GORHAM — Quiet all night, South Portland’s offense woke up just in time.

Moments after fourth-seeded Thornton Academy had touched South Portland ace Andrew Heffernan for two runs on three soft singles to break a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth inning, No. 2 South Portland responded with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. The Red Riots went on to capture the Class A South baseball championship with a 4-2 win Wednesday night at the University of Southern Maine.

“We had two options; we could either give up there and feel bad for ourselves, or we could keep fighting and give it all we’ve got, and that’s what we did,” Heffernan said. “These boys had my back today and it was great to see, and it was a lot of fun.”

South Portland (16-3) will go for its second state championship in three seasons at 1 p.m. Saturday at USM against Edward Little. The Red Eddies won the North final as the No. 8 seed, beating No. 7 Bangor, 10-6.

Richie Gilboy and Nolan Hobbs, two key members of the Red Riots’ 2021 state championship team, started the rally with booming doubles to center, both just out of the reach of Thornton center fielder Henry Lausier. That cut Thornton’s lead to 2-1 and ended pitcher Owen Critchley’s outing after five strong innings, in which he allowed only three hits.

“My main goal was just to get on base,” Gilboy said. “Hobbs has been a hot hitter – the past five games he’s been on fire – and I just wanted to give him a chance.”


Reliever Jack Nussbaum walked Nick Swain, and then second baseman Andrew Thibodeau dropped the ball after a Hudson Iacuessa grounder while trying to transfer it to his throwing hand. With the bases loaded, Thibodeau fielded a grounder by Easton Healy, but his throw home was wide of the plate, allowing both Hobbs and Swain to score. Iacuessa eventually scored on a groundout by Curtis Metcalf.

Heffernan, the Gatorade Maine Player of the Year, closed out the win in the seventh, but not without some difficulty.

Jacob Fish and Critchley opened the seventh with singles. Heffernan then got the next three hitters on a flyout and two strikeouts to finish a six-hitter.

Through five innings, Heffernan and Critchley had each allowed only one hit. Thornton broke through in the sixth with singles from Brayden Duane (2 for 3) and Henry Lausier to set up a sacrifice fly by Evan Beaudette. Then, a swinging bunt RBI single by Jeremiah Chessie gave the Trojans a 2-0 lead.

It was the third straight season in which South Portland and Thornton (13-6) squared off in the regional final.

“I’m just really proud of the way we battled against Heffernan,” said Thornton Coach Jason Lariviere. “Against him, you have to score maybe two runs and then hold them to less than that.

“We were 3-5 at one point, and we weren’t a very good team, and we rattled off 10 (wins) in a row.”

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