It took two years and waiting through the last vestiges of Mother Nature’s wrath for this spring, but the Scarborough softball team can once again call itself Class A state champions.
After having Saturday’s championship game (originally scheduled to be played in Augusta) postponed and moved to Brewer Monday night, then postponed twice more, the Red Storm finally battled Skowhegan Wednesday evening in Brewer.
Scarborough freshman Mo Hannan capped her breakout season by holding the Indians to one run, as she walked nobody and fanned nine, and the Red Storm took advantage of Skowhegan miscues to go on to a 3-1 victory.
We’ll have more on Scarborough’s second championship in three years in next week’s issue.
Red Riots’ run ends
Before taking on Skowhegan, the Red Storm had to get past the South Portland Red Riots in the regional final.
While South Portland has been competitive as anyone the past five years, not many expected the Red Riots to reach the regional final this spring. Graduation had stripped the program of several standouts and South Portland was also breaking in a new coach, Ralph Aceto.
Instead, the Red Riots met virtually every challenge and enjoyed another stellar campaign. South Portland went 13-3 in the regular year, losing only to Cheverus (2-1), Gorham (4-1) and Scarborough (2-0, in nine innings, in a game which saw Hannan fire a no-hitter while fanning 23).
The Red Riots earned the No. 3 seed for the playoffs and after rallying past No. 6 Gorham (3-2, in eight innings) in the quarterfinals, had no trouble ousting No. 10 Thornton Academy (9-0) in the semifinals, to earn a third regional final date with Scarborough in the past five years.
South Portland won the 2005 game (1-0), but lost two years ago (7-1). The Red Storm also eliminated the Red Riots from the playoffs in 2003, 2004 and 2008.
Last Wednesday, at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, in what could only be described as a classic pitchers duel, Hannan did it again, making quick work of South Portland, posting 11 strikeouts in a complete game, one-hit shutout, as the top-ranked Red Storm advanced with a 2-0 victory.
In a tidy 1 hour and 16 minutes, Hannan needed only 73 pitches to outlast South Portland’s sophomore ace Alexis Bogdanovich. With a hard fastball occasionally mixed with a devastating changeup, Hannan retired the side in order in five of her seven innings, setting down the final 12 batters she faced to earn the win. In Hannan’s final four innings, she recorded seven of her 11 strikeouts, appearing to get stronger and more focused as the game moved into the later innings.
Bogdanovich, a fierce competitor for the Red Riots, was up to the challenge, striking out six and scattering five hits in six complete innings, allowing just one earned run.
The Red Storm touched Bogdanovich for single runs in the bottom of the third and fifth innings, both times with two outs, to secure their second trip to the state championship game in three seasons.
“We’ve been through this so many times,” said long-time Red Storm coach Tom Griffin. “Sometimes you play a game like this and walk away with a 1-0 loss. But this might be the best offensive team we’ve had one through nine. On any given day it could be another player stepping up and putting the ball in play. We won today without (senior standout) Catie Funk’s bat being involved. That’s impressive, and we have three freshmen in the middle of the order.”
Scarborough scratched and clawed to score a pair of runs off the hard-throwing Bogdanovich. In the bottom of the third inning, senior Bri Mancuso grounded to deep short and beat the throw for a base hit. She then stole second base and came around to score with two outs on a little blooper over the second base bag by senior Reegan Brackett.
In the bottom of the fifth, Scarborough added an insurance run on an RBI single by junior catcher Heather Carrier. Freshman Dominique Burnham reached on an error when her hard-hit, sinking liner rolled out of the glove of the South Portland centerfielder. Mancuso promptly bunted Burnham over to second, and she scored on Carrier’s line drive single to leftfield for a 2-0 lead after five complete innings.
South Portland, consistently one of the league’s top programs, graduates only three seniors this year and will likely be right back in the mix next season. Unfortunately, two of the three seniors are in the form of captains Lauren Tuttle and Melissa Thomes. But Bogdanovich will be back next year to take the hill and it should be business as usual for South Portland in 2010.
“It was a great game,” said South Portland coach Ralph Aceto. “We had one hit, but even when we hit the ball hard they made great plays. We knew coming in that whoever made the fewest mistakes and put the ball in play would win. They took advantage of our mistakes and then didn’t make any. We wish them nothing but the best of luck. But I couldn’t be prouder of my girls. The way they performed for me this year, as a first-year coach, was far above what I expected.”
Eric Carson contributed to this story. Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org