Portland Bulldogs Spring Sports Preview

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Coach: Mike Rutherford (first year)

2014 record: 10-7 (Lost, 6-1, to eventual regional champion Windham in Western A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Domenic Fagone (Senior), Ryan Ruhlin (Senior), Joey Fusco (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 23 @ Marshwood, April 28 @ Windham, May 5 SCARBOROUGH, May 12 @ Westbrook, May 14 MARSHWOOD, May 18 @ Windham, May 19 @ Biddeford, May 21 @ South Portland, May 26 CHEVERUS, May 29 @ Deering 

Coach’s comment: “We don’t have a lot of experience, but we a lot of good, young kids. It’s good to be young. We have talent. We’ll pitch and play good defense. The key is getting our inexperienced hitters some experience. We have kids who can flat-out run. I’ll have to learn how to play small ball. I’m used to playing for five-run innings. By the end of the year, we could be a dangerous team in the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Everything is new again at Portland High as Rutherford returns for a second stint as coach. The one-time Bulldogs’ standout coached his alma mater to 192 victories, three regional titles and a Class A championship in a 12-year stint from 1995 to 2006. He returns to a program that had a solid regular season in 2014, but suffered playoff disappointment before saying farewell to 13 seniors. Only a handful of experienced players return, but this team is intriguing and could turn heads in the weeks to come.

Rutherford expects junior lefthander Dan Marzilli to anchor the pitching staff. Marzilli went 1-3 with 25 strikeouts last season for Deering before transferring. Ruhlin (1-0 in limited action last season) and junior Charles Barnard will also see time on the hill. Ruhlin (the catcher) is the top returning hitter. He batted .265 with four doubles and nine RBI in 2014. Fusco (third base/designated hitter) hit .246 last season, but shared team honors with 11 RBI. (he was named to the SMAA all-star first-team). Look for more production from him as well. The rest of the infield consists of junior John Williams at first, sophomore Jake Knop (.273 in limited action last spring) at shortstop and sophomore Dominic Tocci in a utility role. Each of those players show promise. In the outfield, Fagone returns and will be joined by a pair of football standouts, junior George Chaisson-Lapine and sophomore Nick Archembault. Tocci will see some time in the outfield as well. Barnard and Marzilli will also seek to do damage with their bats.

Portland doesn’t have the household names it boasted last season, but this is a squad that will steadily improve. Having to open at preseason favorite Marshwood, then play at postseason nemesis Windham is a tough way to open the year, but look for this group to gain confidence as the season progresses. Rutherford will make the most out of every player on the roster and if the Bulldogs manage to get into the postseason, they’ll be a team that nobody wants to face.


Coach: Robbie Ferrante (first year)

2014 record: 5-11 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Anna Evans (Senior), Isabelle DiMillo (Junior), Maddie Kennie (Junior), Morgan Boyle (Sophomore), Taylor Crosby (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 22 DEERING, April 24 TA, May 4 DEERING, May 6 @ McAuley, May 11 CHEVERUS, May 18 @ Biddeford, May 22 @ SOUTH PORTLAND, June 1 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “The girls are working awfully hard. We’re on the young side. We only have three seniors. We want to improve every day. The girls are very enthused. I’ve got them thinking playoffs. We want to be better at the end of the year.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: After winning just six games total between 2009-13, Portland showed signs of life a year ago, but still fell short of the playoffs. This spring, led by a familiar face, the Bulldogs are seeking to take the next step. Ferrante coached Portland for six years from 2003-08, winning 66 games and leading the 2004 squad to the Class A pinnacle. He’s spent the past five seasons at McAuley, but has returned home and inherits a promising team.

DiMillo and Kennie are both steady on the mound and both will see time. Evans returns behind the plate. The middle infield features two sophomores who played last season in Boyle and Crosby. Kennie will be at third when she doesn’t pitch. A a pair of freshmen, Jessie Brown and Sydney Gilberts, will step into the outfield and help the cause. Brown will also pitch.

Once you get past powerhouses Scarborough and Biddeford and reigning regional champion Thornton Academy, the league is pretty balanced, meaning the Bulldogs should compete just about every time out. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this group make a run at a winning record and get to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The future is even brighter.


Coach: Mike DiFusco (third year, 9-17 overall record)

2014 record: 6-7 (Lost, 7-5, to Messalonskee in Eastern Class A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Brady Green (Senior), Jack Schwartz (Senior), Josh Sullivan (Senior), Stephen Walsh (Senior), Charlie Kovarik (Junior), Drake McGhie (Junior), Robert Nolan (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 28 DEERING, May 1 @ Scarborough, May 5 @ TA, May 22 SOUTH PORTLAND, May 27 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “We return a lot, but we lost some top attackers. We won’t have one key guy. We hope everyone contributes this year. We have more experience on defense. We’re just trying to improve every day and be competitive by the end of the year. Playoffs are the goal without a doubt.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland has now qualified for the postseason 14 years running and there’s every reason to believe that streak will continue this spring.

