South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview

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South Portland’s spring teams will be very competitive. Baseball welcomes a new coach and looks to make it to the playoffs yet again. Softball ended the school’s long championship drought in 2010 and this season, the Red Riots have a veritable all-star team, one that’s capable of repeating. Boys’ lacrosse lost a lot of talent from last year’s strong squad, but could wind up deep in the postseason again. The girls’ team is hoping for a big leap up the standings and has reason for optimism. Both track teams will be formidable in league meets and in the postseason. Boys’ and girls’ tennis hope to be in the playoff mix.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mike Owens (first year)

2010 Record: 11-6 (Lost 4-0 to Westbrook in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Zach Horton (Senior), Evan Indorf (Senior), Paul Reny (Senior), Andrew Richards (Senior), Connor Vincent (Senior), Brendan Horton (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 23 (H) DEERING, April 28 (H) BIDDEFORD, May 3 @ Portland, May 5 (H) CHEVERUS, May 12 @ Windham, May 14 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 19 @ Westbrook, May 31 @ Deering

Coach’s comment: “We have an inexperienced pitching staff. If one or two guys emerge from an inexperienced but talented group, we could be right in the mix come playoff time. We have a strong defensive infield with a lot of experience and leadership and we’ll lean on them to allow us to take that next step. Our lineup returns some strong bats with the Horton brothers, Reny and Indorf, and we have high expectations for newcomers to slide into their roles nicely for a nice balanced attack from top to bottom.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: It’s a new era for South Portland baseball. Tony DiBiase, after 14 seasons and 153 victories, has moved on to Portland High and he’s replaced by Owens, who coached previously in Longmont, Colo. Owens inherits a team that isn’t at the top of the list of contenders, but could wind up playing deep into June if all goes well. Pitching could be a strength for the Red Riots. Leading the way is Richards, who was a dazzling 5-2 with an 0.86 earned run average and 42 strikeouts (to just five walks) in a Southern Maine Activities Association first-team all-star campaign 2010. He’s the lone returner, but a number of new pitchers show promise. That group includes Brendan Horton, Indorf, Reny and new juniors Matt DiBiase and Shawn Shannon and sophomore Nick Whitten. If they can eat up innings, throw strikes and keep the opposition at bay, South Portland will be in the hunt for a title. The top returning hitter is Brendan Horton, who hit .341 in 2010. Zach Horton (.302, 13 runs batted in), Vincent (.276), Indorf (.262) and Reny (.260) can also swing the bat. Zach Horton, Vincent or sophomore Adam Helmke will be behind the plate. Reny and Indorf (All-Defensive team last spring) are defensive stalwarts. Several newcomers (or players who saw limited time in 2010) will have an opportunity to play a lot and make an impact. That group includes senior Dillon Leary (outfield) and juniors Will Bushey (outfield) and Dominic Desjardins (infield). It might take awhile for this team to hit its stride, but the raw potential is encouraging. The Red Riots will get a good chance to measure themselves Saturday when powerhouse Deering comes calling. By season’s end, South Portland hopes to be able to compete with the Rams, co-favorite Westbrook and everyone else in the league. It’s a realistic goal.

SOFTBALL

Coach; Ralph Aceto (third year)

2010 Record: 19-1 (Beat Bangor 1-0 to win first-ever Class A state championship)

Top returning players: Alexis Bogdanovich (Senior), Danielle DiBiase (Senior), Amanda Linscott (Senior), Stephanie McDonough (Senior), Katlin Norton (Senior), Libby Grant (Junior), Erin Bogdanovich (Sophomore), Danica Gleason (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 25 @ Kennebunk, May 12 @ Thornton Academy, May 16 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 19 @ Biddeford, May 25 @ Cheverus, May 31 @ McAuley

