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SACO—While the local softball world can’t help but look ahead to Monday afternoon’s “Game of the Year” between South Portland and Scarborough, the Red Riots, the defending Class A state champions, have been very good about focusing on the matter at hand.
The Red Riots came to once-beaten Thornton Academy Thursday afternoon knowing they’d be in for (in theory at least) their sternest test to date and it’s safe to say South Portland passed with flying colors.
In the top of the first inning, before many fans had even showed up, the visitors raced to a quick 3-0 lead behind the potent bats of the Bogdanovich sisters, senior Alexis and sophomore Erin. Alexis Bogdanovich did the rest on the mound, holding the dangerous Golden Trojans to two runs and the Red Riots improved to 10-0 on the year with a 7-2 victory, dropping Thornton Academy to 7-2 in the process.
“I’m very, very proud of (the girls) today,” said Red Riots coach Ralph Aceto. “They came here prepared to play and that makes me very happy.”
South Portland finally got the pinnacle a year ago, upsetting Scarborough in the Western A Final before edging Bangor, 1-0, in the Class A state game. The Red Riots came into the 2011 season appearing even stronger and they’ve lived up to preseason billing behind a dominant offense and brilliant pitching from both Bogdanovich girls. South Portland won eight of its previous nine contests by shutout and were only tested in a 9-8 home win over Marshwood Friday. Wednesday, the Red Riots blanked visiting Massabesic, 4-0.
Thornton Academy was a semifinalist in 2010, falling to Scarborough, 4-0. So far this year, the Golden Trojans have been very good, losing only to the Red Storm (5-2 on Saturday). Thornton Academy bounced back from that loss with a 1-0, nine inning win over visiting rival Biddeford, then blanked host Portland (16-0, in five innings) Wednesday.
A year ago, host South Portland beat the Golden Trojans, 6-0. Thursday, the Red Riots came out swinging and ensured they’d earn their 10th straight victory against Thornton Academy, dating to an 11-6 home loss on May 24, 2002.
Senior second baseman Danielle DiBiase led off by taking a called third strike, but Erin Bogdanovich, the centerfielder, crushed Thornton Academy junior Julia Geaumont’s second offering deep over the head of junior rightfielder Katie Kalagias for a triple. Three pitches later, standout senior catcher Katlin Norton rapped a single up the middle and South Portland was on top to stay.
Alexis Bogdanovich followed and battled Geaumont through eight pitches, fouling off a pair of tough offerings before connecting squarely, driving a rocket over the head of senior centerfielder Michelle Cote and over the fence for a quick 3-0 advantage.
“I just knew I wanted to get the bat on the ball and put it in play,” said Bogdanovich. “I felt like it was on the sweet spot. It felt good. It was a good thing to get a lead. It gave me more confidence as a pitcher.”
“It was really important to get a lead,” said Norton. “It was exciting to get runs on the board. It gave us confidence for the rest of the game. The home run got us going emotionally. (Geaumont’s) a good pitcher, the best we’ve seen so far. We knew we had to come out swinging.”
“(The fast start) didn’t hurt at all,” added Aceto. “We’re going to attack the pitcher. My first five, six hitters are as good as anybody in the league. I’ll take Danielle DiBiase, Erin Bodganovich, Katlin Norton and Alexis Bogdanovich anytime.”
In the bottom of the inning, some shaky South Portland defense got the hosts right back in the game as the Golden Trojans announced that they also intended to make contact.
Cote opened with a walk and was sacrificed to second by senior shortstop Lauren Titus. Geaumont then grounded out to Bogdanovich at the mound as Cote went to third. After making the putout, senior first baseman Amanda Linscott tried to throw behind Cote at third, but the throw went awry and Cote came in with Thornton Academy’s first run.
After the Red Riots went meekly in the top of the second, the Golden Trojans got a two-out triple from freshman third baseman Jordon Agger, but Bogdanovich induced Kalagias to pop foul to Norton and the threat was averted.
South Portland stretched its lead to 5-1 in the third as DiBiase led off with a double over Cote’s head, Norton walked with one out, Alexis Bogdanovich singled to left to score DiBiase and Linscott’s ground ball to short brought home Norton.
Against, the hosts answered in the bottom half.
Cote led off with an infield single. Titus reached on a fielder’s choice and Geaumont nearly did the same, but Titus was ruled to have run out of the baseline, putting runners at the corners with one out. Senior leftfielder Kristen Duross hit a ground ball to senior Stephanie McDonough at short and McDonough could only get the force at second, chasing home Cote to cut the deficit to 5-2.
The game settled down from there.
Geaumont worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the fourth, getting DiBiase to pop back to the mound, where Geaumont caught the runner at first napping and threw there to complete an inning ending double play. In the bottom portion of the inning, Bogdanovich allowed a one out single by Agger, but retired the next two hitters to end the threat.