DiFusco hopes that McGhie will get the offense started in the faceoff circle. On attack, Green and Nolan look to score, while juniors Nate Martin and David Menard hope to play a bigger role this season. Kovarik has experience in the midfield. The Bulldogs could be strongest on defense, where they have a lot of experience. Schwartz, Sullivan and Walsh are all seniors and will look to limit the number of shots that senior goalie Andrew Hoekstra, who saw limited time in 2014, will have to face.

While all eyes are on Brunswick and Cheverus in Eastern A, Portland has the potential to not only make the playoffs, but perhaps crash the party and make a deep run.


Coach: Cameron McManus (second year)

2014 record: 6-7 (Lost, 18-12, to Cony in Eastern Class A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Ella Coose (Senior), Ellis Linsmith (Senior), Hannah Mermin (Senior), Liz Victor (Senior), Merritt Ryan (Junior), Isabel Stehli (Junior)

Pivotal games: May 5 @ Massabesic, May 7 SCARBOROUGH, May 9 CONY, May 12 CHEVERUS, May 14 @ South Portland, May 22 WINDHAM, May 26 TA, June 2 @ Deering

Coach’s comment: “We have a lot of returners. The seniors are special to me since I was the JV coach when they were freshmen. It’s a really good group of girls. There’s a lot of athleticism all around. Our goal is to get a high seed for the playoffs so if Fitzy is finished, we could have a home game. We don’t have a homefield during the season. We want to get a playoff win.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland finished strong a year ago, winning its last three contests to reach the playoffs for the seventh straight spring, but the Bulldogs lost their first postseason game for the ninth straight time. This year, Portland has higher goals than just qualifying and while the season will be challenging (with Fitzpatrick Stadium’s turf field being replaced, the Bulldogs are essentially nomads, playing their home games at Deering and practicing wherever they can), write this team off at your peril.

Portland features several weapons on offense, led by Coose (a captain), Linsmith (a captain) and Stehli on attack and Ryan (who also takes draws) and sophomore Sophia Leavitt in the midfield. Mermin (a captain) is joined by new senior Molly Daley on defense in front of Victor, the fourth captain, who will be the starting goalie after sharing time with Abbey O’Brien last season.

The Bulldogs can take an us-against-the-world mentality and see how far it takes them. The pieces are in place to be competitive against everyone and make it back to the postseason. This group is tired of singing the quarterfinal blues and this year, has what it takes to stick around awhile, perhaps long enough to see what that new Fitzy turf looks like.


Boys’ Coach: Carroll Nappi (14th year)

Girls’ Coach: Bill LeRoy (first year)

2014 results:

(Boys) Tie-22nd @ Class A state meet
(Girls) 22nd @ Class A state meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Jonathan Bobe (Senior), Jeremiah Copeland (Senior), Pavel Bobe (Junior), Cooper Collins (Junior), Ryan Donaldson (Junior)
(Girls) Madison Bolduc (Senior), Maggie Hosmer (Sophomore)

Top foes: Cheverus, Deering, Scarborough, Thornton Academy

Coach Nappi’s comment: “Our numbers look really good, but we have no track to practice on. I’m happy with what we have. We should be able to score some points. We look strong in the sprints and we’ll put some relay teams together. We could be a spoiler if we can jell.”

Coach LeRoy’s comment: “We have around 20 kids, which is a big improvement from last year. That’s encouraging. We’re trying to build the program. We’re on a steep learning curve. For us, it’s about personal improvement and getting the numbers to where we can be a competitive program.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland’s track program is hindered this spring by lack of a training facility (Fitzpatrick Stadium is getting new turf), but the Bulldogs have athletes of both genders capable of making quite a bit of noise as the season progresses.

The boys will be paced by reigning Spring Male Athlete of the Year Jonathan Bobe, who came in fourth in the 400 and sixth in the 200 last season. He’s healthy after battling injury during the indoor season and will make a run at the top spot. Pavel Bobe and Collins also look to score in the sprints, as will three newcomers: seniors Juan Retolaza and Cedric Smith and sophomore Alex Frank. Donaldson is the top returning hurdler. He’s joined by freshman Orion Haynes. Copeland (javelin) is the best bet to score in field events. Portland will be competitive in the regular season, but if the team’s top tier athletes can step up at states, the Bulldogs could make a run at a top 10 finish, something which last happened in 2009.

