SOUTH PORTLAND— The litany of superb Scarborough softball pitching efforts is a long one, but it’s safe to say that a Red Storm freshman never had a day quite like Mo Hannan did Saturday afternoon at Wainwright Farms.
Hannan dominated the host Red Riots from start to finish, striking out 23 batters while holding them hitless. She then drove in the second run in a two-run top of the ninth inning as Scarborough bounced back from a tough loss at Biddeford with a 2-0 victory.
“I had a lot of movement on my ball, which helps a lot,” Hannan said. “I was confident. My pitches fell where I wanted them to. It was nice to face a team like this. I wanted it.”
Scarborough joined the Southern Maine Activities Association in 2004, but its rivalry with South Portland actually started the previous season, when the Red Storm downed the Red Riots in the Western A semifinals.
The teams have met almost every year since in the playoffs with South Portland edging Scarborough to capture the regional crown in 2005, while the Red Storm eliminated the Red Riots in the 2004 quarterfinals, 2007 regional final and in the semifinal round a year ago.
Both teams have enjoyed plenty of success in 2009.
Scarborough, featuring junior standout Melissa Dellatorre most of the year on the mound, won its first 12 games (extending its three-year regular season streak to 47) before falling 5-4 at Biddeford Tuesday.
South Portland, under new coach Ralph Aceto, beat Portland 1-0 in its opener, lost by a run at Cheverus, then rattled off nine successive wins before falling 4-1 at Gorham last Friday. Tuesday, the Red Riots improved to 11-2 with a 5-3 victory at Massabesic, but the team was anything but impressive in that game and needed a confidence boost.
Saturday, South Portland almost got it, but instead, its streak of never beating the Red Storm in the regular season continued.
Red Riots sophomore Alexis Bogdanovich, who matched Hannan most of the day, gave up a two-out walk to Scarborough senior third baseman Catie Funk with two outs in the top of the first, but retired junior centerfielder Jenn Colpitts on a fly to right to get out of the frame.
Hannan then hinted at her brilliance to come in the bottom half, giving up a one-out walk to senior second baseman Melissa Thomes while striking out the other three hitters she faced.
Both pitchers had perfect second and third innings as Hannan struck out the side in each frame. After Bogdanovich had a one-two-three top of the fourth, South Portland looked to start a rally in the bottom half when Thomes led off with a walk, but Hannan bore down and fanned the next three hitters to keep the game scoreless.
In the top of the fifth, freshman leftfielder Abby Rutt led off with a single to center (the first hit for either team), but after Rutt moved to second on a ground out, Hannan lined into a double play.
The big news in the bottom of the fifth was that Hannan allowed a ball to be put into play. After she struck out the first hitter, senior leftfielder Lauren Tuttle grounded out to short. Hannan then fanned sophomore first baseman Amanda Linscott to send the game to the sixth.
With out in the top of that inning, senior shortstop Bri Mancuso had a one-out single to center. With two down, Mancuso stole second and went to third on a throwing error. She couldn’t advance any further when senior second baseman Reegan Brackett popped out to first.
After the Red Riots went out in order in the bottom of the sixth (on three straight strikeouts), Scarborough got a one-out single from Colpitts in the top of the seventh. Colpitts stole second, but advanced no further when Rutt popped out to second and Funk struck out.
Hannan started the bottom of the seventh by setting down Bogdanovich on strikes (her 18th of the day), then two straight hitters made contact as sophomore catcher Katlin Norton popped out foul to the catcher and junior shortstop Stephanie Thibeault was out on a grounder, short to first.
In the top of the eighth, with one out, junior rightfielder Jordan Finley was hit by a pitch. After Mancuso struck out, junior catcher Heather Carrier beat out an infield hit, but Brackett popped out to second and the game remained scoreless.
Hannan struck out the first two hitters in the bottom of the inning, then induced a pop fly by Linscott and it was on to the fateful top of the ninth.
Funk got the rally started in unorthodox fashion, hitting a short pop fly to right that fell for a hit between Thomes and sophomore rightfielder
Danielle DiBiase. Funk stole second and went to third when Colpitts beat out a bunt. Colpitts stole second, but the rally was momentarily short-circuited when Rutt popped out to second.
That set the stage for senior first baseman Abbey Pelletier, who had struck out looking, grounded out to second and struck out swinging in her first three trips to the plate.
This time, Pelletier, on the first pitch, lined an RBI base hit to left and Funk sped home with the first run of the game.
“We had a lot of great opportunities as the game went on,” said Scarborough’s longtime coach Tom Griffin. “We just couldn’t get that big hit. We finally were able to get it done. I’m awfully proud of Abbey Pelletier. I told her all she needed to do was hit a hard ground ball. That’s what she did.
“Offensively, we can be very, very explosive. I have a No. 9 hitter hitting over 400. We’re tough to defend. We have some options.”
Hannan was next and she helped herself, ripping a single to center to score Colpitts with the second run.
“I felt the run coming,” Hannan said. “Especially that inning.”
The Red Storm weren’t able to score any more and took a 2-0 lead to the bottom of the ninth, where Hannan quickly slammed the door. She struck out freshman third baseman Libby Grant, DiBiase and Thomes to end it, bringing the curtain down on a pitching performance for the ages.
“I tried to think about (the no-hitter),” Hannan said. “I went out and knew I had to close it out.”
Hannan threw 122 pitches and walked two, but allowed nothing else, while registering 23 of her 27 outs by strikeout.
“She’s a very talented freshman,” Griffin said. “She’s dominated the games she’s pitched. We made the decision last week to get her a big game and see what she can do. We’re a two-headed monster going into the playoffs now. She’s shown she can handle it. She’s a very talented kid.”
Colpitts was the lone repeat hitter. No one had an extra base hit.
For South Portland, Bogdanovich threw 126 pitches and had what would have been a memorable performance in any other contest. She allowed the two runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out seven.
The Red Riots were disappointed after the defeat, but grew more confident in the process.
“We faced a pretty dominant kid today,” Aceto said. “I have to tip my hat to her twice. It’s a game we expected. We hung with them for as long as we could. My girls played well. I’m extremely pleased.
“Alexis was very strong today and is only going to get better. We’re only going to get better. We’ll work on the bats and hope to be a factor in the playoffs. I’m very pleased with the girls. After a hiccup Tuesday against Massabesic, I had no doubt in my mind we could play against these top teams. They had to get it into their minds.”
South Portland (11-3 and fifth in the latest Heal Points standings) is still right in the mix for a high playoff seed. The Red Riots are at Biddeford Monday and go to Thornton Academy Tuesday.
“We’re still in the thick of things,” Aceto said. “There are still a lot of Heal Points to grab hold of. Maybe we can sneak up on somebody. If not, I’m sure we’ll be ready to play in the playoffs and I don’t think anyone will want to see us.”
Scarborough (first in the Heals) improved to 13-1 and suggested that its rare loss was actually a blessing in disguise.
“It helped us, I think,” said Hannan. “Our team’s great. We have good offense and defense. Good pitching too.”
“We talked about (the loss),” Griffin added. “I thought we played a pretty good game. We got some nice hits against their pitcher. The monkey was off our backs. We focused on that.”
The Red Storm are home with Portland Monday and Cheverus Wednesday.
“Our ultimate goal is that No. 1 seed and homefield advantage and it’s out there for us,” Griffin said. “I’m happy to go in with a loss. We’re motivated. I think we’ve sealed the 1 or 2 spot. We want No. 1. We’d love to have another crack at Biddeford.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/mhoffer