Boys’ team:

Mike Owens, South Portland baseball

South Portland’s baseball team enjoyed a memorable spring, producing a strong regular season before surviving a series of close calls to win a regional championship for the first time in 24 years.

The 2015 season featured the most parity in memory and the difference between winning and losing was razor-thin, meaning that a good coach could spell victory instead of defeat. Luckily for the Red Riots, they’re led by that very coach and as a result of his work in leading South Portland to the cusp of a state title, The Forecaster is naming Mike Owens as our southern edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a boys’ team.

Owens, who was a standout baseball, basketball and soccer player at Gorham High School and went on to play baseball at the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine, coached previously in Colorado and took over the Red Riots in 2011. In his first four seasons, South Portland won 38 games and made the playoffs every season. In 2014, the Red Riots won 15 games and reached the semifinals before losing an extra inning heartbreaker to Marshwood.

Coming into the 2015 campaign, South Portland was expected to be in the mix, but not many thought the Red Riots were title-worthy. While lefthanded senior ace Henry Curran lived up to billing and became the state’s best pitcher, Owens did a nice job mixing and matching the rest of the his hurlers. South Portland produced enough offense to get the job done and played solid defense to boot. It all added up to a 6-0 start and a 10-1 mark at one juncture. The Red Riots then struggled, dropping three of their final five games.

Going into the playoffs, South Portland again was overlooked by most “experts,” but after surviving Biddeford in extra innings in the quarterfinals, the Red Riots rallied for an improbable win over preseason favorite Marshwood in the semifinals. If that wasn’t palpitating enough, South Portland had to hold on for dear life and thanks to a fortuitously hit line drive, outlasted Portland by a run in the regional final to win Western A for the first time since George H.W. Bush was in the White House. The Red Riots’ magic finally ran out in the state final, when they lost by a run, with the tying run doubled off second base to end it, to Bangor.

Regardless, the season was one for the ages.

“It was a nice run,” Owens said. “We did something that no South Portland team had done since 1991. Reflecting back on the season, I’m really pleased with the way we performed. I thought we’d be pretty good, but it was nice to see how much the younger guys and the seniors who hadn’t played much stepped up. We played much better as the season went on. It was a talented group. A hardworking group. They made it fun to come to practice.”

Owens, who teaches physical education and health at South Portland High School, will look to lead the Red Riots that one final step next season and it wouldn’t be wise to bet against him. Mike Owens, our southern edition boys’ team Spring Coach of the Year, has turned South Portland into a power to be respected. Annually.

Previous winners

2014 Tom Fiorini (South Portland lacrosse)

2013 Andy Strout (Cape Elizabeth tennis)

2012 Chris Hayward (Cape Elizabeth baseball)

2011 Craig MacDonald (Scarborough tennis)

2010 Ben Raymond (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)

2009 Jim Cronin (Scarborough baseball)

2008 Joe Hezlep (Scarborough lacrosse)

2007 Craig McDonald (Scarborough tennis)

2006 Tobey Farrington (Scarborough lacrosse)

2005 Dave Weatherbie (Cape Elizabeth track)

2004 Todd Day (Cape Elizabeth baseball)

2003 Ben Raymond (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)

2002 Andy Strout (Cape Elizabeth tennis)

Girls’ team:

Leslie Dyer, South Portland lacrosse

South Portland’s girls’ lacrosse team made great strides this spring, overcoming a 1-3 start thanks to a six-game win streak. While the Red Riots fell in their first playoff game, they hinted that even more success is right around the corner.

That will certainly be the case if coach Leslie Dyer has a say in the matter. She inherited the program with a promise that South Portland would soon be among the state’s elite and in her first season, she put the Red Riots on the road to greatness and that convinced The Forecaster to name Leslie Dyer as our southern edition Spring Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.

Dyer, who grew up in upstate New York and played Division I field hockey at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, has coached South Portland’s field hockey team for four seasons (leading the Red Riots to the playoffs last fall) and was a JV girls’ lacrosse coach for five seasons. After spending a year with Scarborough, Dyer returned to South Portland, where she also teaches math, this spring and the Red Riots responded to her guidance.

South Portland lost three of four to begin the season, but it wasn’t long before the team’s athleticism paid dividends, producing a six-game win streak. The Red Riots wound up winning eight games as Dyer got them to fully believe in their potential. South Portland gave higher ranked Thornton Academy a scare in the Western Class A quarterfinals, but eventually went down to a 9-6 defeat as the season came to a disappointing close.

Still, the Red Riots accomplished a great deal.

The girls worked very hard and I’m proud to be back at South Portland,” Dyer said. “Things are looking up for the program.”

That’s an understatement. As long as Leslie Dyer, our southern edition girls’ team Spring Coach of the Year, is at the helm, triumph awaits.

Previous winners:

2014 Jeff Perkins (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)

2013 Tom Griffin Scarborough softball)

2012 Jeff Perkins (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)

2011 Marcia Wood (Scarborough lacrosse)

2010 Ralph Aceto (South Portland softball)

2009 Ralph Aceto (South Portland softball)

2008 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)

2007 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)

2006 Joe Henrikson (Cape Elizabeth softball)

2005 Jim Hartman (South Portland softball)

2004 Susan Ray (Cape Elizabeth tennis)

2003 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)

2002 Jack DiBiase (South Portland softball)

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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