PORTLAND—Portland’s softball team has high hopes this spring and is there a better way to validate the hype than to get the best of a longtime nemesis in the season opener?

Thursday afternoon at Payson Park, the Bulldogs welcomed Biddeford and in senior standout Sadie Armstrong’s long-awaited return to the mound, they rolled to an impressive and decisive victory.

The Tigers struck first with a run in the top of the second inning, but Portland answered with a six-spot of its own to seize control.

Armstrong held Biddeford at bay from there and after scoring a run in the third, the Bulldogs tacked on four more in the fifth in end the game via the 10-run mercy rule, 11-1.

Armstrong earned the victory and also had two hits and an RBI at the plate as Portland began its season on a high note, beating the Tigers for the first time in six years in the process.

“Biddeford’s been so formidable for so long,” said Bulldogs coach Jason McLeod. “They always have high-caliber athletes on that team, but it was just our day today.”


The sky’s the limit

Portland went just 3-13 last season and missed the playoffs, but the Bulldogs are optimistic about their chances this spring with a veteran roster, which features some potent bats.

Biddeford, meanwhile, has been a top contender for years, winning the 2022 state title before losing to Windham (5-0) in last year’s Class A South Final, but this season, the Tigers lost some of their biggest weapons to graduation. Regardless, they can’t be overlooked under new coach Don Stanhope.

Last year, Biddeford mercy ruled host Portland, 13-1, in five-innings.

Thursday, on a pleasant mid-April day (49 degrees and breezy at first pitch), the Tigers hoped to make it five straight in the series, but instead, the Bulldogs prevailed over Biddeford for the first time since May 16, 2018 (a 6-2 road triumph) and beat the Tigers at home for the first time since May 18, 2016 (2-0).

Portland senior pitcher Sadie Armstrong pitches to BIddeford junior Jaylah Trottier to begin Thursday’s contest, an 11-1 Bulldogs’ victory. Hoffer photos.

Armstrong made quick work of the Tigers in the top of the first, getting junior shortstop Jaylah Trottier to ground out to first, sophomore pitcher Kayla Magnant to bounce out to third and sophomore third baseman Mariah Villandry to ground out to second on the first pitch she faced.


In the bottom half, Portland threatened to take the lead, getting a runner in scoring position, but couldn’t cash it in.

Senior second baseman Hannah Hawkes led off against Magnant by popping out foul behind the plate where senior catcher Victoria Barrow made a terrific sprawling catch. Armstrong then drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch and moved to second when senior first baseman Ainsley McCrum grounded out to second. Junior shortstop Ruby Chase wasn’t able to deliver the run, however, striking out swinging.

Biddeford then went on top in the top of the second.

Sophomore first baseman Madi Roy led off by waiting on an off-speed pitch and singling up the middle. She went to second when junior leftfielder Gabby Smith grounded to third, where sophomore Lili McCullum made a nice play going to her right to field the ball before throwing out the batter. A wild pitch moved Roy to third and after senior centerfielder Lily Lesieur drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch and took second on defensive indifference, junior rightfielder Eliza Doyon made contact and grounded out to second to score the runner. Sophomore second baseman Corinne Ramunno struck out swinging, but the Tigers were up, 1-0.

As it turned out, the lead would be short lived.

Senior Katilin Vigue got the uprising started by drawing a walk on a full count pitch. Junior catcher Hadleigh McPartlan then hit the ball to deep center where Lesieur ran it down, but she dropped it, putting runners at first and second. Senior leftfielder Amina Suleiman then laid down a bunt and beat it out to load the bases. Junior designated player Leanne French struck out swinging, but Magnant unleashed a wild pitch to score Vigue to tie the score, putting runners at second and third. Senior rightfielder Erin Winship then grounded out to second, scoring McPartlan to put Portland ahead to stay.


Portland junior Hadleigh McPartlan comes home with the go-ahead run.

After a wild pitch brought home Suleiman, Hawkes singled past third, Armstrong singled into the hole between third and short, then McCrum beat out an infield single to reload the bases. Chase then worked the count full and drew ball four to score Hawkes. Vigue then delivered a sharp single to center, scoring sophomore courtesy runner Millie Keiter and McCrum to make it 6-1. McPartlan flew out to left for the third out, but the damage was done.

