Scarborough walks off against TA, repeat dream still alive

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Scarborough’s softball team mobs sophomore Bella Dickinson after she scores the winning run in Tuesday’s 3-2, nine-inning victory over Thornton Academy in the Class A South Final. The Red Storm will look to win another state title Saturday when they meet Oxford Hills.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

STANDISH—Bella Dickinson just wanted to go home.

Chloe Griffin wanted to survive to play another day.

And Scarborough’s powerhouse softball team proved that it can more than hold its own in a close game.

Even if it takes more than seven innings.

Tuesday afternoon, at Bailey Field, on the campus of St. Joseph’s College, the undefeated, top-ranked, defending Class A state champion Red Storm met the team best equipped to give them fits and end their reign, third-seeded Thornton Academy, in what became a regional final for the ages.

One, that after clutch hits, fabulous defensive plays and gutsy pitching, needed nine innings to determine a winner.

Scarborough scored first, on an unearned run in the bottom of the second, as senior rightfielder Lindsey Kelley reached on an error, stole second and scored on a two-out RBI single from senior third baseman Emily Jefferds.

Thornton Academy drew even in the top of the third, also with an unearned run. Senior third baseman Katie Verreault singled to right with two outs and when the ball got past Kelley, Verreault went all the way to third. Junior catcher Jenica Botting followed with an RBI double to left to make it 1-1.

Thanks to the strong right arms of Griffin, Scarborough’s senior ace, and Golden Trojans senior pitcher Louisa Colucci, who was every bit Griffin’s equal, the game stayed tied at one until the bottom of the fifth, when the Red Storm went back on top.

After Dickinson, Scarborough’s sophomore shortstop extraordinaire, singled with one out, Griffin kept the inning alive by reaching on a controversial infield single and senior catcher Hunter Greenleaf followed with a bloop single to center to score Dickinson for a 2-1 lead.

That advantage didn’t last, however, as in the top of the sixth, Thornton Academy junior centerfielder Kylie Lavallee tripled with one out and with two down, Verreault, a one-time member of the Red Storm, made her former team pay with an RBI single that tied it up again, 2-2.

Each team left a runner on in the seventh and Scarborough stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth.

After Griffin set the Golden Trojans down in order in the top of the ninth, the Red Storm won it in the bottom half.

With one out, Dickinson, who had popped out twice and committed an error early in the game, delivered her third straight hit, a single, to get things started. Senior centerfielder Laura Powell walked and that set the stage for Griffin to play the hero, as she singled to left and Dickinson wouldn’t be denied, racing home to give Scarborough one of the most dramatic victories in its storied history, 3-2.

The Red Storm won their second straight regional title and ninth overall, improved to 19-0, ended valiant Thornton Academy’s season at 15-4 and advanced to the Class A state final Saturday at 4 p.m. against Oxford Hills (16-3) back in Standish.

“I’m exhausted, but I’m so proud of the kids,” said longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin, whose 451st career victory was one of his most satisfying. “What an unbelievable game by both teams. It’s a shame someone had to lose. We knew we had to get through Thornton Academy. They’re a great team and they played a perfect game. Fortunately, we hung in there and were up to the task.”  

Another showdown

Scarborough and Thornton Academy have had their share of June battles over the years, including regional final showdowns in 2014 and 2015 (see sidebar, below, for previous playoff results).

While the Red Storm clearly remained the gold standard during the regular season this spring, as the season progressed, it also became clear that the Golden Trojans were the one team that might be able to knock Scarborough off in a playoff setting.

Scarborough won all 16 of its regular season games, by a composite run margin of 209-15, and extended its regular season win streak (which dates to 2013) to an unfathomable 89. The Red Storm were truly only tested once and that was by Thornton Academy May 17, a 3-1 home victory.

As the top seed in the Class A South playoffs for the seventh year in a row, Scarborough ousted No. 8 Portland, 7-1, in the quarterfinals, then broke open a close game with nine fifth inning runs in a 10-0 victory over No. 4 Massabesic in Saturday’s semifinals.