Coach’s comment: “I’m worried about ‘senioritis.’ Last year, I had hungry juniors. I wonder if they’ll be as hungry as seniors. If they are, we’ll be there at the end. We know we’ll get everyone’s best game this year. We have the bullseye, but I couldn’t be happier going into a season. We want to get back to the playoffs and let the chips fall where they may.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland finally reached the Promised Land in 2010. After years of producing competitive teams, but falling just short in the playoffs, the Red Riots won it all in the most delicious fashion, stunning longtime nemesis Scarborough (the defending champ) in the regional final before eking out a state final victory over Bangor. Now, with just about everyone back, South Portland hopes to do it again. The Red Riots have every reason to believe they can. Alexis Bogdanovich (an SMAA first-team all-star in 2010) is an ace, who’s sparkled in big-game situations. She was 11-1 with 108 strikeouts and a 1.21 earned run average last year and will take her team far. Erin Bogdanovich and freshman Olivia Indorf might see some innings as well. On offense, Norton (another reigning first-teamer) is as dangerous a hitter as we’ve seen in recent seasons and she had the biggest home run in program history last June to propel South Portland past Scarborough, before driving in the winner versus Bangor. Norton wound up batting .608 with a .649 on-base percentage. She had 31 hits, including three doubles, seven triples, four home runs and drove in 33 runs. She struck out (in a sport where strikeouts are commonplace) a mere two times. Norton just signed a National Letter of Intent to attend and play softball at the University of Maine. While she’ll pace the offense (and return to her catching position after recovering from injury), she’ll get plenty of help from Alexis Bogdanovich (.472, three homers last season), Erin Bogdanovich (who spends most of her time in centerfield), second baseman DiBiase (.440, 22 runs, 16 RBI, 10 steals last spring), shortstop Gleason, infielder/outfielder Grant, first baseman/third baseman Linscott and infielder/outfielder McDonough. New juniors Lindsey Cannon (first base) and Katie Jordan (infield/outfield) and sophomore Sam DiBiase (catcher/first base/third base) will work their way into the lineup. South Portland has all the pieces in place. It’s just a question of how badly these girls want to repeat. While Scarborough will be itching for an opportunity to dethrone them, the Red Riots should be right there at the end again. They’ve done it once. A second title would be most welcome.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Tom Fiorini (fourth year)

2010 Record: 10-3 (Lost 10-4 to Scarborough in Western A semifinals)

Top returning players: Billy Darling (Senior), Tommy Ellis (Senior), Harrison Keithly (Senior), Matt Welch (Senior), Mike Salvatore (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 20 (H) CHEVERUS, April 23 @ Deering, May 17 @ Thornton Academy, June 1 (H) KENNEBUNK

Coach’s comment: “It’s a rebuilding year. There’s no way around that. We lost a lot of kids. We’re young and inexperienced. We have three freshmen starters and three first-year players. We hope to get through our first three games and get on a roll. We hope by playoff time, the kids will all grow and mature and be ready. I think we’ll compete.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland appeared bound for greatness last season, winning its its first eight games, but the Red Riots dropped two of their final four, then suffered an agonizing home playoff loss to eventual champion Scarborough in the semifinals. Then, South Portland lost 11 players, many of them starters, to graduation. While the Red Riots aren’t as formidable this spring, they’ll still be dangerous and every foe would be wise to respect the players on the roster. South Portland got off to a rough start with an 11-0 loss at Scarborough Friday, but a bright spot in that game was the play of senior goalie Conor Igo, who made several clutch saves. After giving way to Travis Wibby much of last season, Igo appears ready to emerge as one of the league’s best. Defensively, the Red Riots have plenty of athletes, led by Darling, Ellis and Welch (who was named the high school football Lineman of the Year). Three newcomers, who are familiar to South Portland sports fans, senior Steve Hodge and juniors Joey DiBiase and Logan Gaddar, will also see time on defense and at midfield. Offensively, Keithly (an SMAA first-team all-star last season) looks to continue his scoring ways (he went off for seven goals, including the tying tally late in regulation and the winner in double-OT in Wednesday’s 7-6 home victory over Cheverus), but he’s battling a shoulder injury. Salvatore could be the team’s next big star. Seniors Brian Cleary and Brandon Holmquist will add offensive depth. The Red Riots have a tough early stretch, culminating with games versus Cheverus and Deering this week, but after that, it gets easier and they should be able to hit their stride. Once Keithly’s healthy, the offense will click on all cylinders and South Portland will be tough to stop. By June, a third consecutive winning mark is possible and a sixth playoff trip in seven seasons is likely.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Bill Fenton (third year)

2010 Record: 7-6 (Lost 8-4 to Thornton Academy in Western Class A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Victoria Brookings (Senior), Michelle Callow (Senior), Kelly Dooling (Senior), Felicia Farnham (Senior), Nikki LaPlante (Senior), Becca Roberts (Senior), Maggie Solomon (Senior), Anh Nguyen (Junior), Maraka Soule (Junior), Iris SanGiovanni (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 28 (H) GORHAM, May 26 (H) PORTLAND

