SOUTH PORTLAND – Katlin Norton was 9 years old and couldn’t understand why she wasn’t playing much in the South Portland National Little League. She was crying, and her father Greg told her, “You want to play, learn how to hit.”

Apparently, she took that advice very well.

Norton, a junior at South Portland High, spent the regular season wearing out opposing pitchers, then delivered the pivotal hit, a three-run home run that broke a 1-1 tie, in the Red Riots’ 5-2 victory over Scarborough in the Western Class A championship game.

“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” said Norton. “I knew we had to get runs and that was the time. I’ve worked so hard on hitting this year, it was awesome.”

South Portland will play Bangor for the Class A softball state championship at 4 p.m. today at St. Joseph College’s Ward Field. Both teams will be looking for their first title.

And South Portland Coach Ralph Aceto has been reminding his players that Tuesday’s win over defending champion Scarborough may have been huge, but it’s not the ultimate goal.

“We talked about that on the bus ride home,” said Aceto. “I mean, with all the hooping and hollering and singing and joy the kids had on the way back, at one point I walked to the back of the bus and said, ‘We’re not done. You can’t think this thing is over. Don’t be happy with just beating Scarborough.’“

If the Riots are going to win against one of the state’s top pitchers, Gatorade Maine player of the year Sam Bedore, you can be sure Norton will be in the middle of it. Norton has become one of the most feared hitters in the SMAA. She led the Riots in batting as a sophomore, then hit .608 this year with three home runs and 33 RBI. A catcher as a sophomore, she was unable to play in the field this year while she recovered from a right elbow injury suffered in the winter. But she did play right field in Tuesday’s regional final.

“It was hard to sit and not be able to throw, not even a piece of paper into the trash can,” she said. “Any movement that simulated throwing was prohibited.”

So she worked on her hitting. Endlessly. She has a batting cage at her home. She went to Maine Hits in Scarborough three times a week. Her dad would toss her whiffle balls.

“She is a great hitter,” said Riots leadoff hitter Danielle DiBiase. “She hits before practice, at practice and probably after practice. She even talks about hitting all the time.”

And because of her hitting prowess, Aceto was going to have her in the batting lineup somewhere, even if she couldn’t play in the field.

“We couldn’t live without her bat in the lineup,” he said. “She was such an important part of our team.”

Here’s a quick look at the championship games:

CLASS A: South Portland (18-1) vs. Bangor (18-1), 4 p.m., St. Joseph’s College

The Riots are in the championship game for only the second time, losing to Messalonskee in 2005. Bangor has never been to the title game. The Rams beat favored Skowhegan 4-2 in eight innings in the Eastern title game, with Bedore striking out 14. She had 184 strikeouts in 96 innings in the regular season, and also hit .439. Sadie Redman has been a clutch hitter for Bangor in the playoffs, including a home run against Skowhegan. The Riots have a deep batting order and top pitcher in Alexis Bogdanovich, who struck out 108 in 73 innings.

CLASS B: Fryeburg Academy (18-1) vs. Hermon (17-2), 4 p.m., Brewer High

Perhaps no one expected either of these teams to be here.

Even though Fryeburg is the two-time defending state champ, the Raiders graduated six from last year and were expected to rebuild. Instead, they’ve relied on the pitching of junior Charlotte Lewis and strong hitting to advance. They’ve also come back from deficits of at least three runs in every playoff win. Center fielder Brylie Walker (.379) and second baseman Ariel McConkey (.357) lead the offense.

Hermon, playing in its first championship game since 1977 (the first year of MPA playoffs), made it here when Sami Schultz hit a two-run, walk-off home run to beat Mattanawcook 4-3 in the Eastern final. The Hawks know a little something about close games: Each of the three playoff wins and four regular-season wins were by one run.

CLASS C: Telstar (17-0) vs. George Stevens Academy (14-5), 11 a.m., St. Joseph’s College

Telstar advanced with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Georges Valley 3-2, and will be looking for its third state title overall. The Rebels lost last year to Calais, 8-6.

The Eagles haven’t been in a state title game since 1982 and are looking for their first championship. GSA’s Lydia Clapp is a power pitcher, who struck out 11 in the Eastern final. Telstar’s Kayla Merrill struck out seven in the Western final.

CLASS D: Richmond (15-1) vs. Deer-Isle Stonington (17-2), 11 a.m., Brewer High

Richmond is back in the state final for the first time since 2005, having ended Buckfield’s four-year reign as regional champ. DI-Stonington has never played in a championship game.

Both teams can hit the ball. Britni Jones is one of DI-Stonington’s top batters, while Richmond’s Lindsy Hoopingarner had three hits and three RBI in the regional final.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]