South Portland Red Riots Spring Sports Preview

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Senior Ruay Bol will be one of the state’s top jumpers and hopes to lead South Portland’s boys’ outdoor track team to another strong season.

File photos.

More photos below.

BASEBALL

Coach: Mike Owens (seventh year, 69-40 overall record)

2016 record: 16-3 (Lost, 4-2, to Falmouth in Class A South Final)

Top returning players: Sam Troiano (Senior), Riley Hasson (Junior), Zack Johnson (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 25 THORNTON ACADEMY, April 27 @ Gorham, May 9 PORTLAND, May 11 CHEVERUS, May 13 @ Scarborough, May 20 @ Deering, May 23 MARSHWOOD, May 30 WINDHAM

Coach’s comment: “I’m excited about this group. They love baseball. We graduated a lot. We only have four seniors, three returning starters. We have a lot of talent, but it’s unproven at the varsity level. A lot of these guys did win the Junior and Senior Legion titles last season. I may start three freshmen. Only Sam Troiano has started for me before as a freshman. It’ll take time to put everybody where they should be. The league is very deep and balanced. I think we’ll be in the mix and we’ll get better as the season goes along.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has won 31 games over the past two seasons, the program’s best two-year stretch since the Maine Principals’ Association started holding playoffs in 1970. The Red Riots should be one of the teams to beat again in Class A South this spring, but there will be a learning curve as several talented, but untested younger players get added into the mix.

Troiano, South Portland’s Spring Male Athlete of the Year a year ago, is the top returner. He was named the SMAA Most Valuable Player and a first-team all-star after dominating in multiple ways. This spring, Troiano will be the Red Riots’ ace (he was 3-1 with a 2.30 earned run average last season) and will also anchor the defense in centerfield when he’s not on the hill. He projects to be one of the league’s best hitters too (he hit .439, drove in 12 runs, scored 20 times and had 13 stolen bases in 2016). Johnson will also see some time on the mound, as will freshman left-hander Hunter Owen and junior Connor Buckley, a transfer from Deering. Sophomore Caden Horton and freshman Anthony Perron will both get time behind the plate. The left side of South Portland’s infield will be solid, as Hasson, a second-team league all-star last year, will be at shortstop and Johnson, when he doesn’t pitch, will play third. Horton, Owen and junior Jake Poole will all see time at first base. In the outfield, senior Gordon Whittemore will be in left, next to Troiano. 

South Portland has boasted shutdown pitching, solid defense and timely offense the past two years. This team has the potential to carry on that tradition, it just might take awhile. By the time the playoffs roll around, the Red Riots should enjoy a high seed and will have a chance to be one of the last teams standing once again.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Alexis Garrison (third year. 16-18 overall record)

2016 record: 5-12 (Lost, 9-0, to Windham in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Stephanie Aceto (Senior), Kaitlin Bouchard (Senior), Maeve Kelley (Junior), Grace Rende (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 21 @ Noble, April 28 BIDDEFORD, May 1 @ Scarborough, May 5 @ Portland, May 8 THORNTON ACADEMY, May 10 SCARBOROUGH, May 19 @ Massabesic

Coach’s comment: “We still have a very young program with just three starting upperclassmen. The girls have been working extremely hard and it will be a very exciting year. We have a great core group of returning starters with some very talented freshmen in key positions. Our goal this is season is to be aggressive, stay driven and be a top competitor among some very tough teams.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland was done in as much by Mother Nature as by Windham last season. The Red Riots were on the verge of upsetting the Eagles in the preliminary round, but rain stopped the game before it was official and when it was made up the next day, Windham rolled, as South Portland’s 14-year run of winning records came to an end. This time around, the Red Riots look to get back to the playoffs and be able to host. There are ample reasons to believe that South Portland will show great improvement.

Aceto was an honorable mention all-star in 2016 (she hit .312). She’ll be the ace pitcher and will get help from freshman Hattie Tetzlaff. Freshman Ashley Aceto will be the catcher. South Portland will be solid on the infield, as Bouchard (first base), Kelley (second base) and Rende (third base) all have experience. Sophomore Kaylee Whitten projects to play shortstop. Freshman Aviyonna Kim is an outfielder to watch. Offensively, Aceto, Bouchard and Rende figure to have the most potent bats. 

Stephanie Aceto’s arm and a solid offense will keep the Red Riots in every game. Look for South Portland to return to its winning ways this season and be a team that no one will want to face when the postseason begins.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Tom Fiorini (10th year, 80-43 overall record, one state championship)

2016 record: 8-6 (Lost, 16-4, to eventual state champion Scarborough in Class A South semifinals)

Top returning players: Jake Angell (Senior), Brandon Gagne (Senior), Benedetto Nappi (Senior), Jack Vose-Gimble (Junior), David Fiorini (Sophomore), Cooper Mehlhorn (Sophomore), Quinn Watson (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 21 SCARBOROUGH, April 29 FALMOUTH, May 2 @ Cheverus, May 12 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 16 @ Thornton Academy, May 19 DEERING, May 23 @ Portland

Coach’s comment: “I started seven freshmen last year. I have seven sophomores now. They’re a year older and bigger. I feel good about our upside. Teams can’t just prepare for Jack (Fiorini) anymore. We’re more balanced. If we win the games we’re supposed to win, we’ll have a chance at a top seed. With hard work and a little luck, we could win a state championship.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland’s two-year regional title reign came to an end last year and the Red Riots then had to part with All-American Jack Fiorini, who is redshirting at powerhouse Syracuse University this season. South Portland has what it takes to get back to the top of a challenging region, but nothing will come easily.