The Golden Trojans opened with eight straight wins, lost to Noble and Gorham, won three in a row, then lost at Scarborough before finishing with two successive victories to earn the No. 3 seed in Class A South. After dominating No. 6 Kennebunk in the quarterfinals, 21-1, in five-innings (behind 20 hits), Thornton Academy avenged an earlier loss by ousting second-seeded Noble, 5-1, in Saturday’s semifinal round.

In the teams’ earlier meeting this year, Thornton Academy fell behind, 3-0, early, as Griffin singled in Dickinson in the first inning and Dickinson hit a two-run double in the second. Junior shortstop and slugger Olivia Howe hit a home run for the Golden Trojans’ lone run in the fourth and Thornton Academy had the tying runs in scoring position in the seventh when Verreault crushed the ball to centerfield, but Powell made the catch to end it.

Tuesday, on a gorgeous afternoon (82 degrees at first pitch), Thornton Academy sought just its second ever win over Scarborough, but the Red Storm improved to 6-1 all-time against the Golden Trojans in the playoffs and 21-1 overall as they moved within a victory of a repeat state title.

In a palpitating contest that required 2 hours, 38 minute to complete.

Thornton Academy threatened in the top of the first, but came up empty.

Griffin retired Verreault on a sharp grounder to short on a 3-1 pitch, but Botting lined an infield single off the glove of Jefferds at third and Howe drew a walk on a full count. That brought up sophomore second baseman Amanda Bogardus, who hit a little flare behind junior second baseman Courtney Brochu, but Brochu went back and made the catch and doubled Howe off first to end the frame.

In the bottom half, Colucci retired Dickinson on a foul pop to the catcher, but Powell worked the count full and drew a walk. After Griffin couldn’t check her swing and struck out, with Greenleaf at the plate, Powell tried to steal second, but Botting threw her out, or at least that was the initial call. After Scarborough appealed, Powell was correctly ruled safe, as the tag was missed. The Red Storm weren’t able to take advantage, however, as Greenleaf struck out.

In the top of the second, Griffin retired the Golden Trojans in order, thanks in large part to her reflexes. After junior rightfielder Hannah Collins grounded out to second with senior first baseman Felicia O’Reilly making a tag after a wide throw, Colucci ripped a shot up the middle, which Griffin stabbed (likely avoiding some hefty dental bills in the process) for the out. Junior first baseman Sarah Casey then popped out to Brochu at second for the third out.

The Red Storm then broke through in the bottom half, with a little help.

Senior leftfielder Sam Carreiro struck out leading off the bottom half, but Kelley worked the count full before grounding sharply to Howe. The ball took a bad hop for an error and Kelley reached safely. O’Reilly popped out to third, but with Brochu up, Kelley stole second. Brochu then walked on a 3-2 pitch and ball four got away, allowing Kelley to move up to third. That set the stage for Jefferds, who fell behind 0-2, then fouled off some tough pitches before lining a single past Howe into left to score Kelley with the game’s first run.

“I’m proud of Emily Jefferds,” Tom Griffin said. “That’s the best game she’s played all year. She’s putting the ball in play. She deserved the opportunity. She’s such a great kid who has worked so hard. She’s done everything she could to prepare herself for today.” 

Dickinson popped out foul to third, but Scarborough had a 1-0 lead.

Thornton Academy then answered in the top of the third.

After Lavallee bounced out to short and freshman designated player Madison Vachon lined out to Carreiro, who made a nice running catch, Verreault ripped a single to right and the ball got past Kelley for a two-base error, allowing Verreault to go all the way to third. That proved costly, as Botting lined a double over the head of Carreiro in left to easily score Verreault, tying the score. Howe was walked intentionally, bringing up Bogardus and Griffin came up big, striking her out to keep the score 1-1.

