(Ed. Note: With high school sports currently on hiatus, please join me in a look back at some of the finest teams our coverage area has produced this century. To help us get through the summer, each week, I’ll present the top 10 teams from a different sport…four honorable mentions, then our “Super Six,” These rankings are put together with help from coaches and others, including a Twitter poll each week at Twitter.com/foresports, but the final decision is mine. We’ll start with baseball. Softball is on deck…)

There have been plenty of memorable baseball teams to come out of Forecaster Country the past two decades, but clearly one stands alone.

The 2004 Deering Rams weren’t only the best in the state of Maine, the core of that group went on, as Nova Seafood, to win the American Legion championship and produced a pair of major leaguers.

While those Rams have no peer, there have been other transcendent squads as well, more from Deering and others from schools throughout the Greater Portland area.

Here’s one writer’s stab at the top 10 (dating from 2004 when our Portland edition began covering spring sports):

Honorable mentions

Falmouth Yachtsmen, 2012 Class B state champion

File photos

While the 2016 and 2017 Yachtsmen also excelled, losing just one regular season game total over two seasons and got to the Class A state final, they couldn’t finish (thanks to Bangor, which dashed some other title dreams on this list). The 2012 squad did win it all, even though it didn’t come easily, or even in orthodox fashion.

Falmouth started 12-0, got tremendous pitching from the likes of Thomas Fortier, Nick Spencer (who no-hit Poland), Addison Foltmer and Connor Murphy and even after losing three of its final four regular season contests, the Yachtsmen went into the Western B tournament as the No. 2 seed.

There, Falmouth outlasted No. 10 Spruce Mountain, 7-3, in the quarterfinals and blanked No. 3 Morse, 3-0, behind Fortier’s two-hitter and Ryan Conley’s home run in the semifinals. The regional final against ninth-ranked Cape Elizabeth had to be seen to be believed, as the Yachtsmen didn’t muster a single hit, but behind a strong effort from Spencer (a four-hitter), still managed to prevail, 1-0, on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning. The state game versus Foxcroft Academy in Bangor was more traditional, as Conley, the number nine hitter, drove in two runs with a double and Fortier did the rest, throwing a two-hitter with six Ks to give Falmouth a 2-0 victory and the Class B title.

Coach Kevin Winship: “I remember at the beginning of the year, we thought we could be one of the teams who could compete. This team’s been resilient all year long. If the hitting doesn’t carry us, pitching and defense do it. Some things went our way. To win a championship, you have to have some luck. I couldn’t be happier.”

Greely Rangers, 2014 Class B state champion

The Rangers rode the potent bats of Michael McDevitt (.351 average, 23 runs batted in), Pat O’Shea (.340, 21 RBI) and Bailey Train (.424, 13 RBI) and put on a pitching clinic in the postseason en route to winning the program’s third of four championships this century.

Greely lost early at Poland, then was swept in a doubleheader by Falmouth at the Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, but closed the regular season with three straight wins to wind up 13-3 and lock up the No. 2 seed in Western Class B.

Then, the Rangers didn’t surrender a single run in its run to the title. In the quarterfinals, Will Bryant threw a two-hitter to help beat No. 10 Yarmouth, 4-0. Greely avenged a regular season loss in the semifinals, blanking No. 3 Poland, 5-0, behind a four-hit shutout from Connor Russell, who struck out nine batters. In a 3-0 victory over top-ranked Lincoln Academy in the regional final, Train, McDevitt and Bryant combined for another shutout, allowing just four hits. The Rangers saved their best for the state final against Caribou, where they mustered only one run, but it was enough to bring home the hardware, as Russell threw a five-hitter and Reid Howland drove in the winning run with a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning. Greely finished the season with 39 consecutive scoreless innings.

Coach Derek Soule: “This senior class is so special and some of the guys won in soccer and hockey, but there were some very good athletes who played on great teams and hadn’t won a championship. I wanted it badly for them. (The scoreless streak) was pretty extraordinary. I’ve coached a long time and I don’t know of another team to do it. We limited walks and made some good defensive plays over the course of four games. It was an amazing feat.”

South Portland Red Riots, 2015 Class A state runner-up

The Red Riots have had several close calls in recent seasons and this team came this closest, winning a regional title (barely) for the first time in 24 years, then losing (barely) in the state game..

South Portland was one of several strong teams during the 2015 regular season, but losses in three of its final five regular season games left it 12-4 and third in Western Class A. The Red Riots then turned it up a notch for the playoffs.

