Softball showdown looms as local teams keep winning

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The Scarborough and South Portland softball juggernauts haven’t been tested much this spring.

That’s about to change in a big way.

Monday afternoon, at Wainwright Field, in one of the most highly anticipated regular season showdowns in years, the defending Class A champion Red Riots will host the 2009 champion Red Storm in a game that will be rife with Heal Points implications and bragging rights.

While the winner will still have a long way to go to reach its ultimate goal of a state championship and will likely have to go through the loser to do so, it’s safe to say the softball season is nearing a boil.

And we haven’t even mentioned the other local team, Cape Elizabeth, which is making plenty of noise in Western Class B.

Clash of champions

Since joining the Southern Maine Activities Association full time in 2004, Scarborough has been the league’s most dominant team, advancing to the regional final every year but 2006 and winning Class A in 2007 and 2009. Many of those years, the Red Storm went through the Red Riots, including the regional final in both championship seasons.

Last year, Scarborough downed South Portland, 5-0, in the regular season meeting, but in the regional final, the Red Riots got long-awaited revenge and finally managed to get their bats going against the Red Storm, riding then-junior Katlin Norton’s clutch home run to a 5-2 victory. South Portland then downed Bangor, 1-0, to win the state title for the first time.

So far in 2011, the Red Riots have barely been tested, with one exception. They won their first six games by a composite 69-0 margin (capped by a 13-0 victory at Noble last Thursday), but last Friday, visiting Marshwood put a mighty scare into the team before South Portland eked out a 9-8 triumph. Monday, the Red Riots improved to 8-0, returning to form with an 11-0 win at Gorham.

“I’m relatively happy,” said South Portland coach Ralph Aceto. “There’s always things we can get better at. We’re working on the little things like baserunning, errors, throwing to the right base.”

Senior Alexis Bogdanovich and sophomore Erin Bogdanovich have dominated on the hill, while this is likely the finest offensive unit in program history. Senior catcher Katlin Norton, bound for Orono next year, could be the best hitter around, while Alexis Bogdanovich, senior Danielle DiBiase and junior Libby Grant have all delivered key hits in recent games.

“The hitting this year has been absolutely fabulous,” said Aceto. “I thought it would be with the veteran group we have. Both pitchers have been strong. I want to get the freshman, Olivia Indorf, some time in the next few games.”

Prior to hosting Scarborough, the Red Riots (first in the Western Class A Heal Points standings, as of Wednesday morning) were home against Massabesic Wednesday and visited Thornton Academy Thursday. South Portland also faces tests against once-beaten Biddeford and currently undefeated McAuley before the season ends.

“The schedule getting harder is a good thing,” said Aceto. “Hopefully the girls are ready for it. We’ve talked about how it’s time to get serious. We’ve been pretty loose until this point. Scarborough is very good. It’s a typical Scarborough team. They won’t beat themselves. Our girls beat them as juniors. They weren’t part of the cloud that hung over South Portland softball for five years or so.”

Scarborough took a 7-0 mark into Wednesday’s showdown in Biddeford. Last week, the Red Storm won, 6-1, at Massabesic and 5-2, at home over Thornton Academy. Against the Tigers, sophomore Erin Giles earned the win and had a pair of hits, as did junior Mo Hannan. Freshman sensation Alyssa Williamson doubled, as did junior basher Abby Rutt. Williamson singled, doubled and homered to help beat the Golden Trojans. Hannan earned the victory.

Scarborough (a close second to South Portland in the Heals) hosts Portland Friday before going to South Portland.

“We certainly will be looking forward to our game versus South Portland,” said longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin. “South Portland is a great team with no real weaknesses. We know that we have to play good defense to beat them so we have been working hard to improve in that area. We have made some good strides lately and feel we are heading in the right direction. Alexis Bogdanovich looks to be dominating her opponents, so it will be a challenge to score runs off of her, especially with their great defense behind her. The challenge will be for me to keep my girls relaxed. I know my girls will be ready to play and I am confident we will give our best effort. It should be a great game for any softball fan.”

The Red Storm also have a big game upcoming when they welcome McAuley on May 23.

In the mix

Cape Elizabeth fell just short of the playoffs in 2010, but the Capers, one of the best teams in the region over the past decade, are right back in the thick of things this spring.

Cape Elizabeth sandwiched wins over visiting Poland (12-2)  and Wells (2-1) around a 2-0 home loss to Lake Region and was 5-2 entering a pivotal home showdown against resurgent Yarmouth Wednesday. Against the Knights, senior Lauren Nicholson drove in three runs and classmate Lexi Cantara had two RBIs. Senior Ally Boyington allowed six hits for the victory. In the loss, Boyington took a no-hitter into the seventh, but suffered the defeat as the Capers managed just two hits. Against the Warriors, junior Emmy Ham drove in both runs and Boyington produced another solid effort on the hill.

“We’re making plays and Ally is throwing strikes, but we have to score to win,” said Cape Elizabeth coach Joe Henrikson. “We’re just not hitting. We should be killing the ball. We’re working on it. We have the talent.”

The Capers (second in the Western B Heals behind undefeated three-time regional champion Fryeburg) are at York Friday and visit Freeport Monday. Next Wednesday brings a trip to Yarmouth.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Henrikson said. “Anybody can beat anybody this year. Teams are so close. If the bats come around, we’ll be tough to beat.”

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

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