Powell led off the bottom half and got things started by lining a single up the middle on a 2-2 pitch. Griffin then hit the ball hard, but it was right at Verreault at third, who caught the ball for one out, then threw to first to double off Powell. Greenleaf then flew to left to end it.

In the top of the fourth, the Golden Trojans put a couple runners on, but they couldn’t score.

Griffin began the frame by catching Collins looking at strike three and blowing strike three past Colucci on a 3-2 pitch. Casey hit a full count pitch for a single to center and Lavallee blooped an infield single between Griffin, Dickinson and Jefferds, but Griffin kept the game tied by catching Vachon looking at strike three.

Scarborough then nearly went on top in the bottom half.

Carreiro led off with a bomb to left, but she just got under it and sophomore leftfielder Olivia Paradis was able to get back and make the catch before falling backwards for out number one. Kelley then grounded sharply to third, but O’Reilly drew a four-pitch walk. Brochu then lined the ball to right, where Collins nearly over-ran the ball, then stuck out her glove for a sno-cone catch for the third out.

In the top of the fifth, Verreault flew out to right on the first pitch and Botting flew out to left, but Howe walked on four pitches and moved up on a wild pitch and after getting ahead, 3-0, Bogardus was walked intentionally. Collins then grounded to short, but Dickinson couldn’t handle it and the bases were loaded. Colucci then hit the ball hard on a 1-1 pitch, but it was right at Brochu at second and the game remained tied.

Scarborough then went on top in the bottom half.

After Jefferds got ahead in the count, 3-0, Colucci battled back to catch her looking at strike three. Dickinson then lined a single to center as she began to change her fortunes.

“Having Chloe and my teammates there to keep my head up meant a lot,” said Dickinson. “They were great.”

Powell crushed the ball to left-center, but on the run, Lavallee made a terrific catch for the second out. Griffin then grounded to short and was ruled safe at first for an infield single, a call that was met with diverse opinions depending on your rooting interest.

That set the stage for Greenleaf and with the Thornton Academy outfield playing deep, her bloop to center fell in front of Lavallee and Dickinson came in with the go-ahead run.

“Hunter always comes through with big hits,” Tom Griffin said. “I’m so proud of her. She waited three years to get an opportunity. I used her as a pinch-hitter last year and she came up with some big hits. It just wasn’t in the cards defensively. This year, the door was open to her. Having Hunter behind the plate is the key to our success. She calls her own game, she blocks balls, she’s the best defensive catcher around and comes up with big hits.”

Carreiro then got ahead 3-1 before being walked intentionally to load the bases, but Kelley’s soft liner was caught by Colucci to keep the score 2-1 heading to the sixth.

There, the Golden Trojans answered.

After Casey grounded out to second, Lavallee lined the ball the other way, down the rightfield line. Kelley dove for it, but couldn’t get to it and Lavallee was able to race all the way to third with a triple. Paradis then hit for Vachon and grounded back to Griffin. Griffin looked the runner back, then threw high to first, where O’Reilly lunged to catch the ball before tagging out the runner. Verreault then lined a shot that Dickinson could only deflect and the ball rolled into left-center. Lavallee scored easily to tie it, but Powell threw out Verreault trying to stretch a single into a double and while the game was deadlocked, 2-2, it went to the bottom of the sixth.

There, Scarborough went in order for the only time, as O’Reilly lined out to short, Brochu lined out to left and Jefferds grounded back to the mound.

Griffin got Botting to fly to left to start the seventh, then walked Howe on five pitches. On a 2-2 pitch, Bogardus grounded the ball hard down the third base line where Jefferds dove and stopped it, but it was ruled foul. Bogardus then struck out and Collins popped out to Jefferds to send the game to the bottom of the seventh.

There, Scarborough had a great chance to end it, but couldn’t do so.

Dickinson led off with a sharp single to center on a 2-0 pitch and Powell sacrificed her to second. Griffin then crushed the ball to left-center, but Lavallee ran it down for the second out with Dickinson holding. Greenleaf got ahead 3-0 in the count, took a strike, then lofted a high fly ball to left to send the game to extras.

