SCARBOROUGH—Call them lucky or call them resilient, just make sure to call the 2023 Scarborough Red Storm winners.

By any means necessary.

Tuesday afternoon at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, hosting the valiant Portland Bulldogs, the Red Storm pulled off another improbable victory in a season full of them, even if it took a little longer than they would have liked.

Bulldogs senior starter Liam Fay-LeBlanc held Scarborough in check for five innings, but Portland could do absolutely nothing with either junior starter Harrison Griffiths or classmate Zak Sanders, who came in on in relief in the fourth.

When the Red Storm scored an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth, they appeared to have the game won, but Fay-LeBlanc led off the top of the seventh with the Bulldogs’ first hit and with two outs, sophomore catcher Lucas Milliken crushed a Sanders offering for a double, scoring senior courtesy runner Finn Tidd to tie the score.

Portland nearly went ahead in both the seventh and the top of the eighth, but couldn’t do so, and in the bottom of the eighth, senior rightfielder Ashton Blanchette singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, then came home to end it on a sharp grounder from Sanders that bounced off a fielder to give Scarborough a 2-1 victory.


The Red Storm improved to 10-3 on the season and essentially ended the Bulldogs’ remaining playoff hopes, dropping them to 2-12.

“We’re a resilient team,” said Scarborough coach Wes Ridlon. “We just try to stay within ourselves and we don’t quit. That’s all you can ask.”

Fight to the finish

Portland has been competitive in most of its games, but victories have been hard to come by this spring.

The Bulldogs started with losses at defending Class A champion Thornton Academy (6-3) and at home to Bonny Eagle (6-1). After beating host Windham (6-4), Portland was beaten by visiting Kennebunk (7-1), host Cheverus (6-1), visiting Marshwood (6-4), host Biddeford (4-3), host Falmouth (10-0, in six-innings), visiting Sanford (9-4) and visiting Gorham (17-11). After rallying for a 5-4 home win over Deering, the Bulldogs lost late at Massabesic (11-10) and at home to South Portland (6-1) Saturday.

Scarborough, meanwhile, has won a lot of games, each victory different the last.


The Red Storm opened with a confidence-building 6-4 home win over Falmouth, then won at Biddeford (3-1), at home over Marshwood in a playoff rematch (5-4, in eight-innings), at Sanford (4-0) and at home over Bonny Eagle (13-1, in five-innings). Scarborough suffered its first setback, 7-5, at Massabesic, then defeated visiting Noble (6-2) and host Kennebunk (4-3). After an eight-inning loss at Windham (5-4), the Red Storm rallied for improbable wins over visiting Cheverus (5-4, in eight-innings, after trailing 4-0 with two outs and no one in the seventh) and host Westbrook (4-3) before suffering a 3-1 home loss to Gorham in its most recent outing, Saturday.

Last year, Portland eked out a 4-3 win over Scarborough at Hadlock Field.

Tuesday, on a breezy and chilly afternoon (57 degrees at first pitch), following a Senior Day ceremony, the Red Storm looked like they had the game won once, let it slip away, then found a way to prevail regardless.

Scarborough junior Harrison Griffiths throws the game’s first pitch to Portland junior Hunter Temple. The Red Storm would eventually emerge victorious, 2-1, in eight-innings. Hoffer photos.

Griffiths would strike out the side in the top of the first, but it was far from a clean inning.

Junior Hunter Temple led off and was hit by a pitch. While junior centerfielder Reegan Buck took strike three, Temple stole second and senior shortstop Henry Bibeau drew a walk, but senior rightfielder Andrew Brewer looked at strike three and Fay-LeBlanc chased strike three to end the frame.

Fay-LeBlanc made quick work of Scarborough in the bottom half, getting Blanchette to chase the first pitch he saw and ground out to first and after senior second baseman Jason Liponis reached on an error, junior first baseman Mason Porter hit the ball sharply but right at Bibeau at short, who flipped to senior Ethan Theriault at second for one out and Theriault threw on to senior Sam Payne at first for a double play.


Griffiths began the top of the second by getting both Payne and freshman designated hitter Joe Mancini to look at strike three, but he then hit Millken with a pitch and did the same to junior third baseman Cam Allen before getting Temple to ground out to third, where sophomore Matt Fallona made the play unassisted, stepping on the bag, to retire the side.

In the bottom half, Fay-LeBlanc got Sanders to fly out to center and junior designated hitter Lewis Moynihan to ground out to second, but Griffiths helped himself by doubling to right-center, as Brewer couldn’t quite come up with a diving catch. Fay-LeBlanc then kept the game scoreless by fanning senior leftfielder Owen Fellows on a 3-2 pitch.

Buck flew out to right to lead off the top of the third before Griffiths hit a batter for the fourth time, this time Bibeau. Griffiths quickly picked Bibeau off first, then caught Brewer looking at a 3-2 pitch to end the frame and his day on the mound.

