Scarborough pounds SP in playoff rematch
SOUTH PORTLAND—While it's quite likely (almost definite, if history's a guide) that they'll meet again on a different field under (hopefully) much warmer conditions, even a late April encounter between the region's top two softball powers is going to generate buzz.
That was the case Monday afternoon at Wainwright Farms when defending Western A champion South Portland and perennial powerhouse Scarborough renewed acquaintances for the first time since the Red Riots upset the Red Storm in last year's regional final.
But instead of a taut, pitcher's duel, offense reigned supreme in a game that was anything but a down-to-the-wire affair.
Scarborough's potent and balanced offense produced 15 runs on 14 hits and broke things open on a bases loaded triple from senior second baseman Marisa O'Toole in the fourth inning. The Red Storm never looked back from there and went on to a 15-5 victory.
Scarborough got multiple hits from five different players and senior pitcher Erin Giles worked out of trouble to go the distance as the Red Storm began the year 1-0 and dropped South Portland to 1-1.
"I'm pleased," said longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. "We took care of business. We hit the ball really well. Everything was positive. I got a lot of kids involved. We go out there and try to win every game we play. We accomplished that mission today."
These two and everyone else
Since Scarborough joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association for the 2004 season, it's played in the regional or state final every year but one and in most of those postseasons, ran into South Portland somewhere along the way.
The teams actually met for the first time in the 2003 Western A semifinals, when the Red Storm (which played a Class B regular season schedule that year, but got bumped up for the playoffs) beat the Red Riots, 3-0.
In all, Scarborough entered Monday having taken 14 of 18 previous meetings (please see sidebar), but the squads have split six encounters over the past three years, with the team winning in the regular season going on to earn the top seed for the playoffs, but losing to the other in the regional final on each occasion.
Last spring, Scarborough took the regular season showdown with surprising ease, 14-6, but South Portland erupted late in the regional final to end the Red Storm's campaign at 18-1 with a 5-1 triumph. The Red Riots went on to lose to Cony, 2-0, in the state final to wind up 17-3.
Both teams return plenty of talent this spring and are viewed as the teams to beat once more.
South Portland opened with an impressive 12-0 win at Bonny Eagle.
Scarborough hadn't yet played a countable game, but was coming off a very successful (8-0-1) trip to Florida.
Monday, early season intrigue was in the air as Red Riots coach Ralph Aceto, instead of starting senior standout pitcher (and 2012 SP Spring Female Athlete of the Year) Erin Bogdanovich, opted to give senior Danica Gleason her first varsity start.
"I went with Danica," said Aceto, who celebrated his 56th birthday Monday. "She'd been chomping at the bit and bugging me for three years to throw. She's my number three pitcher. Being a senior and being Danica, she wanted to throw against Scarborough and I gave her the opportunity. Erin's been having some health issues. She has some kidney stones. She didn't feel good Saturday at Bonny Eagle. I thought it would be a good idea to rest her today. I don't think Tom needs to see her anymore than he needs to see her anyway. That's double the reason."
Gleason walked O'Toole on a full count pitch to start the game and after senior shortstop Grace Farnkoff sacrificed her to second, O'Toole moved to third on a wild pitch. A fly ball to center off the bat of Giles chased home O'Toole with the game's first run.
It didn't take long for the Red Riots to get the run back, as sophomore second baseman Laurine German, who is rapidly emerging as one of the state's most exciting players, led off by ripping a shot deep down the leftfield line. Red Storm senior Paige Moore-Haskell couldn't quite reach the ball and by the time it settled at the base of the wall, German was around second and steaming for third and Aceto never even thought about applying the stop sign, allowing German to race home to make it 1-1.
"Laurine just carries it over from last year," said Aceto. "It's a continuation. She played for the same Worcester Hawks (AAU) team Erin plays for. She's been playing all winter. She just tears the cover off the ball. She can absolutely fly. Get her on base, it's a lot of fun."
