STANDISH – Stephanie Thibeault lifted the plaque above her head and thought, “This weighs a lot more than I thought it would.”

No matter, she could have held it aloft as long as needed.

South Portland finally beat (18-1)Scarborough in a softball game — and it was a big one. The Red Riots got a three-run home run from Katlin Norton in the fifth inning and held on to beat the Red Storm 5-2 Tuesday in the Western Class A title game at Ward Field on the St. Joseph’s College campus.

In ending Scarborough’s Class A championship reign, South Portland advanced to the state final for the second time. The Riots’ previous appearance was in 2005. South Portland (18-1) will play Eastern champion Bangor at 4 p.m. Saturday at Ward Field.

“This is the best feeling I’ve ever felt,” said Thibeault, a senior catcher. “I’ve been playing (the Red Storm) for four years and haven’t beat them in anything. This is amazing.”

Scarborough (17-2) had beaten the Riots in 12 of their previous 13 meetings, including a 2-0 win in last year’s regional final, one of five consecutive shutout victories for Scarborough over the Riots.

“I figured they’d catch up to us,” said Scarborough senior catcher Heather Carrier. “I think our nerves got to us.”

It was 1-1 entering the fifth. After Mo Hannan got the first South Portland batter, Danielle DiBiase singled to center and Danica Gleason reached when she bunted back to Hannan and no one covered first.

South Portland Coach Ralph Aceto then took aside Norton: “I told her she was the perfect kid to be up in this spot. And I asked her, ‘How much do you want it?’“

Apparently, a lot. Norton, playing in the field for the first time this season because she had an arm injury, hit Hannan’s first pitch high over the fence in left-center field.

“I just wanted to get us on top, to get us the momentum,” said Norton, who hit three home runs in the regular season. “I just happened to hit it good.”

Thibeault, watching from the on-deck circle, said, “When she hit it, I prayed and looked up. It had to be going out.”

Norton was mobbed at home plate as the Riots finally broke through against Scarborough. Amanda Linscott added an RBI single later in the fifth to make it 5-1. That run was set up by the Red Storm’s third error of the game.

“It felt like a lot more than just three errors,” said Carrier.

Riots’ pitcher Alexis Bogdanovich, meanwhile, settled down after giving up two hits, including an RBI double by Carrier, in the first. She allowed only three hits over the next five innings.

“Once we got our first run (in the third), I knew I had to step it up, to hit my spots,” said Bogdanovich, who struck out five and walked one.

But then Scarborough showed its mettle.

With its 7-8-9 batters coming up in the seventh, Scarborough loaded the bases with two outs on singles by Alana Peoples and Marisa O’Toole and a walk by Carrier. Hannan then hit an RBI single to make it 5-2.

“Nervous? With Carrier at the plate? She’s the one kid I didn’t want to see up,” said Aceto. “Then Hannan? We did not want to see those kids up.”

But after Hannan’s single, Bogdanovich got Abby Rutt to fly out deep to center fielder Erin Bogdanovich, and the Riots’ celebration began.

“We gave ourselves a shot,” said Scarborough Coach Tom Griffin.

“I’m proud of the kids. We made some errors, but those are part of the game. They made mistakes, too. Ours cost us more.”

And the Riots have one more game to play.

“It means a lot,” said Aceto, “especially to the girls after what they’ve gone through the last three years.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]