South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview

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Last spring, for the first time in a quarter-century, South Portland’s baseball team celebrated a regional championship. This season, the Red Riots hope to finish the job.

File photos.

More photos below.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mike Owens (sixth year, 53-37 overall record)

2015 record: 15-5 (Lost, 5-4, to Bangor in Class A state final)

Top returning players: Drew Abramson (Senior), Ben Conti (Senior), Griffin Kelley (Senior), Nick Troiano (Senior), Sam Troiano (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 22 @ Bonny Eagle, April 28 @ Westbrook, May 3 @ Thornton Academy, May 6 @ Cheverus, May 12 DEERING, May 14 SCARBOROUGH, May 19 MARSHWOOD, May 21 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “We’re a work in progress. It’s a different team this year. We had to replace a lot of guys, including, obviously, Henry (Curran). We had some returning guys who were part of last year’s team and our JV and Legion teams have been successful. The guys without experience are talented and ready to step in. We’ll have a few hiccups, but I expect us to get better as we go. There are a lot of good teams this year. It’s a deep, competitive league. If we get to 10 wins, I’ll be pleased. I’d like to make the playoffs.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Last spring, South Portland enjoyed its best season in nearly a quarter-century, riding the brilliance that was Henry Curran’s left arm to the state final before falling a run short. That effort earned Curran Spring Male Athlete of the Year honors and Owens Coach of the Year recognition. This year’s team is a mixture of returning talent and promising youth and if all goes well, the Red Riots will be very much in the thick of things again.

Trying to fill the big shoes of Curran (now pitching at the University of Southern Maine) will be Sam Troiano (3-1 with an 0.72 earned run average last spring), Kelley (1-0, 2.88 ERA), Abramson (who threw one shutout inning in 2015), Conti, junior Matt Crockett and sophomore Zack Johnson. Nick Troiano will be behind the plate. He hit .318 with a team-high 10 runs batted in a year ago.

Other hitters of note include Sam Troiano (.315 with a team-high 15 runs and 15 hits during a second-team league all-star season last spring), Abramson (.268) and Crockett. The infield is solid with Crockett at first, Conti at second, Abramson at shortstop and senior Alex Livingston playing third base. Sam Troiano will be in the outfield when he’s not pitching.

A year ago, Curran’s mere presence gave South Portland a big psychological edge. This time around, the Red Riots will have to rely on their depth to win games. It won’t come easily, but by June, this team could be quite formidable and capable of making another deep playoff run.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Alexis Garrison (second year)

2015 record: 11-6 (Lost, 3-1, to Massabesic in Western A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Taylor Bachelor (Senior), Miranda Gleason (Senior), Madison Houlette (Senior), Stephanie Aceto (Junior), Kaitlin Bouchard (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 29 @ Biddeford, May 2 SCARBOROUGH, May 9 @ Thornton Academy, May 11 @ Scarborough, May 13 SANFORD, May 20 MASSABESIC, May 27 @ Gorham

Coach’s comment: “This will be a very exciting  year. We have a great mix of returning varsity starters and new talented underclassmen. We have many new faces playing key roles. Our goal is to build upon our success from last year, be aggressive and surprise people with our young talent, while our experienced players lead the way.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland took its lumps early last season, then hit its stride and made the postseason for the 15th straight season, but the year ended with a disappointing playoff loss. Even after the graduation of standout and reigning Spring Female Athlete of the Year Laurine German, this time around, the Red Riots have what it takes to be consistent in April and May and successful in June.

Aceto was a second-team league all-star in 2015, going 9-4. She’ll see the majority of innings. Freshman Abbie Jellison projects to be the catcher. The offense will be led by Aceto (.373 batting average last spring), Bouchard (.407) and Gleason (.357). Gleason (an honorable mention all-star last  year) and Houlette anchor the outfield. Bachelor brings experience to the infield at third base. She’s joined by sophomore second baseman Maeve Kelley and freshman shortstop Grace Rende. This is a team that can hit, pitch and field.