Gleason had a 1-2-3 top of the second and her teammates had a chance to give her the lead when senior catcher Sam DiBiase doubled to deep left leading off the bottom half, but Giles then baffled the South Portland hitters, getting junior Michaela Willwerth, freshman Miranda Gleason and sophomore Sarah Miccuci to all look at strike three, keeping the score deadlocked.
The Red Storm went on top for good in the top of the third and again O'Toole was the spark. With one out, O'Toole blooped a hit just over Miranda Gleason's head down the rightfield line for a single. With two down, O'Toole stole second and junior first baseman Alyssa Williamson followed with a double to left to make it 2-1 Scarborough.
In the bottom half, the hosts again threatened as German singled down the leftfield line with one down and one out later, Danica Gleason ripped a base hit into left-center. On the play, German raced to third and Gleason took second on the throw. Junior centerfielder Olivia Indorf walked to load the bases, but DiBiase popped out to third to end it.
The Red Storm then got some separation in the top of the fourth.
Junior catcher Megan Murrell led off with a single to left and moved to second on an error. Junior outfielder Brenna Kent walked and freshman third baseman Maggie Murphy beat out a bunt to load the bases. A single to right by Moore-Haskell plated a run, but Gleason appeared on the verge of getting out of the jam when she caught sophomore pinch-hitter Sophia Burnham looking at strike three.
O'Toole wasn't about to miss her opportunity, however, and she laced a triple to deep right, chasing home all three runners to push the lead to 6-1.
"Coach always tells us that when the bases are loaded, no matter what the score is, you have to be aggressive," O'Toole said. "I looked for a good pitch to hit and tried to do my best to go with wherever it was."
That ended Gleason's day, as Indorf came in to pitch.
Farnkoff popped to Gleason, who had moved to shortstop, but after catching the ball, Gleason slipped and O'Toole came home with the fifth and final run of a very productive inning.
Giles had her most effective frame in the bottom half, getting Willwerth to line out to O'Toole, striking out Miranda Gleason looking and getting Miccuci to chase strike three.
The Red Storm made it a 9-1 game in the top of the fifth as Giles led off with a double to deep left, was replaced by sophomore pinch-runner Dani Plummer and both Plummer and Murphy scored when Murphy slammed a ball to deep left and like German had done four innings earlier, raced around the bases for a two-run home run.
South Portland could have given up, but to their credit, the Red Riots made things interesting in the bottom half.
With one down, German got her third hit, a single to center. After Bogdanovich fanned looking, Danica Gleason singled to center and Indorf followed with a base hit to center to score German and make it 9-2. DiBiase then grounded the ball to Giles' right. She got a glove on the ball, but couldn't handle it for an error and that kept the inning alive for Willwerth, who singled to right, scoring two runs. Miranda Gleason struck out looking, but South Portland was back within five, 9-4.
Scarborough kept its hitting shoes on in the sixth, erupting for four runs with two outs.
A Williamson walk got the rally started. Giles singled to right and Murrell did the same to drive in Williamson. An error scored Plummer (who had run for Giles). An Indorf wild pitch brought home sophomore pinch-runner Brittany Plowman and a single by Moore-Haskell scored Kent to make it 13-4.
After the Red Riots went relatively quietly in their half (a single by senior Kelsey Morton was all they could muster), the Red Storm scored two final runs, as Murrell walked with the bases loaded to score Plummer and a Kent single brought home Plowman to make the score 15-4.
In the bottom half, Danica Gleason led off with a bloop single and one out later, scored when DiBiase cranked her second double of the game. DiBiase was replaced by sophomore pinch-runner Abby Young, but Young was stranded as Willwerth and Miranda Gleason grounded out to end it, 15-5, in Scarborough's favor.
"It doesn't matter when we play (South Portland)," said O'Toole. "It's always a great game. They're an awesome opponent. It's great for us to see what we need to improve on."
The Red Storm's offense was simply awesome, as Giles, Moore-Haskell, Murphy, Murrell and O'Toole all had two hits, O'Toole, Plowman and Plummer each scored three times, while Kent and Murphy touched home plate twice, O'Toole had three RBI and Moore-Haskell, Murphy and Murrell all drove in a pair. Giles and Williamson doubled, O'Toole tripled and Murphy homered. While Scarborough showed it had sock, it demonstrated speed as well, as Moore-Haskell and O'Toole each stole a base.
