(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. This week it’s softball. Lacrosse is on deck…)

Local softball teams have been turning heads and winning titles for years and while one program has had no peer in regards to sustained dominance, several other schools have also produced excellence.

Here’s one writer’s stab at the top 10, dating back to 2002, the first year I covered local high school sports full time:

Honorable mentions

Portland Bulldogs, 2004 Class A state champions

Whitney Prior (facing) and Elise Caron celebrate after Portland’s 8-4 win over Brewer in the 2004 Class A state final. File photos

After upset losses to South Portland in the 2002 and 2003 playoffs, Portland put it all together when it mattered most in 2004, riding a potent offense and a surprise weapon out of the bullpen to win the Class A title for the eighth and most recent time.

The Bulldogs set the tone by scoring 22 runs in an Opening Day win over Cheverus and started 5-0, but losses at Scarborough and Biddeford on consecutive days raised doubts. Portland answered like the champion it would become, however, closing the regular season with eight straight victories, including one-run triumphs over Marshwood, Deering and South Portland, and went into the regional tournament as the No. 2 seed.

After quarterfinal round losses in consecutive years, the Bulldogs exorcised that demon by handling No. Bonny Eagle, 4-1, behind Sam Allen’s clutch two-run single. In the semifinals, Portland downed No. 3 Biddeford, avenging a regular season loss. The Bulldogs then had the daunting task of having to get past top-ranked Scarborough in the regional final and they avenged their other regular season setback, 3-1, as Keri Foley doubled and homered, Ashley Anderson drove in a run, Katie Brown held the potent Red Storm at bay into the bottom of the seventh and sophomore Katie Hutchins came on to slam the door. The state final versus Brewer was a similar story, as the Bulldogs prevailed, 8-4, behind Foley’s four hits and three RBI and Hutchins’ again excelling in relief, retiring the final 11 batters she faced, as Anderson, at shortstop, caught a line drive to end it, then threw the ball to the heavens to begin the celebration.

Coach Robbie Ferrante: “I’m very happy for the girls and happy for the program. It’s a good way for (the seniors) to go out.”

Cape Elizabeth Capers, 2007 Class B state champion

Cape Elizabeth pitcher Trish Thibodeau, right, is swarmed by teammates after Cape Elizabeth captured the 2007 Class B state title.

The Capers’ progression to the pinnacle began with a regional final loss in 2005 and continued with an 8-6 loss to Bucksport in the 2006 state final, but in 2007, no one was standing in Cape Elizabeth’s way, as ace Trish Thibodeau came up huge time and time again and the Capers’ potent bats produced in the key moments.

Cape Elizabeth won 13 of 16 regular season games, falling only to Fryeburg Academy and Gray-New Gloucester by 2-0 scores and to Lake Region by a run (2-1). The Capers put up 106 runs in their victories and entered the Western B playoffs as the No. 3 seed and it soon became clear they were the gold standard.

In the quarterfinals, Cape Elizabeth got past No. 11 Poland, 4-1, as Thibodeau threw a two-hitter and Brianna Balfour delivered the clutch hit, a three-run home run. Second-ranked Lake Region was next and the Capers avenged their regular season loss with a decisive 10-2 triumph. Thibodeau did it all, throwing a four-hitter while also pounding out two hits and driving in a pair of runs. Emily Richardson added four hits. That sent Cape Elizabeth to the Western B Final to meet rival Greely, the No. 4 seed, and the Capers prevailed, 6-2, behind Thibodeau’s three-hitter with 13 strikeouts and two hits and three RBI. Balfour tripled and Marla Houghton had a timely RBI double. The state game versus Winslow was a nerve-wracking pitcher’s duel. Thibodeau worked out of multiple jams and her five-hitter with eight Ks, combined with a clutch two-run home run from Colleen Martin, allowed Cape Elizabeth to win, 2-1, and capture what is to date, the program’s lone championship.

Coach Joe Henrikson: “They come to practice and they work every day. I try to make it fun for them, but they work hard.”

Yarmouth Clippers, 2015 Class B state champion

Yarmouth senior captain Kallie Hutchinson beams as she hugs junior Colleen Sullivan (7) and senior captain Michelle Robichaud (2) gets a hug from junior Cat Thompson after the Clippers’ 7-5 win over Hermon in the 2015 Class B softball state final.

From the ashes of an unthinkably painful playoff loss the year before, the Clippers bounced back and were special when it mattered most, when the calendar flipped to June.

Consecutive decisive wins over Cape Elizabeth (11-4 and 11-6) opened the season in style, but Yarmouth did stumble against Greely, Poland and York, surrendering 30 combined runs in the process. The Clippers never wavered and behind ace Mari Cooper, a strong defense and a balanced offense, peaked at the end of the regular season and took the No. 4 seed into the Western B playoffs.

In the quarterfinals, Yarmouth blanked No. 5 Leavitt, 6-0, as Cooper threw a three-hitter with nine strikeouts and also drove in a run, while Cat Thompson tripled and Andrea St. Pierre drove in a run with a double. In the semifinals, the Clippers turned the corner, avenging their regular season loss with a 7-0 win at No. 1 Greely. Michelle Robichaud drove in three runs and Cooper threw a two-hitter while driving in a pair of runs. The regional final versus No. 7 Fryeburg Academy was much closer, but Yarmouth advanced to states for the first time, 1-0, behind a Cooper four-hitter with seven Ks and Thompson’s RBI single. The state final versus Hermon was a wild game, but the Clippers survived, 7-5, to reach the Promised Land. Colleen Sullivan had three hits and four RBI, Cooper took a line drive off her pitching hand, but managed to go the distance, fanning seven, and St. Pierre and her twin sister, Sydney St. Pierre, combined on a game-ending, championship-clinching double play, punctuating the championship in palpitating fashion.

Coach Amy Ashley: “It’s awesome. I truly believe in these kids. I want to say I thought this was possible from day one, but that’s not true. I have seen moments all season. It took us awhile to pull it together, but we did it. It took all 13 kids and three coaches to do it.”

Scarborough Red Storm, 2019 Class A state champion

Scarborough celebrates its third straight Class A title in 2019 after beating Skowhegan, 11-1.

The Red Storm’s most recent championship team was dominant, but perhaps not quite as dominant as the squads that came immediately before. Regardless, Scarborough ran roughshod through the league, like always, and rolled to a decisive win in the state game for a third consecutive championship.

With Bella Dickinson replacing Lilly Volk as the ace and the squad hitting .391 as a team, many games were lopsided. The Red Storm scored in double figures in nine of their first 11 games and won their 100th consecutive regular season game by virtue of a 17-0, five-inning triumph over Falmouth. Scarborough would eventually stretch that streak to 105 (it’s still active), but had to survive scares against both Thornton Academy and Biddeford. The Red Storm finished 16-0 for the sixth consecutive season and earned the top seed for the Class A South tournament for the eighth year in a row. They wouldn’t be seriously tested in the postseason.

A Dickinson two-hitter with nine strikeouts and a six-run first inning led to a 9-2 victory over No. 8 Bonny Eagle in the quarterfinals to get the title run started. In the semifinals, Scarborough mercy ruled fifth-ranked South Portland, 12-0, in five-innings, as Dickinson threw a no-hitter and Caitlin Noiles (six RBI) and Mollie Verrault belted home runs. The Red Storm figured to get a scare from No. 2 Thornton Academy in the regional final and got one, having to erase an early 3-0 deficit, but they did so with aplomb, rolling to an 8-4 triumph as this time, Dickinson got the job done with the bat, getting three hits and driving in the go-ahead run. Noiles, Verrault and A.J. Swett added two hits apiece. Scarborough then capped its climb to the pinnacle by returning to its dominant ways in the state game, downing Skowhegan, 11-1, as a seven-run sixth inning blew it open. Dickinson finished with a three-hitter, fanning a dozen, and she also hit a key bases-clearing triple. Courtney Brochu added a home run. Another year, another title in the books.

Coach Tom Griffin: “This one is a little unexpected to be honest. I’m speechless for these kids. They’re the toughest kids I’ve ever coached, mentally. They just know how to win, especially at such a young age.”

The Super Six

6) Greely 2002, Class B state champion

Sarah Bennis had much to beam about in leading Greely to the 2002 Class B state title with one of the most dominating pitching seasons ever seen.

The greatest pitching exhibition you’ll likely ever see led Greely to the championship 18 years ago for the first and to date, only time, and the name Sarah Bennis will forever live in Rangers’ lore.

Bennis was highly touted entering the 2002 season, but no one could have envisioned three straight perfect games late in the regular season. Greely, which lost a heartbreaker to Gray-New Gloucester in the 2001 regional final, fell just twice in the regular season, by two runs to Cape Elizabeth and by one to Falmouth. The Rangers wound up second in the region, then were nothing if not consistent in their run to the title.

