Biddeford senior pitcher Kirsten Lebreux leaps into the arms of sophomore catcher Brook Davis as senior third baseman Erin Martin joins the celebration at the conclusion of the Tigers’ 9-7 win over undefeated Scarborough in Tuesday’s thrilling Class A South softball regional final.
Mike Strout photos.
Scarborough’s captains proudly display the runner-up trophy after the loss.
More photos below.
SCARBOROUGH—Scarborough’s softball team showed that it had the heart of a champion Tuesday afternoon in the Class A South Final.
The problem was, regardless of the size of that heart, as huge as it is, it wasn’t quite enough to overcome the potent bats of the Biddeford Tigers at Richard W. Bailey Field on the campus of St. Joseph’s College.
Two-and-a-half weeks after the Tigers let a 3-0 lead slip away in a regular season-ending loss at Scarborough, they got another shot at the Red Storm and from the opening pitch, Biddeford bludgeoned the Red Storm’s heretofore sensational stable of pitchers.
Facing Scarborough’s junior ace, Lilly Volk, who entered the game having given up a total of four hits and no runs in 13 playoff innings, the Tigers pushed a run across in the top of the first inning, as freshman shortstop Grace Martin singled in senior centerfielder Jocelyn Moody.
The Red Storm’s potent bats answered back in the bottom half, as senior shortstop Chloe Gorey, making her return to the lineup from injury, doubled and scored when junior designated player Abbie Murrell singled her in with two outs.
Biddeford grabbed a 3-1 lead in the third, as with two outs, Martin hit an RBI single and senior second baseman Charlotte White had an RBI hit of her own.
Scarborough got a run back in the bottom of the third, as sophomore centerfielder Laura Powell singled home sophomore rightfielder Chloe Griffin, but in the fifth, the Tigers seemingly blew the game open with four runs, as junior first baseman Alex Chase singled in a pair of runs, junior rightfielder Amber Magnant drove in a run and another scored on an error for a 7-2 lead.
Down to their final four outs, the Red Storm rose off the deck in breathtaking fashion in the bottom of the sixth, as with two outs, senior third baseman Maggie Murphy ripped a two-run double and Griffin came through with a prodigious three-run home run to leftfield to forge an improbable 7-7 tie.
But Biddeford has plenty of heart of its own and in the top of the seventh, Magnant hit an RBI single and another run scored on a fielder’s choice to put the Tigers back on top.
Murrell led off the bottom of the seventh with a double, bringing the tying run to the plate, but Biddeford senior pitcher Kirsten Lebreux shook off her tough sixth inning by recording three straight outs and the Tigers went on to a 9-7 victory.
Biddeford snapped a nine-game losing streak at the hands of the Red Storm, won its first regional championship since 2008, improved to 15-4, advanced to meet Skowhegan (12-7) in the Class A state final Saturday at 4 p.m., at St. Joe’s and ended Scarborough’s sensational season at 18-1 in the process.
“We knew we could play with them,” said Tigers coach Ray Magnant. “We just had to play seven solid innings. Everyone did a great job staying focused.”
“I love competing and trying to win, but it’s tough there has to be a loser,” said Red Storm coach Tom Griffin. “There’s a lot of pressure put on young ladies in this type of environment.”
Scarborough fell a run short last year, losing, 1-0, to Messalonskee in the Class A state final, but this spring, the Red Storm were an unstoppable juggernaut virtually ever time out. Scarborough won its first 14 games by a composite 245-8 margin, then held on to edge Windham and Biddeford to finish 16-0 and first in Class A South.
In the quarterfinals, the Red Storm got a perfect game from Volk and walked off with a 12-0 six-inning triumph over No. 8 Portland. In Saturday’s semifinal round, Scarborough got a much tougher test from fifth-ranked Windham, but senior first baseman Kaleigh Scoville’s home run was the difference, Sophomore leftfielder Lindsey Kelley added a run on a sacrifice fly and Volk threw a four-hit shutout to help the Red Storm advance, 2-0.
Biddeford earned the No. 3 seed after a 12-4 season, outslugged No. 6 Noble (11-7) in the quarterfinals and beat host No. 2 Sanford, 7-2, in Saturday’s semifinals.
In the regular season finale, Scarborough had to rally from a 3-0 deficit and scored twice on four successive hits with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to edge Biddeford, 4-3, making it nine straight wins over the Tigers.
