BIDDEFORD—Whatever the Scarborough softball team had for breakfast Saturday morning, it better make sure it keeps eating all the way through June 20.
Faced with a seemingly steep challenge at rival Biddeford, which entered the game ranked second behind the Red Storm, Scarborough instead put on a hitting clinic in the first inning and built an insurmountable lead before many fans even got comfortable.
Sophomore designated player Abbie Murrell got the party started with a two-run double and the following batter, senior catcher Brittany Plowman, crushed a pitch over the wall in leftfield for a two-run homer and a 4-0 advantage.
After a Tigers’ error kept the inning alive, junior shortstop Chloe Gorey belted a two-run single and another error brought home another run to make it 7-0 before Biddeford even came to bat.
And then the Tigers had to face Red Storm sophomore ace Lilly Volk, who wasn’t about to give them life.
Volk shut out the hosts in the first and second innings, allowing just one base runner in that span, then helped her cause in the third, singling home junior first baseman Kaleigh Scoville for an 8-0 advantage.
Biddeford broke through for a run in the bottom of the third, but Volk embarked on a stretch of 10 straight batters retired and a final Scarborough run was plated in the fifth when Volk drove home freshman Felicia O’Reilly with a ground ball.
The Red Storm went on from there to a most impressive 9-1 victory, their 15th in a row without a loss this spring and they dropped the Tigers to 13-2 in the process.
“The kids responded,” said longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. “They came out and knew it was for first place and we had to play as hard as we can and get that first seed and show everybody what we’re made of. I think they took it to heart and brought it up to a different level.”
There was a lot of buzz around Saturday’s showdown and despite the 10 a.m. start, a big crowd showed up, including players and coaches from many area teams.
Biddeford has lived up to preseason billing as a top contender. The Tigers opened with a 13-0 win at Noble, then fell at home to Sanford, 2-1. Prior to Saturday, Biddeford hadn’t lost again, as the Tigers defeated visiting Massabesic (8-5), host Deering (15-1), visiting McAuley (11-3), visiting Marshwood (11-1), host Cheverus (9-0), visiting Windham (14-5), host Westbrook (14-3), visiting Thornton Academy (7-6), visiting Portland (7-3), host South Portland (9-8), host Gorham (16-4) and visiting Bonny Eagle (19-1).
The Red Storm, meanwhile, left their opposition in the dust at the start, demolishing host South Portland (26-0, in five innings) and having little trouble with visiting Gorham (9-2) or host Bonny Eagle (5-0). Scarborough then got pushed to the wire before surviving visiting Thornton Academy, 4-3, in a regional final rematch. The Red Storm then enjoyed wins at Noble (18-4), at home over Sanford (6-1), at Massabesic (16-3), at home over Deering (15-1), at McAuley (5-1) and Marshwood (8-0), at home over Cheverus (13-0), at Windham (11-4), at home over South Portland (5-4) and at home over Westbrook (13-0).
The teams have a lot of history, beginning with playoff encounters in 2002 and 2003, which occurred before Scarborough joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association. Heading into play Saturday, the Red Storm held an 11-5 all-time edge and had won six in a row (see sidebar, below).
Doran Field hasn’t always been kind to Scarborough, however.
“In my 25 years of coaching, this has probably been the toughest place to come,” Griffin said. “We’ve had some really good battles down here.”
Biddeford was seeking to beat Scarborough for the first time since May 26, 2009 (5-4 at home), but the Red Storm shattered those dreams almost immediately.
Leading off against Tigers starting pitcher Abbie Paquette, senior second baseman Ashley Gleason grounded a ball past the pitcher and while second baseman Charlotte White managed to collect it, Gleason reached on an infield single. Paquette then hit junior third baseman Maggie Murphy with a pitch and the table was set.
Paquette bounced back to strike out senior leftfielder Sophia Burnham, but Murrell came up and lined a shot to right-center, which brought home Gleason and Murphy for a quick 2-0 lead.
Then Plowman came to the plate and made even better contact, sending the ball soaring to deep left-center and over the wall for a 4-0 advantage.
“That was great,” Plowman said, of her first high school home run. “I have to give all the credit to Abbie. When we have a girl on second base, they try to figure out where the pitch is. She called it and I knew it was coming and I hit it. You come home and it’s like your whole family is waiting for you. It’s the best feeling.”
“(Brittany’s) hit set the tone for the rest of the game,” Volk said. “We’d scored a couple, but they could have come back, then she crushed one over the fence. For us, it was reassuring and we had confidence the rest of the game.”