The schedule is daunting as the usual suspects remain strong and some new contenders will likely be in the mix. South Portland has been in the hunt and this year will be no different. If the younger players develop as hoped, the Red Riots will be right near the top of the standings and this time around, they won’t be content with anything short of a deep playoff run.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Tom Fiorini (ninth year, 72-37 overall record, one state championship)

2015 record: 13-2 (Lost, 13-9, to Brunswick in Class A state final)

Top returning players: Jack Fiorini (Senior), Nick Mezzanotte (Senior), Benedetto Nappi (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 22 @ Scarborough, April 30 @ Falmouth, May 4 CHEVERUS, May 11 @ Westbrook, May 14 CAPE ELIZABETH, May 17 THORNTON ACADEMY

Coach’s comment: “We have a different look this spring. Four four-year players are gone, so we have some holes to fill, but with that said, some young kids have played organized lacrosse together since the second grade. There’s a lot of potential. We just need some time. We have to play great defense at the beginning of the season and once the offense develops, that will carry us through the playoffs. It will be an interesting season. Things are very wide open. It will come down to who executes.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland fell just short in its Class A repeat bid last June, then had to bid adieu to goalie extraordinaire T-Moe Hellier, offensive standouts Chris Mitchell and Andrew Whipple and key defender Trent Lloyd-Rees, along with several other top contributors. This year’s team is a work in progress, but the Red Riots boast a building block that other programs can only envy.

That would be Jack Fiorini, who is bound for Syracuse University next year. Fiorini is coming off a superb basketball season which saw him almost lead South Portland to a shocking upset in the state final. He does his best work on the lacrosse field, however, and after an All-American season in 2015, which saw him score 42 goals and add 31 assists (giving him 106 and 79 for his career), Fiorini will be the engine that makes this team go. With teams doing their best to lock Fiorini down, the Red Riots will need an offensive infusion from three promising freshmen, Mitchell Adams, David Fiorini (Coach Fiorini suggests his younger son is better than his elder son at this stage of his development) and Cooper Melhorn. Sophomore Jack Tierney will try to win the majority of faceoffs to keep possession in South Portland’s hands. Defensively is where this squad will need to be special and they should be. Mezanotte and Nappi have experience and they’re joined by senior captain Brian Elsemore, who is trying to get back from injury, and juniors Patrick Graff and Finn Zechman. Hellier leaves a big void in goal, but as was the case when he started four years ago, a promising freshmen is ready to take on the daunting challenge. Quinn Watson has turned heads in the preseason and while he’s on a learning curve, he could wind up being good enough, even as a rookie, to lead his team to the Promised Land.

It’s likely South Portland will stumble more than it has the past couple seasons, especially early, but while the win-loss mark might suggest otherwise, by June, this squad will be ready to make a run for the title. Jack Fiorini will likely have a monster season. If some of the newer players can help pick up the slack, the Red Riots have every reason to believe they can get back to Fitzpatrick Stadium June 18 and ascend to the pinnacle again.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Leslie Dyer (second year)

2015 record: 8-5 (Lost, 9-6, to Thornton Academy in Western A quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Ingrid Boyce (Senior), Mary Cronin (Senior), Maddie Hasson (Senior), Paige Fleming (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: May 5 SCARBOROUGH, May 12 @ Portland, May 14 YORK, May 19 @ Deering, May 26 MASSABESIC

Coach’s comment: “It’s going to be a building year for us. We have a lot of girls with skills, but we graduated so many good players. Several of this year’s players were on varsity last year, but playing and watching from the bench are two different things. We have some great senior leaders. We’ll be middle of the pack. I expect a slow start, but a strong finish. I hope we can make the playoffs and keep moving forward.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland reached the playoffs for the seventh straight year last spring, but dropped a close quarterfinal at Thornton Academy. Graduation then hit hard, as standout goalie Lily SanGiovianni and league all-stars Colleen Fleming, Aimee LaPlante and Abby Letourneau all departed. The Red Riots will take some time to hit their stride this season, but should show plenty of improvement between now and June.

Cronin and Hasson were second-team all-stars a year ago and will lead the way this season. Cronin, a captain, will be a top scorer. Hasson, the basketball standout and South Portland’s Winter Female Athlete of the Year, will patrol the midfield and take draws. Fleming is another midfielder to watch. Boyce is a top defender. A pair of newcomers will see a lot of time as well. Freshman Jena Leckie, who turned heads during soccer and basketball seasons, will see some time in the draw circle and be a force in the midfield. Junior Zoe Brown has the unenviable task of stepping into SanGiovanni’s shoes. If she can stand tall, the Red Riots will be competitive quicker than expected.