Despite the tough loss, Biddeford used it as a positive entering the playoffs.
“Anytime you can play with Scarborough, that’s a big confidence booster and that’s what I used this week in practice,” Ray Magnant said.
Prior to Tuesday, the teams had played six times in the postseason (see sidebar, below), with each winning on three occasions (making the Tigers the only team in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association not to have a losing playoff record against Scarborough). Last year, the Red Storm raced to a 6-0 lead, then held off Biddeford, 6-5, in the semifinals.
This time around, the Tigers managed their first win over Scarborough since May 26, 2009 (5-4 in Biddeford) and their first playoff victory over the Red Storm since a 2-1 triumph in the 2008 Western A Final.
Biddeford came out with its hitting shoes on and got an early jump.
With the temperature reading 71 degrees and the winds swirling at 21 mph, Volk’s first pitch of the game was laced to center by senior third baseman Erin Martin, but it was right at Powell in centerfield for the out. Lebreux reached on a walk on a 3-2 pitch and Moody followed with a sharp single to left. Volk got sophomore catcher Brook Davis to bounce to Gorey at short and Gorey threw to Murphy at third for the force.
That set the stage for Grace Martin, who crushed a three-run home run in the regular season meeting. This time, Martin fell behind 0-2, took a couple balls, then grounded a single past Volk, past a diving Gorey and up the middle to score Moody for a 1-0 lead.
“I was a little nervous facing Lilly,” Magnant said. “We’ve seen her over the years and we knew what to expect. We knew she’d throw hard and throw strikes and we told the girls if they saw one they liked, to hit it.”
White then hit a pop out toward short leftfield, but Gorey went back and caught it to retire the side.
Scarborough answered right back in the bottom half.
After Murphy struck out on an off-speed pitch, Gorey’s liner snuck just over the glove of White and rolled into the gap in right-center, allowing Gorey to stretch for a double. Griffin’s slow roller was mishandled by Erin Martin at third for an error, but Lebreux got Scoville to chase strike three. Murrell then came up big, lining a 3-0 pitch past Lebreux and up the middle to easily score Gorey, making it 1-1. Volk flew out to medium-deep rightfield to end the frame.
Volk returned to her dominant form in the second, getting Chase to ground to second, blowing strike three past junior leftfielder Aibhlin O’Connor and getting Amber Magnant to line to first.
In the bottom half, Lebreux started strong by getting Powell to pop out for to first and Kelley to swing and miss at an off-speed pitch for strike three, but junior catcher Hannah Ricker slapped a little bloop single over the infield and in front of the outfielders and stole second base, Murphy then hit a little squibber to the left of third and beat Erin Martin’s throw to put runners at the corners. Gorey again hit the ball hard, but this time, the ball hung up for Moody in center, who recorded the final out.
Biddeford took the lead with a two-out rally in the third.
Volk got Erin Martin to pop to short and Lebreux to pop back to her, but Moody ripped a solid single to center to get things going. Davis walked and Grace Martin hit a grounder to Volk’s right. She wasn’t able to reach the ball and it took an odd bounce past Gorey into leftfield, allowing Moody to score and Davis to go to third. On the throw, Martin took second. White then beat out a single to deep short to score Davis (Gorey’s diving stop prevented two runs from coming home), making it 3-1. Volk got Chase to ground out to second, but the damage was done.
Scarborough got a run back in the bottom half.
Griffin led off with a single to center. Scoville lined to center and Murrell appeared to hit a tailor-made double play grounder, but it got under the glove of Grace Martin to put runners at first and second. Volk flew out deep to center, but Powell hit a sharp grounder to the right of White into centerfield, allowing Griffin to come home to cut the deficit to one. Kelley then grounded to short to keep the score 3-2.
In the fourth, O’Connor popped out to third on the first pitch, but Magnant blooped a single to left. Erin Martin popped out to sophomore second baseman Katie Verreault and Lebreux hit a grounder to Scoville at first to end the threat.
Lebreux had her best inning in the bottom half, setting the Red Storm down in order, as Ricker slapped a grounder to third, Murphy grounded sharply to second (and almost beat it out) and Gorey lined out to Moody, who made a nice running catch in center.
Biddeford opened up a seemingly safe lead in the top of the fifth.
