Scarborough junior pitcher Bella Dickinson is mobbed by her teammates after the Red Storm held on for a 5-4 win at rival Thornton Academy Monday afternoon.

Derek Davis / Press Herald photos.

More photos below.


SACO—This one lived up to the hype.

And everyone on hand will gladly sign up for an encore.

Monday afternoon, the two-time defending Class A state champion Scarborough softball team, which hasn’t lost a league game since 2013 and is rarely even challenged, went to rival Thornton Academy for a rematch of last year’s memorable regional final in a battle of unbeatens.

And with both teams making big plays and crushing the ball over the fence, the contest wasn’t decided until the final hitter of the game made solid contact.

The Red Storm took a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, when sophomore catcher Sylvia Foley doubled home junior pitcher Bella Dickinson.

Freshman designated player Katherine Roy then took Golden Trojans senior pitcher Olivia Howe deep in the second inning and it appeared Scarborough was on its way to another decisive win, but Howe single-handedly brought her team back in the bottom of the third, getting a hold of a Dickinson pitch and driving it over the fence in centerfield for a three-run blast to put Thornton Academy on top, 3-2.

The Golden Trojans couldn’t hold the lead, however, as the Red Storm tied things up in the top of the fourth on a Dickinson RBI double.

In the top of the sixth, an unlikely power source, junior rightfielder Hannah Gower, sent a Howe offering over the fence in left to give Scarborough the lead and the Red Storm tacked on an unearned run in the top of the seventh.

And that run proved to be enormous.

Dickinson got the first two outs in the bottom of the frame, but a single, a walk and an RBI base hit from senior third baseman Hannah Collins cut the deficit to one and when the throw home got away, Thornton Academy had the winning runs in scoring position.

Sophomore leftfielder Madison Vachon then hit the ball hard, but it was right at senior second baseman Courtney Brochu, and Scarborough escaped with a 5-4 victory.

The Red Storm improved to 12-0 on the season, won their 52nd consecutive game over three seasons, their 101st in a row in league play and 66th straight in league play on the road as they handed the Golden Trojans their first setback in 15 outings in the process.

“It’s very encouraging,” said longtime Scarborough coach Tom Griffin, who won his 464th game with the program. “We have three freshmen and two sophomores out there. I’m so proud of my kids. We’re very young and I didn’t know how we’d react, to be honest, but we passed the test.”

Thunder and lightning

For much of the day Monday the status of the game was in doubt, as thunderstorms were predicted, but the storms held off and only lightning came courtesy the teams’ booming bats.

The contest pitted the two preseason favorites, who entered the game with a combined 25-0 record.

Scarborough started with a 13-3 win at Bonny Eagle, then blanked host Gorham (14-0), won at Deering (17-2, in six-innings), at Marshwood (14-1, in six-innings) and at home over Kennebunk (17-2, in five-innings). The Red Storm got a test at Noble May 4, but passed it, 5-0. After cruising past host Sanford (17-4), Scarborough swept a doubleheader over visiting Portland (11-5) and Cheverus/North Yarmouth Academy (10-2), before holding off visiting South Portland in its closest contest, 3-1. Last Thursday, the Red Storm hit the century mark in consecutive league wins when it blanked visiting Falmouth in five-innings (17-0). 

Not that the milestone means much to the perennial championship contenders.

“I try not to think about (the streak) too much,” Dickinson said. “We just play the game we love and it just works out.”

“We try not to pay attention to it,” said Griffin. “We don’t need that kind of pressure. It’s not something we’re interested in. Our goal is to prepare ourselves for a state championship.”

Thornton Academy, meanwhile, was pushed in its opener, but held off host Windham, 5-3. After a 13-0 win at Bonny Eagle, the Golden Trojans downed visiting rival Biddeford, 9-6, crushed host Deering (29-1, in five-innings), outlasted host Gorham in a slugfest, 13-11, dominated visiting Falmouth (25-3, in five-innings), downed visiting Cheverus/NYA (13-3) and Kennebunk (11-3), won at Marshwood (13-8) and Noble (13-5), blanked visiting Massabesic (3-0), won decisively at Sanford (15-1) and at home over Portland (12-0) and Friday, handled host South Portland, 12-3.