Paquette appeared primed to escape further damage when she induced Scoville to ground out to short, but freshman rightfielder Chloe Griffin reached on an error by shortstop Brittany Roy, Volk singled to right, moving Griffin to third, and after sophomore courtesy runner Hannah Ricker stole second, Gorey came through with a single to center, scoring both Griffin and Ricker for a 6-0 lead. Gorey stole second and a throwing error by catcher Brook Davis moved her to third. Gleason then lined to left for what appeared to be the final out, but leftfielder Briana Collard couldn’t hold on, the ball fell for an error and Gorey scored for a 7-0 advantage. The Tigers finally escaped when Murphy lined out hard to center, but 11 batters had come to plate and the home team and its fans were staggered.
“The kids saw the ball great today,” Tom Griffin said. “They were really well-prepared and felt good. They had excellent batting practice and they were keyed up. Even our outs we hit hard today. The girls were just on the ball. We had a very good game plan. They knew what they needed to do offensively.”
Pitchers can tend to relax when they take the mound with a huge lead, but Volk made sure momentum stayed in the Red Storm’s dugout.
Volk got third baseman Erin Martin to ground back to the mound leading off the bottom of the first and after first baseman Kirsten Lebreux reached on an error and pinch-runner Alaina Keely stole second, Volk struck out Paquette and Davis to keep it 7-0.
“The pressure came off a lot after that first inning, but I still had to pitch like it was a 0-0 game,” Volk said. “(Biddeford’s) such a good team and they could have come back. It’s definitely harder to keep your focus that it would have been if it was 0-0.”
Paquette returned to form in the second, getting Burnham to ground to short, Murrell to pop out to Martin in foul territory and Plowman to swing at strike three.
In the bottom half, Volk got centerfielder Jocelyn Moody to line to third, Roy to pop out behind the infield dirt with freshman centerfielder Laura Powell racing in to make a nice catch, and White to pop out to third.
Scarborough got another run in the third.
Scoville reached on an infield single leading off, as White couldn’t hold on to her line drive. Griffin laid down a sacrifice bunt on which Scoville ran all the way to third. Volk then singled to left-center to make it 8-0.
“It felt good to be involved in the offense,” Volk said. “I could feel the energy in the air that we were ready for this game. Everyone was ready to crush the ball.”
That was it for Paquette, who was replaced by Lebreux. Paquette went to second base and White moved over to first.
Lebreux escaped further damage, getting Gorey to ground out to second and Gleason to swing at strike three.
Biddeford then broke through in its half of the inning.
After Volk battled back from a 3-0 count to fan rightfielder Jessica Laverriere, Collard reached on a bloop single to center. Pinch-runner Aibhlin O’Connor came on and stole second, then took third on a single to center by Martin. Martin was thrown out stealing, but O’Connor stole home on the play for the Tigers’ lone run. Volk then got Lebreux to fly out to left.
Lebreux enjoyed a 1-2-3 top of the fourth, getting Murphy to line to left, striking out Burnham and getting Murrell to again pop out foul to third.
In the bottom half, Volk returned to form, catching Paquette looking at strike three, fanning Davis and getting Moody to ground weakly back to the mound.
Plowman led off the fifth with a single to center and that led to the Red Storm’s final run. Freshman courtesy runner Felicia O’Reilly took second when Scoville grounded back to the mound and when ball four to Griffin was wild, the runners moved up to second and third. Volk then grounded back to Lebreux and O’Reilly came home for a 9-1 lead. Gorey grounded out to second to end the frame.
Volk again slammed the door in the bottom half, getting Roy to ground out to third, White to pop out to first and Laverriere to ground back to the mound.
Lebreux made a nice stab on a Gleason grounder to start the sixth, then threw her out at first. Murphy blooped a single to right-center, but Burnham grounded out to first and Murrell grounded out to third.
Volk made it 10 straight Tigers retired in the bottom half when she got Collard to swing at strike three, Martin to ground out to second and Lebreux to pop out to second.
Scarborough went quietly in the seventh, as Plowman struck out, Scoville bounced out to second and junior pinch-hitter Tori Hale grounded back to the mound.
That set the stage for Volk to close it out, but she did scuffle a bit in the final frame.
Volk issued her lone walk of the afternoon, to Paquette, leading off, then battled back from a 3-1 count to strike out Davis. Moody followed with a single to left, but before Biddeford could entertain dreams of an improbable rally, Volk got Roy to pop out to second and ended the contest in 96 minutes by getting White to ground to Murphy, who touched third for the force out that capped the 9-1 victory.
“There’s nothing more we wanted than this game,” Plowman said.
“We know we’ve worked hard all season and this win will feel so good on the bus ride home,” Volk said.
“These games are important,” Tom Griffin added. “We hold our emotions in check. We’re confident and stay relaxed and energized for seven innings and don’t lose focus. If you don’t have these opportunities in the regular season and you get in the playoffs, you might not respond.”
Volk improved to 7-0 by giving up just one run on three hits. She walked one and struck out seven, as she kept the Tigers off balance much of the day.
“My screwball was pretty good today and I used my changeup a lot,” Volk said. “It was very effective. If a pitcher has a changeup, it changes the whole dynamic of how hitters approach her.”
