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South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview

Spring Sports Previews

South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview

South Portland enjoyed a lot of spring sports success a year ago. This season, the Red Riots are ready to impress again. Baseball made it to the semifinals in 2011 and should be right in the hunt again. Softball saw its bid for an undefeated, repeat championship denied by its fiercest rival. That team would love to return the favor this time around. Boys' lacrosse should again be one of the squads best equipped to end Scarborough's run. The girls' team is coming off its best season to date and should remain strong. Boys' track was one of the top teams in the state last season. That squad, along with the girls' team, will be very competitive throughout. Boys' tennis looks to make the playoffs, while the girls hope to go back.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mike Owens (second year, 11-7 overall record)

2011 Record: 11-7 (Lost 8-2 to Cheverus in Western Class A semifinals)

Top returning players: Will Bushey (Senior), Dominic Desjardins (Senior), Matt DiBiase (Senior), Brendan Horton (Senior), Jordan Muller (Senior), Shawn Shannon (Senior), Adam Helmke (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 24 (H) WESTBROOK, May 1 (H) TA, May 10 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 17 @ Cheverus, May 22 (H) PORTLAND, May 24 @ Deering, May 26 (H) MARSHWOOD, May 29 @ Westbrook

Coach's comment: “We graduated five everyday starters and Andrew Richards, one of the top pitchers in the SMAA. We have some experienced talent coming back and hope to fill in the other spots without losing a beat. The biggest challenge this year for us will be to replace the 46 innings on the mound lost by the departure of Richards. We return Matt DiBiase, who is the only one on the team with any real experience on the mound, but have some talented sophomores and juniors that we will have to rely on heavily if we expect to once again compete in the most competitive league in the state. We're going to rely on talented athletes to try and play solid defense and be extremely aggressive on the basepaths in hopes of counteracting some of our inexperience. My expectations are that this team will get better as the season goes along as the young talent continues to gain experience and hope by the end we are right back in the mix.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland was very competitive in Owens' first season and sprung a mild upset in the quarterfinals before falling to the eventual champion in the next round. This year's team has a nice blend of experience and promising newcomers, but there are holes that need to be filled. Richards was a first-team all-star last year after a 5-2, 1.83 ERA campaign. He ate up roughly 40 percent of his team's innings. DiBiase (3-3, 4.36 ERA in 25.2 innings during an All-Rookie league season) has experience. Playing a bigger role on the mound this season will be Shannon, who threw one inning in 2011 and new sophomores Robert Graff and Zac Marles. Muller and sophomore Joe DiBiase will also have an opportunity to pitch. Helmke returns behind the plate. Horton's return to the team after missing his junior season will give the offense a jolt. Horton hit .341 his sophomore season. Other hitters of note include Muller (.364 in 2011), Bushey (.354, six RBI), Desjardins (.313), junior Nick Whitten (.302) and Shannon (.250, seven RBI). Desjardins is also a top glove man, making only two errors a season ago. Senior Jack Lano (infield), junior Caleb Elsemore (first base/outfield) and sophomore Jon Vickers (infield/outfield) will all get an opportunity to make a mark as the season progresses. The depth of the pitching staff should keep the Red Riots competitive. For South Portland to excel, the offense has to be consistent and unrelenting. There aren't many easy games in this league, but the Red Riots should be able to hold their own against everyone. Look for another good record from this crew and it wouldn't be surprising if they went on another postseason run.

SOFTBALL

Coach; Ralph Aceto (fourth year, 52-6 overall record, one state championship)

2011 Record: 18-1 (Lost 1-0 to Scarborough in Western Class A Final)

Top returning players: Libby Grant (Senior), Erin Bogdanovich (Junior), Danica Gleason (Junior), Olivia Indorf (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 21 (H) BONNY EAGLE, April 23 @ Scarborough, April 25 (H) TA, May 2 @ Massabesic, May 9 (H) KENNEBUNK

Coach's comment: “We're a work in progress. We have work to do. When you lose a group like we did, it's a whole different ballgame. We graduated five. Three were all-conference, two all-state and one Player of the Year. We'll be a lot younger. Only three seniors. I have four freshmen on varsity. Erin will keep us in games. We won't be a high scoring team like we were last year. We'll probably play more small ball and try to wreak havoc on the basepaths. We'll be much better at the end of the year than the start. The expectation is regional finals at St. Joe's. After that, you need a little luck.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Luck was not on the side of the Red Riots a year ago. Arguably the best team in program history wasn't able to go back-to-back as the bats went cold in the regional final. Replacing a pitcher like league Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, Gatorade Maine Player of the Year and South Portland Spring Female Athlete of the Year Alexis Bogdanovich isn't easy, but luckily for Aceto (the league's co-Coach of the Year last spring) and the Red Riots, her younger sister, Erin, is ready to step into the circle and she'll fill the void nicely. She saw limited time last year and went 4-0 with a 1.12 earned run average. Indorf, as well as sophomore Michaela Willworth, will also see some innings. The loss of catcher Katlin Norton, an all-state selection last year, is also huge. Junior Samantha DiBiase will inherit that role. Bogdanovich and Gleason (both first-team all-stars in 2011) will pace the offense. Bogdanovich hit .385 last season, scored 29 times and stole 13 bases. Grant brings experience to the infield and will be a team leader. Four freshmen are on the varsity and a pair, Laurine German (outfield/second base) and Kyle Kennedy (outfield/catcher), will look to make an immediate splash. Unlike last season, South Portland isn't the favorite. The Red Riots aren't even the second favorite, as they've been leapfrogged by Thornton Academy in the minds of many, but this program is proud and has a long legacy of success. Bodganovich will quickly make her mark in the circle. The key for this team is offensive consistency. If South Portland can find a way to score runs against the top pitchers, it will be a force again in the postseason. The Red Riots would love nothing more than to meet up with Scarborough again in the regional final and possibly deliver a nice, cold dish of revenge.

BOYS' LACROSSE

Coach: Tom Fiorini (fifth year, 30-22 overall record)

2011 Record: 7-6 (Lost 9-8, in overtime, to Marshwood in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Joey DiBiase (Senior), Logan Gaddar (Senior), Mike Salvatore (Senior)

Pivotal games: April 21 (H) CHEVERUS, April 25 (H) SCARBOROUGH, April 28 @ Yarmouth, May 9 @ Thornton Academy, May 19 (H) WAYNFLETE, May 23 @ Kennebunk

Coach's comment: “We'll have our ups and downs, but I think it'll be a good year. I think we'll surprise some teams. Things have gone surprisingly well so far. We're young, but I'm encouraged. We're a more balanced team this year. It's a good group of kids. I'm having more fun than I had my first four years. It's exciting. We want to be the team that no one wants to play in the playoffs.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland's bid for a third straight trip to the Western A semifinals ended in agony at the hands of Marshwood in last year's quarterfinals. The Red Riots then lost 14 seniors, including leading offensive weapon Harrison Keithly, a first-team all-star, all-star defenders Billy Darling and Tommy Ellis and goalie Connor Igo, to graduation. South Portland isn't getting much preseason buzz, but it has the pieces in place to turn some heads in the weeks to come. DiBiase will look to get the offense started in the faceoff circle. He won 73 percent of his attempts in 2011. He'll also play defense, along with Gaddar, who is not only a great player, but a terrific team leader as well. Salvatore (12 goals last spring) will try to lead the scoring parade. Other potential scorers include new sophomores Andrew Hodge (who has great speed) and Duncan Preston and freshman Andrew Whipple. Freshman Chris Mitchell (one of the squad's best athletes) might see time on offense and defense. The new goalie is freshman T-mo Hellier. Less than half the roster is made up of juniors and seniors. Three sophomores will start and freshmen will also see lots of time. The Red Riots hoped to avenge their playoff loss in the opener at Marshwood last week, but fell, 10-4. This team will gradually improve and by June, it could be one of the squads best positioned to challenge two-time defending state champion Scarborough. There will be bumps along the way, but South Portland's upside is promising.

GIRLS' LACROSSE

Coach: Bill Fenton (fourth year, 21-18 overall record)

2011 Record: 10-3 (Lost 13-12, in overtime, to Thornton Academy in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Olivia Edwards (Senior), Haley McCracken (Senior), Anh Nguyen (Senior), Maraka Soule (Senior), Kristen Kane (Junior), Erica Lightner (Junior), Lani Edwards (Sophomore), Mary Alice Gurnee (Sophomore), Brianna Maloney (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 28 @ Thornton Academy, April 30 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 15 (H) MCAULEY, May 24 @ Portland

Coach's comment: “I've got a good group of girls. We graduated eight senior starters. We have a lot of speed. The girls are really bonding. We're playing in a tougher tier this year. We want to make playoffs. I think we can do it.”