South Portland opened with a 15-3 loss at defending Class A champion Marshwood. The schedule will remain tough, but the Red Riots expect to get better in the weeks to come. If that happens, another playoff trip is likely and this program should only get better going forward.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coaches:

(Boys) Dave Kahill (ninth year)
(Girls) Karen Reardon (fifth year)

2015 results:

(Boys) 6th @ Class A State Meet
(Girls) 2nd @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Noah Blake (Senior), Andy Coffin (Senior), Danny Guiliani (Senior), Gary Maietta (Senior), Jake Maloney (Senior), Ruay Bol (Junior), Liam Hayes (Junior), Xander Keiter (Junior), Brad Mileson (Junior), Xavier Mills (Junior), Steven Smith (Junior), Dan Woodhouse (Junior), Max Holmes (Sophomore), Patrick Martin (Sophomore)

(Girls) Casey Loring (Senior), Krystal Nevells (Senior), Jackie Tanguay (Senior), Abby Donahue (Junior), Toia Francis (Junior), Cree Hoyte (Junior), Phoebe Letourneau (Junior), Erica Magnuson (Junior), Serena McKenzie (Junior), Callie O’Brien (Junior), Juliana Selser (Sophomore)

Coach Kahill’s comment: “We enter the season with a lot of positive energy from a large and focused team. We have great senior leadership with strong integrity, work ethic and talent. The throwers have great determination. We have a versatile and determined group of sprinters and jumpers. The distance squad is also talented and versatile. The team has nice depth and excitement with a large group of underclassmen. With continued improvement, we have the potential to be very competitive during the regular season and championship meets.”

Coach Reardon’s comment: “We had a very good season last spring and while we lost some people to graduation, we should still be very competitive this season. We have another year of experience and we have some athletes who are talented. The regular season is an opportunity to improve each meet in preparation for the big meets and we’ll be experimenting with different events to see where our best chances lie. We have a good group of girls working very hard and it’s exciting to see where they might go. It should be fun to watch our progress.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both South Portland outdoor track teams have been very competitive the past couple seasons and the Red Riots are primed for more excellence this spring.

The boys feature Giuliani, the Iowa State-bound throwing standout, who broke the state outdoor shot put record a year ago with a top throw of 62 feet, 8.25 inches. He’ll serve as a captain and will also throw the discus (Guiliani was the runner-up in that event last season and hopes to win it this spring). Mills is another promising thrower and freshman Artimus Stilley provides depth in those events. Blake, a captain, Bol, Holmes, Martin and Maietta, a captain, are the top returning jumpers. They’re joined by Stilley, freshman Dana Watts and freshman Tyree Westerman. Coffin and Watts could score in the pole vault. On the track side of things, Maloney, another captain, came in seventh in the mile last year. He’s coming off a solid indoor season (he was third in the mile at states) and will be joined in the distance events by Coffin, Keiter, Mileson, Woodhouse, junior Layton Steele and Smith, who was fourth in the racewalk last season. He’s joined in that event by Coffin and Hayes. In the sprints, Blake and Maietta lead the way. They’re joined by Holmes, Martin, Stilley, Watts, Westerman and freshman Ben Sivik. Bol and Mileson hope to score in the hurdles. This squad has a ton of athleticism, covers the events well and should only get better as the season improves. South Portland should be very formidable during the league schedule and if all goes well, could make a run at the program’s first championship in 14 years.

On the girls’ side, after their best state meet finish since 1991, the Red Riots are looking to take that one final step to win a championship for the first time since 1977. It won’t come easily, but despite some graduation losses, talent abounds. Selser won the 800 as a freshman and looks to repeat. She’s a versatile athlete who will also run the 400 and relays. Selser was also part of a first-place 4×400 relay team last season, which also included O’Brien, who can score in the sprints, hurdles or jumps. McKenzie scored in both the two-mile (third) and mile (seventh) last spring and was South Portland’s Fall Female Athlete of the Year. She’ll be a top threat in the longer races. Donahue was fourth in the racewalk last season and holds the school record. She’ll also run middle distance and throw the javelin. Loring (fifth in the mile last spring) hopes to cap her stellar career with a high finish in that event, as well as in the hurdles. There’s plenty more firepower on the roster. Nevells (shot put and distance) and Tanguay (sprints and jumps) are experienced seniors. Francis (middle distance), Hoyte (throws), Letourneau (jumps) and Magnuson (sprints and discus) also have experience. Add into the mix sophomore Lingdong Bol (a top jumper who was injured last spring) and freshmen Rachel Currie (sprints and middle distance) and Hannah Theriault (sprints) and you can see where this team won’t only have the depth and skill to be strong throughout the regular season, but to again be among the very best in the state come June.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Tom Hyland (ninth year)

