It’s probably no coincidence that five of Scarborough High’s six Class A state softball championships since 2007 have occurred in odd-numbered years. Those also happen to be the years that the Red Storm go to Florida for spring training.

Going to Florida for spring training has usually resulted in a state championship for Scarborough High’s softball team. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Coach Tom Griffin, who won his 450th game last year, has always believed those trips to warmer weather prepared his team in ways beyond the field. “It really helps us focus on just softball and our relationships for a whole week,” he said. “When they come back, I want them to care about each other and get to know each other a little better. When they come back, I want them to be a team. Sometime during the season one of them might have to sacrifice something and I want them to support each other.”

Scarborough is the two-time defending Class A state champ, entering the season with a 40-game winning streak. Last year was the first time the Red Storm won the title in an even-numbered – or non-Florida – year. The only odd-numbered year that didn’t result in a state title was 2015, when the Red Storm lost 1-0 to Messalonskee in the state game.

Scarborough, which graduated eight seniors from last year, left for the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando last week and will return Wednesday. The Red Storm are not the only Maine high school team playing softball at Disney. Noble, Caribou, Hampden Academy and Presque Isle are also there.

The package for the trip includes transportation, lodging, meals and passes to the parks. Griffin said it costs between $2,300-$2,500 per player. All the money is raised by the players and their families. Scarborough brings 16 players.

“They take care of everything,” Griffin said of Disney. “We could do it a little cheaper but we spend extra money on some things, like an extra van for all our equipment. All I know is we’re busy all the time, whether it’s a team activity or playing a game or eating. We’re always doing something.”

Scarborough has eight games scheduled, and two practice days. Noble has 10 games scheduled.

“They treat you like royalty down there,” said Noble Coach Rick Melanson. “And this seems like a really good year to go, with teams from North Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Illinois there, too. Most years we go down there, we’re missing a few varsity kids so a lot of kids get some extra playing time. And it’s really great for team building. Softball is just part of it.”

Griffin said the non-softball interactions are among the most important of the week when it comes to team bonding. “We’re constantly talking with the kids while we’re waiting in lines for rides,” he said. “Sometimes it’s about softball, sometimes it’s about college applications, sometimes it’s about family or other things. It’s really good for us, especially this year where we’re so young. We’re going to need that extra time together.”

FLORIDA ISN’T the only southern destination for local teams seeking warmer weather and better competition.

Sacopee Valley of South Hiram traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for five days of games and practice at the Cal Ripken facility in nearby Pigeon Forge. It’s the second straight year the Hawks headed there. Coach Brian Hink said last year’s experience was a factor in Sacopee Valley’s run to the Class C South final.

“It had a lot to do with that,” he said. “It showcased a couple of weakness that we had to work on … And we became one of the better defensive teams in the conference because of Tennessee.”

Hink said it costs between $8,000-$10,000 for the trip, all raised by students. The school provides a couple of minivans for the team to drive there.

“It really does help with team bonding because the girls have to live together for a week,” he said. “We get to face really good competition, so that challenges us on our game sense and performance. And we’re able to move girls around to see where they fit best for us.”

YORK WILL HAVE a busy stretch later this month with home games on three consecutive days: April 29, 30 and May 1.

Coach Kevin Giannino said the Wildcats had to reschedule games from school vacation week because several players would be away. While playing three games in three days could cause pitching problems for some teams, Giannino said already has spoken to junior ace Abby Orso. “She told me she could pitch every day,” he said. “But we count pitches. And if she’s overextended, we will not allow her to pitch.”

LONGTIME BONNY Eagle Coach Jan Corliss has said this will be her last season. Corliss, in her 30th year, retired in 2010 but returned three years ago. “I was ready to come back to softball,” she said. “I promised them three years and this is it.”

Corliss has her best team since she returned, with eight starters back. There are six seniors on the roster – Sam Averill, Mackenzie Emery, Sydney Gillingham, Makala Greene, Emma Steinbuchel and Cassidy Grass – and Corliss said “that played a lot in my decision to come back this year. I started with them as sophomores and I want to go out with them.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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