In the divisional quarterfinals (2002 was the year of the ill-conceived “open tournament”), Bennis actually surrendered a hit but nothing else and she struck out 12 in a 1-0 victory over Wells. The run came on Jen Blumenthal’s RBI single to score Steph Ginn, who would have a monster hit of her own before the postseason culminated. In the division semifinals, Bennis returned to her perfect ways, beating Gray-New Gloucester, 1-0, behind 10 strikeouts. This time, Emily Davis had the key hit to score the lone run. In the regional semifinals against Oak Hill, Bennis wasn’t perfect, but she did throw yet another no-hitter and struck out seven in another 1-0 triumph. This time, it took until the bottom of the seventh for Greely to score and it was Ashley Germond singling off the pitcher to end it. In the regional final versus Maranacook, the score again wound up 1-0 as Bennis this time gave up three hits but struck out 11. Even better, she drove in the lone run in the bottom of the sixth inning. After rain delayed the state final versus Erskine Academy by 48 hours, Bennis and Katie Mainville engaged in a pitcher’s duel for the ages. Neither team broke through in the first nine innings, but in the top of the 10th, Ginn’s two-out double scored Michelle Robb and Bennis (two hits, 14 Ks) slammed the door from there to punctuate her season for the ages and give Greely the crown.

Coach Jim Seavey: “(The state game was) a classic pitchers’ duel that lived up to expectations. It’s a really good feeling. The team came together at the right time.”

5) South Portland Red Riots, 2011 Western A runner-up

South Portland’s softball team, in this case Olivia Indorf, left, and Danica Gleason, had much to smile about, going undefeated before losing to Scarborough in the regional final.

The 2011 Red Riots might have been even better than the squad which won the program’s first state title the year before, but a familiar nemesis deprived South Portland of back-to-back crowns.

Alexis Bogdanovich was a star on the mound and Danica Gleason and Kaitlin Norton paced a formidable offense. South Portland opened by scoring in double figures in six consecutive games. Five times the Red Riots won by mercy rule and they were only tested three times in the regular season, outlasting host Biddeford in a 12-inning marathon, 5-4, downing visiting Scarborough in a highly anticipated showdown, 3-1, then blanking McAuley in the finale, 1-0. South Portland went undefeated for the first time in program history and earned the top seed for the tournament.

In the quarterfinals, the Red Riots had no trouble with No. 8 Sanford, winning, 11-0, as Bogdanovich threw a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts and also had three hits and two RBI. Norton added a three-run home run, Gleason had three RBI and Amanda Linscott also went deep. South Portland then made it 27 wins in a row in the semifinals, beating No. 4 McAuley with ease, 14-2, in five-innings. Bogdanovich had seven strikeouts and added two hits, Norton drove in four runs and Linscott hit a two-run double. Bogdanovich was strong again in the regional final against second-ranked Scarborough (11 strikeouts), but the Red Storm got a run in the first and suddenly, the Red Riots’ bats went quiet against Red Storm ace Mo Hannan, producing only four hits. Add in a controversial out at the plate and South Portland’s title dream was dashed, 1-0.

Coach Ralph Aceto: “It’s not so much that we lost, but if it was anyone else, it wouldn’t have hurt so bad. We’re rivals. There’s not dislike in any way, shape or form. It’s just like when your neighbor gets a new car you can’t afford. I can’t not be happy about the season we had. I feel bad, but I feel worse for the five seniors. This one loss wasn’t their legacy. They raised the bar for softball in South Portland and won a championship.”

4) Scarborough 2016, Class A state runner-up

The 2016 Scarborough Red Storm hit the cover off the ball and launched a lot of home runs, Chloe Griffin is congratulated after one here, but the Red Storm couldn’t complete the job.

Nominated by many as perhaps Scarborough’s best team, certainly its most potent, the Red Storm ultimately weren’t able to get out of the regional final round.

Scarborough had a team batting average of an otherworldly .469 and scored 266 runs in 16 games, surrendering a mere 11. An 18-0 win over Bonny Eagle in the opener set the tone. The Red Storm had back-to-back games where they reached the 30-run plateau, blanking Deering (34-0) and Cheverus (30-0). A 14-2 victory over Poland gave longtime coach Tom Griffin his 400th win with the program and in total, Scarborough won by mercy rule on eight occasions, half of its games.