South Portland was pushed by No. 11 Biddeford in the quarterfinals and got taken to the bottom of the ninth inning before prevailing, 4-3, when Sam Troiano was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. In the semifinals, at second-seeded Marshwood, the Red Riots were down 4-1 going to the seventh inning, but erupted for eight runs before holding on for dear life to escape, 9-8, behind Griffin Kelley’s pitching heroics. In the regional final, against top-ranked Portland, South Portland took a 2-0 lead to the bottom of the seventh behind ace Henry Curran, but again walked the high-wire, holding on for a 2-1 victory when a two-out line drive with the tying and winning runs in scoring position landed safely in the glove of first baseman Anthony Degifico. In the Class A state final, versus Bangor, the Red Riots let a 3-1 lead slip away, committed four errors and trailed by two heading for the seventh, but rallied one final time, drawing within a run before the game, the season and the title dream ended with a line drive double play and a 5-4 setback.

Coach Mike Owens: “In three straight one-run games, one hit, one play and our season would be over, but it continually worked out. It’s a credit to the kids. We get in these situations and you can fold, but it’s almost like they get stronger. As a coach, it’s killing me, but they’ve been great. What we’ve done consistently is pitch and play defense and done enough offensively to win.”

Scarborough Red Storm, 2019 Class A state champion

The Red Storm caught many by surprise a year ago when they made an unexpected run to the championship, but considering who was at the team’s helm, storied coach Mike D’Andrea, perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a shock.

Scarborough fell to 8-4 after a loss to South Portland, but won its final four regular season games to earn momentum, then, as the No. 3 seed, caught fire and won a Class A title for the first time.

In the quarterfinals, the Red Storm blanked No. 6 Cheverus, 4-0, as Jack Clark earned the win and Nolan Lamontagne had a clutch two-run double. Nick Thompson took center stage in the semifinals, throwing a five-hitter with nine strikeouts in a 3-1 win over No. 7 Falmouth. Scarborough then showed its mettle in the regional final, rallying to upset top-ranked South Portland, 3-2, in an 11-inning marathon. Peter O’Brien doubled in Thompson for the winning run and Thompson and Clark combined to allow just five hits. The Red Storm had to go extras again in the state final against Oxford Hills, prevailing, 3-2, in eight-innings, as after surrendering a two-run lead in the seventh, Thompson homered to put his team on top to stay and Clark and Ryan Gambardella did the job on the mound. It was Scarborough’s first championship at any level since winning Class B way back in 1986.

Coach Mike D’Andrea: “The boys did what they needed to do. I’m proud of them. This is a resilient group. They found a way to win. They’ve been doing it all year.”

The Super Six

6) Cheverus 2011, Class A state champion

The Stags won just nine games in 2010 and had modest expectations entering the 2011 season, but behind a solid core of great athletes who were at their best on the biggest stage, they made a run to the program’s first Class A crown in the playoff era.

Cheverus won 14 of 16 regular season games and one of its losses came in 11-innings to Scarborough. The Stags earned the top seed for the Western A playoffs and even then weren’t viewed as a sure thing, but they dazzled when it mattered most.

One day after rain washed away a 3-0 lead and forced a new contest, Louie DiStasio threw a three-hitter in the quarterfinals and Cheverus beat No. 8 Thornton Academy, 5-2. In the semifinals, the Stags handled No. 5 South Portland, 8-2, Joey Royer excelled on the mound, fanning 10 and allowing just three hits, while Harry Ridge and Nic Lops each had two-run singles. In the regional final versus second-ranked Westbrook, it was Ridge stealing the show, allowing five hits in earning the 2-0 victory while also cracking an RBI double. In the Class A state final, the Stags had no trouble with Lewiston, rolling, 9-1, behind Peter Potthoff’s two doubles, home run and five RBI and Royer’s five-hitter with seven strikeouts.

Coach Mac McKew: “We knew we had the talent that was capable of this and we did it. We beat Westbrook three times. That’s a good baseball team. We had to beat them three times to get here. And Lewiston is tough.”

