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Scarborough’s bench whoops it up during Thursday’s 3-1 home win over Thornton Academy, the Red Storm’s 86th straight in the regular season.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
SCARBOROUGH—Thornton Academy’s softball team proved Thursday evening that it can play with defending Class A champion Scarborough.
But for now at least, with the potential of another encounter looming in the playoffs next month, the Golden Trojans haven’t figured out how to get the better of the state’s premier program.
On a great night for softball, in front of a large crowd at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, two of the state’s best teams put on a solid defensive show that wasn’t decided until one very loud last out was made.
The Red Storm got the jump on Thornton Academy senior pitcher Katie Verreault in the bottom of the first inning, as sophomore shortstop Bella Dickinson led off with a double and came in on an RBI single from senior pitcher Chloe Griffin.
Griffin didn’t allow a baserunner the first two innings and in the bottom of the second, Scarborough added to its lead, as Dickinson ripped a two-run double to make it 3-0.
Surprisingly, the Red Storm wouldn’t score again, as Verreault gave way to senior Louisa Colucci in the fourth inning, who allowed just one hit in her stint.
After Golden Trojans sophomore rightfielder Olivia Paradis made the catch of the year in the bottom of the third, robbing Scarborough senior leftfielder Sam Carriero of a home run by toppling over the rightfield fence to hold on to the ball, the visitors got momentum and in the top of the fourth, junior shortstop Olivia Howe crushed a home run to get Thornton Academy on the board.
Griffin then stranded two runners in the sixth and in the seventh, a single and an error brought Verreault to the plate with the tying runs in scoring position and Verreault hit the ball sharply to the outfield, but Scarborough senior centerfielder Laura Powell was there to make the catch and the Red Storm held on, 3-1.
Scarborough survived its first down-to-the-wire test of the spring, improved to 13-0 on the year, extended its mind-boggling regular season win streak to 86 and in the process, dropped the Golden Trojans to 11-3.
“It’s a good experience for us as a team,” Powell said. “We pulled together in all aspects. The energy was there. The defense was there, pitching, hitting. I’m really proud of the team for that.”
Scarborough has been its usual juggernaut self this spring, while Thornton Academy has been formidable as well.
The Red Storm opened with an 18-0 five-inning home win over Deering, then downed host Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy in five-innings (22-0) before pulling away to beat visiting Gorham in a regulation contest (12-3) and dominating host Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth (32-0, in five-innings) and host Kennebunk (15-1, in five-innings). After passing a home test against Noble, 6-0, Scarborough returned to its dominant ways, rolling at Massabesic (9-0), at home over Sanford (12-0, in five-innings), at Portland in a regional final rematch (11-0), at South Portland (11-2), at home over Marshwood (13-1, in five-innings) and at Westbrook (12-6), to make it 173 runs scored and just 13 allowed at the three-quarters mark.
The Golden Trojans, meanwhile, started with a 26-1 home drubbing of Bonny Eagle, then blanked host and rival Biddeford (15-0), dominated visiting Deering (25-3) and host Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth (11-0) and Cheverus/NYA (16-3). After finally getting pushed in an 8-7 victory over visiting Marshwood, Thornton Academy crushed host Kennebunk (18-4) and edged visiting Gorham (3-2). The Golden Trojans fell from the unbeaten ranks May 7 with a 5-3 home loss to Noble, then lost at Massabesic (5-4), before rebounding to defeat Sanford (14-2). Monday, Thornton Academy rallied from three-runs down in the top of the seventh and shocked host Portland in a playoff rematch, 10-6, in eight-innings, and Wednesday, the Golden Trojans had no trouble with visiting South Portland, 12-2.
Since the teams started playing in 2004, Scarborough has dominated the rivalry, winning 19 of 20 meetings (see sidebar, below), including an 18-6 triumph in Saco last year. The Red Storm had taken all 14 regular season encounters and five of six playoff meetings, with the Golden Trojans’ 2-1 upset in the 2014 Western A Final the outlier.
Entering play, Scarborough hadn’t lost a regular season game since falling, 3-2, in eight-innings, to visiting Sanford May 6, 2013.
Thursday, on a pleasant mid-May evening (64 degrees with a light breeze at first pitch), Scarborough prevailed again on Breast Cancer Awareness Night, but Thornton Academy made the Red Storm work for it, right down to the very last pitch.
Griffin quickly set the Golden Trojans down in the top of the first, getting Verreault to ground out to Dickinson at short on a 3-2 pitch, with senior first baseman Felicia O’Reilly digging out a low throw (not for the last time), Colucci to pop out to junior second baseman Courtney Brochu on the first pitch and Howe to ground out to third.
Dickinson then sparked the offense in the bottom half, as Scarborough went on top to stay.
Dickinson worked the count to 3-0, then crushed an off-speed pitch from Verreault over the head of Paradis, who started the game as the leftfielder, for a double. Powell sacrificed Dickinson to third and on an 0-2 pitch, Griffin hit another off-speed pitch into left for a single to score the run. Senior catcher Hunter Greenleaf then walked, but Verreault avoided a big inning by striking out both Carriero and Brochu.
