TA rallies to shock Portland in extras

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Portland sophomore catcher Laini Legere takes a swing at a pitch from Thornton Academy senior pitcher Louisa Colucci during the teams’ playoff rematch Monday at Payson Park. The Golden Trojans rallied to tie the game with three seventh inning runs, then added five more in the eighth to prevail, 10-6.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Thornton Academy 10 Portland 6

TA- 200 00 35- 10 11 0
P- 300 101 01- 6 7 1

Top 1st
Howe homered to right-center, Colucci and Howe scored.

Bottom 1st
Legere tripled to right-center, Gilbert and Brown scored. Watson doubled to right, Martin scored.

Bottom 4th
Fiore homered to left, Fiore scored.

Bottom 6th
Watson tripled to left, Martin scored.

Top 7th
Botting homered to center, Botting scored. Collins homered to left-center, Collins scored. Casey homered to center, Casey scored.

Top 8th
Bogardus doubled to right-center, Colucci, Howe and Botting scored. Collins homered to left-center, Bogardus and Collins scored.

Bottom 8th
Watson singled to center, Brown scored.

Multiple hits:
TA- Botting, Casey, Collins, Colucci
P- Watson 3, Legere

Runs:
TA- Botting, Collins, Colucci, Howe 2, Bogardus, Casey
P- Brown, Martin 2, Fiore, Gilbert

RBI:
TA- Bogardus, Collins 3, Howe 2, Botting, Casey
P- Watson 3, Legere 2, Fiore

Doubles:
TA- Bogardus, Colucci
P- Watson

Triples:
TA- Verreault
P- Legere, Watson

Home runs:
TA- Collins 2, Botting, Howe
P- Fiore

Stolen bases:
TA- Colucci, Howe
P- Bryant

Left on base:
TA- 3
P- 4

Verreault, Colucci (3) and Botting; Brown and Legere

TA:
Verreault 2 IP 3 H 3 R 3 ER 2 BB 4 K
Colucci (W, 5-1) 6 IP 4 H 3 R 3 ER 1 BB 10 K 

P:
Brown (L, 5-5) 8 IP 11 H 10 R 10 ER 2 BB 12 K 

Time: 2:12

PORTLAND—Portland’s softball team found itself one out from a much-needed signature victory Monday evening at Payson Park.

But that out never came, the Bulldogs were handed their most painful setback of the year and as a result, Thornton Academy, behind its booming bats, served up a most delicious and improbable dose of revenge.

The Golden Trojans got out to a fast start in a rematch of last year’s regional semifinal, won by Portland, as junior shortstop Olivia Howe crushed a two-run home run off Bulldogs senior starter Jess Brown for a 2-0 lead just three batters in.

Portland answered right back in the bottom of the first, as sophomore catcher Laini Legere hit a game-tying two-run triple and sophomore first baseman Callie Watson followed with an RBI double for a 3-2 lead.

After Brown settled down into her usual dominant self, the Bulldogs added to their lead on a home run from sophomore rightfielder Alexis Fiore in the fourth inning and an RBI triple from Watson in the sixth, to seemingly wrap up the victory.

But Thornton Academy refused to go quietly and instead, made an abundance of noise with their bats in the top of the seventh.

Junior catcher Jenica Botting led off with a solo home run and one out later, junior third baseman Hannah Collins went deep as well to cut the deficit to just one. Brown then got a strikeout for the second out and had junior first baseman Sarah Casey on the ropes, looking to end it, but Casey crushed a ball just beyond the reach of Portland senior centerfielder Kit Rosmus and circled the bases to stunningly tie the score, 5-5.

The Golden Trojans then completed their comeback in the top of the eighth, as sophomore second baseman Amanda Bogardus cleared the bases with a three-run double and Collins followed with another home run.

Watson singled home Brown in the bottom half, but the Bulldogs couldn’t muster any more runs and Thornton Academy prevailed, 10-6.

