BASEBALL

Senior Danny Tocci will have plenty to get excited about this year, as the ace and leader of Portland’s baseball team. File photos.

Coach: Mike Rutherford (18th year, 252-88 overall record, one state championship)

2019 record (no 2020 season): 8-10 (Lost, 4-1, to Marshwood in Class A South quarterfinals)

Top returning player: Danny Tocci (Senior)

Pivotal games: April 23 SOUTH PORTLAND, April 27 @ Scarborough, May 9 @ Falmouth, May 15 GORHAM, May 22 @ Cheverus, May 29 WINDHAM

Coach’s comment: “It’ll be a challenge this season, but we’ve had a very good spring. Tocci is our only returning player with varsity experience. We’ll go as far as he takes us. We have a talented junior class and a good sophomore group. They just have to learn how to play at the varsity level. We just want the kids to get experience. We can hit and run. We’ll field OK. I just don’t know if we can get enough pitching. Next year, we’ll really be able to compete.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland might be a year away from serious contention, but never count out a Mike Rutherford-coached team. The Bulldogs have a lot of holes to fill this season, but there is a lot of young promise on the roster.

Tocci was part of the supporting cast as a sophomore, but as a senior, he’ll be the team’s number one pitcher, will play third base when he’s not on the mound and will hit second in the lineup. While not an overpowering pitcher, Tocci will give Portland a lot of innings and if the defense makes the plays behind him, he’ll be very tough to beat. Junior Colby Winship and sophomores Liam Fay-LeBlanc and Sam Payne will also see time on the hill. Junior James Gignac steps in behind the plate. Winship, sophomore Henry BIbeau, junior Grant Crosby and senior Nick Becker will all see time in the infield. The outfield features a rarity, a freshman to start for Portland from day one, promising centerfielder Reegan Buck. Sophomore Andrew Brewer, junior Connor Page and senior Bennett Berg will also be in the outfield.

Portland has talent, but it’s very raw. The Bulldogs will need some time to gain experience, but once they do, look out. If they don’t make a deep playoff run this spring, it’s only a matter of time until that happens.

SOFTBALL

Coach: Robbie Ferrante (sixth year, 45-43 overall record)

2019 record (no 2020 season): 5-12 (Lost, 4-2, to Biddeford in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Mackenzie Bryant (Senior), Caroline Lerch (Senior), Hallie Chase (Junior), Jordan King (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 23 SOUTH PORTLAND, April 27 @ Scarborough, April 30 BIDDEFORD, May 14 GORHAM, May 22 @ Cheverus, May 28 WINDHAM

Coach’s comment: “I played a lot of our juniors their freshman year, so we have some varsity experience. I’m hoping we’ll be pretty competitive. The kids are showing enthusiasm. I told them to enjoy every day. I’d like to see us get a top four seed.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland’s got just enough experience, as well as a nice infusion of incoming talent, to make a run at being one of the top teams in Class A South this spring.

The Bulldogs’ biggest question mark entering the season, pitching, could be their biggest strength. Sophomore Sadie Armstrong, who has dazzled on the mound since a young age, finally gets to pitch in a varsity game and she could rocket right to the top of the list of the best hurlers in the league. Armstrong swings a potent bat as well. Lerch replaces Laini Legere behind the plate. She can also crush the ball. Chase and Bryant have experience on the infield. They’re joined by senior Rebekah Dunn, who transferred over from Deering. King figures to be a top outfielder.

Portland will be tested often this spring and might get a good idea of just how promising it can be after early games against South Portland and three-time champion Scarborough. If the defense can make life easier for Armstrong and if the bats come through consistently, the Bulldogs will post a winning record and will be capable of stealing some headlines in June.

BOYS’ LACROSSE

Portland’s boys’ lacrosse team has done its share of celebrating the past few seasons and should be strong again in 2021.

Coach: Mike DiFusco (eighth year, 45-46 overall record)

2019 record (no 2020 season): 12-2 (Lost, 15-4, to Falmouth in Class A North Final)

Top returning players: Max Cheever (Senior), Sam Gerber (Senior), Drew Leonard (Senior), Isaac Small (Senior), Johnny Sylvain (Senior), Carlos Braceras (Junior), Tobey MacCachran (Junior)

Pivotal games: May 4 GORHAM, May 11 @ Deering, May 15 DEERING, May 18 @ Waynflete, June 1 @ Cheverus

Coach’s comment: “We have a great group of leaders with playoff experience to build around. We are working our tails off to bring all the new players up to speed and getting them in position to contribute to the program. Missing last season was tough for everyone in more ways than one, but the hardest part for us coaches was missing the opportunity to coach the seniors and be with them, day in and day out. They were a big part of building up our program and they weren’t able to be recognized the way they deserved. We have high expectations for our guys this year and so do they. We know it’s a grind and a process and we’re looking forward to it. We’re confident if we stay the course, we’ll be ready to make a playoff run by season’s end.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland has been excellent the past two seasons (2018 and 2019), but unfortunately for the Bulldogs, their title dreams were dashed by being in the same region as mighty Falmouth. Portland expects to post an impressive record and make a deep playoff run again this spring.

