SOUTH PORTLAND—Two-out magic doesn’t just happen.

It stems from belief and the ability to rise to the occasion in the clutch and South Portland’s baseball team, boasting a group of athletes who have stepped up huge time and again, not only in the spring but throughout their high school careers, regardless of the season, put on a two-out clinic Saturday at Wainwright Farms against rival Scarborough in the teams’ penultimate game of the regular season.

For three innings, it appeared the Red Riots weren’t going to muster a base runner, not to mention a hit or a run against Red Storm junior starter Harrison Griffiths and they fell behind in the top of the fourth when sophomore third baseman Matt Fallona beat out an infield single to score senior rightfielder Ashton Blanchette, but in the bottom half, South Portland got its first hit, a single from senior shortstop Johnny Poole, then with two outs and two on, senior first baseman Nick Swain reached on an infield single to score the tying run and when the throw got away, a second run came home to put the Red Riots on top.

Scarborough countered in the top of the fifth against South Portland senior starter Nolan Hobbs, as senior second baseman Jason Liponis squeezed home a run, then junior first baseman Mason Porter hit an RBI single for a 3-2 lead.

Griffiths cruised through the bottom of the inning, then set the first two Red Riots’ hitters down in the sixth, but he couldn’t escape the inning unscathed.

After a pair of hits, Swain reached on an error, scoring the tying run, then freshman rightfielder Hudson Iacuessa came up with the game’s biggest blow, a two-run single, to put South Portland ahead to stay.


Swain then slammed the door in relief and the Red Riots earned a hard-earned victory, 5-3.

South Portland improved to 12-3 on the season, moved up in the standings and in the process, dropped the Red Storm to 10-5.

“It says a lot about us to pull this out,” said Red Riots coach Mike Owens. “A lot of it came from our senior leadership. Sometimes, (us coaches) get drowned out and they brought each other up in the dugout and I let them do their thing. I heard the confidence. They didn’t stop believing. It’s a group that’s been in a lot of close games and won a lot of big games. I’m proud of our resilience.”

High drama

Scarborough and South Portland have been at the head of the contender’s class in Class A all season.

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. Tuesday, host Scarborough needed eight-innings to outlast upset-minded Portland, 2-1, but Thursday, the Red Storm fell at home to reigning Class A champion Thornton Academy, 3-1.


The Red Riots, meanwhile, shut out host Westbrook in their opener (4-0), then lost at Noble in nine-innings (5-3). After blanking visiting Massabesic (6-0) and host Biddeford (7-0), South Portland dropped a 2-1 decision at Falmouth, before bouncing back with a 5-3 victory at Thornton Academy in a regional final rematch. The Red Riots then defeated visiting Windham (9-1), host Cheverus (12-0, in six-innings), visiting Deering (10-0, in five-innings), host Bonny Eagle (11-3), visiting Kennebunk (4-2), host Marshwood (9-0) and host Portland (6-1) before dropping an eight-inning home game to Gorham Thursday, 2-1.

Last spring, host Scarborough blanked South Portland, 2-0.

Saturday, on one of the best days you’ll find for baseball in late May (the first pitch temperature was 72 degrees and rising), the Red Storm looked for their fifth straight victory over the Red Riots, but instead, South Portland took care of business, downing Scarborough for the first time since May 20, 2019 (2-1) and the first time at Wainwright since May 14, 2016 (5-1).

But not without a tussle.

South Portland senior Nolan Hobbs delivers to Scarborough leadoff hitter Zak Sanders early in the Red Riots’ 5-3 victory Saturday. Hoffer photos.

Hobbs fanned junior centerfielder Zak Sanders with an off-speed pitch to start the game, then got Liponis to bunt back to the mound and threw him out, but Blanchette singled past first and stole second before Porter watched strike three for the third out.

South Portland shortstop Johnny Poole chases a pitch from Scarborough starter Harrison Griffiths in the bottom of the first.

In the bottom half, Griffiths got Poole to line out to third, then caught senior third baseman Andrew Heffernan looking at strike three before doing the same to senior catcher Richie Gilboy.