5) Greely 2007, Class B state champion

Greely went 14-2 in the regular season, losing only to Poland twice by 3-2 scores. As the second seed in Western B, the Rangers had no trouble in the quarterfinals, beating No. 7 Oak Hill, 8-2, behind Caleb Jordan’s complete game four hitter with eight strikeouts and Ryan Robb’s two hits and two RBI. The semifinal versus No. 3 Mountain Valley was legendary, as Greely was down, 6-1, heading to the bottom of the seventh, but it found a way to rise off the deck and win, 7-6. Robb had a clutch two-run double, Sam Stauber, who started the rally, walked with the bases loaded to tie it, and Nate Martin capped the improbable rally with a game-winning single. In the regional final, the Rangers got another crack at top-ranked Poland and behind a four-run first inning, another Jordan complete game and Matt Reade’s three hits, prevailed, 5-3. Jordan (8-2 on the season with a 0.68 earned run average) then threw another complete game (three hits, eight Ks) in the state final, blanking Winslow, 4-0, to give Greely the championship and earn the Rupert Johnston Award as the Class B Player of the Year. Andrew Cimino paced the offense with a single, double and triple.

Coach Derek Soule: “The team was all about pitching and defense. We only allowed 27 runs in 20 games and made only 17 errors. After coming close so many times, it meant so much to finally get over the hump.”

4) Portland 2006, Class A state runner-up

Portland ace Ian Boyle.  

The Bulldogs lost to Westbrook in the 2005 regional final, then were unbeatable throughout the 2006 campaign, right up until running into Bangor in the state final.

Portland navigated the always challenging SMAA to the tune of 15 wins without a loss in the regular season, outscoring the opposition 114 runs to 15. Four times, the Bulldogs won by the mercy rule (10 runs or more). Their only close game was a 2-1 victory over rival Deering. As the top seed, Portland then rolled through the regional field.

The Bulldogs got a clutch effort from Joe Fessenden in the quarterfinals versus No. 8 Sanford. Fessenden earned the victory by allowing just one unearned run on five hits with eight strikeouts and hitting a game-turning three run home run in a 4-1 triumph. In the semifinals versus No. 4 Deering, Ian Boyle dazzled, throwing a one-hitter with eight Ks, as Anthony Fasulo doubled twice and drove in a pair of runs in a 6-0 victory. The Bulldogs then beat No. 2 Gorham and its ace Mark Schmidt, 7-3, in the Western A Final, as Fessenden earned the victory, Joey Martin had a key hit and a John Moran bunt wound up scoring two runs. Against Bangor in the state game, Portland went up, 2-0, early behind RBI hits from Fasulo and David Neally. The Rams responded with three runs, but a Moran RBI double tied the score in the sixth. Bangor went back on top in the top of the seventh, but despite a Martin double leading off the bottom half, the Bulldogs couldn’t answer and their season ended in heartache, one run shy of glory.

Coach Mike Rutherford: “It’s disappointing because we had a good season and the seniors wanted to go out with a state title.”

3) Deering 2009, Class A state champion

Mike Coutts replaced Mike D’Andrea as Deering’s coach, but the Rams didn’t miss a beat, rolling past every foe en route to a third straight Class A state title. Regan Flaherty, Jack Heary, Matt Powers, Taylor Candage, Marc Ouimet and John Young capped their triumphant careers with another piece of hardware.

The Rams were an offensive juggernaut, scoring in double figures in eight of their 16 regular season games and winning six times by mercy rule. For the regular season, Deering tallied a whopping 166 runs. A strong pitching staff threw four shutouts. The Rams continued those trends in the playoffs.

As the top seed in Western A, Deering ousted No. 8 Portland, 10-0, in just six-innings in the quarterfinals, as a five-run first inning set the tone. Ouimet had a single, double and three RBI, Nick Colucci ripped a two-run single and Candage, the ace, threw a one-hitter with eight strikeouts. The Rams then defeated No. 4 Cheverus, 7-3, in the semifinals, as Flaherty fanned 10 and Heary hit a key two-run double. The regional final versus No. 3 Scarborough was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel, but instead, Deering scored 16 runs and it needed most of them in a 16-10 victory. Candage and Ouimet each homered and drove in three runs. Jamie Ross, Flaherty and Powers combined to hold the Red Storm at bay after Candage had a tough time in his starting stint. In the state final, versus Cony, Deering returned to its dominant pitching ways and three-peated by virtue of a 2-1 victory. Flaherty earned the win, Powers the save and Candage and Heary each drove in a run.

Coach Mike Coutts: “There wasn’t a minute where I didn’t think we weren’t going to win. It’s a testament to these guys that they can came out here and won with pitching and defense. All season this team found a way to answer after the other team gets a couple of runs.”