Portland senior pitcher Liam Fay-LeBlanc throws to Scarborough leadoff hitter Ashton Blanchette.

In the bottom half, Fallona grounded the first pitch he saw to Bibeau at short, who threw him out, then junior shortstop Tyler Archambault flew out to center before Blanchette bounced out to short.

Sanders came on to replace Griffiths to start the fourth, as Griffiths went to leftfield and sophomore Cam Wellman came on to play center. Sanders immediately made his presence felt by fanning Fay-LeBlanc and Payne, then getting Mancini to watch strike three.

The Red Storm threatened in the bottom half, but came up empty.


After Liponis lined out to third, Porter beat out an infield single on a tough hop, then, Fay-LeBlanc appeared to have him picked off, but Porter managed to steal second regardless. Sanders then blooped a single to right, sending Porter to third, but on the play, Sanders tried to stretch a single into a double and was thrown out by Brewer. That loomed huge, as Moynihan flew out to right and what would have been a sacrifice fly was instead the third out, keeping the game scoreless.

Sanders made quick work of the Bulldogs in the top of the fifth, getting Milliken to ground to second, Allen to chase strike three and Temple to bounce out to third.

Fay-LeBlanc did his job in the bottom half, catching Griffiths looking at strike three, getting Wellman to line to right on a 3-2 pitch, then getting Fallona to line to center on the first pitch he saw.

Scarborough junior reliever Zak Sanders throws a strike.

Portland went meekly again in the top of the sixth, as Buck popped out to second on the first pitch he saw, Bibeau lined a shot to the right side that appeared ticketed for the Bulldogs’ first hit, but Porter dove to his right and made the catch, before Brewer grounded out Porter-to-Sanders to end it.

The Red Storm then broke the tie in the bottom half.

With a little help.


Archambault grounded back to the mound leading off, but Blanchette lined a single the other way, past Allen and into leftfield for a single. Blanchette stole second, then Liponis lined out to second with Blanchette barely getting back to the bag in time on the play. Porter then beat out an infield hit to the hole and Bibeau’s throw to first got away, allowing Blanchette to come home with the game’s first run. Sanders then gave the ball a ride to deep right but Brewer ran it down, keeping the score 1-0.

The game wasn’t quite over, however.

Fay-LeBlanc then gave his team a boost leading off the bottom of the seventh, lining a single to center on an 0-2 pitch for Portland’s first hit. Tidd came on to run and took second on a sacrifice bunt from Payne, Mancini then looked at strike three, putting Scarborough on the brink of victory, but on an 0-1 pitch, Milliken made solid contact and sent a drive deep into left-center, past the outfielders, and his double easily scored Tidd to tie it.

“It got in my head a little bit,” Sanders said. “I just didn’t execute that pitch. I was frustrated. If it weren’t for the guys in the field, I don’t know. They told me we’ve got this.”

The Bulldogs nearly went ahead when Allen singled off Sanders and the ball bounced free, but Archambault got to it and threw out Milliken at the plate to send the game to the eighth deadlocked at 1-1.

“I thought he’d throw to first, so we took a chance because I didn’t know if we’d have another chance to score,” said Portland coach Kevin Winship. “If he didn’t glance (to third) and threw to first, he would have been safe.”


The Red Storm had a chance to end it in the bottom of the seventh, as after Moynihan grounded out to second, Griffiths singled to the hole, the took second on an errant pickoff throw, but after Wellman walked, Fallona flew out to right-center, where Buck showed nice range and ran the ball down, then freshman pinch-hitter Ryan Shugars chased strike three.

Portland then threatened again in the top of the eighth, but would be left frustrated.

Sanders got Temple to fly out deep to center and Buck to chase strike three, but Bibeau hit a deep drive to left-center that resulted in a double. Brewer then made solid contact, but lined the ball right at Porter for the third out and the Bulldogs wouldn’t step in the batter’s box again.

“Their first baseman saved the game,” Winship said. “We hit two missiles and he was the difference-maker. That’s kind of how our season has gone. He was perfectly positioned to make the play.”

Even though his pitch count was nearing the limit, Fay-LeBlanc came out to pitch the top of the eighth and he threw a good pitch to Blanchette on a 2-2 count and Blanchette managed to go down and line it to right for a single.

“I don’t know why I keep facing lefthanders, but bring them on, it’s a challenge,” Blanchette said. “A pitcher’s a pitcher and I’ve still got to hit. My two-strike approach was to put the ball in play. I didn’t hit it too hard, but I did my job and got on base.”


Scarborough senior Ashton Blanchette steals second in the bottom of the eighth inning as Portland shortstop Henry Bibeau takes the late throw.

Blanchette immediately stole second but had to stay there when Liponis couldn’t bunt him over and eventually took strike three.