“Warming up, I knew (Lilly) had it,” Plowman said. “When she gets on the mound, she knows how to hit her spots.”
“Lilly’s a special kid,” Griffin added. “It was nice to see her get it done offensively too. She’s a great player. She pitched a great game. We mixed up what we do a little bit what for this team and it played out well for us.”
Offensively, Plowman and Volk had multiple hits, nine different players scored runs and Gorey, Murrell, Plowman and Volk had two RBI apiece. The Red Storm left four runners on base
Biddeford stranded three. Paquette took the loss after surrendering eight runs (five earned) on seven hits in 1.1 innings. She didn’t walk a batter, but hit one, and fanned two. Lebreux was stellar in relief, allowing just one run on two hits and a walk in 5.2 innings. She struck out three.
While Biddeford closes at Thornton Academy Monday (the winner will likely wind up second in the Western Class A Heal Points standings with the loser third), Scarborough finishes at home versus Portland, then turns its attention to capping its season with a championship.
The Red Storm will be the top seed for the postseason and will likely enter the playoffs without a loss, but they know that guarantees nothing (last year, Scarborough was 18-0 before losing to Thornton Academy in the regional final and on three other occasions since joining Class A, the Red Storm entered the playoffs perfect, but only wound undefeated once, in 2007).
After falling short last spring, Scarborough is determined to finish the job this time around.
“I want this pretty bad and I know the team wants it bad,” Plowman said.
“We’re fighting for pride, that one seed and this gives us an opportunity to be home,” Griffin said. “What else do you want? You want to be successful in the playoffs and that one seed gives you an opportunity. Going undefeated or losing a game doesn’t make us prepare any differently. There’s pressure no matter what.
“I absolutely adore this team. Not just as players, but as people. It’s the nicest group of young ladies. Every girl comes to practice a half hour early. They love to be together and have so much fun. You watch the College World Series and all the pictures of the girls in the dugout, they have smiles on their faces. I want these girls to enjoy the experience like that. Yes, there’s pressure, but I want them to enjoy it at the same time.”
Scarborough sophomore pitcher Lilly Volk delivers a strike. Volk allowed just three hits and a run in leading the Red Storm to their 15th consecutive victory.
Scarborough senior Sophia Burnham looks to drive the ball.
Scarborough junior shortstop Chloe Gorey tags out Biddeford’s Erin Martin on a steal attempt.
Scarborough senior Ashley Gleason takes a swing.
Scarborough junior Maggie Murphy tries to lay down a bunt.
Scarborough junior Kaleigh Scoville takes a swing.
Scarborough junior Maggie Murphy crushes the ball to the outfield.
Scarborough junior first baseman Kaleigh Scoville takes a throw just in time to retire Biddeford’s Brittany Roy.
@ Scarborough 10 Biddeford 9
Scarborough 9 @ Biddeford 5
@ Scarborough 13 Biddeford 0 (5)
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 5 Biddeford 0
Scarborough 1 @ Biddeford 0
@ Scarborough 16 Biddeford 0 (5)
@ Biddeford 5 Scarborough 4
@ Scarborough 1 Biddeford 0
Western A Final
Biddeford 2 Scarborough 1
Scarborough 6 @ Biddeford 1
@ Scarborough 2 Biddeford 1
Western A semifinals
Biddeford 2 @ Scarborough 1 (11)
@ Scarborough 5 Biddeford 0
@ Biddeford 5 Scarborough 4
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 2 Biddeford 0
Western A SW Division quarterfinals
@ Biddeford 3 Scarborough 1
Scarborough sophomore pitcher Lilly Volk is congratulated by junior first baseman Kaleigh Scoville after a strikeout during the Red Storm’s surprisingly decisive 9-1 win at Biddeford Saturday morning.
Ben McCanna photos.
More photos below.
S- 701 010 0- 9 9 1
B- 001 000 0- 1 3 3
Murrell doubled to right-center, Gleason and Murphy scored. Plowman homered to left-center, Murrell and Plowman scored. Gorey singled to center, Griffin and Ricker scored. Gorey scored on error.
Volk singled to left-center, Scoville scored.
O’Connor stole home.
Volk grounded out to pitcher, O’Reilly scored.
S- Plowman, Volk
S- Gleason, Gorey, Griffin, Murphy, Murrell, O’Reilly, Plowman, Ricker, Scoville
S- Gorey, Murrell, Plowman, Volk 2
S- Plowman (1)
S- Gorey, Ricker
B- O’Connor 2, Keely
Left on base:
Volk and Plowman; Paquette, Lebreux (3) and Davis
Volk (W, 7-0) 7 IP 3 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 7 K
B: Paquette (L) 1.1 IP 7 H 8 R 5 ER 0 BB 2 K 1 HBP
Lebreux 5.2 IP 2 H 1 R 1 ER 1 BB 3 K