SCARBOROUGH—The two best Western Class A softball teams this year to date did battle in a showdown rife with playoff implications Monday night.
The South Portland Red Riots made host Scarborough sweat at times, but in the end, the Red Storm do what they always seem to do, win.
Scarborough fended off a series of South Portland threats, then took advantage of a pop fly that dropped for a hit which led to a five-run fifth inning. Sophomore Abby Rutt was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to break the deadlock and classmate Dominique Burnham followed with a monster grand slam home run to left (the first longball of her career).
Senior Melissa Dellatorre did the rest, completing a three-hit shutout as the Red Storm improved to 9-0 on the season, dropping the Red Riots to 10-1.
“This shows that we can definitely come out on top against any team,” Burnham said. “We’re strong offensively and defensively. We can produce runs.”
Much closer than the final
Scarborough and South Portland had both run roughshod on the opposition coming in.
The Red Storm, Class A state champions a year ago, won their first eight games by a composite 98-12 margin, thanks to a potent offensive attack and a group of almost unhittable pitchers.
The Red Riots, meanwhile, captured their first 10 games, outscoring their foes, 121-17.
Something had to give in this matchup and history strongly favored the home team.
Since Scarborough joined Western Class A in 2004 (the Red Storm were in the region for playoff purposes the two prior seasons), it has dominated its neighbor, which on more than one occasion, was the second best squad around.
Entering Monday’s contest, Scarborough had beaten South Portland on 11 of 12 occasions, outscoring the Red Riots, 35-5, in the victories. The Red Storm eliminated South Portland from the playoffs in the 2003 semifinals (3-0), the 2004 quarterfinals (3-0), the 2007 regional final (7-1), the 2008 semifinals (1-0) and the 2009 regional final (2-0).
The Red Riots’ lone victory came in the rain in the 2005 regional final (1-0).
This time around, South Portland made much better contact than it had in prior games against a Scarborough ace, but couldn’t push a run across before the Red Storm took control.
Dellatorre walked freshman shortstop Danica Gleason with one out in the top of the first, but stranded her there.
The hosts threatened in the bottom of the inning against Red Riots’ junior ace Alexis Bogdanovich. With one out, senior catcher Heather Carrier battled back from an 0-2 count to walk. A pair of wild pitches moved her to third, but Bogdanovich bore down and fanned sophomore shortstop Mo Hannan and Rutt to escape.
After neither team did much in the second, freshman centerfielder Erin Bogdanovich had the game’s first hit, a single to center, with one out in the third, to get South Portland’s legion of fans excited. After junior second baseman Danielle DiBiase sacrificed her to second, Gleason struck out to keep the game scoreless.
Carrier reached on a two-out error in the bottom half, but couldn’t advance.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, the visitors appeared to have a golden opportunity when junior designated player Katlin Norton hit a fly ball to center and wound up with a triple after Scarborough senior Jenn Colpitts slipped, but Dellatorre calmly got junior third baseman Amanda Linscott to pop out to first.
In the bottom half, Burnham got her team’s first hit, a single that deflected off the pitcher to the shortstop, Gleason, who couldn’t handle it in time to make a throw. A wild pitch and a steal put Burnham on third with one out, but freshman designated player Erin Giles grounded hard to third (with Burnham holding) and senior leftfielder Jordan Finley grounded back to the mound to keep it a 0-0 contest.
With one out in the top of the fifth, sophomore Emily Masters sent a bunt past Dellatorre for a single, but she was caught stealing. Erin Bogdanovich then reached on an error and stole second, moving to third on Carrier’s throwing error, but DiBiase couldn’t bring her home, striking out.
The Red Storm then got their offense going, with a little help from the opposition.
Leading off the bottom of the fifth, junior first baseman Alana Peoples hit a little pop up on the right side of the infield, but DiBiase and Gleason watched it fall and Peoples was safely aboard at first.
“That one’s on me,” said South Portland coach Ralph Aceto. “I called out ‘Danica!’ and Daneille was sitting under it. She’d already called it. They looked at each other and it fell. We’ll learn from it.”
Freshman Marissa O’Toole followed with a walk, but an attempted sacrifice by Colpitts was turned into a force out at third. Carrier followed by ripping a single to center, but Erin Bogdanovich charged the ball and got it in before Peoples could score and the bases were loaded. Alexis Bogdanovich appeared on the verge of getting out of the jam when she induced Hannan to pop out to short, but her first pitch to Rutt hit the batter on the foot and Scarborough had a 1-0 lead.
“I had to drive the run in so I just reacted,” Rutt said. “It’s a good way to get on base and drive the run in.”
The competitive phase of the contest ended on the next pitch as Burnham turned on a Bogdanovich fastball and sent a parabola over the cars parked beyond the leftfield fence, deep into the Scarborough night for a grand slam and a 5-0 advantage.
“We knew Alexis was one of the better pitchers we’ve seen so we knew we had to stay aggressive at the plate,” Burnham said. “I knew we already had one run so I was just trying to put the ball in play. I wasn’t sure if it was over (the fence), but when I got to first base, I saw it was. For my first home run ever to be a grand slam makes it that much better. It felt amazing to be the one to step up and help the team. “
“Bogdanovich generates a lot of her own power, so (Dominique) just had to turn on it,” Scarborough coach Tom Griffin said. “That was a shot. There was no hook on that at all. It was straight as an arrow. She got all of it. She’s a very professional hitter. She works hard at it. She has a short, compact swing. She’s a tough out. She puts the ball in play. She’s so much more confident this year.”
“(Alexis) hit the kid before her and she just brought it and just happened to lay one over the middle,” Aceto said. “That’s what you call turning around a fastball in a hurry.”
All that was left was for Dellatorre to close it out and she did so by getting the side in order in both the sixth and seventh innings. Pinch hitter Brittany Harrison popped out to Hannan to end it and the Red Storm celebrated their 5-0 triumph.
“This shows we can rise to the occasion,” Rutt said. “We don’t have a lot of occasions so it’s good to show we can rise to it. We played how we wanted and expected to play.”
“This is great,” Dellatorre said. “I think our team definitely got a lot better. We’re coming along well.”
“(South Portland’s) a very, very good team,” Griffin added. “Bogdanovich is outstanding. We’re happy to come out with a win here. We’re very fortunate.”
Dellatorre scattered three hits and walked just one, while striking out nine in yet another superb big-game performance.
“I was really nervous,” Dellatorre said. “I knew it would be a nice matchup. They have good pitching, hitting and defense, just like we do. We have a really good outfield. I was confident they’d catch it and they did. I knew we’d come up with some runs eventually.”
“Melissa has really established herself this year,” said Griffin. “She’s come back really strong and is throwing very well. She has experience. She was (league) Pitcher of the Year two years ago and had an outstanding season a year ago. She’s pitched in a lot of big games for us and knows how to handle herself. I’m pleased as punch for her. She’s a tough kid. Very quiet, confident and determined. She doesn’t try to do anything too much. She works hard. She deserves a lot of credit.”
“Melissa did a great job,” Aceto said. “She kept it outside all game and kept us off balance.”
Scarborough only had four hits, just one for extra bases (the grand slam), but the Red Storm found a way to plate five runs.
“We have a lot of power in the lineup,” Griffin said. “We don’t have to depend on our big bats all the time. This is potentially the best 1-9 lineup we’ve had. I cross my fingers it will continue.”
South Portland only mustered three hits, but made better contact than it has in the past, creating optimism for a potential rematch.
“We were tight and made some mistakes we don’t normally make,” Aceto said. “It’s a stepping process up the ladder. They had the big inning and we didn’t.”
Bogdanovich took the loss despite allowing just four hits and three walks (along with three wild pitches and one hit-batsman) in her six innings of work. She fanned eight.
“No doubt we’ll see them again,” Griffin said. “One round or the other. We realize we have to go through South Portland to get where we want to be. You can see they’re outstanding hitters. Not just two or three kids. They’re very deep offensively. Baserunners were pretty even.”
All in all, it was a great night for softball. A big crowd on a pleasant spring evening saw what very well might have been a Western A Final preview.
“I want to thank Tom again,” Aceto said. “This was fabulous. It’s what it’s all about. It was great for the sport. A lot of fun.”
The Red Riots (now second in the Western A Heal Points standings) have another tough test Thursday when they host Biddeford.
“We have Biddeford Thursday, which is no slouch,” Aceto said. “We still have Cheverus and McAuley next week.”
Scarborough (first in the region) goes to dangerous Cheverus Wednesday and still has challenges remaining versus Bonny Eagle, McAuley and Kennebunk.
“We can’t let up,” Griffin said. “Cheverus has some outstanding players. We have a chance to finish this week off strong and establish ourselves as the No. 1 seed.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scarborough senior Melissa Dellatorre shows her form Monday as she threw a three-hit shutout.
South Portland freshman Erin Bogdanovich steals second in the top of the fifth inning as Scarborough sophomore shortstop Mo Hannan dives for an errant throw. Bodganovich would be stranded at third base.
Scarborough senior catcher Heather Carrier gets under a pitch on this swing Monday.
South Portland junior Alexis Bogdanovich prepares to deliver a strike Monday. Bogdanovich was solid throughout, but took the loss.
South Portland freshman Erin Bogdanovich races in to make a catch during Monday night’s loss at Scarborough.
Scarborough sophomore Dominique Burnham rounds third and gets congratulations from coaches Tom Griffin (left) and Charlie Andreson after her fifth inning grand slam gave the Red Storm a 5-0 lead. Scarborough went on to a 5-0 win over rival South Portland in a Western A showdown.
More photos below.