Moody led off with her third hit, a rocket single to center. Davis then ripped a single to left. Grace Martin hit a slow roller to Murphy at third. Murphy thought about making a play at third, but by the time she realized she didn’t have one, Martin had reached to load the bases. White grounded to Murphy, who threw home for the force out, but Chase blooped a single to right to score Davis and when the ball bounced and veered to the right, Martin came home as well to make it 5-2.
After a passed ball moved the runners up to second and third, Volk struck out O’Connor, but Magnant reached on an infield single when Gorey dove to make a stop and White came home on the play. Gorey tried to throw out Magnant, but threw high and that allowed Chase to touch home as well, making it 7-2.
“We made some mistakes, not typical of us,” Tom Griffin said. “It comes down to defense and we made some poor decisions and didn’t deliver defensively when we needed to. They’re still 15, 16, 17-year old young ladies. It’s part of the game.”
Erin Martin reached on an infield single to put runners at the corners and that was it for Volk, who was replaced by Murrell.
Murrell got Lebreux to fly to right, but the damage had been done.
Biddeford’s defense squelched any Scarborough comeback hopes in the bottom of the fifth, as Erin Martin made a nice stab on a sharp Griffin ground ball before throwing her out, Moody again got a great break on a line drive and ran in to make the catch to retire Scoville and Murrell grounded out to short to end the inning.
Murrell got Moody to line softly back to her to start the sixth, but Davis walked. Grace Martin singled to center, but Powell made a perfect to throw to Murphy at third to nail Davis for the second out. Murrell then retired White on a grounder to third to end the frame.
Then, in the bottom half, Scarborough produced a rally for the ages.
Volk fouled off several pitches before grounding out to second. Powell reached on a single to left and Kelley followed with a single to left, but Ricker, after missing on a bunt and switching from batting left-handed to the right side, grounded to Erin Martin, who threw to Grace Martin for the force at third.
But just when the Red Storm appeared finished, Murphy came up with the big hit, a double which rolled to the left-centerfield fence, scoring Powell and Kelley to generate some belief. Gorey walked and that brought up Griffin as the tying run.
After falling behind 3-1, Lebreux blew a fastball by Griffin to run the count full, but her next fastball saw Griffin crush the offering over the fence in deep left, where it bounced off the roof of a shed and with her teammates waiting to engulf her, Griffin joyfully circled the bases to tie it, 7-7.
“The girls showed a lot of character,” said Tom Griffin, Chloe’s uncle. “They battled all year. I had confidence we’d come back.”
Scoville grounded back Lebreux to end the frame, but it was a brand new ballgame.
And then suddenly, it wasn’t.
In the top of the seventh, the Tigers threatened immediately, as Chase singled through the hole between short and third leading off. O’Connor couldn’t get a bunt down and struck out, but Magnant beat out a slow roller to third when Murphy’s throw pulled Scoville off the bag. After Murrell wild pitched the runners into scoring position, Erin Martin just missed a double with a deep foul ball down the line on a 2-2 pitch, then hit a chopper that went off Murphy’s glove into leftfield to score Chase and put Biddeford back on top, 8-7. With runners at the corners, Lebreux hit a bouncer to Gorey, who tried to come home, but Magnant slid in safely for a 9-7 lead.
“My first thought was, ‘Not again!'” Ray Magnant said, about the Scarborough rally .”When they scored their five, we told the girls,’ Look, it’s a new game, you have to fight now.’ That’s what they did.”
After Moody grounded to second with the runners moving up, Davis was walked. Grace Martin had a chance to break it open, but her grounder was fielded nicely by Verreault going to her right and Verreault threw to Gorey for the force out to end the inning.
Scarborough wasn’t able to pull out another dramatic comeback in the bottom half.
Murrell provided hope by staying back on an 0-2 change-up and lining it to the wall in left-center for a leadoff double, but Volk struck out on a low pitch, Powell popped out to Davis behind the plate and Kelley hit a little pop-up to Davis in almost the same spot to end a 2 hour, 1 minute thriller, 9-7, in Biddeford’s favor.
For the sixth time in the last seven even-numbered years, the Red Storm were ousted in the regional final.
“They put the ball in play and they found the holes,” said Tom Griffin. “That’s the bottom line. It seemed like when they hit the ball on the ground, it was between my infielders. That’s the way it goes sometimes. If we got into the bottom of the seventh tied, I think it would have been our game, but they put those runs up in the top of the seventh and that was a backbreaker for us. I just wish we could have played a couple more innings.