Coach’s comment: “I think we have a lot of talent. We have eight seniors coming back. They’ve been playing for years. We have good team speed. We want to make the playoffs and go far. This is the best team I’ve had.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has the pieces in place to produce its best team in many seasons. This squad has a ton of experience and talent and a favorable schedule means the Red Riots should do very well in the weeks to come. On offense, goals figure to be plentiful from the likes of LaPlante (an honorable mention all-star last spring), Brookings, Farnham and Roberts. Nguyen and Soule, along with new senior Jen Harle, juniors Olivia Edwards, Mary Alice Gurney and Haley McCracken and sophomores Ericka Lightner and Jackie Merrill, provide depth. Brookings, LaPlante and McCracken will handle draw controls. On defense, Callow, Dooling and Solomon bring experience and athleticism. Sophomore Lani Edwards joins that contingent. SanGiovanni had a stellar freshman year in goal. She returns and will be spelled on occasion by sophomore Kirsten Kane. The Red Riots are eager to get started and have much to get excited about. The only wrinkle is that the schedule will preclude the team from earning a ton of Heal Points. Making the playoffs for a third straight year is a likelihood, but South Portland might have to go on the road once they get there. The Red Riots haven’t won a postseason game since 2003, but this could be the year they turn heads and make it to the semifinals for the first time.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coaches:

(Boys) Dave Kahill (fourth year)

(Girl) Bob Zinchuk (22nd year)

2010 Results:

(Boys) 12th @ Class A State Meet

(Girls) tie-19th @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Brian Campbell (Senior), Matt Clement (Senior), Tom Redstone (Senior), Adrian Reid (Senior), Cal Skillings (Senior), Konzo Alognon (Junior), Sacre Bahati (Junior), Dan Grazewski (Junior), Darryl Wilkinson (Junior), Steven Zanis (Junior), Joe Feely (Sophomore), Austin Gotts (Sophomore), Ryan Tuttle (Sophomore)

(Girls) Annelise Donahue (Senior), Maria Letourneau (Senior), Cheyenne Coombs (Sophomore), Sophia Desjardins (Sophomore), Bridget Mulligan (Sophomore), Nyajock Pan (Sophomore), Angela Tirabassi (Sophomore), Katelyn Violette (Sophomore)

Top foes: Bonny Eagle, Scarborough boys; Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Scarborough, Thornton Academy girls

Coach Kahill’s comment: “This year’s upperclassmen carry on the tradition of being motivated, focused, and respectful leaders. The boys have shown incredible enthusiasm and camaraderie and enjoy working together to improve and compete. Adrian and Brian lead a talented and versatile group of sprinters. Tom, Matt and Darryl lead the hardworking and rapidly improving distance crew. Steven Zanis is the most experienced thrower. This year’s team also adds depth and excitement with a number of multi-sport upperclassmen. Because of the upperclass leadership, talent, and versatility, the team will be very competitive and tough to beat during the regular season. It also has the talent and experience to be competitive in the championship meets, possibly in the top three of in the conference. ”

Coach Zinchuk’s comment: “We’re very excited with a large turnout of athletes. We’re young and talented. This year’s sophomore class won the freshman state meet last year. Our main goals are to build team unity, improve each week and qualify a lot of girls for the state meet.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both South Portland teams will be formidable this spring.

The boys have three state meet scorers returning. Reid was sixth in the 200 and was part of a runner-up 400 relay team. Campbell was seventh in the 300 hurdles. Grazewski scored in the 1,600 relay. This year, top sprinters include Alognon, Campbell, Grazewski, Reid and Skillings, along with new junior Teddy Lefay and freshmen Ben Michaud, Mike Senesombath and Anthony Tran. In the longer races, Clement, Gotts, Redstone, Wilkinson and freshman Jon Bagley will do their thing. New seniors Mike Kennedy and Vukasiin Vignjevic could compete in the middle distance. Campbell, Feely, Grazewski and Tuttle hurdle, along with juniors Nick Genesio and Dan Medici. Jumpers to watch include Campbell, Feely, Grazewski, Medici, Reid and Tuttle. Zanis is the top returning thrower. He’s joined by senior Ben Ely, Lefay and sophomores Liam Rottkov and Joey Zelasko. Bahati pole vaults. There are no shortage of great athletes on the roster. The Red Riots should be one of the best teams in the regular season and could enjoy their first top 10 state finish since finishing runner-up in 2005.

