April 10, 2013

Softball preview: Two programs, one penthouse

By Steve Craig scraig@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH — Scarborough High and South Portland. South Portland and Scarborough.
When it comes to Western Class A softball the order doesn’t really matter.

click image to enlarge

Alyssa Williamson, who went 5-0 last season with an 0.23 ERA, will anchor the pitching staff this season for Scarborough, which, as usual, will have pitching depth.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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The two programs have been at the top, and figure to be there again this season.

“Since we’ve been in Class A, South Portland’s been the school that’s either been in our way or the team we had to get through,” said Tom Griffin, the 23-year Scarborough coach.

Scarborough moved up to Class A in 2003. The teams have met in the playoffs nine of the past 10 seasons with Scarborough wining six. The last four seasons the matchup has been in the Western Maine final, each winning twice.

Since South Portland’s 2005 Western Class A title, each team has won the region three times. Scarborough has won three state titles (2007, 2009, and 2011). South Portland won it all in 2010, losing 2-0 to Cony in last spring’s title game.

The only team to upset the Scarborough/South Portland applecart was Biddeford in 2006. The Tigers beat Scarborough in 13 innings, edged South Portland the next day 2-1 in the Western final and went on to beat Cony in the state final.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience,” Biddeford Coach Leon Paquin said. “Our pitcher was as calm as could be and the kids all had the right temperament.”

In other words, his team became a lot like Scarborough and South Portland: excellent pitching, very sound defense and clutch hitting that forged a confident team that expected success.

Take South Portland’s 2012 season. With Erin Bogdanovich taking over the role of ace pitcher from her sister Alexis (now pitching at Maine) and several new starters, some thought South Portland had lost ground, especially when it was 1-2, losing to Scarborough and Thornton Academy.

Then it rattled off 16 straight wins, walloping Thornton in the Western semi and rallying late to snap Scarborough’s 27-game win streak in the Western final.

“I guess some people were a little surprised at our finish last year,” South Portland Coach Ralph Aceto said. “I really wasn’t. I knew the way we performed at the beginning of the year certainly wasn’t going to be the way we performed at the end. We had so many new people in new positions. They knew we could play better and they knew we would play better.”

THE EDGE

Both Aceto and Griffin said their cities’ youth leagues are the foundation for high school success.
The Little League softball programs are annually among the best in the state. Then the girls transition to summer travel teams with plenty of indoor practice sessions in the winter.

“The biggest thing is the passion for the sport in the community, actually for all the sports in our community,” Griffin said. “Softball takes a priority in the community.”

Griffin, a health and physical education teacher at Scarborough Middle School, is intimately involved in all levels of the development, from summer programs to winter camps to group pitching lessons.

During the offseason his camps and group lessons are often attended by players from South Portland and other neighboring communities.

Aceto runs his own construction company, specializing in the installation of dropped ceilings. His job keeps him from being as connected to the summer and youth programs as Griffin.

He does make sure he’s encouraging, visible and promoting a simple but strong message.

“It comes from me and (the current varsity) kids and the kids that preceded them, and the coaches that preceded me: With South Portland softball there is an expectation of playing well,” Aceto said.

“We’re motivating (the younger players) to be better so our city will see us and we’ll have more people coming up over the years,” Bogdanovich said.

(Continued on page 2)

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