BASEBALL

Last spring, for the first time in 69 years, South Portland’s baseball team was finally able to celebrate winning a state championship. The Red Riots have a good chance to repeat this spring. File photos

Coach: Mike Owens (11th year, 129-55 overall record, one state title)

2021 record: 16-5 (Beat Bangor, 3-2, to win Class A state title)

Top returning players: Kenny Carlisle (Senior), Finn O’Donnell (Senior), Ryan Thurber (Senior), Richard Gilboy (Junior), Andrew Heffernan (Junior), Nolan Hobbs (Junior), Johnny Poole (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 28 CHEVERUS, May 3 PORTLAND, May 5 @ Gorham, May 10 THORNTON ACADEMY, May 24 FALMOUTH, May 31 @ Scarborough

Coach’s comment: “It’s kind of nice to be defending a state championship. We lost three starters, but we still have an experienced team. It’s a good group. A bunch of guys who have played in big moments. This is the first time I’ve been here that the varsity team is all juniors and seniors. We can do a little bit of everything. We have depth, experience and good arms. If we play well and stay healthy, we’ll be in the conversation at the end.”

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The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland was the conversation at the end of last season, when it went on a memorable run which ended with a walk-off win over Bangor to produce the program’s first state title since 1952. Now that the Red Riots have finally gotten over the hump, they’d like to come right back and do it again, but it won’t be easy in a very tough league.

Junior Andrew Heffernan will be one of the Red Riots’ aces this season.

South Portland will be very strong on the mound, as Heffernan (0.92 earned run average and 34 strikeouts last spring) and Hobbs (5-1 last season with 50 Ks and a 1.07 ERA) make up a daunting one-two combination. Carlisle and junior Nick Swain will also see key innings. Gilboy, a top hitter who drew the bases loaded walk to win the state title last June, will be the catcher. Gilboy hit .357 last year with four triples, two doubles and 15 runs batted in. Carlisle or Hobbs will be at first base when they’re not on the mound. Poole made some huge plays at shortstop last postseason and is back in that all-important position. Heffernan will be at third base when he doesn’t pitch. The outfield features O’Donnell and Thurber, who can get to balls hit just about anywhere.

The Red Riots have the necessary ingredients to make a repeat run, but Class A South boasts a lot of teams that are talented enough to dethrone them. If South Portland can stay healthy and hungry, it will again go deep in the playoffs (South Portland has reached the regional final in four of the past six postseasons). The Red Riots know you need to be playing your best at the optimal time and to get a few bounces to go your way to win a championship. This team might just be good enough and lucky enough to ascend to the pinnacle once more.

SOFTBALL

Senior Mia Micucci will be a top pitcher in Class A South this season.

Coach: Bud Voss (first year)

2021 record: 8-9 (Lost, 4-3, in nine-innings to Thornton Academy in Class A South preliminary round)

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Top returning players: Elise Connor (Senior), Julia Flaherty (Senior), Mia Micucci (Senior), Eliese Perron (Senior), Ashley Thurston (Senior), Delaney Whitten (Junior), Ella Nickerson (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 25 BIDDEFORD, April 27 CHEVERUS, May 9 @ Gorham, May 16 PORTLAND, May 20 SCARBOROUGH, May 25 @ Thornton Academy, May 31 @ Windham

Coach’s comment: “We have really good numbers this year. Nine seniors and seven juniors, so it’s a mature team. A great group of young athletes. We have two pitchers who complement each other well. We’re honing in on our defense and we hope to keep the offense going. We hope to take a step forward, win a few more games and climb the ladder.

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland’s program was hit by tragedy last summer when beloved coach Ralph Aceto passed away suddenly at the far-too-young age of 64. Aceto coached the Red Riots to 124 victories in his nine seasons and won the 2010 Class A state title. This year’s team will play in his memory under Voss, who has several years of coaching experience in multiple sports. He takes over a squad that boasts good pitching and some potent bats.

Micucci was a second-team league all-star last spring and will be a top pitcher Class A South before going on to play at the University of New England. She’s also a top hitter. Sophomore Andrea DiMauro will play a key role on the mound as well. Connor, who is also heading to UNE, returns behind the plate. She’ll be another top hitter, as will Nickerson, the shortstop. Flaherty and Whitten (who will also see some time at catcher) are other top infielders. Perron and Thurston anchor the outfield. Senior outfielder Maddie Jamieson, junior first baseman Eliza House and sophomore infielders/outfielders Phoebe Dodge and Chloe Whitten are other players to watch.

South Portland is chasing the upper echelon teams like Biddeford and Windham, but believes it can hold its own against anyone. If the Red Riots can tighten things up on defense and generate consistent offense, they’ll be a team that no one wants to face. This is a team on a mission and a long playoff stay wouldn’t be a surprising end result.