On the girls’ side, Pan is the top returner. She was fourth in the mile and fifth in the two-mile as a freshman. She also scored in the 3,200 relay, along with Donahue (who won the Westbrook-Gorham Rotary Road Race Monday, leading the Red Riots to a first-place showing) and Tirabassi. Those girls, along with Letourneau and Mulligan, should lead the distance charge again this spring. Desjardins is the top sprinter. Coombs will be the lead jumper and also pole vaults. Violette throws the javelin, while senior Abby Hasson (South Portland’s Winter Female Athlete of the Year) looks to score in the discus and shot put. Several other girls look to make their mark in the weeks to come. This program, featuring a plethora of great underclassmen, is on the rise. A realistic goal this spring is a very competitive regular season and a run at a top 10 state meet finish if all goes well.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Tom Hyland (third year)

2010 Results: 3-9 (no postseason)

Top returning players: Eric Berry-Sandelin (Junior), Roman Davydov (Junior), Joey Hendricks (Junior), Tanner Hyland (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 25 @ Deering, April 27 (H) WINDHAM, May 9 (H) MARSHWOOD, May 16 (H) SCARBOROUGH, May 20 @ Portland, May 23 (H) CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “Due to graduation, we’ll be young with zero seniors, five juniors and two freshmen in the top seven. Four of the seven have varsity experience. They gained knowledge and wisdom last year that will pay dividends this year. We have good athletes who have a good understanding of the game. We hope to compete with our athleticism, discipline, drive and determination.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland’s two-year playoff run ended last season, but the Red Riots could be in contention this spring. It’s a young squad, but there’s promise on the roster. Berry-Sandelin, Davydov and Hendricks will play singles. Hyland and juniors Dylan Esposito and Matt LeBerge, along with sophomore Ben Burkey, are in the mix for doubles spots. This group will come along as the season progresses. The Red Riots should be able to compete in most of their matches and if all goes well, they’ll easily exceed last year’s win total. Maybe to the tune of a winning record and a trip to the postseason.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Elizabeth Scifres (12th year)

2010 Results:5-8 (Lost 5-0 to Portland in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Kelsey Berglund (Senior), Amanda Junkins (Senior), Morgan Lundgren (Senior), Kera Snyder (Junior), Abby Onos (Sophomore), Brianna Woodward (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 25 (H) DEERING, May 4 @ Gorham, May 6 (H) MCAULEY, May 11 @ Westbrook, May 16 @ Scarborough, May 20 (H) PORTLAND, May 23 @ Cheverus

Coach’s comment: “We have a large team, 40 girls, and we’re working hard in the preseason despite the difficult weather. This team has the strength and opportunity to be very successful. We strive to be a team that pulls together, learns from each other and has the highest standard of sportsmanship.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has been very consistent over the years, reaching the playoffs in 11 straight seasons. This year’s team should once again be in the hunt for a postseason berth. Junkins returns in the top singles spot. Berglund will be back in the second position. Lundgren is expected to be in the No. 3 spot. Snyder returns at doubles. She’ll be joined by Onos and Woodward, who made it to the consolation round of the SMAA doubles tourney in 2010, and junior Jenna Susi. The Red Riots will compete with just about everyone this season and should improve steadily. If all goes well, they’ll make some noise when the playoffs begin.

              Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net and followed on Twitter @foresports

Senior Andrew Richards is one of the premier pitchers in the league.

Senior Alexis Bogdanovich helped pitch South Portland to its first softball championship a year ago.

Sophomore Erin Bogdanovich is a top outfielder for the Red Riots and also sees time on the mound.

Senior Harrison Keithly is one of the top offensive forces in the state.

Junior Mike Salvatore could be in for a superb season.

Senior Matt Welch packs quite a punch from his defensive position.

Senior Keely Dooling is one of several top returners for the Red Riots girls’ lacrosse team.

Senior Michelle Callow is a defensive stalwart.

Senior Nikki LaPlante is a superb player all over the field.

Sophomore Ryan Tuttle will be one of the league’s top hurdlers this spring.

Junior Dan Grazewski is another athlete to watch on the South Portland boys’ outdoor track team.

Nyajock Pan had a breakthrough freshman season and should be even more dominant this season.

