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There’s a good chance the Scarborough and South Portland softball teams could square off in the regional final for the fourth time in six seasons on Tuesday evening, but first, both squads had some work to do.
Cape Elizabeth hoped to join in the playoff fun in Western B, but despite a valiant late-season effort, fell just short.
Scarborough is the defending Class A champion and went 15-1 this spring, losing only at Cheverus. The Red Storm continued their tradition of sensational pitching (featuring a staff that would make major league teams blush) and smash-mouth offense (hitting home runs with regularity).
“I’ve been very pleased with our regular season and our efforts (Tuesday) as we won the (league) playoffs (beating Kennebunk, 10-1, and South Portland, 3-0),” said Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. “We have a whole new infield this year and it has taken some hard work, but we have really played well defensively down the stretch. Our pitching staff has been outstanding as we have used four pitchers throughout the season and they have all performed well. Our offense has been very consistent as many of our games have ended with the 12-run rule. We have had great power at the plate this year as seven players have hit at least one home run and we totaled 22, which shattered our previous regular season total.”
South Portland, meanwhile, also posted a 15-1 mark, but its loss was at Scarborough on May 17 (5-0), in a game that was much closer than the final score.
“I couldn’t ask for a much better season,” said Red Riots coach Ralph Aceto. “It’s been fun. The girls really worked hard in the preseason. They understood how good they could be. The camaraderie was very good this year.
“A lot was going to depend on how the younger girls matured. (Junior) Katlin Norton has been outstanding all year. (Junior) Amanda Linscott has been tremendous. (Hitting coach) Marc (Sandora) and I have been together for a year now. We’re on the same page with what we’re teaching the kids. (Senior) Kalie Swiger has come through big. She’s the second top hitter on the team and she’s batting out of the No. 7 spot. (Junior pitching ace) Alexis Bogdanovich came in to prove something this year. She had a little chip on her shoulder, which doesn’t hurt when you’re a pitcher. I’m very happy with her.”
As a result of its regular season win against South Portland, Scarborough wound up with the No. 1 seed and hosted No. 9 Bonny Eagle (8-9) in the quarterfinals Thursday. The Red Storm romped over the Scots in the regular season meeting, 12-0 (in five innings), on May 20. Scarborough beat Bonny Eagle, 6-0, last year in the semifinals in the only other playoff meeting between the teams.
“We expect a more competitive game with Bonny Eagle,” Griffin said. “The last time we met, the game was decided early as we jumped on them in the first inning with five runs highlighted by (freshman) Erin Giles’ grand slam. Bonny Eagle is always well-coached and highly motivated, so I expect them to play us very tough.”
If, as expected, the Red Storm advanced to Saturday’s semifinals, they would host either No. 4 Cheverus (12-4) or No. 5 Thornton Academy (12-4) at 1 p.m. Scarborough won, 8-3, at Thornton Academy, on May 6. The teams last met in the postseason in the 2005 quarterfinals (a 1-0, 10 inning Red Storm win). Scarborough downed Cheverus, 3-0, in the 2008 quarterfinals, in the only prior playoff meeting.
In their quarterfinal, the second-ranked Red Riots hosted No. 7 McAuley (11-5), a team they beat, 5-2, at home in the regular season finale. It was the first postseason meeting between the schools.
“I’m excited to see McAuley again,” said Aceto. “We have to put the bat on the ball and not make mental errors. I hope we do what we’ve done all year.”
Assuming South Portland beat the Lions, it would host either No. 3 Kennebunk (13-3) or No. 6 Biddeford (11-5) Saturday in the semis. The Red Riots crushed the visiting Rams, 16-1 (in five innings), April 26 at home and blanked the visiting Tigers, 5-0, May 20. South Portland last faced Kennebunk in the playoffs in the 2007 semifinals (a 13-0, six inning win) and last met Biddeford in the 2006 regional final (a 2-1 setback).
Scarborough and South Portland have played in six of the previous seven postseasons, with the Red Storm winning five times (including 2-0 in last year’s regional final). The Western A Final is at 3:30 p.m., June 15 at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.
The Class A state game is also in Standish, Saturday, June 19 at 4 p.m.
Cape Elizabeth entered the season having not missed the playoffs since 1999, but after graduating almost everyone from a dominant squad, the Capers had their work cut out. They lost their first four games this spring and appeared dead in the water, but came on late and took a four-game win streak into last Wednesday’s finale at Greely. Cape Elizabeth made the potent Rangers sweat and had their chances, but wound up falling, 4-3, in eight innings, and wound up 8-8 (11th in the Western B Heals with just the top eight qualifying).
“We almost got in,” lamented Capers coach Joe Henrikson. “The kids worked hard and came a long way. We finished the season strong. We made great strides. We had chances to beat Greely, we just couldn’t do it.”
Look for Cape Elizabeth to return to the playoffs in 2011.
“We lose three seniors, but we’ll definitely be a year older and stronger,” Henrikson said. “We’d like to get back to the playoffs. We have a lot of talent coming up.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]