SACO — It was one of those significant incidents that easily slipped under the radar.

Thornton Academy senior first baseman Erin Brayden struck out last Monday in her first at-bat against Alyssa Williamson of Scarborough.

It was the first time Brayden had struck out since early in her sophomore season.

Brayden, an all-league pick as a junior, didn’t betray emotion but knew it had been a long time since she’d gone back to the dugout without at least making contact.

“I mean, it was an upsetting feeling but Alyssa Williamson, she’s a very good pitcher,” Brayden said. “From personal experience I’ve learned if I have a bad at-bat, if I don’t flush it, it will affect my whole game.”

Brayden returned to her normal on-base machine style, working two walks in her final two at-bats in a 5-1 loss.

“She just has tremendous eye-hand coordination,” Thornton Coach John Provost said.

Brayden said she ends up “getting into a lot of two-strike situations,” because she likes to take pitches and is willing to foul off tough strikes.

“My biggest goal is to make good contact with the ball,” she said.

Brayden grew up playing three sports and said she was convinced soccer was going to be her best until after her sophomore season at Thornton.

“My (softball) coaches kept pounding into my head that I had a future with softball,” Brayden said. “Then I had a pretty good sophomore season and decided to make the switch from soccer.”

That summer she joined the Maine Thunder program under the direction of the current Southern Maine assistant coach, Bob Grinnell.

Grinnell was Thornton’s assistant coach at the time.

Softball turned out to be the right choice. This past November Brayden signed to play at Stonehill College, a Division II program in Easton, Massachusetts. She also considered Division I Holy Cross and Division III Emmanuel.

“I had no idea which division I wanted to go to,” Brayden said. “I was looking at schools with good academics and campuses I liked. It turned out Stonehill gave me the best package and it was my favorite school.”

IS TRAIP ACADEMY (2-2) on the rise in Class C softball? The Rangers have beaten Old Orchard Beach twice by a combined 33-8 score, and one more victory would match last season’s win total.

Or are the Rangers overmatched by their mostly Class B schedule? Their other two games have been lopsided losses against Greely (16-0) and Cape Elizabeth (13-1), the top two teams in Western Class B.

Entering the week, Traip had four games remaining against Class C opponents, including the first of three against Sacopee Valley (3-5) on Monday. They play Old Orchard once more.

“Senior pitcher Kaylie Andrews gives the Rangers an experienced mound presence and she’s hitting .588 this season. Senior shortstop Alli Barrett is hitting above .400. Chris Andrews also likes what he’s seeing from young players like freshman third baseman Kiara Perez, sophomore catcher Taylor Kashmer and sophomore center fielder Briana Lamoureux.

Once a Class C power with four state titles in the 1980s, Traip won a total of three games in the five seasons before Chris Andrews became the varsity coach. He was encouraged by the amount of solid contact his team made against Cape Elizabeth.

“Last year they were intimidated by fast pitching,” Andrews said. “This year I’ve cranked the pitching machine up to 55, 56 miles an hour and they’re hitting it. This year I’m telling them the game is the same thing. Just get up and swing the bat.”

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Players will use pink tennis balls for breast cancer awareness in a Western Maine Conference match between visiting Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth on Tuesday.

The match also could be the 100th consecutive victory for Falmouth, a streak that includes six straight Class B state championships and dates to early May 2008.

Waynflete was the last team to beat Falmouth, and it took a pair of three-set victories at second singles (Sasha Timpson) and second doubles (Liza Hall and Caitlin Britos) along with a rout at first singles by a three-time individual state champion, Christine Ordway.

Now competing in Class A, Falmouth’s 6-0 record includes a shutout at Cape Elizabeth; Falmouth won every set and dropped only eight games, with four of them at second doubles. No opponent this season has won as many as four games in a set against Falmouth.

The state record winning streak for tennis is believed to be 112 by the Cape Elizabeth boys of the late 1980s.

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Ashley Briggs said in January she was pretty confident she would accept a scholarship offer from St. Anselm of Manchester, New Hampshire.

This past weekend the 5-foot-7 junior guard from Scarborough decided to make her intention official, verbally committing to accept the offer.

“Basically I really, really like Coach Shannon and Coach Plant, and I really didn’t have any other schools on my radar,” said Briggs in reference to head coach Julie Plant and assistant coach Amanda Shannon. “I came to the decision I didn’t want to keep looking for something else.”

Briggs said she didn’t receive other scholarship offers but did explore other schools. She found none that had the same combination – a connection with the coaches and strong academics.

St. Anselm is a member of the Division II Northeast-10 Conference.

“(It) was one of my top schools all along, and one offer from them was worth more than a million offers from schools I wouldn’t want to attend,” Briggs said.

Briggs was a first-team All-SMAA pick last season, leading Scarborough in scoring with 13.4 points per game. She was also third in the SMAA in assists at 3.9 per game.

Briggs is playing AAU basketball with the Maine Firecrackers on a team that includes McAuley junior Victoria Lux (committed to Bentley), and sophomores Olivia Dalphonse and Sarah Clement, Greely junior Ashley Storey and Cheverus sophomore Jess Willerson.

“Once AAU season ends in July, I’ll be weight lifting and running, and trying to become quicker, stronger and more of a college-level player,” said Briggs.

BASEBALL

The SMAA is tightly bunched with no team establishing itself as the clear front-runner.

This season is shaping up to be one of the most balanced in recent years. South Portland won its first six games before losing to Scarborough 6-1 on Saturday.

Scarborough dropped its first four games before winning its last two. The Red Storm shut out Cheverus 2-0 last week for their first win. Aside from a few blowouts, games have been close.

“I think there’s a top tier of teams,” said Windham Coach Brody Artes. “South Portland, Cheverus, Marshwood and Scarborough would be those teams. Scarborough is starting to come along. The rest of us are about the same.”

Windham is ranked 12th in the Western Class A Heal point standings as the midpoint of the regular season approaches. Based on Artes’ synopsis of the league, the Eagles have their toughest stretch this week.

Windham will be home Tuesday against Scarborough, then home Thursday against South Portland before traveling Friday to take on Cheverus.

“This is a big week for us,” said Artes. “There are a lot of Heal points available. I like the way the players have come together.”

Windham graduated five seniors from a playoff team a year ago.

“This will be a great opportunity to see where we’re at as a team,” said Artes.

Throw in Falmouth and Kennebunk to a balanced Western Class A tournament field and it could be a wide-open battle for the regional title.

Kennebunk and Falmouth are in the Western Maine Conference and play a Class B regular-season schedule, but compete in the Class A tournament because of enrollment. Kennebunk is ranked eighth and Falmouth is 10th.

Deering is ranked 13th, one spot out of the tournament. To show how even the teams are from top to bottom, the Rams beat Thornton Academy 9-1 on May 2 after losing their first three games; Thornton is ranked third. On Saturday, Deering lost by a run to Marshwood, which is ranked second.

Fourth-ranked Westbrook already has had three one-run games.

– Staff writers Glenn Jordan and Tom Chard contributed to this report