Boys’ team:

Mike Owens, South Portland baseball

File photo

Next year finally came to South Portland.

The Red Riots baseball team, after so many close calls, made an unexpected run from the No. 6 seed to glory and capped it off with a memorable, heart-stopping, walk-off victory.

After building a perennial contender, South Portland coach Mike Owens finally got to taste a championship, and there’s a good chance there will be more in his future.

For leading a Red Riots squad that many felt was a year too late or a year too early to the Promised Land, Mike Owens gets The Forecaster’s nod as our Southern edition Spring Coach of the Year of a boys’ team.

Owens was also selected Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2018.

Owens was a standout baseball, basketball and soccer player at Gorham High School and went on to play baseball at the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine. After spending time coaching in Colorado, he took over the Red Riots program in 2011. By 2015, he had them in the state final, which resulted in a narrow loss to Bangor. Over the next four seasons, South Portland won a composite 60 games and twice got to the Class A South Final, but couldn’t take the final step. The Red Riots would have been the favorite with a talented senior class in 2020, but the season was lost to the pandemic.

This spring, with a young nucleus, South Portland was viewed as perhaps too inexperienced to make serious noise, but Owens and his charges had other ideas.

The Red Riots won seven of their first eight games, demonstrating the ability to win low-scoring contests or slugfests. While South Portland went just 4-4 down the stretch, it gained valuable experience as it learned it could play with anyone and despite being ranked just sixth in Class A South, the Red Riots were primed to steal headlines.

South Portland began its championship run by holding off Sanford, 6-5, in the Round of 16, then out-slugged Bonny Eagle, 11-6, in the quarterfinals. From there, pitching took over. In the semifinals, behind Nolan Hobbs, the Red Riots edged Cheverus, 2-1. Then, in the Class A South Final, Bradley McMains spun a gem and South Portland blanked top-ranked Thornton Academy, 3-0. Awaiting in the state game, naturally, would be Bangor and the Rams gave the Red Riots a scare. The contest was deadlocked, 2-2, going to the bottom of the seventh, but South Portland loaded the bases for Richard Gilboy, who, on a 3-2 pitch, took ball four, and on a walk-off bases on balls, the Red Riots had their first championship in 69 years.

“I feel like we’ve been so close so many times,” Owens said. “It feels good to finally kick that door open. This is so special for our community that has supported us all the way through. I’m almost speechless. (Championships are) all special, but when you can get that first one and it’s been so long, it’s extra special.”

Don’t expect the wait for another South Portland title to be anywhere near as long. With Mike Owens, our Southern edition boys’ team Spring Coach of the Year, leading the way, the Red Riots will be battling for hardware annually.

Previous winners:

• 2020 No season
• 2019 Mike D’Andrea (Scarborough baseball)
• 2018 Mike Owens (South Portland baseball)
• 2017 Ben Raymond (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
• 2016 Mike D’Andrea (Scarborough baseball)
• 2015 Mike Owens (South Portland baseball)
• 2014 Tom Fiorini (South Portland lacrosse)
• 2013 Andy Strout (Cape Elizabeth tennis)
• 2012 Chris Hayward (Cape Elizabeth baseball)
• 2011 Craig MacDonald (Scarborough tennis)
• 2010 Ben Raymond (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
• 2009 Jim Cronin (Scarborough baseball)
• 2008 Joe Hezlep (Scarborough lacrosse)
• 2007 Craig McDonald (Scarborough tennis)
• 2006 Tobey Farrington (Scarborough lacrosse)
• 2005 Dave Weatherbie (Cape Elizabeth track)
• 2004 Todd Day (Cape Elizabeth baseball)
• 2003 Ben Raymond (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
• 2002 Andy Strout (Cape Elizabeth tennis)

Girls’ team:

Emily Field, Scarborough lacrosse

Contributed photo

Scarborough was the feel-good story of the girls’ lacrosse season, but the Red Storm’s success didn’t come as a surprise to their coach, Emily Field.

Field knew that despite winning three games total in 2018 and 2019, Scarborough was very close to breaking through, and all the pieces fell into place this spring as the Red Storm managed to win 11 games and reach the Class A South Final.

For engineering a memorable turnaround and leading Scarborough deep into the playoffs, Field gets The Forecaster’s nod as our Southern edition Spring Coach of the Year of a girls’ team.

Field graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts and previously served as the varsity girls’ lacrosse coach at Northampton High School in Massachusetts. Her first two seasons as Red Storm coach were marked by near-misses and frustration, as Scarborough went 2-10 her first year and 1-11 her second, missing the postseason altogether. The 2020 campaign proved even more agonizing, as the Red Storm didn’t get to play a single game or take part in a single practice due to COVID, but this spring would be a season of realization and triumph.

Scarborough matched its 2019 win total in the opener, equaled its 2018 victory total in game two and began the season 4-0. The Red Storm went 9-3 in the regular season, with two of the losses coming by a single goal, including one in overtime.

The postseason was special as well.

Ranked second in Class A South, Scarborough downed Gorham in the quarterfinals for its first playoff victory in six seasons, then avenged a regular season loss to Massabesic with a 12-9 win in the semifinals. The Red Storm finally met their match in eventual undefeated state champion Kennebunk in the regional final, but that setback didn’t damper what was a fabulous campaign.

“I really think this has been a long time coming,” Field said. “I think we’ve had talent and we’ve played the strongest teams and we did well, but it didn’t show up in the win column. The girls faced every challenge this year. I feel like it’s three years of these girls working together and wanting to be a winning team, and it finally turned the corner for us.”

Scarborough has returned to prominence and the Red Storm aren’t done yet. Now, they’re thinking championship and with Emily Field, our Southern edition girls’ team Spring Coach of the Year, leading the way, it’s only a matter of time before the Red Storm gets there.

Previous winners:

• 2020 No season
• 2019 Lincoln MacIsaac (Scarborough tennis)
• 2018 Alex Spark (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
• 2017 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
• 2016 Sarah Boeckel (Cape Elizabeth tennis)
• 2015 Leslie Dyer (South Portland lacrosse)
• 2014 Jeff Perkins (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
• 2013 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
• 2012 Jeff Perkins (Cape Elizabeth lacrosse)
• 2011 Marcia Wood (Scarborough lacrosse)
• 2010 Ralph Aceto (South Portland softball)
• 2009 Ralph Aceto (South Portland softball)
• 2008 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
• 2007 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
• 2006 Joe Henrikson (Cape Elizabeth softball)
• 2005 Jim Hartman (South Portland softball)
• 2004 Susan Ray (Cape Elizabeth tennis)
• 2003 Tom Griffin (Scarborough softball)
• 2002 Jack DiBiase (South Portland softball)

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

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