The Forecaster's forecast: The South Portland program made great strides last spring, posting a record-tying 10 wins before suffering an agonizing playoff loss. While graduation hurt (all-stars Felicia Farnham and Nikki LaPlante were among those who left), you can't write this team off. The Red Riots should be right back in the hunt. Gurnee, Maloney and McCracken will all see time in the draw circle and play in the midfield and on defense. Sophomore Jackie Merrill will also be a part of the defensive unit. Kane (an all-Rookie Team selection in 2011) is back in goal and will be aided by freshman Lilly SanGiovanni. South Portland has plenty of potential offensive weapons. Nguyen leads the way. She scored 34 goals and added eight assists last season. Lani Edwards, Olivia Edwards, Lightner and Soule, along with sophomore Shae O'Brien and freshmen Colleen Fleming, Amy LaPlante and Abby Letourneau also figure into the scoring mix. While the Red Riots have a few tough early tests, most notably against two-time defending state champion Scarborough, the schedule is more favorable in the second half, which should allow the team an opportunity to rack up wins. While matching last year's total might be a daunting task, South Portland has the look of a squad that is playoff-bound once more. Perhaps this season, the Red Riots will stay longer.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coaches:

(Boys) Dave Kahill (fifth year)

(Girl) Karen Reardon (first year)

2011 Results:

(Boys) 3rd @ Class A State Meet

(Girls) Tie-15th @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Konzo Alognon (Senior), Sacre Bahati (Senior), Nick Genesio (Senior), Dan Grazewski (Senior), Dan Medici (Senior), Darryl Wilkinson (Senior), Tyler Young, Steven Zanis (Senior), Eddie Apricopoai (Junior), Joe Feely (Junior), Austin Gotts (Junior), Max Knutsen (Junior), Ryan Tuttle (Junior), Joey Zelasko (Junior), Jon Bagley (Sophomore), Ben Michaud (Sophomore), Anthony Tran (Sophomore)

(Girls) Sarah Baird (Senior), Jessy Francois (Senior), Kateri Jeffery (Senior), Sarah Ouellette (Senior), Cheyenne Coombs (Junior), Sophie Desjardins (Junior), Nicole Grant (Junior), Nyajock Pan (Junior), Angela Tirabassi (Junior), Katie Dooling (Sophomore)

Top foes: Bonny Eagle, Sanford, Scarborough boys; Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Deering, Scarborough, Thornton Academy girls

Coach Kahill's comment: “Coming off last year's third place finish, this year, we should again be very competitive. The team is extremely hard working, focused and positive. The underclassmen are talented and rapidly improving because of their dedication and work ethic. Developing depth and continuous improvement for all levels of athletes throughout the season will be a key. The distance group is deep and talented. We have a number of versatile sprinters and jumpers.”

Coach Reardon's comment: “Our team improved a lot indoors and we hope to continue that progress outdoors. We have over 40 girls out for the team and they're working very hard and have great attitudes. They're starting to believe that they belong in the mix and are starting to run to win rather than just hoping to do well. We still have some holes to fill, but we'll be a much stronger team. We should qualify a lot more athletes for states and have a greater chance to score some points.”

The Forecaster's forecast: Both South Portland teams are primed for a solid 2012 season.

The boys made great strides in 2011 and despite losing Spring Male Athlete of the Year (and Class A state 200 champion) Adrian Reid to graduation, have plenty of firepower in reserve. Medici and Tuttle were part of a 400 relay state champion last season. Medici was also third in the 300 hurdles. He will sprint and hurdle. Alognon, Bahati, Genesio, Michaud (third in the SMAA junior 200 indoors), Tran (fifth in the league in the junior 55 indoors), Tuttle, new sophomores Manny Ortiz and Elijah Wallance and freshman Matthew Stearns also compete in the short races. Feely, Stearns, Tran and Tuttle are other hurdlers. In the distance, the Red Riots feature Apricopoai, Bagley (fifth in the SMAA junior 800 indoors), Gotts, Knutsen (fourth in the SMAA two-mile indoors) and Wilkinson (who won the league title in the senior 800 indoors). New senior Thomas Salamone (a cross country and indoor fixture, who was fourth at the league meet in the senior 800 indoors) and sophomore Jacob Guay add depth. On the field side, Grazewski was fifth in the long jump last season. He's recovering from a broken leg and will be limited. Other jumpers to watch include Bahati, Feely, Genesio (fifth in the league in the triple jump indoors), Michaud (third in the triple jump, fifth in the long jump at the league meet indoors), Stearns (third at the indoor league meet in the long jump), Tran, Tuttle, Wallance and Wilkinson. In the throws, look for Zanis, Zelasko and freshmen Matthew Hammond and Darien McMahon to make noise. Pole vaulters include Bahati (third in the league indoors) and Young. While South Portland has some points to replace, its depth will keep it near the top during the regular season and should allow the Red Riots to produce another impressive finish at the state championship meet.

