Coach of the year is another very difficult award to bestow. There are so many devoted and excellent candidates. These awards were not necessarily awarded to a man and a woman, but to the top coach of a boys’ team and the top coach of a girls’ team.
Spring 2009 Southern edition Coach of the Year – Boys’ Team
JIM CRONIN – SCARBOROUGH BASEBALL
The Scarborough baseball team hoped to finally take the leap this spring and become a Class A contender.
The Red Storm wound up meeting and exceeding that goal.
Scarborough set a new mark for Class A regular season victories and won a Class A playoff game for the first time, added another postseason triumph and reached the regional final before its run ended with a loss to eventual champion Deering in a slugfest.
The Red Storm had slowly moved toward contender status during the coaching reign of Jim Cronin and took the final step this season. Scarborough got tremendous pitching and a balanced hitting attack, but most importantly, the Red Storm believed they could play with anyone, a confidence instilled by their coach.
For leading Scarborough into uncharted waters and for fostering a winning attitude that figures to have far-reaching implications, Jim Cronin is The Forecaster’s choice for our Spring 2009 Southern Edition Coach of the Year, of a boys’ team.
Cronin is originally from Massachusetts, played baseball at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, then attended Bentley College. He started coaching in Little League after he graduated, then began coaching his son and ultimately changed careers and started teaching.
Cronin has spent the past seven years teaching 6th grade at Scarborough Middle School. He’s coached middle school baseball and hockey in the past and inherited the Red Storm varsity program in 2007. Scarborough went 5-10 his first year and lost to Marshwood in the preliminary round of the playoffs. In 2008, the Red Storm were 8-8, then lost a heartbreaker to Portland in extra innings in the preliminary round.
This year, Scarborough was bound and determined to win 12 games and advance at least one round of the playoffs.
The Red Storm had trouble against powerhouses Westbrook and Deering and also lost to Marshwood and Kennebunk, but won every other game, thanks in large part to the pitching and hitting brilliance of senior Chris Bernard and several other devoted and talented players.
When the dust settled, Scarborough was the No. 3 seed for the playoffs and advanced with victories over Bonny Eagle and South Portland. While the Red Storm ultimately couldn’t derail Deering, despite a 10-run uprising, the curtain came down, but it was the program’s finest season this century.
“These were the kids I started out with,” said Cronin. “I knew all of the younger ones. They took it seriously.”
Cronin lives in Scarborough and had the opportunity to coach his son, Joe, this year. He hopes to continue to lead the Red Storm to great things and possibly produce just the program’s second-ever state title (Scarborough won Class B in 1986).
For now, he can rest on his laurels and look back with pride at the season that was. Joe Cronin, our Spring 2009 boys’ Coach of the Year, led the Red Storm to a historic campaign.
2008 winner: Joe Hezlep (Scarborough lacrosse)
2007 winner: Craig McDonald (Scarborough tennis)
2006 winner: Tobey Farrington (Scarborough lacrosse)
2005 winner: Dave Weatherbie (Cape Elizabeth track)
2004 winner: Todd Day (Cape Elizabeth baseball)
2003 winner: Ben Raymond (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
2002 winner: Andy Strout (Cape Elizabeth boys’ tennis)
Spring 2009 Southern edition Coach of the Year – Girls’ Team
RALPH ACETO – SOUTH PORTLAND SOFTBALL
Ralph Aceto has long been a fixture at softball games in the city of South Portland, but this spring, he experienced the sport from a very different vantage point.
The longtime youth coach and parent of former high school standouts took over the varsity team, but didn’t face serious expectations due to heavy graduation losses over the previous few seasons.
Displaying a Midas touch in his first year, Aceto kept the Red Riots near the top of Western Class A, a spot they’ve been accustomed to the past half-decade, and by the end of the regular season, South Portland found itself 13-3 and third in the final Heal Points standings.
If that wasn’t worthy enough of accolades, Aceto then led the Red Riots to the regional final where their dream finally ended with a loss to Scarborough, the eventual champion. A team that hoped to simply be in the playoffs wound up one step shy of playing for a title.
For pushing the right buttons in his first season, getting the absolute most out of his roster and utilizing his longtime relationship with this group of girls to help them reach their peak, Ralph Aceto is The Forecaster’s choice as our Spring 2009 Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.
Aceto is a South Portland native who played softball in the military, started coaching when his kids were at the youth level (oldest daughter Amanda was a third baseman on the 2005 regional champion, while middle daughter Christina was a standout as well) and formed the Coastal Maine Diamonds ASA team. He is the second generation owner and operator of Aceto Acoustics.
This was his first varsity coaching opportunity, but he was comfortable at the start due to knowing the older kids who played with his daughter and the younger kids who had previously played for him.
South Portland opened the year with a 1-0 win over Portland, then dropped a hard-fought decision to Cheverus. The Red Riots erupted for nine straight wins to announce once and for all that they were a serious contender. Late losses to Gorham and Scarborough did little to put a damper on what had been a superb regular season.
Aceto credited a late-season win at Massabesic as the turning point. While the Red Riots got the victory, they weren’t happy with their effort and after some soul searching, the team was able to finish strong.
In the playoffs, South Portland had to rally past Gorham for a 3-2, eight inning, triumph in the quarterfinals, then, the Red Riots had no trouble with Thornton Academy in a 9-0 victory in the semifinals. Only Scarborough was able to finally knock them off.
“I was hoping for 10-6 and some playoff experience this year,” Aceto said. “The kids were very young, but it’s a special group.”
With most of this year’s standouts returning, South Portland figures to be in the thick of things for the foreseeable future.
The coach sure hopes so and is looking forward to the ride. Ralph Aceto, our 2009 Spring girls’ Coach of the Year, had a smashing debut and is eager for more.
2008 winner: Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
2007 winner: Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
2006 winner: Joe Henrickson (Cape Elizabeth softball)
2005 winner: Jim Hartman (South Portland softball)
2004 winner: Susan Ray (Cape Elizabeth tennis)
2003 winner: Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
2002 winner: Jack DiBiase (South Portland softball)
As usual, selecting the top male and female spring athletes from each school was a challenge, more so in some cases than in others. While coaches and athletic directors were consulted, the ultimate decision was mine, based on seeing all or part of 91 sporting events since mid-April. The following athletes weren’t always the most prolific performers or even necessarily in the spotlight, but I feel that each of them helped elevate their respective teams to greatness.
Congratulations to all of the winners!