"Our mindset's always the same," O'Toole said. "It doesn't matter who it is. One of the things that's great about this team in particular, and we noticed it in Florida, is that everyone is confident in their ability to contribute at any point in the game. Everyone acts like they've been there before. We don't back down from a situation that's tough. We're never satisfied. If you want to be successful, you can't be like that."
"Our kids are experienced," Griffin said. "I think you'll see that all season, us getting contributions from all up and down the lineup. We're stronger than nine players. We're very, very deep this year."
Giles got the win despite allowing five runs (three earned) on 11 hits in seven innings. She walked one batter, threw a wild pitch and struck out nine.
"Erin pitched really, really well in Florida, but she wasn't sharp today," Griffin said. "She missed her spots. Her changeup wasn't down to set up other pitches. She'll come back and pitch much stronger than she did today."
Aceto's decision to go with Gleason raised eyebrows.
"It wouldn've been nice to go up against (Erin)," said O'Toole. "It would have been more challenging to see how we'd do at this point of the season. We'll play with the same intensity no matter who's on the mound. Danica's so versatile. I wasn't that surprised to see her out there because she can do that sort of thing."
"I'm not surprised (Bogdanovich didn't pitch)," Griffin said. "We just play it differently. We go out to compete. It's a shame since a lot of people came to watch what might be the two best teams in the state and don't get to see the pitching matchup you expect. They threw a pitcher who hadn't pitched since middle school. We just hit line drives. We knew it would be just a matter of time. We knew she wouldn't throw a lot of strikes. We just had to stay off the high pitch. We knew eventually it would go our way."
Gleason took the loss after surrendering seven runs (all earned) on six hits and three walks in 3.1 innings. She struck out a batter, but also threw a wild pitch.
Indorf allowed eight runs (five earned) on eight hits and four walks in 3.2 innings. She had two strikeouts, but threw a wild pitch and hit a batter.
Offensively, South Portland was paced by German (three hits, including the home run, two runs scored and an RBI), Gleason (three hits, two runs), Willwerth (two RBI) and DiBiase (two doubles, one RBI).
Aceto (who also held off on using Bogdanovich last year against his rival, throwing Indorf instead in a 14-6 loss) wasn't the least bit concerned about the setback or allowing Scarborough to draw first blood this spring.
"I knew it would be a tough game," he said. "I'm extremely pleased with how my kids played. We could've quit and instead we battled the whole game. We put up five runs on their number 1a pitcher. I couldn't be happier. We swung the bats well. We played defense well at the beginning. We got a little sloppy at the end when we got tired. I don't really have a big scheme. I don't care about regular season. I know we're going to be in the playoffs. Whether we're three, two, eight, we'll be in the playoffs. Either (Scarborough or we'll) have to face Thornton Academy. Then, we'll have to face each other."
Long road ahead
South Portland gets another test Wednesday, when it goes to Thornton Academy. Friday, the Red Riots host a Noble squad viewed by many as a top contender.
"We'll be fine," Aceto said. "I'm not worried. It's too early in the season to worry about it."
Scarborough plays its home opener Wednesday versus Gorham, visits Bonny Eagle Friday and hosts Portland Saturday.
"We have to keep plugging away," O'Toole said. "Repetition will be the key to get everyone's confidence up."
"We learned a lot today," Griffin said. "We want that number one seed. We work hard for that every year. It's to our advantage to have it. I'm not afraid to get it. We play it one game at a time. It's not about an undefeated season, just working hard to win games."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Scarborough-South Portland history
@ Scarborough 1 South Portland 0
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 1 South Portland 0
Scarborough 1 @ South Portland 0
Western A Final
Scarborough 7 South Portland 1
@ Scarborough 4 South Portland 3
Scarborough 9 @ South Portland 0
Western A Final
South Portland 1 Scarborough 0
@ Scarborough 2 South Portland 1
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 3 South Portland 0
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 3 South Portland 0