On the girls' side, Reardon takes over the program from Bob Zinchuk. Reardon has long coached cross country at South Portland and was an assistant in indoor and outdoor track before becoming head coach this school year. She was named the Coach of the Year in the SMAA this winter. Pan (South Portland's Fall and Winter Female Athlete of the Year this school year) is the top returner. She was sixth in both the mile and two-mile a year ago and looks to move up. She'll have company in the distance from Tirabassi, Bridget Campbell and Clara Ellis. Dooling and Grant are racewalkers. Baird, Jeffery, Tirabassi and sophomore Maya Letourneau will compete in the middle distance. Desjardins (seventh in the 200 last year, school record holder for that event) paces the sprinters. She's joined by Ouellette and freshmen Lauren Magnuson and Brittney Upton, who also hurdles, along with Tirabassi. On the field side, Coombs is top jumper. Magnuson, Ouellette and Upton are other jumpers to watch. Francois leads the throwers. The Red Riots have the pieces in place to improve dramatically between now and June. They'll be tough in league competition and if all goes well, could make a run at a top 10 finish at states.

BOYS' TENNIS

Coach: Tom Hyland (fourth year, 13-24 overall record)

2011 Results: 3-9 (no playoffs)

Top returners: Eric Berry-Sandelin (Senior), Joey Hendricks (Senior), Ben Burkey (Junior), Tanner Hyland (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 23 @ Cheverus, April 27 @ Deering, May 9 (H) WINDHAM, May 21 @ Scarborough

Coach's comment: “It should be an interesting season and we look to be very competitive. We have a great group of kids who are working hard and improving every day. Our seniors have gained valuable experience the last two years. Our first doubles looks to make a major impact this season.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland could be quite improved this spring. The Red Riots will rely on Berry-Sandelin and Hendricks to move up to the first two singles spots. Burkey and Hyland went 7-2 as a doubles tandem in 2011 and should be strong again. Mix in seniors Dylan Esposito and Justin O'Reardon for depth and it's likely South Portland will be competitive in all of its matches. The potential is there for the Red Riots to build on last year's win-loss record and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2009. This team could make quite a splash in the weeks to come.

GIRLS' TENNIS

Coach: Elizabeth Scifres (13th year, 78-82 overall record)

2011 Results: 5-8 (Lost 3-2 to Cheverus in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Kera Snyder (Senior), Jenna Susi (Senior), Bri Woodward (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 23 (H) CHEVERUS, April 30 (H) MCAULEY, May 11 @ Kennebunk, May 15 (H) PORTLAND, May 21 (H) SCARBOROUGH

Coach's comment: “We have a hardworking, dedicated team. There are no flashy players in the spotlight, but everyone has solid skills, good fitness and great attitudes. Like every year, we strive to play the best we can while maintaining the highest level of sportsmanship.”

The Forecaster's forecast: South Portland was very tough by the end of last spring when it almost upset undefeated Cheverus in the quarterfinals. This year's team has experience at singles, where captains Snyder and Susi, along with Woodward, will look to lead the squad to great things. Senior captain Melissa Davis and juniors Paige Doane and Claudia Ouellette factor into the doubles mix. The Red Riots should be able to go toe-to-toe with most of the teams in the league. Look for them to be among a group battling for a winning record and a playoff berth. Once again, by season's end, South Portland could be a team that no one wants to face.

 

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


Photo: File photo

Matt Dibiase will be the anchor of South Portland's pitching staff this spring.

Photo: File photo

Junior Erin Bogdanovich will be in the middle of plenty of success for the South Portland softball team.

Photo: File photo

Anh Nguyen had 34 goals for the Red Riots last season.

Photo: File photo

Junior Sophie Desjardins is the school record holder in the 200 and will be a top threat for the girls' outdoor track team this season.