The Golden Trojans rapped four home runs, had seven extra base hits total and improved to 10-2, while dropping stunned Portland to 5-5.

“We lost to them twice last year, so the girls wanted to come out with a ‘W,'” said Thornton Academy coach John Provost. “This was a big comeback win.”

Different circumstances

When the teams last met, last June 10, Portland enjoyed its most important victory in 13 years, a 4-1 triumph in the Class A South semifinals. The Bulldogs ended the Golden Trojans’ season and moved on to their first regional final since 2004, where they lost to eventual state champion Scarborough.

This spring, Portland has come back to the pack a bit, while Thornton Academy again finds itself near the top of the heap.

The Golden Trojans started with a 26-1 home drubbing of Bonny Eagle, then blanked host and rival Biddeford (15-0), dominated visiting Deering (25-3) and host Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth (11-0) and Cheverus/NYA (16-3). After finally getting tested and passing it, 8-7, over visiting Marshwood, Thornton Academy crushed host Kennebunk (18-4) and edged visiting Gorham (3-2). The Golden Trojans fell from the unbeaten ranks May 7 with a 5-3 home loss to Noble, then lost at Massabesic (5-4), before rebounding to defeat Sanford (14-2).

The Bulldogs started with a 2-1 home loss to Gorham, then enjoyed decisive victories at MGA/Falmouth (11-1), at home over Marshwood (16-5) and at Kennebunk (7-1). After falling at Massabesic (9-1), Portland downed host Sanford 13-8), but turned around and lost at South Portland (4-3, in eight-innings) and at home to Scarborough (11-0) before bouncing back Friday to down host Westbrook, 4-2. 

Portland beat Thornton Academy twice a year ago, also prevailing, 9-1, in Saco during the regular season.

Monday, on a seasonable (61 degrees and breezy at first pitch) evening, the Bulldogs sought to beat the Golden Trojans in Portland for the first time since May 1, 2007 (1-0, in nine innings), but Thornton Academy rallied to wrest victory from almost certain defeat in a game that saw balls sent to the farthest reaches of the park from start to finish.

Brown started auspiciously, getting Golden Trojans senior starting pitcher Katie Verreault to chase strike three. Senior centerfielder Louis Colucci then hit a double down the leftfield line. That set the stage for Howe, who made solid contact and sent a blast to deep right-center. By the time Bulldogs senior centerfielder Kit Rosmus ran the ball down and got it back to the infield, Howe had circled the bases for a two-run home run and a 2-0 lead.

But that would be in for Thornton Academy’s offense until late in the contest.

Brown settled down and got Botting to fly out to Portland junior leftfielder Grace Stacey (who has been sidelined with a thumb injury but has been cleared to play to field) and fanned Bogardus.

The Bulldogs bounced right back and then some in the bottom of the first.

Verreault struck out Rosmus swinging to start the frame, but she walked senior shortstop Sydney Gilbert on a 3-2 pitch, then did the same against Brown. That brought up Legere, who was battling illness earlier in the day, but she took it out on Verreault, belting a triple to right-center, easily scoring Gilbert and Brown to tie the score. After junior Annie Martin came in to run, Watson went the other way, lining the ball just inside the first base bag for an RBI double and a 3-2 lead.

“For some reason, Callie hits the better pitching,” said Portland coach Robbie Ferrante.

Freshman second baseman Mackenzie Bryant followed with an infield single up the middle and stole second to put two runners in scoring position, but they were stranded, as junior designated player Olivia Ives and Fiore both chased strike three.

Both teams went in order in the second, as Brown got Collins to fly out deep to center, caught freshman designated player Madison Vachon to look at strike three and Casey to line out to center to end the top half, while Verreault fanned junior third baseman Casey Harmon on a 3-2 pitch and got Rosmus to ground back to the mound and Gilbert to bounce out to second to end the bottom half.

