Portland seniors Taylor Crosby, left, Annie Twombly, Morgan Boyle, Arianna Fagone and Samantha Stewart receive the runner-up plaque following last week’s 8-3 loss to Scarborough in the Class A South Final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
Portland’s softball team’s finest season since 2004 finally came to a close Wednesday evening at St. Joseph’s College in Standish when the Bulldogs met up with an unbeatable foe that went on to win state championship.
Portland, which lost to Scarborough in last year’s quarterfinal round, exceeded all expectations this season, building upon a strong 2016 campaign with sensational results.
The Bulldogs went 14-2 in the regular season, losing only at Scarborough and at home to Windham, to post its best record since 2001.
As the No. 2 seed in the Class A South playoffs, Portland blanked No. 10 South Portland in the quarterfinals (6-0), then defeated third-ranked Thornton Academy (4-1) in the semifinals to set up a date with the top-ranked, undefeated Red Storm in the regional final, the Bulldogs’ first trip to that game in 13 years.
Scarborough won the regular season encounter, 9-0, May 3 at home and had taken two of three prior playoff meetings, with a 12-0, six-inning victory in last year’s quarterfinals the most recent.
Wednesday, after failing to take advantage of a scoring opportunity in the top of the first inning, Portland fell behind in the bottom half, as a fluky roll gave Scarborough the lead for good.
Sam Carreiro hit the ball just inches in front of the plate, but it spun away from Bulldogs freshman catcher Laini Legere and as a result, Carreiro was safe and the first run of the game scored.
“Good teams create those things,” Portland coach Robbie Ferrante said. “That ball just spun. My catcher was going to make the play, but couldn’t pick it up, it had so much spin on it.”
By the time the inning was over, the Red Storm added four more runs to take a commanding 5-0 lead.
The Bulldogs left a runner on in the second and Scarborough added another run in the bottom half.
Finally, in the third, Portland broke through and got a double from Morgan Boyle, who came around to score.
The Red Storm stretched their lead to 8-1 thanks to runs in the fourth and fifth and while the Bulldogs got two back in the seventh, but could get no closer and their season ended with an 8-3 setback.
Portland finished a stellar 16-3 while Scarborough went on to blank Skowhegan, 5-0, in the Class A state final Saturday to finish 20-0.
“Hats off to (Scarborough)” Ferrante said. “They’re on a mission. We’re glad we had a shot at them, we just didn’t have enough. They’ve just got too much. They just keep coming at you, and coming and coming.
“Our kids were up for it and wanted to believe. The setting wasn’t too big. We were able to put the ball in play and cut our strikeouts down.”
For the second straight spring, the Bulldogs were one of the sport’s feel-good stories, winning games behind the strong pitching of juniors Jess Brown (Maine’s Gatorade Softball Player of the Year) and Sydney Gilbert, getting timely hitting and having a lot of fun in the process.
“The girls took a few steps this year,” Ferrante said. “They started to win and believe. Kids took on different roles and contributed. Overall, I’m very pleased. We play in the toughest conference in the state and we were second best.”
Graduation will hit hardest in the midfield where shortstop Boyle and second baseman Taylor Crosby depart. Both girls have been top hitters, fielders and leaders.
“They’ve been a huge part of this team’s success and they’ve been great leaders,” Ferrante said.
Also departing are Arianna Fagone, Samantha Stewart and Annie Twombly.
Everyone else is back and as Portland continues to climb the ladder, there’s only one rung left for the 2018 squad.
“We hope to keep competing next year,” Ferrante said. “Having both pitchers back will help. We want to keep winning and having fun.”
Sun Journal staff writer Lee Horton contributed to this story.
Portland junior ace Jess Brown delivers a pitch during last week’s regional final.
Portland senior shortstop Morgan Boyle lines a hit in the regional final. Boyle capped her standout career with three hits in the loss.
Portland centerfielder Kit Rosmus shows off the ball after making a terrific diving catch in the Bulldogs’ 8-3 loss to Scarborough in last week’s Class A South Final.