In the fifth, Erin Bogdanovich got to second after a throwing error and moved to third on Norton’s groundout, but Alexis Bogdanovich fanned looking and Linscott hit back to the mound. Alexis Bogdanovich set the Golden Trojans down in order in the bottom half.
After South Portland went quietly in the top of the sixth, junior second baseman Chrissy Remmes appeared to single to right to start the bottom of the inning, but sophomore Kelsey Morton charged the ball and threw to Linscott for a 9-3 putout. That loomed large when senior first baseman Hannah Ebling followed with a single to left. Junior Meghan Agger then hit a liner to McDonough, who threw to Linscott to catch Ebling for an inning-ending double play.
The offense returned for the Red Riots in the top of the seventh as they put the win away.
With two outs and no one on, Erin Bogdanovich walked. Norton singled to left and as Bogdanovich took third on the throw, Norton wisely moved up to second. After Alexis Bogdanovich walked, Linscott was hit by a pitch, bringing in a run, and McDonough beat out an infield hit to make it 7-2.
Jordon Agger led off the bottom of the seventh with her third hit, a single off the pitcher (Bogdanovich appeared to take the line drive off the hand, but was able to finish the game), but freshman pinch hitter Morgan Dube struck out, Cote popped out foul to third and after Titus kept hope alive by reaching after striking out when Norton couldn’t handle strike three, Bogdanovich brought the curtain down by getting Geaumont, her opposite number, to line to right.
“I was seriously worried about TA,” said Aceto. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them again. I think the girls are finally starting to realize that they have to play defense. Both runs came from mental mistakes. That’s when you have to live with a senior group because they’ll take more chances than a younger group.”
Alexis Bogdanovich, who’s dominated Western A all season, had more balls put in play in this game than she or her teammates are used to. She only struck out four hitters, allowed six hits and a walk and gave up just one earned run in improving to 7-0.
“It was more of a challenge today,” Bogdanovich said. “We knew (the Golden Trojans) were an aggressive team with good hitters. I knew I couldn’t put it in their power zone where they could get big hits.”
“Most of (Alexis’) stuff was working, it was just trying to keep the ball low,” said Norton. “Our defense hasn’t faced that many hits. We’re used to double-digit strikeouts. I think we got the confidence as the game went on. TA played Scarborough and Biddeford tight. It wasn’t as stressful as it could have been, which is good.”
Offensively, Alexis Bogdanovich and Norton each had two hits. Bogdanovich drove in three runs, Linscott two and McDonough and Norton one each. Norton scored three times, Erin Bogdanovich twice and Alexis Bogdanovich and DiBiase each touched the dish once.
Geaumont fell to 7-2 after surrendering seven runs (all earned) on nine hits, three walks and a hit batter (she had six strikeouts). The Golden Trojans were led offensively by Jordon Agger’s three hits. Cote scored both runs. Duross had the team’s lone RBI.
Thornton Academy returns to action Monday at Cheverus. The Golden Trojans’ toughest tests remaining are games at McAuley (May 20) and Kennebunk (May 25).
South Portland can now focus solely on Scarborough (8-0). The Red Riots host the Red Storm Monday at 4 p.m., at Wainwright Farms.
Last year’s playoff win ended a long stretch of futility at the hands of its neighbor and rival, but South Portland has yet to beat Scarborough in the regular season.
It should be memorable.
“This is good to get us ready for Scarborough,” Alexis Bogdanovich said. “We’re always competitive against them. It’s going to come down to who makes the little plays.”
“This gives us confidence,” said Norton. “It’s like a rematch. We know we can do it now.”
“It’ll be fun,” Aceto added. “We’ll have a big crowd.”
SP- 302 000 2- 7 9 3
TA- 101 000 0- 2 6 1
Norton singled to center, Erin Bogdanovich scored. Alexis Bogdanovich homered to center, Erin Bogdanovich and Alexis Bogdanovich scored.
Cote scored on throwing error.
Alexis Bogdanovich singled to left, DiBiase scored. Linscott grounded to short, Norton scored.
Duross grounded to short, Cote scored.
Linscott hit by pitch, Erin Bogdanovich scored. McDonough reached on infield single, Norton scored.
SP- E. Bogdanovich
TA- J. Agger
SP- A. Bogdanovich 3, Linscott 2, McDonough, Norton 1
SP- Norton 3, E. Bogdanovich 2, A. Bogdanovich, DiBiase 1
TA- Cote 2
SP- A. Bogdanovich, Norton 2
TA- J. Agger 3
A. Bogdanovich and Norton; Geaumont and Zafirson
A. Bogdanovich (W, 6-0) 7 IP 6 H 2 R 1 ER 1 BB 4
Geaumont (L, 7-2) 7 IP 9 H 7 R 7 ER 3 BB 6 K 1 HBP