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BOYS’ LACROSSE

Senior Cullen Adams is a top returner for South Portland’s resurgent boys’ lacrosse team.

Coach: Dan Hanley (second year)

2021 record 2-12 (Lost, 16-3, to Berwick Academy in Class A South quarterfinals)

Top returning players: Cullen Adams (Senior), Brady Frank (Senior), Brady Angell (Junior)

Pivotal games: April 20 THORNTON ACADEMY, April 28 @ Scarborough, May 7 WAYNFLETE, May 14 @ Falmouth, May 18 PORTLAND, May 27 @ Cape Elizabeth, May 31 KENNEBUNK

Coach’s comment: “We return almost our entire roster from last season. We are more experienced, mature and battle-tested from the schedule we played. We hope to build on last year’s progress and be competitive with everyone in our league.”

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The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland received trial by fire a year ago, playing arguably the toughest schedule around and while wins were elusive, the Red Riots will benefit mightily from that gauntlet this year and won’t be fazed by anything.

Adams, who was just named the Travis Roy Award winner as the state’s premier senior boys’ hockey player, is a top returner. Adams scored 25 goals a year ago, was named to the all-conference team and will pace the offense from his midfield position. Look for Frank, who will be the main faceoff guy, to score goals and set them up as well (he had 18 assists in 2021 and was an honorable mention all-star). A couple players with a last name very familiar to the program, junior Luc Mehlhorn and freshman Beckett Mehlhorn, will also help the offensive cause. Juniors Tom Caouette and Jake Udomsay will get a chance to win faceoffs as well. On defense, Angell (an all-star in 2021) returns after winning 50 ground balls last season. Junior Ben Kieu, who missed last season with injury, will be in goal with sophomore C.J. Marenghi also seeing some time.

South Portland will again be tested by a tough schedule, but this time around, the Red Riots are poised to fight back. Look for dramatic improvement from this group and by the time the Class A South playoffs begin, this is a team that will be capable of making a memorable run.

GIRLS’ LACROSSE

Coach: Colleen Fleming (second year)

2021 record 4-8 (Lost, 18-8, to Bonny Eagle in Class A South preliminary round)

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Top returning players: Barrett Backman (Senior), Zoe Baker (Senior), Allie Tresfger (Senior), Maddie Fitzherbert (Sophomore)

Pivotal games: April 26 @ Cheverus, May 3 PORTLAND, May 6 THORNTON ACADEMY, May 20 @ Gorham, May 25 @ Windham, May 27 DEERING

Coach’s comment: “We have a very young team with 13 freshmen. The past couple years have been hard with COVID and we’re still in a rebuilding phase, so my main goal as a coach is to build resiliency and toughness. I have a good feeling about this team. We want to show people what we can do.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland is looking to make a run into contention this spring and there are some positive signs on the roster.

Fitzherbert is a returning league all-star and will be a top defender. Junior Jenna Trafford, who transferred from Scarborough, will be in goal. Trefsger will take draws and is part of a promising midfield which also includes Backman and new senior Pearl Friedland-Farley, the volleyball standout who was South Portland’s Fall Athlete of the Year. Baker is a top attacker, who will pace the offense along with Backman, Friedland-Farley and new senior Jade Sangiovanni.

The Red Riots should show steady improvement over the course of the season and will be primed to spring a surprise or two when the playoffs begin.

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OUTDOOR TRACK

Coaches:

(Boys) Dave Kahill (14th year)
(Girls) Matt Toothaker (first year)

2021 results:

(Boys) 14th @ Class A state meet
(Girls) 13th @ Class A state meet

Top returning athletes:

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(Boys) Amir Broadus (Senior), Brady Guay (Senior), Jacob Ramos (Senior), Jack Nickerson (Junior)

(Girls) Julianne Coyne (Senior), Geneva Holmes (Senior), Bonny Johnston (Senior), Katie Nakummun (Senior)

Coach Kahill’s comment: “We are hoping to build off positive cross country and indoor track seasons to continue to grow the program and we have an incredible group of talented, hardworking and respectful upperclassmen who are leading the way. The team is very large, so the upperclass leadership is essential to the foundation of character and work ethic of the team. Developing depth and new talent will be key for the team’s success throughout the season and the team has potential to place in the top five in the SMAA championship.”

Coach Toothaker’s comment: “The team will be led this year by a core group of returning juniors and seniors who will have ample support from a strong sophomore and freshman class. We are looking forward to growing as a team and creating a culture of competitiveness, trust and respect while going up against some of the best teams in the state. We’re a relatively young team, but with depth on our side and excellent leadership from their upperclassmen, the team is trending in a very positive direction.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland boasts a large group of athletes this spring looking to turn heads throughout the season and in the postseason as well.