That brought an end to Fay-LeBlanc’s time on the mound, as he was replaced by Bibeau and went to first, with Allen moving to shortstop and senior Logan Rosmus taking over at third.

Porter had a chance to win it, but he popped to second.

That set the stage for Sanders, who knew his day on the mound was done, and wanted to send the home folks happy.

After Blanchette moved up to third on a wild pitch, Sanders did just that, ripping a shot that deflected off Rosmus.

“I was just trying to hit the ball hard somewhere,” Sanders said. “I figured if I put it on the ground, I’d beat it out, and if I could get it to the outfield, it’s game over. I just got lucky.”


“Major league guys won’t make that play,” lamented Winship. “That was just a hard-hit ball. What can you do? (Logan) did everything he could to just knock that down.”

Blanchette easily came home with the winning run as Scarborough prevailed, 2-1.

Scarborough senior Ashton Blanchette comes home with the winning run.

“Zak just put it in play and did his job,” Blanchette said.

“We started the season on fire, then we slowed down a little bit,” said Sanders. “We’re struggling hitting. When we get to the seventh inning and we’re down, something clicks. We battle, the energy in the dugout gets going and miracles happen.”

“It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it,” added Ridlon. “I thought Ashton did a good job with the small ball. Zak hit the ball hard and when you hit the ball hard, good things tend to happen. Portland’s a good team. They’ll grind. They’re well coached. They didn’t quit. They came up with hits in big spots.”

The Red Storm got hits from just four players, Blanchette, Griffiths, Porter and Sanders, but all of them produced a pair.


Blanchette scored both runs.

Sanders had the lone RBI.

Scarborough left six runners on.

Griffiths didn’t allow a hit or a run in his three innings of work. He walked one, struck out six and hit four.

“Harrison was working his way back and today was like a side session,” said Ridlon. “We had him on a pitch count. His ball ran a little more than usual, but he’ll make some adjustments.”

“Griffiths is one of the top pitchers in the league and he was really tough today because he was erratic,” said Winship. “You come into the batter’s box when he’s hit four guys and it’s hard to sit dead-red when you don’t know where the ball’s going. He was effectively wild today.”


Sanders earned the victory after five solid innings of relief. Sanders allowed one run on four hits, didn’t walk a batter and fanned six.

“I was not expecting to pitch because I started Saturday against Gorham,” Sanders said. “Honestly, my arm wasn’t feeling great, but Coach (Matt) Rutherford told me to go to the bullpen, so I just went out there. I was just pounding the zone with my fastball, getting ahead in the count, then going off-speed. My curveball was on. Coach called a couple change-ups I liked against the lefties.”

“Zak battled,” said Ridlon. “He’s been pretty much our MVP all year, taking the ball whenever we ask him to take it. He’s a big-time player for us. We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”

No luck

Portland’s run was scored by Tidd and driven in by Milliken.

The Bulldogs left six runners on base.


Fay-LeBlanc was the hard-luck loser, giving up two runs (just one earned) on seven hits in 7.1 innings. He walked one and struck out four.

“(Liam) was great,” Winship said. “The plan was to take him out at 95 pitches and save him for Saturday to pitch the last game of the season, but he said absolutely not, he wanted the ball. That’s one of the best pitching performances I’ve seen in a long time.”

Bibeau gave up one hit and threw a wild pitch in his brief relief stint.

“It was a tough game,” Winship said. “We battled. (Scarborough’s) got arms. They’re the number two team in the league for a reason.

“Falmouth, we played great. South Portland, we played great. Scarborough, we played great. We’re right there, but we just aren’t over the hump.”

One week to go


Portland plays its home finale Thursday versus Westbrook, then goes to Noble Saturday to finish up. The Bulldogs are ranked 16th in the Class A South Heal Points and appear to be a longshot to be one of the 12 teams to qualify for the postseason.

“I think we have to win the last two, then we need some help,” Winship said. “We’re way better than our record. We just can’t catch a break. I’m proud of the kids. They’re battling. It’s tough to have the same conversation after every game, but attitudes are great and they’re working hard.”

Scarborough (second to Falmouth in Class A South) has its home finale Thursday versus Thornton Academy, plays a key game at South Portland Saturday, then finishes at Deering Tuesday of next week.

“Those are huge games,” Sanders said. “I love playing those teams. It’s always a good game.”

“We have to pick up our pitchers and hitters and we’ll get there,” Blanchette said. “I think we have to go inning-by-inning. We need a better approach. Too many fly balls. I’d rather the games not be as close, but I’m happy we’re winning. We’ve got some tough games left, but I think we have a good chance. I’ve played with these guys for years and we’ve done some good things.”

“We’re happy with the way the season’s gone but we have some unfinished business and want to end strong,” Ridlon added.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at

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