This year, the offense will begin with Mehlhorn, who had a terrific freshman campaign of 43 goals and 28 assists in 2016. Other scoring threats include Angell (21 goals last spring) and David Fiorini (14 goals and 25 assists). Defensively, Nappi returns after being named an honorable mention all-star last spring. He’s entering his third season as a starter and is joined by two-year starters Gagne and Vose-Gimble. Sophomore Shippen Savidge, who stands 6-foot-5, will play a big defensive role this year. Watson is back for a second season in goal and will be improved. 

The Red Riots hope that their additional year of maturity shows up on the field. If it does, they’ll be a difficult foe. South Portland has a brutal schedule, but it will win its share and will be battle tested for the playoffs. If all goes well, when all is said and done, this Red Riots team will have more in common with the 2014 and 2015 squads than last year’s.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Leslie Dyer (third year, 16-11 overall record)

2016 record: 8-6 (Lost, 14-3, to Marshwood in Class A South semifinals)

Top returning players: Kayla Brown (Senior), Zoe Brown (Senior), Kaya Backman (Junior), Abby Darling (Junior), Sula Flock (Junior), Rachel Haynes (Junior), Jena Leckie (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 27 @ Gorham, May 2 MARSHWOOD, May 4 @ Scarborough, May 11 PORTLAND, May 18 @ Deering, May 25 @ Massabesic

Coach’s comment: “It’s a good group of girls, but I have a wicked young team. There are eight freshmen on varsity. Most of my offense and defense are returning. The freshmen will be in the midfield. It’s going to be a learning year. I have an awesome junior class. They’re now in leadership roles. They’re excited and working hard and pushing each other. We won’t have one or two big studs like last year. We’ll have silent threats. Our individual stick skills have come a long way. I want us to be the smartest team out there. Every year we want to do better than the year before. Consistency is a goal. We want to get in the tournament. With only two seniors, we want to develop for the future.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland made history last spring, getting to the semifinals for the first time. Much of last year’s success was spearheaded by standouts Maddie Hasson (now playing basketball at Bowdoin College) and Mary Cronin (the school’s Spring Female Athlete of the Year last season). They’ve graduated and while the Red Riots will face a learning curve this spring, they have quite an upside.

On offense, Backman, Kayla Brown and Leckie will pave the way. Leckie will take draws, as will freshman Savannah Dunbar. On defense, look for Darling, Flock and Haynes to play big roles. Zoe Brown was expected to return in goal, but she’s battling an injury and might be out for a good portion of the season. At press time, freshman Maya Ellington was the favorite to play that pivotal position. 

South Portland will have its hands full with the elite teams in the league, but the Red Riots will be a matchup nightmare for teams on their level, meaning they should win their share of games. While the playoffs are the goal, whatever happens this spring will be gravy, as the future appears very bright for this up-and-coming program.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Coaches:

(Boys) Dave Kahill (10th year)

(Girls) Karen Reardon (sixth year)

2016 results:

(Boys) 3rd @ Class A State Meet

(Girls) 9th @ Class A State Meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Ruay Bol (Senior), Liam Hayes (Senior), Xander Keiter (Senior), Brad Mileson (Senior), Xavier Mills (Senior), Steven Smith (Senior), Dan Woodhouse (Senior), Max Holmes (Junior), Mickey Ingham (Junior), Patrick Martin (Junior), Sam Goodine-Doane (Sophomore), Ben Sivik (Sophomore)

(Girls) Sophia Cummings (Senior), Abby Donahue (Senior), Thaovy Duong (Senior), Cree Hoyte (Senior), Erica Magnuson (Senior), Serena McKenzie (Senior), Callie O’Brien (Senior), Juliana Selser (Junior), Madison Smith (Junior)

Coach Kahill’s comment: “Coming off a third place finish at last year’s state championship, we’re led by a talented and experienced senior class. The distance runners have exceptional leadership and work ethic. Ruay returns as one of the top jumpers in the state and hopes to help build more team depth in the jumps. Xavier keeps improving himself and teammates in the throws. Steven leads a talented racewalk crew. The sprint crew is led by Max and Ben. While we have upperclass talent and leadership, including a number of guys with potential to score in the championship meets, a key to the our season will be to develop underclassmen depth in all events. We again should be competitive during the regular season and championship meets.”