In the top of the eighth, Colucci led off by blooping a single just inside the leftfield line, but she tried to take second and Carreiro threw her out.

“The last few weeks, we’ve spent a lot of time on little things like throws from the outfield and it’s paid off,” Tom Griffin said. 

Casey then lined softly to Dickinson at short and Lavallee fouled out to Greenleaf to send the contest to the bottom of the eighth.

Where Colucci got out of trouble again.

Carreiro flew out to left leading off, but Kelley followed with a single to center. She wouldn’t advance, however, as O’Reilly popped foul to Botting behind the plate and Brochu skied out to center.

In the top of the ninth, Scarborough’s defense took care of business, as Paradis grounded out to Brochu, Brochu caught Verreault’s pop-up and Jefferds knocked down a sharp grounder from Botting, before throwing to first to retire the side.

The Red Storm then brought an overdue end to the festivities.

Jefferds led off and popped out to left, where Paradis had to race in and lunge to catch the ball for the first out.

There would never be a second.

Dickinson was next and she lined a 3-1 pitch to left to get things started.

“I was just looking to get on base,” Dickinson said. “I know I have great hitters behind me.”

“Bella is just a stud,” Chloe Griffin said. “I’m not surprised she got a hit when she got up.”

“Bella’s one of the best athletes around,” Tom Griffin added. “She’s not afraid of the big moment. If we had to bring her in on the mound, she’d be ready for that as well. She’s gusty and confident. She has all the tools to be very special. Fortunately we have her two more years.”

Dickinson moved up on a wild pitch and Powell drew a walk to bring Chloe Griffin to the plate.

After taking a ball, Griffin made contact, lining a sharp ground ball into the hole between Howe and Verreault and with Paradis playing deep, there was no chance to catch Dickinson, who rounded third, found another gear and at 6:07 p.m., raced home into the waiting arms of her teammates with the run that gave Scarborough a memorable 3-2 victory.

“I just wanted to go home,” Dickinson said. “I had a ton of confidence in Chloe. I just ran. It was everything I ever dreamed of.”

“I like pressure situations,” Chloe Griffin said. “That’s what I dream of. I was pumped when I got to be up. I knew I just had to put (the ball) in play on the ground. I knew it was through and I knew (Bella would) score. It was a relief. I felt like if we had to go back out there (for the 10th inning), we’d be OK, but they had good hitters coming up and I felt like that was our time with the top of our order up.”

“Chloe is just a tough kid,” Tom Griffin added, of his niece. “She’s experienced. she’s mentally tough and obviously, extremely talented. She’s the whole package. She wants the ball in the big moments and she wants to be at bat at key times. She has full confidence in herself and we do too.”

The Red Storm got the fight to the finish that they expected from the Golden Trojans.

“It was really good for us to get this game,” Dickinson said. “We’ve looked forward to it. We knew in our heads we’d have a tough game with TA.” 

“I think this is probably our most satisfying win,” Chloe Griffin said. “Playoffs are always tight games, but we’re just kind of wired after winning this one. We knew it would be a dogfight. I’m happy we came out on top. They’re a good team. They played our hardest and we played our hardest and we had some big hits. 

“Personally, I knew we’ve never had a repeat and that it’s an even year (Scarborough has never won a state title in an even-year season) and there’s been a big buildup for this. I used to watch the older girls play. I wanted it.”

“How many defensive plays were made to keep this game going?,” added Tom Griffin. ” I’ve never seen anything like it. It was amazing. Their outfielders were amazing. Great catch after great catch. Our seniors had graduation (Sunday) and got back at 4 in the morning yesterday and I wasn’t sure how much they’d have left today, but we had enough to win.”

Chloe Griffin improved to 13-0 on the season by allowing just two runs (one earned) on eight hits in nine pressure-packed innings. Griffin walked four and struck out five and worked out of multiple jams.