“I just recall that they had what I consider the best (one through nine batting order) I had seen,” said South Portland coach Ralph Aceto. ” Every girl on that team played with a passion that you don’t see very often. They played hard, dove for balls, had speed and power.”

The Red Storm did show signs of mortality at the end of the year, however, only beating Windham, 2-0, and Biddeford, 4-3, but they wound up 16-0 and once again, locked up the top seed for the tournament.

Ace Lilly Volk threw a perfect game with 10 strikeouts in the Class A South quarterfinals, as Scarborough blanked No. 8 Portland, 12-0, in six innings. The Red Storm put the game away with a seven-run fifth inning. Fifth-seeded Windham made Scarborough work in the semifinals, but the Red Storm got a four-hitter and 12 Ks from Volk, a home run from Kaleigh Scoville, a sacrifice fly from Lindsey Kelley and two hits from Maggie Murphy to prevail, 2-0. Scarborough then scored seven runs against third-ranked Biddeford in the Class A South Final, but it wasn’t enough. The Tigers got to Volk for 11 hits in 4.2 innings and built a 7-2 lead, but the Red Storm embarked on a stirring rally in the bottom of the sixth, drawing even on a two-run double from Murphy and a clutch three-run blast from Chloe Griffin. Just when it appeared Scarborough would find a way to survive, however, Biddeford pushed across two runs in the seventh and this time, the Red Storm couldn’t answer and just like, a championship-caliber squad had its title dream dashed, 9-7. Oh by the way, Scarborough hasn’t lost a countable game since.

Coach Tom Griffin: “The 2016 team might have been our strongest team, but we stumbled in the (regional final).  The girls had a lot of spirit. I just had quality kids who enjoyed each other and knew how to have fun.”

3) Scarborough 2018, Class A state champion

Scarborough celebrates after completing an undefeated championship season in 2018.

A team that absolutely mashed the ball and hardly let the opponent breathe when they were up to bat, Scarborough beat all 20 foes and repeated in Class A for the first time.

In the regular season, the Red Storm scored in double digits in 12 of 16 games and won half its contests by the mercy rule. Scarborough scored 209 runs, gave up a mere 15 and had a team batting average of .396. A 3-1 victory over Thornton Academy was the Red Storm’s only test, but they survived behind Chloe Griffin’s three-hitter and a two-run double from Bella Dickinson. Scarborough completed the regular season with a 13-1, five-inning victory over Bonny Eagle to wind up 16-0 and make it 89 consecutive regular season league victories, good for the top seed in Class A South yet again.

In the playoffs, the Red Storm handled No. 8 Portland, 7-1, in the quarterfinals, as Hunter Greenleaf (home run) and Courtney Brochu (double, home run, four RBI) brandished the big bats and Griffin (two-hitter, seven Ks) slammed the door on the mound. Scarborough rolled in the semifinals as well, blanking No. 4 Massabesic, 10-0, behind Griffin’s one-hitter (with 11 strikeouts) and a nine-run fifth inning (highlighted by Greenleaf’s three RBI). The Red Storm would be pushed to the brink by No. 3 Thornton Academy in the Class A South Final, but survived, 3-2. Griffin went the distance and singled home Dickinson to end a 2-hour, 38-minute marathon. Scarborough then pulled away to enjoy a 12-0, six-inning win over Oxford Hills to complete the championship run. In that one, the Red Storm put it away with a stunning 11-run bottom of the sixth to induce the mercy rule. Griffin gave up six hits, but threw a shutout, fanning six in her swan song. The offense featured three hits and two runs from Dickinson and two RBI apiece from Brochu, Griffin and Emily Jefferds. A perfect team had a perfect ending.

Coach Tom Griffin: “I’m so proud of the kids. Once we got something rolling, our kids are dangerous. It’s contagious. This has been our M.O. all year. Once we get a lead and get a couple runs in, things just steam-roll from there. The girls know they can handle anything. Nothing surprises them. Nothing was going to rattle them.”

2) South Portland 2010, Class A state champion

South Portland celebrates after beating Bangor to win the program’s first state title in 2010.  

After several years of near misses, not only did the Red Riots stun Scarborough in the regional final, they went on and completed the job, winning (to date) the program’s lone state title in memorable fashion.