“This is the team we expected to play in the finals. We knew we’d have to beat them to win a state championship. We’ll try to keep it in perspective.”
The Tigers laced 15 hits, as Amber Magnant, Grace Martin and Moody had three apiece and Chase and Erin Martin both finished with a pair.
“I think our hitters stay aggressive against Scarborough pitchers,” Ray Magnant said. “They don’t walk anybody. We don’t want them to get ahead of us and control the game. We wanted our bats to control the game and we did a great job hitting the ball today. The game plan was to stay aggressive and we did that.”
“They have a very good offense,” Griffin said. “We didn’t do a good enough job keeping them off-balance. They put the ball in play.”
Biddeford got two runs apiece from Chase, Davis and Moody and one each from Magnant, Grace Martin and White.
Chase and Grace Martin had two RBI apiece, while Erin Martin, Lebreux, Magnant and White had one each.
The Tigers stranded 11 baserunners.
Lebreux improved to 14-4, allowing seven runs (five earned) on 12 hits in seven innings. She didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.
Biddeford and Skowhegan have no playoff history. The Tigers, who are 1-2 all-time in state finals, are seeking their first championship since 2006. Skowhegan is 2-8 in state games, but won Class A just two years ago.
Biddeford thinks it’s ready to punctuate this run with another celebration.
“We’ll go in and play aggressive and play our ballgame,” Ray Magnant said. “If these girls stay together like they have been, we’ll be fine.”
Scarborough got two hits apiece from Griffin, Gorey, Murphy, Murrell and Powell. Gorey and Griffin both scored two runs, while Kelley, Murphy and Ricker had one each. Griffin drove in three runs, Murphy had two RBI and Murrell and Powell each drove in one.
Gorey, Murphy and Murrell all had doubles and Griffin homered.
Ricker had a stolen base.
The Red Storm stranded seven runners.
Volk didn’t get a decision after surrendering seven earned runs on 11 hits in 4.2 innings. She walked two and struck out two. Murrell fell to 5-1 after giving up two earned runs on four hits in 2.1 innings of relief. She walked two, hit a batter and fanned one.
“A couple weeks from now, people will forget who won and the girls will be off on their summer league teams having a great time enjoying the sport,” Tom Griffin said. “Losing is part of life. It’s something we have to learn and accept.”
This Scarborough team will be fondly recalled, even if it did fall just short of a championship.
“The girls have a lot of spirit,’ Griffin said. “They really enjoyed each other. I’ve enjoyed myself the past two years more than I ever had. I just have quality kids who enjoy each other and know how to have fun. It’s the best part of my day and I think they’d all agree it’s the best part of their day as well.”
As always, Scarborough will be hard hit by graduation, as Gorey, Murphy, Scoville and reserve player Tori Hale depart.
Everyone else returns, however, and the Red Storm should be strong on the mound, in the field and at the plate.
Don’t be surprised if Scarborough finishes the job in 2017.
“We’ll be back,” Griffin said. “We have a good group coming back. Our pitching staff is coming back. We have a talented freshman group. We’ll take another shot at it next year. Hopefully, things will go our way.”
Scarborough junior starting pitcher Lilly Volk delivers to the plate. Volk gave up seven runs in her 4.2 innings of work.
Scarborough sophomore Chloe Griffin makes contact. Griffin later tied the game with a prodigious three-run home run.
Scarborough sophomore second baseman Katie Verreault fields a ground ball.
Scarborough junior catcher Hannah Ricker records a force out at the plate ahead of Biddeford senior Jocelyn Moody’s slide in the fifth inning.
Scarborough senior third baseman Maggie Murphy tags out Biddeford sophomore Brooke Davis in the sixth inning.
Scarborough junior Abbie Murrell throws a pitch. Murrell came on in the fifth inning and took the loss.
Scarborough sophomore Chloe Griffin, right, is greeted at home by her jubilant teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning to tie the score.
Class A South quarterfinal
Scarborough 12 Portland 0 (6)
2015 Western A semifinals
Scarborough 6 Biddeford 5
2012 Western A quarterfinals
Scarborough 5 Biddeford 0
2008 Western A Final
Biddeford 2 Scarborough 1
2006 Western A semifinal
Biddeford 2 Scarborough 1 (11)
2003 Western A quarterfinal
Scarborough 2 Biddeford 0
2002 Western A Southwest Division quarterfinal
Biddeford 3 Scarborough 1