Thornton Academy junior catcher Jenica Botting led off the top of the second with a sharp ground ball that appeared ticketed to right for a single, but Brochu raced to her left, stabbed it, then threw to first for the out. Sophomore second baseman Amanda Bogardus and junior third baseman Hannah Collins then each grounded out to Dickinson at short to retire the side.
The Red Storm returned to their scoring ways in the bottom of the frame.
Senior rightfielder Lindsey Kelley led off by beating out an infield single and O’Reilly laid down a sacrifice bunt on which she wound up reaching safely with Kelley racing all the way to third. Freshman designated player Mollie Verreault looked to come up with a big hit against her sister, but Katie Verreault struck her out. Dickinson then brought home both runners with a double to the gap in right-center.
“We practice hitting and I work at it,” said Dickinson. “It pays off in the game. I was looking for an inside pitch and I got it, which was good.”
Dickinson tried to stretch the double into a triple, but she was thrown out Paradis-to-Bogardus-to-Collins. Powell then fanned to end the inning.
Griffin got a little wild in the top of the third, but the Golden Trojans couldn’t capitalize.
Freshman designated player Madison Vachon drew a walk leading off and a pair of wild pitches moved her to third. Paradis also walked, but a bunt attempt from junior first baseman Sarah Casey came right to sophomore third baseman Abigail Roy, who threw home to Greenleaf to tag out Vachon for the first out. Verreault then popped out foul down the rightfield line with Brochu ranging into foul territory to make the catch, and after battling back from being down 3-0, Griffin struck out Colucci on a 3-2 fastball.
In the bottom half, Griffin popped out to second and after Greenleaf drew a walk, Carriero came up and an unforgettable defensive play ensued.
Carriero crushed a drive the other way, to deep right, and off the bat it appeared to be a home run, but Paradis, who was playing deep, retreated, reached up with her glove and made a snow-cone catch before toppling over the fence and holding on to the ball for an out.
“That was a great play,” said Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. “That would have been sweet. That would have opened it up more for us. She just made a nice catch.”
Brochu followed with a pop out to first and suddenly, Thornton Academy had a little life.
That turned into full-on momentum when Howe led off the fourth by driving a Griffin offering deep over the fence in left-center for a home run, cutting the deficit to 3-1.
“That home run was big,” said Golden Trojans coach John Provost. “It got rid of the goose-egg.”
Griffin settled down by getting Botting to fly to left, Bogardus to pop back to the mound and Collins to ground to third (Roy’s throw was low, but O’Reilly made the scoop).
Colucci came on to pitch in the bottom of the fourth and made quick work of the Red Storm, as she got Kelley to line to junior Kylie Lavallee in center, O’Reilly to fly out to Lavallee, who sprawled to make the catch, and Mollie Verreault to line out to right.
Griffin got out of the fifth unscathed, thanks to a pair of defensive gems.
After Vachon struck out swinging, Paradis ripped a ball into the gap in right-center, but Powell ran it down, denying extra bases in the process. Casey then grounded to short and when Dickinson threw low, O’Reilly once again scooped up the ball for the out.
“Felicia has senior experience over there and she knows how to handle herself in those situations,” Tom Griffin said. “She can pull us out of some holes. It’s not the first time. In practice, we have girls throw the ball at her, one after another. We tell the girls to throw it at her feet, make her jump. It really helps. We try to do that at least once a week.”
Dickinson looked to add to the lead when she led off the bottom of the fifth, but her deep drive to right was caught by Paradis. Powell singled to center, but Griffin popped out to second and Greenleaf popped out to third.
Thornton Academy had a great chance to draw closer in the top of the sixth, but Griffin escaped.
After Katie Verreault lined to center on the first pitch, Colucci singled through the hole between short and third and Howe walked to put the tying runs on. Botting then grounded back to Griffin, with both runners moving up into scoring position, but Bogardus couldn’t deliver them, as she lined hard to Carriero in left on a 3-1 pitch for the final out.
Colucci’s finally inning was quick, as she got Carriero to ground out to first, Brochu to pop to short and Kelley to line to right.
That set the stage for the fateful top of the seventh, which got very interesting.
Collins led off with a single up the middle and was replaced by sophomore courtesy runner Grace Harbour. Vachon then grounded to third and Roy threw to Brochu at second for the force out. When Paradis popped out to Dickinson at short, Scarborough was on the brink, but Carriero couldn’t hold on to Casey’s pop fly to left and with two runners on (sophomore Olivia Lambert replaced Casey), Verreault came to the plate. Verreault worked the count full, then got a good pitch to hit. She lined it hard to center, but luckily for the Red Storm, and to the Golden Trojans’ chagrin, it was right at Powell and Powell made the catch to secure the 3-1 victory.