South Portland showed how prolific it could be when it crushed Kennebunk, 16-1, in five-innings in its second game. Alexis Bogdanovich threw a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts and also had three hits, as did Kaitlin Norton and Stephanie Thibeault. The Red Riots started 10-0, outscoring the opposition, 121-16, in the process. South Portland finally met its match in a 5-0 loss at Scarborough, but closed with five straight victories to earn the No. 2 seed in Western Class A. The Red Riots would have no peer in the postseason.

In the quarterfinals, No. 7 McAuley gave South Portland a scare, taking an early 3-0 lead, but the Red Riots survived, 6-4, as Danica Gleason had three hits and Bogdanovich threw a three-hitter with 10 Ks. Third-seeded Kennebunk hung tough in the semifinals, but again, South Portland had the answers and won, 7-4. Olivia Whitten singled twice, tripled and drove in a pair of runs. That set up a showdown with top-ranked Scarborough in the Western A Final. With the game tied, 1-1, in the top of the fifth, Norton had the biggest hit of her career to date, a three-run home run to put the Red Riots ahead to stay. South Portland added a run, but the Red Storm rallied in the bottom of the seventh, scoring a run and bringing the tying run to the plate, but Erin Bogdanovich ran down a deep fly ball in center field to end it, giving the Red Riots a 5-2 victory and the regional crown. In the state final versus Bangor, only one run was scored and it was South Portland scoring it on Norton’s RBI double, which brought home Gleason in the sixth. Alexis Bogdanovich did the rest, taking a no-hitter into the sixth and slamming the door for a 1-0 victory, punctuating an amazing championship run.

Coach Ralph Aceto: ” It’s nice to be on the other end of it. We didn’t want to receive the (runner-up trophy). We wanted to get the (championship trophy). We did a great job of getting the bat on the ball and we’ve talked about that since the regular season ended. We said, ‘let’s just put the ball in play and see what happens,’”

1) Scarborough 2017, Class A state champion

Lilly Volk and Hannah Ricker (facing) celebrate after Scarborough completes a dominant season with a Class A state title in 2017.

Tom Griffin, Scarborough’s dynasty creator and coach of nearly three decades was hard pressed to pick his best team, but ultimately, he gave this one the nod. Our voters weren’t as sure, as our Twitter poll left the 2017 Red Storm and 2010 South Portland Red Riots in a dead heat, but since Scarborough finished undefeated, they get the top spot.

This was an absolute juggernaut which had jawdropping pitching depth and tremendous hitting up and down the batting order. After three straight seasons of agonizing playoff defeats, the 2017 Red Storm weren’t about to be denied the big trophy.

Scarborough scored 228 runs in 16 regular games and surrendered a mere 15, hitting the ball to the tune of a .406 average. The Red Storm’s pitching staff was almost unhittable with senior Lilly Volk leading the way and classmate Abbie Murrell and junior Chloe Griffin also seeing time. Scarborough won 10 times by mercy rule (likely a league record) and scored in double digits on a dozen occasions. An 8-3 win over Noble in the penultimate contest was the team’s closest game in the regular season. Volk homered and struck out 13 in that one. The Red Storm posted yet another 16-0 mark and once again took the top seed into the Class A South playoffs, where they wouldn’t be stopped.

In the quarterfinals, Scarborough blanked No. 8 Gorham, 8-0, as Murrell threw a one-hitter with nine Ks and Hannah Ricker had three hits. In the semifinals versus fourth-ranked Windham, the Red Storm won by shutout again, 5-0, as Volk threw a three-hitter, striking out 13, and Hunter Greenleaf provided the offense, crushing a grand slam. Scarborough gave up three runs to No. 2 Portland in the Class A South Final, but managed an 8-3 victory. The Red Storm scored five times in the first, as Ricker cleared the bases with a double, Laura Powell homered and Murrell earned the win with a three-hitter, fanning seven. In the Class A state game, Skowhegan was the only team standing between Scarborough and its destiny, but the Red Storm finished  the job, 3-0, behind a Volk gem (two hits, 13 Ks) in her swan song. Griffin hit a two-run single and freshman shortstop Bella Dickinson hinted at her dominance to come with a key triple before scoring on an error to ice it. The Red Storm were back on top of the softball world and they haven’t left. They don’t plan to either.

Coach Tom Griffin: “It was well-deserved. The kids worked so hard. We were focused, energized and we had fun. I would have to say that this team was the most successful and talented overall. We had a ridiculous pitching staff. They were arguably the strongest three pitchers in our league. We played 31 games total, including preseason scrimmage games in Florida, and we scored double digits in 22 of those games.”

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

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