“Momentum? Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.”

— Earl Weaver, Hall of Fame manager

Mike Owens, coach of the top-seeded South Portland High baseball team, admits he agrees with Weaver, the cantankerous manager of the pitching-rich Baltimore Orioles during the 1970s.

But Owens also hopes the Red Riots’ 11-game winning streak entering the Class A South playoffs this week will count for something in what should be a highly competitive region.

“Baseball is different than most sports because the pitching is always different, so the momentum doesn’t necessarily carry day-to-day,” Owens said. “But the wins, we’ve done it several different ways. We’ve won games handily, we’ve come back in games, we’ve won tight games. More than momentum, I just think having our kids be comfortable in multiple situations will help.”

As one of the top four teams, South Portland (14-2) earned a preliminary-round bye and gets to wait until Thursday to start its quest for the program’s first state title since 1952.


The Red Riots’ quarterfinal opponent – whether it’s No. 8 Marshwood or No. 9 Falmouth, who meet Tuesday in South Berwick – demonstrates the South region’s competitive balance.

“This is about as least comfortable as you can feel as the No. 1 seed,” Owens said. “We had to hit a two-run double with two outs in the seventh to beat Marshwood by one run. And against Falmouth we got four hits (the whole game) in a tough 4-2 win. In years past you might have been able to think about resting your No. 1 pitcher in the first game but I don’t think anybody can even think about doing that.”

Several other Class A South teams enter the playoffs with significant win streaks.

Cheverus (11-5) has won eight straight to go from being in a non-qualifying position at the halfway point of the regular season all the way to the fourth seed. Gorham (12-4) closed with seven straight wins to earn the second seed. No. 5 Biddeford (11-5) has won five straight and 6 of 7.

Gorham cinched its goal of getting a bye when Ryan Norris (4-0, 18 hits and four walks allowed in 30 innings) pitched a two-hit 1-0 complete-game win against Windham in the regular-season finale.

“We don’t normally talk about playoffs and seeds with the kids, but this year we recognized the league is very competitive and we said to the kids, not that far into the season, ‘Listen, getting a bye, especially this year, would be important,’ ” Coach Chuck Nadeau said. “Basically every game we play we’re thinking it’s a coin flip. If you avoid one round, that’s big.”


Biddeford just missed out on the preliminary-round bye and will be home against No. 12 Deering at 4:30 p.m. Monday

“Being in the top four definitely helps, playing one fewer game, but back in 2010 we were the seventh seed and we came out on top (of the region),” said Biddeford Coach Keith LeBlanc. “It can happen.”

As always, pitching, defense and timely hitting are seen as the keys to playoff success. LeBlanc said he’s seen those components from his team during the stretch run, particularly from starting pitchers Brice Springer (5-3) and Owen Sullivan (4-0, 1.18 ERA), and second baseman Logan Magnant (.422 average).

“Just having the confidence of playing good and hopefully that feeling of being competitive and being consistent will carry over,” LeBlanc said.

South Portland has gone with a three-man rotation all season, with left-hander Hunter Owen backed by Zach Johnson and Noah Lewis. Owen has allowed 11 hits (one for extra bases) in almost 35 innings.

The Red Riots, who also have strong relievers in Connor Buckley and Riley Hasson, finished the regular season with five shutout wins and four others allowing one run.


Gorham has one of the league’s top offenses. After averaging five runs per game through nine games, the Rams have scored 6.8 runs per game over the last seven.

Nadeau said he uses 15 hits in a 16-game regular season as a gauge of whether a high school player is contributing offensively.

“Eight of our nine batters have 15 or more hits. I think we’re difficult to pitch to,” Nadeau said, pointing to his 8-9-1 hitters Will Prescott, David Drew and Ben Nelson as key contributors.

CLASS B SOUTH also has the look of a highly competitive regional. Wells emerged as the best team with a 14-2 record with Cam Cousins (8-0, 0.70 ERA) and Tyler Carpenter (2.25 ERA) as the top starters.

The other four teams with a first-round bye – Cape Elizabeth, Greely, York and Mountain Valley – each have at least five losses. York has won seven straight, scoring 49 runs over its final five games.

“Talk about a hot team going into the tournament, you’d have to say York is that team,” said Wells Coach Todd Day. “Freeport, they finished sixth, and they’re a very dangerous team and (No. 7) Yarmouth hit the ball as well as anybody against us. And of course Cape is very solid up and down the lineup.”


Recent history suggests a dark horse run should almost be expected. Freeport won the region as the seventh seed in 2017 and ninth-seeded Yarmouth won the state title last year.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:


Twitter: SteveCCraig

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.