“It was more fun than stressful,” Powell said. “I want that play to happen. I want to make it. I’m excited I got to. We work really hard in practice on defense. Infield, outfield. Especially the last couple days preparing for this game. It really showed today.”
“(Thornton Academy’s) a very good team,” Dickinson said. “I’m glad our defense came through. That won us the game.”
“We had to make that choice at the end and we talked about possibly loading the bases, but Chloe’s tough and we rolled the dice,” Tom Griffin added. “It’s not a playoff game. Even if we lost, we’d still probably be the number one seed, which is what we want.
“It was a great game. I’m so proud of my kids. The girls played really well. The kids need to know that they can respond in these situations. We’re happy to win, but sometimes the game’s over in the second inning. We’ve had way too many of those. It builds confidence, but I’m not sure we learn lessons we need to compete and move forward. This was great.”
Chloe Griffin improved to 8-0 after allowing just one run on three hits in a complete game effort. She walked three, struck out a pair and threw two wild pitches.
“Chloe’s an amazing pitcher,” Dickinson said. “She works extremely hard. We’re lucky to have her. We always have her back.”
“Chloe worked her tail off tonight,” said Tom Griffin, of his niece. “She got behind in the count a few times, but she responded and worked her way through it.”
The offense was led by Dickinson, who had two doubles, two RBI and a run scored.
“Bella is quite an athlete,” said Tom Griffin. “She’s confident. She does it all.”
Kelley and O’Reilly also scored runs.
Griffin and O’Reilly had stolen bases.
Scarborough left four runners on base.
Thornton Academy got its lone run and RBI from Howe.
The Golden Trojans stranded six runners.
Verreault fell to 2-2 on the season after giving up three earned runs on four hits in three innings. She walked two and fanned four. Colucci allowed just one hit in three scoreless innings. She didn’t issue a walk or strike out a batter.
“It was a tremendous game,” Provost said. “I told the girls I’m really proud. We were in it from the beginning. The girls know they can compete. (Scarborough) just made all the plays. Their outfield is tremendous. Their first baseman caught several balls out of the dirt. We didn’t make a couple plays the first couple innings and that was the difference.”
Thornton Academy (third behind Scarborough and Noble in the Class A South Heal Points standings) has two games left in the regular season, at Westbrook Monday and at home versus Windham next Friday.
“This is s big for confidence,” Provost said. “We hit well against a very good pitcher and competed against a very good team. We’ll carry that into the playoffs.”
Scarborough, meanwhile, needs three more wins for its fifth straight undefeated regular season. Monday, the Red Storm are at Biddeford. They then close at home with a potential test against Windham next Wednesday and a visit from Bonny Eagle two days later.
“A game like this gave us a push to play hard the rest of the season,” Dickinson said. “If we see them again, it would be a really good game. We’re ready. We just have to keep getting better.”
“I don’t think we’re done yet,” Powell said. “We’ll continue to work and improve as a team. We can get better. We won’t settle. We’re there for each other. We’re having a ton of fun.”
“I hope Noble and TA fight it out,” Griffin added. “I’m not saying we’ll take anyone lightly. It’s going be a heck of a game if we do play again.”
Scarborough senior pitcher Chloe Griffin prepares to fire a strike. Griffin went the distance to earn the win.
Scarborough sophomore Bella Dickinson is tagged out at third base by Thornton Academy junior Hannah Collins.
Scarborough senior first baseman Felicia O’Reilly lays down a bunt.
Scarborough senior Chloe Griffin gets her hand on the bag just in time to complete a steal of second base.
Scarborough senior catcher Hunter Greenleaf tags out Thornton Academy freshman Madison Vachon.
Scarborough senior centerfielder Laura Powell takes a swing.
Scarborough sophomore shortstop Bella Dickinson makes a throw on the run. Dickinson had two hits, scored a run and drove in a pair.
Scarborough senior Sam Carriero crushes a ball to deep rightfield in the third inning…
But Thornton Academy sophomore rightfielder Olivia Paradis caught the ball before falling over the fence to make a sensational catch.
Photo courtesy Jeff Christenbury.
Scarborough 18 @ Thornton Academy 6
@ Scarborough 12 Thornton Academy 0 (5)
@ Scarborough 4 Thornton Academy 3
Western A Final
Scarborough 7 Thornton Academy 3
Scarborough 5 @ Thornton Academy 1
Western A Final
Thornton Academy 2 Scarborough 1
@ Scarborough 5 Thornton Academy 2
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 2 Thornton Academy 0
Scarborough 8 @ Thornton Academy 3
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 4 Thornton Academy 0
@ Scarborough 3 Thornton Academy 0
Scarborough 6 @ Thornton Academy 0
@ Scarborough 6 Thornton Academy 1
Scarborough 2 @ Thornton Academy 0
Scarborough 4 @ Thornton Academy 0
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 1 Thornton Academy 0
@ Scarborough 1 Thornton Academy 0 (10)