Scarborough softball opens with statement win
SCARBOROUGH—Every year, there's a buzz about a certain team and how it's ready to make a serious run at Scarborough's dominance on the softball diamond.
This year's "it" team is Bonny Eagle and like so many other victims in the past, the Scots learned Wednesday morning in the regular season opener why the Red Storm at are a different level.
Year after year after year.
The defending Class A champions couldn't get the bats going until the fourth inning, but that was no problem as senior ace Alyssa Williamson held Bonny Eagle at bay.
Then, Scarborough started hitting and demonstrated its balanced offense as it scored three times in the fourth and put the game away with a five-run fifth inning. Williamson slammed the door from there, as the Red Storm delivered a powerful opening statement, 8-0.
Williamson allowed just one hit in seven innings, struck out 13 and with her bat, doubled, singled and drove in a run to pace an impressive and balanced attack as Scarborough won its 13th game in a row dating back to last spring.
"It was nice to have a challenge right away," said longtime Red Storm coach Tom Griffin. "I thought our kids responded well. It was just a matter of time and making good contact."
Scarborough joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association in 2004 and since then has left the field in its wake, reaching the regional final in nine of 10 seasons and in four of those years, it moved on to the state final, which it won each time, including last year, 9-3, over Skowhegan.
Entering this season, over the past decade, the Red Storm boasted a sensational record of 177-14, which is a cool 92.7 winning percentage.
Scarborough had beaten Bonny Eagle in all 12 prior meetings in Class A, by a composite margin of 71-5. The teams also played twice in the playoffs, with the Red Storm winning in the 2009 semifinals (6-0) and the 2010 quarterfinals (2-1). Last spring, the Red Storm won in Standish, 7-1.
The Scots were highly touted in preseason prognostications, but Wednesday, the Red Storm reminded everyone that the road to the championship goes through Scarborough.
Williamson was mortal in the first inning, but closed strong.
After getting freshman designated player Nell Spencer to ground out to senior first baseman Brenna Kent, Williamson walked senior pitcher Allie Pike on a 3-2 pitch, but bounced back to strike out both senior shortstop Brianna Lifland and senior first baseman Rebecca Howell.
In the bottom half, Red Storm sophomore shortstop Chloe Gorey grounded out to shortstop and junior rightfielder Brittany Plowman struck out before Williamson drew a walk. Senior catcher Megan Murrell then grounded out to second to end the frame.
Williamson opened the second inning by fanning both senior second baseman Kelsey Gaddy and sophomore Ashlyn Wintle on 3-2 pitches. Senior catcher Lauren Turner then appeared to rip a single to right, but Plowman raced in and threw out Turner by a step at first base for the rarely seen 9-3 put-out.
"We practice that all the time and we warm up with that so I was ready," said Plowman. "It just came to me and I threw it. It was definitely a cool experience."
Scarborough threatened in the bottom of the second.
After Kent flew out to center, junior leftfielder Sophia Burnham grounded an infield hit off Pike's glove. Junior designated hitter Abbie Murrell took a called third strike, but junior second baseman Ashley Gleason grounded a ball toward second and after it appeared to hit the runner only to have nothing called, Gaddy threw wild and Gleason was safe at first with Burnham moving to third. The rally ended, however, when sophomore third baseman Maggie Murphy lined out to third.
Williamson again set Bonny Eagle down in order in the third. She got sophomore third baseman Jamie Carson to pop to Gorey, who made a nice running catch in foul territory, junior leftfielder Kaitlyn Dyer to pop out to second and struck out Spencer.
After Gorey grounded out to start the bottom of the inning, Plowman singled up the middle. Williamson then appeared to crush a ball to center, but the wind held it up and sophomore Dezi Larrilee made the catch. After Gorey stole second, Megan Murrell lined out to center and the game remained scoreless.
The Scots got their lone hit when Pike led off the fourth with a single just off the glove of Gorey. Pike was replaced by junior courtesy runner Kaitlyn Smith, but Williamson struck out both Lifland and Howell and after walking Gaddy, got Wintle to pop out to Kent in foul territory to escape the jam.
Scarborough's bats then came alive in the bottom of the fourth.
Kent got the uprising started with a single to left. She was replaced by freshman courtesy runner Hannah Ricker, who raced all the way to third when Burnham beat out a bunt hit. Abbie Murrell grounded out to short, but Lifland's throw was to first, allowing Ricker to score the game's first run.
The Red Storm kept the pressure on and Gleason ripped a shot to right-center, which hit the ground and eluded Wintle and went all the way to the wall for an RBI triple. Gleason then scored on a Murphy bunt and after four, Scarborough was in control, up, 3-0.
"We've worked really hard, especially hitting," Williamson said. "We knew we'd come around. It was just a matter of getting jitters out and knowing it was going to come."
Like all great pitchers, Williamson kept the momentum on her team's side by fanning three straight Scots in the top of the fifth.
In the bottom of the inning, Scarborough ended all doubt.
Plowman got things going with a double.
"We found the holes after awhile," said Plowman.
Williamson followed by blooping a shot to center which Larrilee couldn't reach. The ball went for a double and Plowman scored to make it 4-0. After Williamson was replaced by junior courtesy runner Dani Plummer, Megan Murrell singled to center and the lead was 5-0. On the play, Larrilee made an error and Murrell went all the way to third.
Murrell was replaced by sophomore courtesy runner Kaleigh Scoville, who scored the Red Storm's sixth run on Kent's base hit to center.
After Burnham struck out looking, Abbie Murrell singled to right to put runners at the corners. Murrell was replaced by freshman courtesy runner Lilly York, who stole second. Gleason followed by lining a shot to right. Wintle made a pretty diving catch, but Kent came home to score. Murphy then reached on a infield single and Volk came home to make it 8-0.
In the top of the sixth, Williamson got Spencer to ground out to first, then struck out both Pike and Lifland.
Scarborough threatened again in the bottom half, as Gorey walked and stole second, but sophomore Tori Hale fanned, Williamson grounded out to first and Megan Murrell popped out to short.
Williamson slammed the door in the seventh, striking out Howell, getting Gaddy to pop to short, then ending it by inducing a line drive off Wintle's bat, which was caught by Burnham.
"It was a great start," Plowman said. "We stayed together. We were loud. It was great."
Williamson played the role of ace to perfection, earning her first win after allowing just one hit and two walks in seven shutout innings. She struck out a baker's dozen.
"I felt awesome," Williamson said. "Once I settled down, I felt good. All those strikeouts felt good."
"Alyssa was definitely on today," Plowman said.
"Alyssa was pressing a little bit early," Griffin added. "We talked about getting ahead (in the count). She got into a groove. She got into a rhythm and dominated the rest of the way."
Offensively, Scarborough featured four girls (Burnham, Kent, Plowman and Williamson) who produced multiple hits. Eight different players scored a run and six had RBIs (including Gleason and Murphy, who both drove in a pair). The Red Storm had three extra base hits and stole four bases.
"Up and down the lineup and even on the bench, everyone can hit," Williamson said.
"You'll find that everyone on this team will contribute," Griffin said. "Girls off the bench too."
Pike fell to 0-1 after allowing eight runs on a dozen hits and a walk. She fanned five. Pike also had Bonny Eagle's lone hit.
"(Pike) is good," Griffin said. "They have some scary bats in that lineup. We respect them."
Scarborough is in the midst of a tough series of early games. The next test is Friday when South Portland, the one team which has held its own against the Red Storm over the years, pays a visit. Scarborough then goes to Gorham and Noble and hosts Thornton Academy.
"We're ready for Friday," Plowman said. "It's great to play strong teams."
"Coach always tells us we're the ones with a target on our backs and we love it," said Williamson, who will get the ball against the Red Riots. "We love the adrenaline rush of knowing everyone wants to beat us.We know we have come out strong right away. We're ready (for Friday). We can't wait."