WATERBORO —  Ralph Aceto has known all season that he’s had some talented freshmen on his South Portland High softball team. Now everyone else knows as well.

Freshmen played a huge role Thursday afternoon as fifth-ranked South Portland defeated fourth-ranked Massabesic 3-0 in a Class A South quarterfinal.

Freshman pitcher Mia Micucci allowed six hits, striking out 10; freshman catcher Elise Connor had two doubles, drove in one run and scored one; freshman left fielder Hylah Owen doubled and scored the game’s first run.

“The freshmen are starting to step up,” said Aceto. “And the seniors are starting to play like they can play. The freshmen have gotten the idea of what it’s like to play at the varsity level. I couldn’t be more proud of the whole group of them.”

The Red Riots (12-6) will play at top-ranked Scarborough (17-0) in the regional semifinals Saturday. Massabesic finished 11-6, two of the losses to South Portland.

Micucci outdueled Massabesic starter Grace Tutt, who allowed five hits in six innings. But the Riots cobbled together a run in the fifth and added two more in the sixth.

Owen led off the fifth with a double into the right-center field gap. She was sacrificed to third by Miccuci. After an out, the Mustangs intentionally walked Grace Rende. Two pitches later, Rende casually strolled to second as the ball was lobbed back to Tutt, at one point stopping between the bases.

Tutt finally threw to second, but Rende was safe. As soon as the throw was made, Owen raced home with the game’s first run.

“If they threw through (to second), Grace was supposed to stop,” said Aceto. “Luckily I had a very smart, quick, baserunner on third and as soon as she saw the ball go to second, she took off.”

“We just needed to let (Rende) go,” said Massabesic Coach Kevin Tutt. “But I love the aggression on our part. And I’ll take it every time.”

In the sixth, Chloe Grant led off with a single. She scored on a double down the left-field line by Connor, who went to third on the throw home and scored on a groundout to second by Cortney Luce.

“Fundamental softball, that’s what I’ve been preaching to these kids,” said Aceto. “When you get to this level of playoffs, it’s the little things that keep you in games.”

Micucci, meanwhile, thwarted the Mustangs, using a low, outside pitches to induce eight groundouts to the right side. “She was very focused and didn’t let the wild cheering get to her,” said Connor.

The Mustangs threatened in the bottom of the seventh, but had an apparent run erased when a baserunner was called out for interference for the second out of the inning. Micucci ended the game with her 10th strikeout.

“I just came in hoping to give it my all,” said Micucci. “And I tried really hard.”


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