2) Deering 2008, Class A state champion

The second of three straight championship teams was a special group, one that was never finished and one that gave Mike D’Andrea his final title with the Rams.

Deering, featuring a young core, had to win three one-run games in the regular season, including two in extra innings. The Rams capped the campaign with a 4-3, 12-inning victory over rival Portland, when Matt Powers, who missed a sign on a squeeze bunt moments prior, stole home to end it. Deering would then do what it took to be the last team standing in the postseason.

As the top seed, the Rams had no trouble with No. 8 South Portland in an 11-3 victory in the quarterfinals (Matt Watson had two singles, a double and drove in two runs, Taylor Candage added two hits and a pair of RBI and Regan Flaherty hit a bases loaded single). In the semifinals, Deering mercy ruled No. 4 Biddeford, 11-1, in five-innings. The regional final was a much tougher test, but the Rams held off No. 3 Westbrook, 3-2, as Jack Heary homered and Flaherty and Candage combined to hold the Blue Blazes at bay. The state final versus Brewer proved to be palpitating and ultimately victorious. Deering led 2-0 early, but was on the brink of defeat, down, 5-3, in the bottom of the seventh, before scoring twice to tie it. After a long rain delay, Brewer went back up by two, but in the bottom of the eighth, Candage crushed the biggest home run of his life to tie it and pinch-runner Travis Wade raced home from second Brad Shafran’s infield hit to give the Rams a scintillating crown.

Coach Mike D’Andrea: “I’ve never seen a game like this. Brewer’s a great team, but I liked the way we hung in there.”

1) Deering 2004, Class A state champion

The gold standard.

There’s never been a high school baseball team from Maine this blessed with talent and it’s likely we’ll never see one like it again. Deering won the 2003 Class A title and with a veritable all-star roster, was expected to repeat. The Rams would do so, but there were challenges.

The season began with Deering being no-hit for seven innings by Portland’s Rocco Toppi, but Ryan Reid kept the Rams in the game by allowing the Bulldogs no runs on just three hits and in 11-innings, Deering prevailed, 3-0. The Rams had close calls against Biddeford and Cheverus as well, but won those games by shutout, then truly came to life. Deering six times won games by mercy rule and a 9-4 victory over Portland in the teams’ second meeting capped an 18-0 campaign. The Rams out-scored their foes 170 runs to 30. After winning the Telegram League title, it was on to the state tournament, where No. 1 Deering wouldn’t be denied.

The Rams first eliminated No. 9 Bonny Eagle, 9-2, in the quarterfinals, as Reid threw a three-hitter and struck out 14 while Chris Burleson and Ryan Flaherty hit home runs. After a 4-2 win over No. 4 Biddeford in the semifinals, Deering had no trouble with No. 2 Portland in the regional final, prevailing, 12-0, in just five-innings, behind Reid’s one-hit gem with nine Ks. Neil Esposito, Andrew Giobbi and Jeff Skillin all had two-run hits.

That set up the most highly anticipated state final in Maine history, a showdown with Mt. Ararat and its ace Mark Rogers, who had just been selected fifth in the Major League Baseball draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. The demand to see the contest forced it to be moved from Gorham High to Hadlock Field and in front of a capacity crowd, the Rams won the championship, 6-1, as Reid out-dueled Rogers, throwing a five-hitter with seven strikeouts, and Esposito was the unlikely offensive hero with two hits and three RBI.

Coach Mike D’Andrea: “I think what a lot of people are forgetting is that we beat (Mt. Ararat) last year, and we beat (Rogers) last year (too). He’s definitely improved and he’s definitely a great baseball player, but we sure feel like we play pretty good baseball down here too.”

Photo courtesy Michael D’Andrea Jr.

Postcript: While the 2004 Deering Rams did more than enough to stake their claim as the best the state has seen, what the Deering-populated Nova Seafood American Legion team did later that summer propelled it into lore.

Burleson, Esposito, Flaherty, Giobbi, Reid and Skillin, along with Michael D’Andrea Jr., Scott Brown, Andrew Dvilinsky, Ryan Piacentini, Mike Powers and Josh Stowell made up the core of a squad, coached by Mike D’Andrea, which captured the World Series in Corvallis, Oregon. Nova Seafood became the first Maine team to win at such a prestigious level and it was no surprise who made it possible.

Good luck topping that!

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

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