In the top of the second, Hobbs caught junior designated hitter Lewis Moynihan looking at strike three and after getting to Fallona to ground out to Poole, he fanned Griffiths.

In the bottom half, Griffiths quickly set down the Red Riots, striking out Hobbs swinging, getting Swain to ground out to first with the pitcher covering, then fanning Iacuessa.

Hobbs started the top of the third by hitting senior leftfielder Owen Fellows with a pitch and after junior shortstop Tyler Archambault sacrificed him to second, Sanders hit a fly ball to center, which senior centerfielder Jaelen Jackson dropped for an error, putting runners at the corners. Hobbs then escaped, getting Liponis to hit a chopper back to the mound, leaping to snare it, then throwing to Poole for a force out before Poole threw on to first to just beat Liponis for a double play, keeping the game scoreless.

In the bottom half, sophomore second baseman Easton Healy grounded to second and Griffiths covered first to take the throw. Griffiths then struck out both senior designated hitter Leo Lomangino and Jackson to make it nine up, nine down.

Scarborough broke through in the top of the fourth to open the scoring.

Blanchette set the table by doubling down the rightfield line, just past Swain’s glove. Hobbs then got Porter to ground to third, with the runner holding, and Moynihan to ground to short, with Blanchette taking third, but Fallona hit a slow roller to short and beat the throw to score Blanchette, Fallona then moved to second on a wild pitch and when Griffiths beat out an infield single to the hole between short and third, Fallona made the turn for home, but was thrown out by Poole to keep the score 1-0.


In the bottom half, the Red Riots got their offense going and answered.

Poole led off with a line drive that nearly hit Griffiths before sailing into centerfield for a single. Poole stole second but Heffernan struck out swinging. Gilboy was walked intentionally, but Hobbs bounced into a short-to-second force out. Griffiths was on the brink of escaping the jam, but after Hobbs stole second, Swain made contact, grounded the ball slowly to third and reached safely. On the play, Fallona’s throw got away and Hobbs followed Poole across the plate for a 2-1 lead. Iacuessa grounded out to second, but the damage was done.

The Red Storm rose off the deck in the top of the fifth to go right back on top.

Fellows led off and beat out a slow roller to short for an infield single. Archambault was unable to get a bunt down and struck out, but with Sanders at the plate, Fellows stole second, then moved to third on a wild pitch. Sanders drew a walk and Liponis successfully laid down a bunt in front of the plate and while he was thrown out at first, Fellows came home on the squeeze to tie it, with Sanders moving to second. After Blanchette drew an intentional walk, Porter came up with a clutch single to right-center, scoring Sanders for the lead.

Scarborough junior Zak Sanders crosses the plate to put the Red Storm on top.

Moynihan then grounded out back to the mound, but Scarborough had a 3-2 lead.

Griffiths returned to his dominant ways in the bottom half, getting Healy to ground out to second on the first pitch, then catching Lomangino looking at strike three before getting Jackson to ground back to the mound and racing over to tag first himself to retire the side.


Swain came on to relieve Hobbs in the top of the sixth and he got Fallona to ground out to Poole, who made a nice play in the hole, caught Griffiths looking at strike three, then got Fellows to bounce out to third.

In the bottom half, Griffiths fell behind Poole 3-1, then worked the count full before striking him out looking and Heffernan grounded out to second, but the Red Riots were far from finished.

South Portland senior Nolan Hobbs makes contact.

Gilboy got the rally started with a solid single up the middle, then Hobbs beat out an infield single to short. That set the stage for Swain again, who grounded slowly to third and Fallona’s throw got away, scoring Gilboy to tie the score and putting runners at first and third. Senior Griffin Tetzlaff came on to run for Swain and promptly stole second to set the stage for Iacuessa.

Iacuessa was up to the challenge, going the other way, lining a single to left-center to score both Hobbs and Tetzlaff for a 5-3 lead.

“I was seeing the fastball and sitting on the curveball,” Iacuessa said. “I went the other way. It felt really good to come through in the clutch. It’s been really fun for me this year. The seniors have brought us together and taught me how to be a leader for next year.”

