SOUTH PORTLAND—Following last weekend’s season-opening 4-1 victory at Sanford, South Portland softball coach Ralph Aceto was anything but pleased with his team’s effort.
Monday afternoon, Aceto had to search long and hard to find something to criticize.
Hosting a Kennebunk squad that’s expected to be a contender in their home opener, the Red Riots erupted for 15 hits and nearly got a no-hitter from junior hurler Alexis Bogdanovich as they cruised to a stunningly easy 16-1 triumph over the Rams, in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
“We played hard for four innings,” said Aceto. “Kennebunk’s not missing much from last year and we played them 1-0 last year. To play a team of that caliber the way we played today, I couldn’t be happier. We played a very good game today.”
South Portland was a regional finalist in 2009, earning Aceto Coach of the Year honors in his initial season, and entered the new season full of optimism. The Red Riots enjoyed an Opening Day win at Sanford, but the effort was lackluster.
“We had some talks.,” Aceto said. “I gave them Saturday off. They hit on their own yesterday.”
Monday would be a totally different story as South Portland defeated Kennebunk for the eighth time in as many meetings.
Bogdanovich set the tone in the top of the first inning when she set the Rams down in order. The Red Riots then pushed across three runs in the bottom of the frame to seize control.
Junior second baseman Danielle DiBiase set the table with a bloop single to centerfield. With one out, Bogdanovich singled to left and the runners moved up on an error. After senior catcher Stephanie Thibeault singled home the game’s first run pm a single to left and Thibeault stole second, a two-run single to center from junior Katlin Norton made it 3-0.
Bogdanovich struck out the side in the top of the second and South Portland’s offense made it 7-0 in the bottom half thanks to an RBI single from Bogdanovich, a two-run single from Thibeault and an RBI triple to center from Norton.
Bogdanovich struck out the side again in the third, then set Kennebunk down in order in the top of the fourth.
In the bottom half, the Red Riots put it away.
A pair of errors put two runners on with one out. Norton followed with a bloop single to load the bases. Junior third baseman Amanda Linscott ripped a triple into the left-centerfield gap to clear the bases and make it 10-0. After a hit batter and a walk, a fielder’s choice resulted in Linscott beating a throw to the plate for an 11-0 lead. DiBiase then singled to center, driving home a run, and when the outfielder overran the ball, all the runners raced home and it was 15-0. After a pitching change, Bogdanovich tripled to left-center and Thibeault added an RBI base hit for a 16-0 advantage.
“I tried to keep my eye on the ball and focus on having a level swing,” said Bogdanovich, on her hitting approach.
In the fifth, the only remaining drama was centered on Bogdanovich’s no-hit bid. She had one as a freshman, but couldn’t finish the job Monday, allowing a leadoff walk, then a bloop single by Kelsey Livermore. A wild pitch allowed a run, but Bogdanovich slammed the door and induced a groundout by a pinch hitter to bring the curtain down on the decisive 16-1 victory.
“(Kennebunk’s) a good team,” Bogdanovich said. “We had a couple good innings. It gave us motivation. Good fielding helps too and we had the bats. I think we’re playing really well as a team. We have a good bond and we all get along pretty well.”
Bogdanovich allowed just one hit and two walks, while fanning 10 in her five innings.
“I’m satisfied, but kind of disappointed,” said Bogdanovich, after the breakup of her no-no.
South Portland got 15 hits, including three each from Bogdanovich, Norton and Thibeault. DiBiase and freshman Erin Bogdanovich had two hits apiece.
“We’ve got the pitching and we can play defense with anybody,” Aceto said. “It’s just a question of whether we have the bats. To be a great team, you have to finish. We’re still learning to finish. We have a good team.”
Aceto credited hitting coach Marc Sandora for the hitting attack.
“(Marc) does a great job with the kids,” Aceto said. “He studies it. He does extra work to make it work.”
The Red Riots (2-0) return to action Wednesday at Deering (1-1). Friday, South Portland hosts Westbrook.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org