Coach Reardon’s comment: “We have a good group this spring, larger than indoors, so that will help and we have some good talent sprinkled throughout the various events. I’m looking forward to our first meet so we can get a good sense of where we are starting from. We could use a little more depth, but we have some outstanding athletes among the group and if some of the newcomers develop as well, it should be a good season. We will be a competitive group throughout the season and will look to peak at the meets at the end.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: The South Portland outdoor track program again boasts an abundance of talent.

The boys return several scorers from last spring. Bol, coming off a superb basketball season which saw him named South Portland’s Winter Male Athlete of the Year, is the reigning Class A champion in the triple jump and also placed second in the high jump and fourth in the long jump a year ago. He’ll look to win all three crowns this time around. Martin and freshman Ethan McCarthy will also jump. In the throws, while Daniel Giuliani’s absence will be felt, look for Goodine-Doane, Ingham and Mills, along with new sophomore Artimus Stilley, to make their presence felt. Smith came in second in the racewalk last season and hopes to move up a spot this season. Goodine-Doane and Hayes will join him in that event. Keiter is the top returner in the distance. Freshman Liam Piper will also look to be a factor. Goodine-Doane, Mileson and Woodhouse will take part in the middle distance. In the sprints, look for Holmes, Martin and Sivik to be a factor. McCarthy and Mileson will compete in the hurdles. The Red Riots have some strong teams standing in their way in the league, but if all goes well, they’ll be in line for another top five finish at states.

On the girls’ side, South Portland will be very strong in the league and at the state level. Selser won the 800 a year ago and is coming off a stellar indoor season which saw her named the schools’ Winter Female Athlete of the Year. She’ll look to remain one of the state’s best middle-distance runners. Donahue came in fourth in the racewalk last season and could move up. Smith also takes part in that event. Magnuson will compete in the 400. Duong and McKenzie are distance runners to watch. Senior Abby Richardson competes in the middle distance and joins O’Brien and freshman Kaleisha Towle as top hurdlers. Richardson and freshmen Isabelle Chase and Anna Folley also will be heard from in the middle distance. Cummings, Towle and freshmen Jordyn Hulsey and Eva Tedford will take part in the sprints and hurdles. On the field side, Chase, Cummings, O’Brien, Richardson, Tedford and Towle will be forces in the jumps. Cummings, Hoyte, Magnuson and freshman Rebekah Hunnewell-Dunphe are top throwers. Hulsey is also a pole vaulter. The Red Riots have the pieces in place to be formidable from start to finish.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Tom Hyland (10th year)

2016 results: 9-5 (Lost, 5-0, to Falmouth in Class A South quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Owen Doane (Senior), Andy LeBlanc (Junior), Michael Feely (Sophomore) 

Coach’s comment: “This will be a rebuilding year. We lost nine of our top 12 players from our successful 2016 season. We’ve worked hard to get ready and we’ll continue to do so throughout the season, giving our very best in practice and in matches.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: A year ago, South Portland posted its best record since 2003, but the team is largely starting from scratch this spring. The Red Riots will still be competitive in most matches, however.

LeBlanc will be in the top singles role this season. Doane and Feely will be in the other two singles spots after playing junior varsity doubles a year ago. Griffin Gingrich will be on the first doubles team with freshman Ian McCutcheon. Other athletes will have a chance to earn playing time as the season progresses.

South Portland will be pushed by most of its foes, but as it comes of age, the wins will come. The question is will the Red Riots win enough to make the playoffs for the third year in a row? Regardless, South Portland will position itself for success down the road.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Elizabeth Scifres (18th year)

2016 results: 6-7 (Lost, 4-1, to Deering in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Lydia Henderson (Senior), Ellen Stanton (Senior), Julia Stanton (Senior)

Coach’s comment: “We’re a team in the true sense of the word. We support each other. We compete in practice to push each other to improve. We cheer each other on and help each other through struggles so we can succeed. Although we, like many in Maine, had a difficult preseason due to the weather, the team is working hard and poised to compete well against other schools. Our strengths are attitude, fitness, determination and grit.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has made the playoffs 17 years running and the Red Riots have the talent to do it again.

Julia Stanton will be at first singles this year. Junior Alicia Currie will be at No. 2 singles and junior Andrea Trieu will play at third singles. Henderson and Ellen Stanton will make up the first doubles squad. Junior Sarah Weden and sophomore Abby Trieu will be on the No. 2 doubles team. 

South Portland has a core of upperclassmen who are eager to remain in contention. The Red Riots should be in the mix with several teams in a balanced region and have what it takes to make another run to the postseason.

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

Senior Sam Troiano can do it all for South Portland’s baseball team. The reigning league MVP is a top pitcher, outfielder, base runner and hitter.

Junior Zack Johnson will be a key hitter and infielder for the Red Riots.

Cooper Mehlhorn had a breakout freshman season for South Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team and will be a top scorer this spring.

Senior Jake Angell is another top offensive threat for the Red Riots.

Junior Jake Vose-Gimble is a top returning defender for South Portland.

Junior Kaya Backman will pace the offense for the South Portland girls’ lacrosse team.

Senior Kayla Brown is another top scoring threat for the Red Riots.

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