
Scarborough 6 @ Thornton Academy 0
@ Scarborough 6 Thornton Academy 1
Scarborough 2 @ Thornton Academy 0
Scarborough 4 @ Thornton Academy 0
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 1 Thornton Academy 0
@ Scarborough 1 Thornton Academy 0 (10)