Before he led Scarborough High to five state titles in softball, before he established an annual summer camp for middle schoolers to learn the game, before he established Red Storm softball as one of the model programs of consistent winning in the state, Tom Griffin was a coach under fire.
Griffin went 2-14 and 2-12 in his first two seasons as Scarborough’s coach. He was a former UMaine baseball player who didn’t know softball, or at least that was the opinion of his critics. He was on the hot seat.
“Oh absolutely,” Griffin said. “One person asked me in a letter to step down, begging me to give it up because there was someone else they thought was better qualified.”
Griffin said he still has that letter.
“I take it out and read it once in awhile,” Griffin said. “It fuels a fire. Reminds me where I was coming from.”
Last Wednesday Griffin won his 400th game coaching the Red Storm. After Monday’s win over Portland, the reigning Class A champs are 15-0 and Griffin’s all-time record was 402-91, including MPA playoff games and SMAA postseason tournaments.
In the last 23 seasons, counting this year, Scarborough softball is 397-65, with a Class B title in 1997 and Class A crowns in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Griffin’s first coaching job was as a volunteer baseball coach at Deering High. When he earned a teaching degree and got a job at Scarborough Middle School, where he still works as a health and physical education teacher, Griffin applied for the vacant softball job.
Griffin is quick to credit his two longtime assistants, Charlie Andreson and Liz Winslow. Andreson joined the staff as a volunteer in Griffin’s second season and has remained in that role since. Winslow was the 2000 Gatorade Player of the Year in Maine and played at the University of Delaware.
“It’s a real team effort and I can’t give them enough credit,” Griffin said.
The assistants earn the credit, in part, because Griffin entrusts them to be fully involved.
“You’ve got great people, and in Charlie’s case someone who is volunteering their time, and they have great talents, you have to use it,” Griffin said.
Andreson said Griffin welcomes and encourages frank discussions and input from his coaches.
“But ultimately it’s Tom’s team,” Andreson said. “He values our input, but he makes the final personnel decisions.”
“The thing with Tom is, he loves the sport and having played baseball at (Maine) he understands the commitment to be a top-level competitor,” Andreson said. “And as much as he loves the sport and respects the game he really cares about the girls who play for him.”
And how did the program turn from struggling to successful? Griffin pointed to a former player as the key. Kristen Keefer came into the program as a freshman pitcher in 1992.
“She started to commit herself to being as good a pitcher as she could be,” Griffin said. “We went 16-5 that year. That’s when things really turned around and we’ve had really solid pitching ever since and that’s where it really starts.”
TRACK AND FIELD
Thornton Academy junior Tori Daigle already owned the Class A indoor state record in the long jump – 18 feet, 1/4-inch. On Saturday, she set a league record at the SMAA outdoor championships, soaring 18 feet to help the Trojans win the league title.
Daigle erased the previous mark of 17-101/4 set in 2011 by Biddeford’s Maria Curit, who still holds the Class A state record of 18-13/4. Daigle will have a chance to eclipse that mark Saturday at the Class A state meet in Windham.
Now that the singles championship have been crowned — Falmouth senior Brendan McCarthy and junior Olivia Leavitt – Maine’s high school tennis world turns to the team tournaments, which open Tuesday with preliminary matches.
Falmouth’s top player, senior Justin Brogan, is sidelined for at least another week with an ankle injury that forced him to withdraw from the singles tournament Friday.
“I’m hoping (to return) for a round or two,” Brogan said Monday afternoon.
Falmouth, which played a Western Maine Conference schedule, drew the second seed in Class A West and will face either No. 7 Marshwood or No. 10 Gorham. SMAA champion Deering, which like Falmouth is 12-0, is seeded first.
Brogan’s absence “obviously sets us back,” said Falmouth coach Bob McCully, “but I think we’re still pretty strong.”
Indeed, with singles champion McCarthy moving up to first singles and quarterfinalist and fifth seed Aidan McGrory to second, freshman Peter Stegemann joins the singles lineup at No. 3.
Defending state champion Cape Elizabeth is the top seed among Class B West boys and always-formidable Waynflete is No. 5 in Class C West boys, opening the possibility of a WMC sweep of the boys team titles.
In Class A girls, Portland and Brunswick drew the top seeds, but Falmouth (No. 2 West) shows no signs of weakness after six straight Class B state titles. Greely (West) and Mt. Desert Island (East) are seeded first in Class B and St. Dominic (West) and George Stevens (East) in Class C, although Waynflete (No. 3 West) is bidding for a fourth straight state title.
– Staff writers Deirdre Fleming and Glenn Jordan contributed to this report.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: