SACO – Ralph Aceto always stresses the importance of getting a fast start to his South Portland High softball players. That’s exactly what the Riots did Thursday and it made all the difference.

Top-ranked South Portland scored three runs in the top of the first, two on a long home run by winning pitcher Alexis Bogdanovich, and went on to beat fourth-ranked Thornton Academy, 7-2.

“It’s important every game,” said Aceto. “I don’t know if we’ve had a game when we haven’t scored in the first. It’s very important to us to get up early. It’s confidence (at the plate). And it’s got to help the kids going out on the mound.

“It gets your team up and it kind of deflates a team.”

The victory lifted the Riots to 10-0, setting up a first-place showdown Monday with also-undefeated Scarborough at Wainwright Field. The Trojans dropped to 7-2, their other loss to second-ranked Scarborough.

“There’s nothing wrong with that team over there,” said Aceto.

The Riots knew that coming in, so Bogdanovich wanted an early lead.

With one out in the first, Erin Bogdanovich tripled to right field, scoring when Katlin Norton hit a grounder up the middle for a single. Up came Alexis Bogdanovich. After going to a full count, she fouled off a couple of tough pitches from Julia Geaumont, then hit a drive over the center-field fence for a 3-0 lead.

“They’re an aggressive team so I knew we needed to get ahead,” said Alexis Bogdanovich, who added an RBI single in the third. “I told myself that I had to do it. I needed to stay confident. I could feel it.

“I think I knew it was gone when I hit it; it just felt like it was on the sweet spot.”

Though there was plenty of game left, the Riots were in control.

“You can’t spot them a triple, single and home run,” said John Provost, coach of the Trojans. “That’s a deep, deep lineup.”

Geaumont, one of the league’s toughest pitchers, said she wasn’t prepared at the start.

“I think I was too pumped up and not mentally prepared enough,” she said. “I wasn’t myself that first inning. I wasn’t my best.

“But they’re a good team. They’re going to hit it. You give them a pitch to hit and they’re going to hit it. And I gave them a few too many.”

Geaumont, who finished with six strikeouts, settled down, but the Riots got two runs in the third — Alexis Bogdanovich and Amanda Linscott getting the RBI — and then two in the seventh to seal it.

Thornton came back with an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning to cut it to 3-1 and kept the pressure on throughout. Alexis Bogdanovich averages double-digit strikeouts but had only four, meaning the Riots’ defense, minus stellar shortstop Danica Gleason (out at least another two weeks with a severe ankle sprain) had to make plays.

And other than a sloppy third inning, in which a couple of mental breakdowns helped Thornton score its other run, that’s what the Riots did. In the sixth, for example, right fielder Kelsey Morton threw a runner out at first, then shortstop Stephanie McDonough turned a line drive into a double play.

“We just needed to stay confident and make the little plays,” said Alexis Bogdanovich.

And the Trojans played well, making only one error, lending encouragement to Provost.

“I simply told the girls if we keep playing with this enthusiasm,” he said, “we’re going to be fine.”

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

mlowe@pressherald.com