2015 results: 7-6 (Lost, 4-1, to Gorham in Western A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Eli Canfield (Senior), Alex Hewitt (Senior), Thomas Hodgkins (Senior) Ian Mitchell (Senior), Andy LeBlanc (Sophomore)

Pivotal matches: April 25 DEERING, April 27 @ Windham, April 29 PORTLAND, May 2 SCARBOROUGH, May 16 GORHAM, May 23 CHEVERUS

Coach’s comment: “We have great expectations for this season. Our players have matured through previous varsity experience and we’re ready for the challenges ahead. We’ll be senior-laden this season. We have a log-jam of seemingly equally talented players who will all compete for time. We will compete throughout the ladder and look forward to making some noise in the playoffs. Our goal is to always improve on last year, so getting to the second round will be at the forefront of our planning and execution.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland posted a winning record last spring for the first time since 2009 and the Red Riots look to build on that success this season.

Mitchell is back in the first singles spot for a third year in a row. He’ll go up against the best players the league has to offer, but Hyland feels he’s up for the challenge. LeBlanc will be in the number two singles spot. Canfield and Hodgkins enjoyed a lot of success at second doubles in 2015 and have high hopes this season. After that, uncertainty reigned at press time. Hewitt, along with Drew Bradberry, Matt Pelletier, Dejan Tisma, junior Owen Doane and freshman Michael Feely, were vying for playing time.

South Portland won’t be content making the playoffs this spring. The Red Riots are hoping to get to the quarterfinals for the first time in seven years and the semifinals for the first time since 2003. This squad will hit its stride in the weeks to come and be very dangerous when the matches matter most.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Elizabeth Scifres (17th year)

2015 results: 4-9 (Lost, 5-0, to Gorham in Western A preliminary round)

Top returning players: Leah Barry-Sandelin (Senior), Maggie Koukos (Senior), Ellen Stanton (Junior), Julia Stanton (Junior)

Pivotal matches: April 25 @ Deering, April 29 @ Portland, May 2 @ Scarborough, May 16 @ Gorham, May 18 MCAULEY, May 23 @ Cheverus

Coach’s comment: “The bad weather has made for a difficult preseason, but that’s not unique to South Portland. We have a large squad of hardworking young women. The team does an exceptional job of pushing each other to improve while supporting each other to succeed.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has made the playoffs every year this millennium and the Red Riots are hoping to continue to be a contender this spring.

While ladder matches hadn’t been completed at press time, due to bad weather, captains Berry-Sandelin and Koukos, along with Julia Stanton, will likely fill the singles roles. Ellen Stanton projects to play doubles along with a pair of newcomers, junior Lydia Henderson, the basketball star, and senior Eden Martin.

The pieces are in place for South Portland to enjoy success. A run at a first winning record since 2008 and another playoff trip are possible. The Red Riots could be a challenging foe in the postseason as well.

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

Junior Sam Troiano could be South Portland’s ace this season. He’s pretty impressive with the bat too.

Senior Nick Troiano is the catcher and a top hitter for the Red Riots’ baseball team.

Junior Caitlin Bouchard spent some time on the mound and hit over .400 last season for South Portland’s softball team, which continued its streak of reaching the playoffs.

Before he takes his act to Syracuse University, senior Jack Fiorini will try to lead South Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team to a third straight state final and a second championship in that span.

Junior Benedetto Nappi will help South Portland’s defense break in a new goalie this spring.

Senior Maddie Hasson just produced a masterful girls’ basketball season. She’ll hope to provide some heroics for the girls’ lacrosse team this spring as the Red Riots look to get back to the playoffs.

Junior Serena McKenzie is a top distance runner for South Portland’s girls’ outdoor track team.

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