On the girls’ side, Bolduc is the reigning runner-up in the triple jump and would love to bow out with a title. Hosmer will be heard from in the sprints and the hurdles and junior Chessa Hoekstra could be a top scorer in the sprints. The program is growing and some newcomers could make a name for themselves in the weeks to come. Portland will look to qualify as many girls as possible for the postseason meets and there, hope some top individuals perform at their best, which would allow the Bulldogs to improve upon last year’s results and set the stage for future success.


Coach: James Siegel (second year)

2014 record: 8-5 (Lost, 3-2, to Kennebunk in Western Class A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Curran Clere (Senior), Will Sarvis (Senior), Peter Barry (Sophomore), Henry Gates (Sophomore), Peter Gribizis (Sophomore), Daniel Mencher (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: May 1 DEERING, May 4 @ Thornton Academy, May 6 SCARBOROUGH, May 13 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “With 29 boys signed up, I’m sure some newcomers will surprise me and one or two might earn a varsity role. We continue to build after losing several starting seniors. My guess is that we’ll be similar to last year. We’ll be competitive with most teams. Our goal, as always, is to improve as tennis players, athletes and human beings.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland ran the gamut last spring, starting the season by losing four in a row, then winning its last eight matches before being upset in the playoffs. The program was hard-hit by graduation, most notably by the departure of Chris Eye.

Clere (an SMAA second-team all-star in 2014) will be in the number one singles spot this spring and Gribizis will likely also have a spot. After that, it’s wide open. Sarvis has experience, while Barry, Gates and Mencher all show promise. Freshman Quinn Clark is also in the mix.

There’s good talent on the roster, a lot of it is raw, however. Like last season, there may be a learning curve, but if the Bulldogs improve like the 2014 squad managed to do, a fourth straight winning record and playoff berth are the likely result.


Coach: Bonnie Moran (eighth year, 88-16 overall record)

2014 record: 14-1 (Lost, 5-0, to eventual champion Falmouth in Western A Final)

Top returning players: Margot Andreasen (Senior), Georgia Drew (Senior), Hallie Repeta (Senior), Alyssa Vaccaro (Senior), Lucy Wanzer (Senior), Maggie Denekas (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 27 WINDHAM, May 1 @ Deering, May 4 TA, May 6 @ Scarborough, May 13 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “We’ve spent a lot of time in the gym working on technique and conditioning. As usual, we have a very large team and our goals remain the same: to be as competitive as possible at the varsity level, while investing time and energy in teaching and developing beginner and intermediate players.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Only the vagaries of classification prevented Portland from a return trip to the state match a year ago. The Bulldogs were clearly the cream of the crop in the SMAA, winning all 12 regular season matches, none by less than a 4-1 margin, but in the regional final, Portland had to face the state’s elite program, Falmouth, which due to enrollment numbers, is Class A for the playoffs, and that’s where the run came to an end. The departure of two-time reigning Spring Female Athlete of the Year Annette Denekas will be felt, but the Bulldogs still have a lot of talent in reserve and while they probably won’t win matches as emphatically as they did a year ago, they still project to be one of the finest teams in the league.

Andreasen was a first-team all-star in 2014 and before taking her act to Endicott College, looks to lead this group to great things. Drew, Repeta, Vaccaro and Wanzer all have playing time under their belts. Maggie Denekas looks to play a bigger role this season. Seniors Farhiyo Abdi, Annah Houanche and Miranda Richman, along with juniors Nellie Block and Robyn Ritchie, are also in the hunt for spots.

This program keeps chugging along. If Portland can win 12 matches, that would mark 100 for Moran’s career. The Bulldogs won’t coast into the regional final like they did last year, but they are capable of getting there. It should be another solid campaign for this program.

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

Joey Fusco is a top hitter for a Portland baseball team, which could be among the best in Western A by the end of the season.

Ryan Ruhlin will play a critical role this spring.

Look for Jake Knop to play a bigger role this season.

Taylor Crosby had a strong freshman year and returns for a new-look Portland squad which hopes to make the playoffs.

Isabelle DiMillo will be the Bulldogs’ ace this season.

Maddie Kennie offers the Bulldogs pitching depth.

Brady Green has experience and will help Portland contend this spring.

Robert Nolan is another key returner for the Bulldogs.

Isabel Stehli will help pace a Portland girls’ lacrosse team which could be one of the best in Eastern A.

Sidebar Elements

Senior Margot Andreasen and her Portland girls’ tennis teammates have had quite a run the past few years. This spring, the Bulldogs look to advance deep into the playoffs once again.

File photos.

More photos below.

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.