Brown remained strong in the top of the third, as she struck out sophomore leftfielder Olivia Paradis and got Verreault and Colucci to both fly out to Rosmus in center.

Colucci replaced Verreault on the mound in the bottom half (with Verreault taking third base) and she made quick work of the Bulldogs, striking out both Brown and Legere before getting Watson to line out to Paradis in left, who went to her knees to secure the catch.

In the top of the fourth, Brown went to a full count against Howe before striking her out. Botting also went 3-2, then beat out an infield single on a ground ball to Gilbert at short. Bogardus struck out and sophomore Olivia Lambert was thrown out trying to steal to end the threat.

Portland then added to its lead with a big swing in the bottom half.

Bryant grounded out to second and Ives chased strike three, but Fiore made solid contact on a high fastball and sent it over the head of Paradis and raced around the bases for a home run and a 4-2 lead. Harmon fanned to end the frame.

Brown set the Golden Trojans down in order in the top of the fifth, but not without some anxious moments.

Collins led off with a fly ball to left, which Stacey caught, but not without falling down for dramatic effect. Brown then went 3-2 to both Vachon and Casey, but struck out both to protect the lead.

The top of the Bulldogs’ order went quietly in the bottom half, as Rosmus popped out to short, Gilbert struck out swinging and Brown lined softly to short.

With some big guns due up, Thornton Academy had a chance to rally in the top of the sixth, but Brown kept the Golden Trojans off the board.

After Paradis struck out swinging, Verreault tripled just over Stacey’s glove, but she’d be stranded, as Colcucci slapped a little pop up to Harmon at third and Howe hit the ball hard, but right at Fiore in rightfield for the third out.

Portland added a run in the bottom half, but missed an opportunity to deliver the knockout blow.

Legere led off with a sharp single that bounced off Howe’s glove at short and into leftfield. Watson then came through again, tripling down the leftfield line and Martin, who again ran for Legere, came home with the Bulldogs’ fifth run. Portland had three cracks at bringing in Watson with another run, but both Bryant and Ives struck out swinging and Fiore’s sharp grounder to second resulted in the third out.

“I wanted that sixth run because I wanted to go up four,” Ferrante lamented. “It didn’t happen.”

Regardless, the Bulldogs appeared destined to win, up, 5-2, heading to the seventh.

Thornton Academy had other ideas.

Botting set the tone by working the count full before pounding a drive over Rosmus’ head. Botting raced around the bases and beat the throw to cut the deficit to two.

Brown got the first out when she induced Bogardus to line to Fiore in right, who made a nice running catch.

Collins then made things very interesting by driving a ball between Rosmus and Stacey and circling the bases to make it a 5-4 game.

Brown got junior pinch-hitter Kylie Lavallee to strike out, leaving the game in the able hands of Casey.

As Botting and Collins did before her, Casey made great contact and sent the ball deep to center. Initially, it looked like Rosmus might be able to run it down, but when the ball got just over her glove, the only question that remained would be if Casey could get around the bases before the throw came home.

The answer was yes.

Just like that, the game was tied, 5-5.

“Boom, boom, boom,” Provost said. “It was just amazing. Those balls were crushed.” 

“They were down to the last strike, but the third time around, TA was able to hit (Jess),” Ferrante said. “If I wanted them to hit it to someone, I wanted them to hit it to (Kit). She just couldn’t get it.”

Lambert popped out foul to Legere, but the damage was done and the game was extended into the bottom of the seventh.

After such a dramatic comeback, Thornton Academy wasn’t about to give it away in the bottom half, as Colucci fanned Harmon looking, got Rosmus to foul out to Botting behind the plate and blew strike three past Gilbert.

The Golden Trojans then pulled away in the top of the eighth.

Brown managed to strike out Verreault to start the frame, but Colucci hit the ball on a hop over the glove of Harmon at third and Gilbert couldn’t come up with it at short (she likely wouldn’t have been able to throw out the runner anyway) and the infield single started the uprising.