“When (Hudson) started hitting over the winter, we knew he was something special,” Swain said. “When we were sophomores, we were part of the state championship team and the seniors did the same thing, wrapped us into the family, and that’s what we’re trying to do with him.”


“Earlier in the season, we saw the potential and we saw the swing, but (Hudson) was a little overpowered and a little overmatched,” Owens added. “We knew it was coming. The last two or three weeks, he’s been up against a lot of good arms. He stays in the zone a long time and has a really good swing. The moment’s not too big for him. The guys really love him and he came up big today.”

That ended Griffiths’ day and freshman Nathan Masters came on relief and ended the uprising by catching Healy looking at strike three, but the damage was done.

Scarborough wouldn’t go quietly in the seventh, but couldn’t extend the game.

Swain hit Archambault with a pitch leading off and Archambault took second when Sanders grounded out to second. Liponis then made contact on a 3-2 pitch, but the ball was lined right at Poole, who caught it for the second out. That left the game up to Blanchette, who couldn’t deliver, popping out to short to give South Portland a 5-3 victory.

South Portland senior catcher congratulates classmate Nick Swain after the final out.

“I think it says a lot about our team,” Swain said. “We trust each other. It’s one big family. We’re one strong brotherhood. We’re all in it together. We’re all fighting. It’s part of the culture here. We fight. Whatever gets the job done.”

The Red Riots only mustered five hits, but it was enough, as Hobbs scored twice and Gilboy, Poole and Tetzlaff all touched home plate once.


Iacuessa had two RBI and Swain also drove in a run.

South Portland left just two runners on base and scored all five runs with two outs.

Hobbs didn’t earn a decision, going five innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits, walking two and striking out five.

Swain got the victory in relief, not allowing a run or a hit in two innings of work.

“(Nolan) throws so many off-speed pitches and they seemed to time him up a little bit and we have a lot of confidence in Nick, so we felt it was time to bring him in,” said Owens.

Just a little bit short


Scarborough got two hits from Blanchette, who also scored a run, as did Fellows and Sanders. Fallona, Liponis and Porter all had RBI.

The Red Storm left six runners on.

Griffiths was the hard-luck loser, giving up five runs (just one earned) on five hits in 5.2 innings. He walked one and struck out nine.

“I thought Harrison threw great,” said Scarborough coach Wes Ridlon. “I’m excited for him moving into playoffs.”

“Harrison threw an unbelievable game,” Owens said. “We knew we had to put the ball in play and make things happen and it was difficult for a long time. He was really, really good.”

Masters retired the only batter he faced in relief


“We gave them extra outs and when you give extra outs to good teams, they’ll make you pay,” lamented Ridlon. “We battled well and were in position to win it, but we just couldn’t get it done. We got big hits early in the game, but we couldn’t get the big hits in the seventh. We had opportunities and that’s all we can ask for.”

Buckle up

Coaches always talk about the league’s potential for parity and chaos, but this year’s Class A South field could be deeper than any in recent memory, which means the postseason will feature no shortage of drama.

It’s possible the Red Riots and Red Storm could meet in the semifinals, but there’s no guarantee both, or either, will get there.

Scarborough (currently ranked third in the Class A South Heal Points standings) closes against Deering Tuesday at Hadlock Field.

“I think any team can beat anybody,” said Ridlon. “We’re happy with how our pitching is coming along. We have two or three guys throwing their best all year. We just have to continue to pressure on and come up with big hits.”


South Portland (second in Class A South) is home against Sanford in its finale Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to the playoffs,” Iacuessa said. “I like our chances.”

“We have to keep hitting one through nine,” Swain said. “When the top of the order works like we have been all year and the bottom of the order comes through, I don’t think there’s a team that can beat us.”

“The top four teams get a bye and that’s always one of our goals,” Owens added. “Getting this one locks it in for us. We’ll stay in the bracket with Scarborough. They’re a good team, well coached. We have a lot of respect for them. We always want to play here and any time we don’t have to get on a bus is a good thing. We just need to lengthen our lineup a little bit and get contributions from guys other than our top four. We have experience. We just have to get the bats going against good pitching.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at

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