Since the teams started playing in 2004, Scarborough has dominated the rivalry, winning 21 of 22 previous meetings (see sidebar, below), including a 3-1 home victory in the regular season last year and a palpitating 3-2, nine-inning victory in the regional final, when Dickinson scored the winning run on Chloe Griffin’s one-out single.

The Red Storm had taken all 15 regular season encounters and six of seven playoff meetings, with the Golden Trojans’ 2-1 upset in the 2014 Western A Final the outlier.

Entering play, Scarborough hadn’t lost a regular season game since falling, 3-2, in eight-innings, to visiting Sanford May 6, 2013 and hadn’t dropped a league game on the road since a 3-1 setback at South Portland May 24, 2011.

Monday afternoon, with a game-time temperature of 77 degrees, Thornton Academy hoped to finally hand the Red Storm a blemish, but Scarborough managed to keep the good times rolling.

Just barely.

Dickinson started the contest by drawing a walk off Howe on a 3-2 pitch and after freshman first baseman Ariella Swett struck out swinging, Dickinson stole second. Freshman centerfielder Caitlin Noiles then drew a walk before Brochu grounded into a shortstop-to-second base force out to put runners at the corners. Howe was on the brink of escaping the threat, but Foley drove a ball off the fence in center to easily score Dickinson for a 1-0 lead and put runners at second and third. Sophomore shortstop Mollie Verreault popped out to first, but the Red Storm had the jump.

Dickinson learned immediately in the bottom half that the Golden Trojans were going to make her work, but she managed to keep them off the board.

Senior catcher Jenica Botting worked the count full leading off before flying out to deep left. Junior shortstop Amanda Bogardus then worked a 3-2 count before popping out foul to Foley behind the plate. Howe drew a walk and was replaced by freshman courtesy runner Jenna Lavallee, who tried to steal second, but was thrown out by Foley to retire the side.

Roy led off the top of the second and doubled Scarborough’s lead by homering to left-center.

“She’s a hitter,” Griffin said. “She got a hold of one. She works really hard.”

Gower popped out to short and junior leftfielder Ava McDonald popped a bunt back to Howe, but Dickinson singled through the hole between short and third before Swett flew out to center for the third out.

In the bottom of the second, Dickinson issued a walk to Collins leading off, but recorded a force out at second when Vachon bunted the ball back to the mound. Junior second baseman Olivia Paradis then hit a line drive to Swett at first. Swett dropped the ball, but recorded the out at first with Collins moving into scoring position. Dickinson would strand her, fanning senior first baseman Sarah Casey.

Howe held the Red Storm at bay in the top of the third, getting Noiles to ground out to second, Brochu to bounce back to the mound and after walking Foley, she got Verreault to ground out to third.

Thornton Academy then responded with a vengeance in the bottom half.

Junior rightfielder Olivia Lambert led off with a bunt in front of the plate and she reached when Foley’s throw to first was wild. Senior centerfielder Kylie Lavallee popped out to short and Botting grounded back to the mound with Dickinson throwing low to second base. Verreault scooped the ball and a force out was called, much to the chagrin of the Golden Trojans’ coaches, players and fans. 

That proved to be a moot point, as Bogardus drew a four-pitch walk, bringing up Howe, who pounded a 1-0 offering over the head of Noiles in center and over the centerfield fence as well to erase a two-run deficit and give Thornton Academy a 3-2 lead.

Dickinson bounced back by getting Collins to chase strike three, but for the first time since May 1, when it was down, 1-0, after an inning-and-a-half to Kennebunk in a game it would win, 17-2, Scarborough found itself behind.

But not for long.

In the top of the fourth, Roy led off with a single to right and after Gower sacrificed her to second and McDonald beat out a bunt single, Dickinson drove the ball over the glove of Lambert in right and off the fence for an RBI double, with the runners stopping at second and third. Howe didn’t allow the Red Storm to retake the lead, however, catching Swett looking at strike three, then, after walking Noiles to load the bases, getting Brochu to ground into a short-to-second force out to keep the score 3-3.