“Most of my pitches worked well today,” Griffin said. “Hunter always calls a good game. I knew all I had to do was throw outs.”

Offensively, the Red Storm got three hits and two runs scored from Dickinson. Griffin also had two hits and an RBI. Kelley also scored, while Greenleaf and Jefferds added RBI. Kelley and Powell had stolen bases.

Scarborough stranded a dozen base runners, but overcame.

Thornton Academy was sparked offensively by Verreault, who had two hits, a run scored and an RBI.

“My heart goes out to Katie,” Tom Griffin said. “She was connected to Scarborough for three years. She’s a tremendous player. She did a great job. She’s a great player and a tough kid.”

Botting and Lavallee also had multiple hits, while Lavallee also touched home and Botting also had an RBI.

The Golden Trojans left nine runners on base.

Colucci was the tough-luck loser, falling to 9-2 after giving up three runs (two earned) on nine hits in 8.1 innings. She walked five, fanned four and threw one wild pitch.

While Colucci, Verreault and Jordan LaPlume graduate, there’s every reason to believe that Thornton Academy will be the team standing in Scarborough’s way again in 2019.

Same place Saturday

Scarborough, meanwhile, will look to go back-to-back as state champions for the first time in the program’s illustrious history Saturday against an Oxford Hills squad which upset reigning regional champion Skowhegan, 7-3, in the Class A North Final.

The Red Storm and Vikings have no playoff history. 

Scarborough is eager to cap yet another season in perfect, championship and this time repeat, fashion.

“We want to win extremely badly,” Dickinson said. “We’re trying to get that win for the seniors. We just need to stay focused and keep working in practice.”

“It’s a mental game from here on out,” said Chloe Griffin. “It’s going to be who’s mentally locked in. Our team has played in big situations, so I’m not worried about it. I’m pumped to get the ball again.”

“We don’t know anything about Oxford Hills,” Tom Griffin added. “We’ll throw Chloe. She’ll be well rested. We have senior experience. Hopefully we have one more (win) in us.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Scarborough senior ace Chloe Griffin throws a strike. Griffin went the distance to pick up the victory and she also drove in the winning run.

Thornton Academy senior Louisa Colucci delivers a pitch.

Scarborough senior Lindsey Kelley steals a base.

Scarborough senior Laura Powell steals second base in the first inning as Thornton Academy junior shortstop Olivia Howe misses the tag. Powell was initially called out, but after an appeal, the call was reversed.

Scarborough senior leftfielder Sam Carreiro makes a running catch.

Thornton Academy junior Olivia Howe takes second base as Scarborough shortstop Bella Dickinson takes the throw.

Thornton Academy junior catcher Jenica Botting makes contact.

Scarborough sophomore Bella Dickinson lines one of her three hits.

Thornton Academy junior centerfielder Kylie Lavallee makes a running catch.

Scarborough senior Lindsey Kelley is congratulated by coach Tom Griffin after scoring the game’s first run.

Scarborough sophomore Bella Dickinson (7) is hugged by senior Hunter Greenleaf after scoring a run.

Scarborough senior captains Chloe Griffin, left, and Laura Powell show off the regional championship plaque following the victory.

Previous Scarborough game stories

@ Scarborough 6 Noble 0

@ Scarborough 3 Thornton Academy 1

@ Scarborough 6 Windham 0

Previous Thornton Academy game stories

Thornton Academy 10 @ Portland 6 (8) 

@ Scarborough 3 Thornton Academy 1

Previous Scarborough-Thornton Academy playoff results

2015 Western A Final
Scarborough 7 Thornton Academy 3

2014 Western A Final
Thornton Academy 2 Scarborough 1

2013 Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 10 Thornton Academy 1

2011 Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 2 Thornton Academy 0

2010 Western A semifinals 
@ Scarborough 4 Thornton Academy 0

2005 Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 1 Thornton Academy (10)

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.