Sidebar Elements


Junior Brendan Horton and his Red Riots teammates will go all out this spring in quest of a winning season.

South Portland Spring Schedules

(For updated game times, visit http://highschool.spsd.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=53&Itemid=64)

BASEBALL

Sat., April 23 H DEERING

Tues., April 26 @ Massabesic

Thurs., April 28 H BIDDEFORD

Sat., April 30 H KENNEBUNK

Tues., May 3 @ Portland

Thurs., May 5 H CHEVERUS

Mon., May 9 H NOBLE

Tues., May 10 @ Bonny Eagle

Thurs., May 12 @ Windham

Sat., May 14 H SCARBOROUGH

Tues., May 17 @ Marshwood

Thurs., May 19 @ Westbrook

Sat., May 21 H SANFORD

Tues., May 24 @ TA

Thurs., May 26 H GORHAM

Tues., May 31 @ Deering

SOFTBALL

Sat., April 23 H SANFORD

Mon., April 25 @ Kennebunk

Wed., April 27 H DEERING

Fri., April 29 @ Westbrook

Mon., May 2 H WINDHAM

Wed., May 4 @ Noble

Fri., May 6 H MARSHWOOD

Mon., May 9 @ Gorham

Wed., May 11 H MASSABESIC

Thurs., May 12 @ TA

Mon., May 16 H SCARBOROUGH

Thurs., May 19 @ Biddeford

Fri., May 20 H PORTLAND

Wed., May 25 @ Cheverus

Fri., May 27 H BONNY EAGLE

Tues., May 31 @ McAuley

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Wed., April 20 H CHEVERUS

Sat., April 23 @ Deering

Wed., April 27 @ Massabesic

Fri., April 29 @ Camden

Mon., May 2 H WESTBROOK

Wed., May 11 @ Windham

Sat., May 14 H OAK HILL

Tues., May 17 @ TA

Sat., May 21 H MARSHWOOD

Wed., May 25 H BONNY EAGLE

Wed., June 1 H KENNEBUNK

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Thurs., April 28 H GORHAM

Sat., April 30 H LINCOLN

Mon., May 2 H MCAULEY

Thurs., May 5 @ Noble

Mon., May 9 H SANFORD

Thurs., May 12 H BIDDEFORD

Sat., May 14 @ Lewiston

Mon., May 16 @ McAuley

Thurs., May 19 @ Windham

Mon., May 23 @ Deering

Thurs., May 26 H PORTLAND

Mon., May 30 @ Bonny Eagle

BOYS’ OUTDOOR TRACK

Wed., April 27 H BIDD, MASS, WEST

Tues., May 3 @ Portland (Chev, Deer, SP)

Wed., May 11 @ Windham (Sanford, TA)

Tues., May 17 H BIDD, GORHAM, NOBLE

Fri., May 20 @ Scarborough

Sat., May 28 Southwesterns

Sat., June 4 CLASS A STATE MEET

GIRLS’ OUTDOOR TRACK

Tues., April 26 @ Westbrook (Bidd, Mass)

Mon., May 2 @ Cheverus (Deering, McA, Port)

Tues., May 10 H SANFORD, TA, WINDHAM

Mon., May 16 @ Noble (Bidd, Gorham)

Fri., May 20 @ Scarborough

Sat., May 28 @ Southwesterns

Sat., June 4 CLASS A STATE MEET

BOYS’ TENNIS

Mon., April 25 @ Deering

Wed., April 27 H WINDHAM

Fri., April 29 @ Massabesic

Mon., May 2 @ Kennebunk

Wed., May 4 H GORHAM

Mon., May 9 H MARSHWOOD

Wed., May 11 H WESTBROOK

Thurs., May 12 @ TA

Mon., May 16 H SCARBOROUGH

Tues., May 17 @ Sanford

Fri., May 20 @ Portland

Mon., May 23 H CHEVERUS

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Mon., April 25 H DEERING

Wed., April 27 @ Windham

Mon., May 2 H KENNEBUNK

Wed., May 4 @ Gorham

Fri., May 6 H MCAULEY

Mon., May 9 @ Marshwood

Wed., May 11 @ Westbrook

Thurs., May 12 H TA

Mon., May 16 @ Scarborough

Tues., May 17 H SANFORD

Fri., May 20 H PORTLAND

Mon., May 23 @ Cheverus

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