Colucci then stole second on a pitch in the dirt and a passed ball by Legere allowed her to take third. Howe was walked intentionally and after Howe stole second, Botting was also walked intentionally to load the bases, setting up a force at any station.

Bogardus rose to the challenge and ripped a sharp ground ball to the right of Bryant at second base and the ball rolled all the way into right-center. Colucci, Howe and Botting all came in to score and Bogardus stopped at second with a three-run double.

“I took a chance and loaded the bases and she hit it hard,” Ferrante said.

If that wasn’t enough damage, Collins added to it by homering for the second straight at-bat, again to left-center, scoring two more runs for a 10-5 lead.

Lavallee struck out for the second out and after Casey singled to left, Lambert reached on a Brown throwing error, but Brown finally ended the nightmare inning by getting Verreault to ground back to the mound.

Portland didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the eighth, but the hill was too steep to climb.

Brown walked leading off and took second on a ground ball by Legere to first. Watson then singled to center to score Brown, but Bryant grounded out to second and Ives watched strike three to end it.

It took 2-hours, 12-minutes, but the Golden Trojans were able to celebrate their 10-6 come-from-behind triumph.

“I told the girls after five (innings) that we probably had 10 strikeouts and 10 fly balls,” Provost said. “Jess did a tremendous job keeping us off balance and struck us out or we dipped and put the ball in the air. We made a small adjustment and fed off each other. The girls didn’t think that game was over. We were down three, but it was an amazing effort. The girls felt good (going into extra innings). We just wanted to put some runs on the board and get out of here.” 

Seven of Thornton Academy’s 11 hits were doubles, triples or home runs. Botting, Casey, Collins and Colucci all had two hits. Botting, Collins, Colucci and Howe scored twice, while Bogardus and Casey also touched home plate. Bogardus and Collins each drove in three runs. Howe had two RBI and Botting and Casey had one apiece. Colucci and Howe had stolen bases.

The Golden Trojans only stranded three runners.

Colucci improved to 5-1 after giving up three runs on four hits in six innings of relief. She walked just one and struck out 10.

Verreault surrendered three runs on three hits in two innings, walking two and fanning four.

Watson had three of Portland’s seven hits. Legere added two. Brown and Martin both scored twice, while Fiore and Gilbert also touched home. Watson had three RBI, Legere two and Fiore one. Bryant stole a base.

The Bulldogs left four runners on.

Brown fell to 5-5 after giving up 10 runs on 11 hits in eight innings. She walked two (both intentionally) and struck out a dozen. 

“That would have been a big win,” Ferrante said. “We have to learn how to finish.”

Work to do

The road gets no easier for either team.

Thornton Academy (now third behind Scarborough and Noble in the Class A South Heal Points standings) is back home Wednesday to meet South Portland, then goes to Scarborough for a highly-anticipated showdown Thursday. 

“It’s Portland week,” Provost said. “We’ve got Portland, South Portland and Scarborough. This is a great way to start and we’ve got some big games to come.”

Portland (now ninth in Class A South) travels to Biddeford Wednesday, hosts Windham Friday, welcomes Noble in a makeup game Saturday, then plays at resurgent Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy Monday.

“We’ll hopefully learn,” Ferrante said. “We have a long, tough week. We can’t dwell on this. We’ll get together again tomorrow. Luckily, it wasn’t the last game of the season.” 

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

Portland senior starter Jess Brown prepares to throw a pitch.

Portland sophomore first baseman Callie Watson lines one of her three hits.

Portland senior shortstop Sydney Gilbert prepares to tag out Thornton Academy sophomore Olivia Lambert on a stolen base attempt.

Portland junior third baseman Casey Harmon watches a pitch.

Portland junior Annie Martin is all smiles after scoring a run.

Portland sophomore Alexis Fiore is mobbed by her teammates after hitting a fourth inning home run.

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