Dickinson started the bottom half of the inning by getting Vachon to chase strike three on a 3-2 pitch. Paradis bounced out to Swett unassisted and after Casey walked on full count pitch, Dickinson fanned Lambert on a 3-2 pitch to end it.

“(Howe’s home run) was brutal, but Sylvia’s such a good catcher and she’s my best friend,” Dickinson said. “With her support and everyone building me up, I moved forward.”

Howe kept the game tied in the top of the fifth, setting Scarborough down in order for the only time.

After Foley bounced out to third and Verreault popped out to short, Roy grounded a ball to Collins’ right, but Collins made a nice stab to rob Roy of extra bases before throwing her out to retire the side.

In the bottom half, Kylie Lavallee bounced back to the mound, but Botting doubled to center, then moved to third on a wild pitch. Thornton Academy couldn’t take advantage and take the lead, however, as Dickinson caught Bogardus looking at strike three and after Howe was intentionally walked, Collins made solid contact, but lined out to Gower in right to end the frame.

Gower Power then took center stage to lead off the sixth, as she put the Red Storm ahead for good.

Leading off, Gower turned around a Howe offering and drove it to deep left. The ball kept carrying and easily cleared the fence for a 4-3 lead.

“It looked right down the middle,” Gower said. “I swung like normal, not trying to get it out at all. It’s my first home run out of the park. It was a pretty exciting moment. I honestly didn’t think it would go that far. I took a slight glance and I was like, ‘Oh my Gosh, this can’t be happening!’

“I was just a courtesy runner last year and didn’t play much. I really enjoy playing this year. It’s been a lot of fun.”

“Hannah’s come close a few times,” said Griffin. “It was just a matter of time. She drives the ball well for a kid with small stature.”

Howe settled down and got McDonald to pop back to the mound on a bunt, Dickinson to line out deep to center and Swett to bounce out to short.

Thornton Academy got the tying run in scoring position in the bottom of the sixth, but couldn’t answer.

Dickinson fanned Vachon leading off and got Paradis to bounce out to second, but Casey lined a single to left-center, then moved up on a wild pitch, but Dickinson got junior pinch-hitter Lily Stark to bounce out to second on a 3-2 pitch to preserve the lead.

The Red Storm then added a crucial unearned run in the top of the seventh.

Noiles was plunked by a pitch leading off, then took second when Brochu blooped a single to center. After Foley flew out to center, Verreault’s bunt moved the runners up and Roy’s ground ball to Paradis’ right took a tricky hop and Paradis couldn’t handle the ball for an error which scored Noiles for a 5-3 lead. Gower watched strike three, but Scarborough was just three outs from victory.

The Red Storm would record those three outs, but not without some anxious moments.

Kylie Lavallee went after the first pitch and flew out to center, then Botting chased ball four and grounded out to Swett at first. Bogardus then grounded the ball up the middle. Brochu, moving to her right, got to it, but didn’t have a play and the infield single kept the Golden Trojans’ hopes alive. Dickinson then pitched to Howe, but did so carefully and walked the slugger, to put the tying run on base. After Jenna Lavallee ran for Howe, Collins came up big on a two-strike pitch, lining a single to center to score Bogardus. On the play, Noiles threw home and threw the ball away, allowing the runners to move into scoring position.

That set the stage for Vachon to play the hero and after striking out twice, she hit the ball hard, but it was on the ground right at Brochu and Brochu stopped it and threw to Swett at first to allow Scarborough to hold on and celebrate its hard-fought 5-4 victory.

“I think if I stay composed, it shows everybody it’s OK,” said Dickinson. “We all stayed composed. We lost seven starters, so this shows we have depth and we work really hard. We trust one another can get it done. I’m glad we pulled it out. I’m so happy we got a win today.”

“We dug deep and kept our energy up the whole game and that brought it together,” Gower said. “It was nervewracking, but I knew we could do it. We fought all game.”

“My coaching staff worked their butts off today,” Griffin added. “It was a real team effort from everybody. I try to prepare them and let them do their thing. (Thornton Academy’s) a very good team. You can’t rest on any of the kids in their lineup.”

Dickinson improved to 7-0, going the distance and allowing four runs (just one earned) on five hits in seven innings. Dickinson walked five, threw two wild pitches and struck out seven.