The boys’ squad is coming off a terrific indoor campaign and hopes to build off that momentum, as they chase the likes of Bonny Eagle, Scarborough and Thornton Academy. Broadus was runner-up in the shot put both last spring and in February. He’ll look to move up to the top spot in that event and will also be a force in the discus this season. Senior Evan Saunders and juniors Kipp Gill and Josh Lamour are other throwers to watch. In the jumps, Guay, Lamour, juniors Petros Engelhardt, Wyatt Haley, Harrison Jones and Eloïc Nziengui, sophomores Chase Porter and Che-Hao Saito and freshmen Gavin Nicholson and Arnaud Sioho will be in the mix. Lamour, Saunders and sophomore Max Kladov (who was second indoors) are top pole vaulters. On the track, Ramos (fourth last spring in the 800) is a top middle distance and distance threat. He’s joined in the longer races by Guay, Porter, senior Tom Wilson, juniors Kyle Hartford, Jack Nickerson and Moise Vangu. Senior Lucas Lefebvre is a top racewalker. The sprints feature Engelhardt, Jones, Lefebvre, Nziengui, juniors David Bothelho and Jamie Mbiyanvanga. The Red Riots will compete in the hurdles as well behind Blake, Guay, Haley, Mbiyanvanga and Saito.

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On the girls’ side, Holmes is the top returner. She’s the reigning Class A outdoor champion in the discus. She also throws the shot put and will jump. Johnston (javelin) and Nakummun (pole vault) look to score. New sophomores Olivia Bean, Sam Clyde, Christie Cole and Iris Young add depth in the jumps. The Red Riots are solid in the sprints, with junior Ava Smart and Cole leading the way. The middle distance and distance features Coyne, juniors Anna Brown and Lily Henriksen, Clyde and Young. Bean will be a threat in the hurdles.

BOYS’ TENNIS

Coach: Tom Hyland (13th year)

2021 record: 4-9 (Lost, 3-2, to Windham in Class A South preliminary round)

Top returning players: Jake Goodwin (Senior), Ben Hyland (Senior), Michael Mitton (Senior), Dominic Salow (Senior)

Coach’s comment: “Two years ago we were 9-3 and last year we were 4-9 and we lost four or five matches by a 3-2 score, which obviously hurt us. This year, our goal is to get back near that 9-3 mark and contend for the league championship. We have good bones with our returning seniors who all had ample experience last season and they know what it takes. We’re off to a very good start. We are tight as a group, playing hard and having fun. We look forward to a good season.”

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The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland has the potential to quickly turn around its fortunes this spring.

Mitton returns at the top singles spot. He’s also a team captain. Freshman Micah Yarlott will be in the No. 2 singles position. Salow moves up from doubles to play third singles. Hyland and senior Joey Perron project to play first doubles and Goodwin, along with senior Cam Laverdiere, sophomore Sam Scott and freshmen Jeremy Jacoby Roberts and Elliot Wertheimer are in the mix for the second doubles spot.

The Red Riots know they’ll be competitive. If they can turn close losses into wins, the record will rebound and the team will be well positioned to make a playoff run.

GIRLS’ TENNIS

Coach: Elizabeth Scifres (22nd year)

2021 record 4-9 (Lost, 5-0, to Cheverus in Class A South preliminary round)

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Top returning players: Ana McDonald (Junior), Abbie Morin (Junior), Madeline Churchill (Sophomore), Kaitlin Foster (Sophomore), Ryan Richambault (Sophomore), Maggie Truman (Sophomore)

Coach’s comment: “We are returning six of our seven varsity players from last year and it is clear they have worked hard in the offseason. Everyone is faster, stronger and playing better tennis. We’re still a young team, with no seniors, but we don’t lack experience anymore. The same strong work ethic and supportive attitudes dominate this group and they are a pleasure to coach. All of this, along with the addition of Lucia (Martinez-Monche Alsina), we hope to put a few more wins in the book this year. This team knows how to learn and improve in season and that every match is practice for the next match.”

The Forecaster’s forecast: South Portland is an experienced squad and has optimism about its chances in the weeks to come.

This year’s ladder projects to Richambault playing first singles, Churchill and Foster also in singles roles, Morin (a captain) and Truman at first doubles and McDonald (a captain) and new sophomore Lucia Martinez-Monche Alsina making up the second doubles team.

The Red Riots have the potential to surprise some teams this season and make a run at a winning record for the first time since 2008. A big turnaround wouldn’t come as a shock.

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

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