Sylvain, who posted an 11-1 regular season record as a sophomore, is back in goal. He’s aided by a pair of strong defenders, Braceras and Cheever. Senior Bedo Elbatanoni will take faceoffs. He’s joined in the midfield by Leonard and Small. Up top, look for Gerber and MacCachran to be top scoring threats.

The Bulldogs have learned how to win and are eager to prove they’re still one of the best teams in Class A. If this group develops as hoped, another deep postseason run will be in store.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Beth Broderick (fourth year, 25-16 overall record)

2019 record (no 2020 season): 11-3 (Lost, 10-5, to Windham in Class A North semifinals)

Top returning players: Samira Doiron (Senior), Lucy Howe (Senior), Ella Reagan (Senior), Lydia Stein (Senior), Bobbie Sue Villani (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 21 FALMOUTH, May 3 KENNEBUNK, May 6 @ Scarborough, May 17 @ Cheverus, May 24 MASSABESIC

Coach’s comment: “It’s really nice to get back out there. I’m excited for the season. We have a young team. The freshmen and sophomores have a lot of potential. We’re asking folks to step into new roles. Having open playoffs changes everything. We have a lot of time to figure out how to play well and to learn from the top teams that we play. If we learn and can stay COVID-free, we could head into June quite strong.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland has been very strong under Broderick and after losing out on an opportunity to make a run in 2020, the Bulldogs reload and figure to only get better as the 2021 campaign develops.

Portland returns Doiron, an honorable mention all-star in 2019, in goal. Having her presence will be invaluable to the team’s hopes. Defensively, Villani (an All-Rookie team selection as a freshman) and Reagan will help limit the number of shots Doiron faces. In the midfield, Stein has experience and a couple of athletic sophomores, Lauren Gerber and Elizabeth Littell, will make a positive impact. Scoring threats up top include Howe and freshman Jane Marvin, who will also take draws.

The Bulldogs have a very challenging schedule, but wins and losses are of secondary concern in an open tournament year. Portland will make the playoffs and regardless of who they match up with, the Bulldogs figure to give the opposition fits.

OUTDOOR TRACK

Boys’ Coach: Mony Hang (first year)

Girls’ Coach: Liz Koharian (first year)

2019 results (no 2020 season): 

Boys: 18th @ Class A state meet
Girls: Tie-14th @ Class A state meet

Top returning athletes:

(Boys) Nate Fogg (Senior), Paul Alexandra (Junior), Charlie Stacey (Junior), George Theall (Junior)

(Girls) Ana Napijalo (Junior)

Coach Hang’s comment: “We’re very excited with our group of runners this season. We have a very talented and young team.”

Coach Koharian’s comment: “I’m excited to be coaching high school track and field again. Also, to be coaching with my father, Bruce Koharian. Goals this year are to be able to work hard at practices and meets. Also, being able to enjoy being a team, after a long break since the beginning of the pandemic. This team is young, but has a great amount of talent and perseverance. I think this team is going to surprise this year.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Both Portland track teams have new coaches and a new outlook this season.

The boys’ squad is now led by Mony Hang, who is assisted by Tyrone Daniels. The Bulldogs return Alexandra and Fogg (who was seventh in the 400 and was part of a seventh-place 400 relay team at the 2019 Class A state meet) in the sprints and jumps. Stacey and Theall will be top distance runners. A large contingent of sophomores and freshmen are also on the squad and will provide depth and promise for the future. The Bulldogs hope to show individual improvement and have some athletes step up and score at states.

The Portland girls welcome Koharian as coach. She’s joined by her father, Bruce Koharian, a legend on the local track scene. The Bulldogs have some athletes who can score. Napijalo returns in the jumps. Sophomores Taylor Austerer (800), Tenley Flint (distance and jumps) and Alyssa Sigridson (distance) will all contribute. Three freshmen could step right in and make an impact as well: Iman Alaari (sprints, discus), Inas Alaari (sprints, hurdles, jumps) and Gianna Smith (hurdles, jumps) provide depth for this season and promise for the future. Don’t be surprised if Portland becomes one of the surprise teams this spring.

TENNIS

Coach: Gavin Glider (first year)

2019 record (no 2020 season): 

(Boys) 7-7 (Lost, 5-0, to eventual state champion Falmouth in Class A South quarterfinals)
(Girls) 8-6 (Lost, 5-0, to Falmouth in Class A South quarterfinals)

Top returning players:

Boys: Brendan Mailloux (Senior), Dominic Walls (Junior)
Girls: Jenna Lederer (Junior)

Coach’s comment: “Both teams are very new. We are looking forward to the opportunity to building new programs and just being back on the courts.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: Portland has a new look this year as Glider, the former coach at NYA, Waynflete and Windham, takes over both the boys’ and girls’ teams.

The boys’ squad is led by the experienced Mailloux and Walls. They’ll both play singles. Junior Silvio Morales will step in and make his presence felt as well. The Bulldogs are used to being in the playoffs and they should be a factor again this spring.

The girls’ team returns Lederer at first singles. If some other players can fill spots, there’s no reason to think that Portland won’t be a very dangerous out by the time the postseason rolls around.

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

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