“Bella wasn’t her best, but she showed what she’s made of,” Griffin said. “She had a difficult time getting her change-up across. When she does, she’s really tough. Today was a little struggle for her.”

Offensively, Dickinson and Roy each had multiple hits, Roy scored twice, Dickinson, Gower and Noiles each scored once and Dickinson, Foley, Gower and Roy had RBI.

The Red Storm left nine runners on base.

Thornton Academy got three RBI from Howe and another from Collins. Bogardus touched home twice, while Botting and Howe also scored runs.

The Golden Trojans were without their slugging cleanup hitter/first baseman, sophomore Abby Miner, who is sidelined with an ankle injury

“Not an excuse,” said Thornton Academy coach John Provost. “Yeah, we were missing Abby, but everyone needs to step up and pick up the pace.”

Howe took the loss, giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits in seven innings. Howe walked four, hit a batter and struck out three.

The Golden Trojans left seven runners on base and just fell short.

“There was no quit in us,” said Provost. “We had chances. We had a lot of stranded baserunners. We had opportunities in multiple innings. We just have to do a better job executing.”

Rematch likely

While other teams will have their opportunity to prevent it, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if the Golden Trojans and Red Storm square off in the Class A South Final June 12 in Standish.

Thornton Academy (which will likely be the number two seed in the region) has just one game left in its regular season, a home tilt versus Westbrook Wednesday.

“We’ll see (Scarborough) again,” Provost said. “I look forward to that.”

If Scarborough takes care of business the rest of the way, it will be the top seed in Class A South. The Red Storm host Westbrook Tuesday and welcome Biddeford Wednesday, go to Windham Friday and close at home versus Massabesic Tuesday of next week.

“I can’t wait for the rest of the season,” Gower said. “If we keep digging and keep our energy going, I think we’ll do fine.”

“I think we seem to keep moving forward,” said Dickinson. “We’ll keep working hard in practice and pushing ourselves so we can continue to get better.”

“I think this stretch will be good for us,” Griffin added. “I’d rather have it this way. The number one seed is in our hands if we play well down the stretch. We want to play on our field and if we get to the (regional) final, we want to hit last. You’re in the driver’s seed when you’re the number one seed. That’s what we’re working for. That’s what we want. We’re headed in the right direction. This was a great test for us and we’d like to continue it. We’ve still got a ways to go.

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

Scarborough junior pitcher Bella Dickinson delivers a pitch. Dickinson went the distance for her seventh win of the season.

Scarborough freshman designated player Katherine Roy crushes a second inning home run.

And Roy receives a hero’s welcome upon touching home.

Scarborough sophomore shortstop Mollie Verreault is out on a close play at first base as Thornton Academy senior first baseman Sarah Casey takes the throw.

Thornton Academy junior rightfielder Olivia Lambert is out on a close play at second as Scarborough sophomore shortstop Mollie Verreault takes the throw.

Scarborough junior rightfielder Hannah Gower (13) is mobbed by her teammates after hitting a go-ahead home run in the top of the sixth inning.

Previous Scarborough-Thornton Academy results

@ Scarborough 3 Thornton Academy 1
Class A South Final
Scarborough 3 Thornton Academy 2 (9)

Scarborough 18 @ Thornton Academy 6

@ Scarborough 12 Thornton Academy 0 (5)

@ Scarborough 4 Thornton Academy 3
Western A Final
Scarborough 7 Thornton Academy 3

Scarborough 5 @ Thornton Academy 1
Western A Final
Thornton Academy 2 Scarborough 1

Scarborough 8 Thornton Academy 6
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 10 Thornton Academy 1

Scarborough 6 @ Thornton Academy 3

@ Scarborough 5 Thornton Academy 2
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 2 Thornton Academy 0

Scarborough 8 @ Thornton Academy 3
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 4 Thornton Academy 0

@ Scarborough 3 Thornton Academy 0

Scarborough 6 @ Thornton Academy 0

@ Scarborough 6 Thornton Academy 1

Scarborough 2 @ Thornton Academy 0

Scarborough 4 @ Thornton Academy 0
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 1 Thornton Academy 0

@ Scarborough 1 Thornton Academy 0 (10)

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