Armstrong made quick work of the Tigers in the top of the third, getting Barrow to ground out to first, catching Trottier looking at strike three, then getting Magnant to bounce out to third.

Portland went back to its scoring ways in the bottom of the frame.

Suleiman led off with a single to right, then took second on an error. After McCullum drew a walk on four pitches, Winship sacrificed the runners up. That brought up Hawkes, who lined a shot off the glove of Villandry at third, bringing home Suleiman with the run. Armstrong then bid for a tape-measure home run, but the ball drifted just foul. Armstrong then flew out to deep left and McCrum bounced out to short, keeping the score 7-1.

Biddeford tried to rally in the top of the fourth, but ultimately was flustered.

Villandry popped out to first leading off, then Armstrong battled back from a 3-0 count to fan Roy, but Smith blooped a single to right-center, then Lesieur drew a walk before Armstrong caught Doyon watching strike three.


In the bottom half, Chase struck out looking, Vigue bounced out to third and McPartlan lined out to second.

Freshman Lauren Small pinch-hit to lead off the top of the fifth and drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch, but Barrow’s sacrifice bunt resulted in an out at first and when Ramunno, who had come on to run for Small, tried to take third, Hawkes threw to McCullum, who tagged her out to complete the double play to retire the side.

The Bulldogs then finished it off in the bottom of the fifth against Roy, who came on in relief.

Suleiman struck out leading off and after French singled to right, Winship flew out to center, but McCullum, who ran for French, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and when ball four to Hawkes was also wild, McCullum came home. After Hawkes moved up to second on another wild pitch, Armstrong lined a 3-2 pitch to left for an RBI single to make it 9-1.

Portland senior Sadie Armstrong makes contact.

“We’ve just really worked on finding our pitch and attacking,” Armstrong said. “We’re not looking to swing for home runs. Just getting solid contact and finding gaps.”

McCrum followed with a single to left. That brought up Chase, who blooped a single off the glove of Ramunno to score Keiter, moving McCrum to third. Then, with Vigue at the play, Roy threw another wild pitch and McCrum came home to finish off an 11-1 victory.


“I’m really excited about the season,” said Armstrong. “We have almost everyone back and we’re working really hard. This is great for confidence, a morale booster. Biddeford’s a legitimate ballclub, so to be able to win this will help us keep momentum.”

“I think we did a lot of simple things effectively today that we had a hard time doing last year,” said McLeod. “It’s a great feeling to have played a clean game. Last year, we didn’t effectively lay down the bunt. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times we did that last year and today, we laid down three.”

Portland celebrates its Opening Day victory.

The Bulldogs’ offense was paced by two hits apiece from Armstrong, Hawkes, McCrum and Suleiman.

Hawkes, Keiter, McCrum and Suleiman all scored twice while McCullum, McPartlan and Vigue touched home plate once apiece.

Chase and Vigue had two RBI apiece, while Armstrong, Hawkes and Winship each drove in one run.

Portland stranded six baserunners.


Armstrong, who wasn’t able to pitch a year ago due to injury, made a triumphant return to the mound by allowing just one unearned run on two hits in five innings. She walked three and struck out four.

“It feels really nice to be back,” Armstrong said. “It feels like home. I was a good nervous. I was more amped up, ready to play. I was really confident in my fielders today. It makes it easier as a pitcher to know the other girls have my back.”

“To have someone of Sadie’s caliber out there doing the things she does, it brings a different element to our team,” said McLeod. “She won’t always throw it by people. She’ll pitch to bad contact and we were able to make the plays.”

Biddeford’s run was scored by Roy and driven in by Doyon.

The Tigers stranded three runners.

Magnant took the loss, surrendering seven unearned runs on seven hits in four innings. She walked four and fanned third.


Roy gave up four runs on four hits in 0.2 innings of relief, striking out one.

Next step

Biddeford returns to action Saturday when it plays its home opener, versus Falmouth.

Portland goes to rival Deering Saturday and looks to keep the good times rolling.

“We have to keep doing what we’re doing, keep working hard every day, as hard as we can,” said Armstrong.

“We have experience this year,” McLeod said. “The girls are mature enough to come back from a 3-13 season and stay together. When good or bad things happen, we stay together and stay positive. That’s great from a coaching standpoint.

“We have to play within our means. We have to do the little things right and hope the big things take care of themselves. If we do that, I think we’ll be OK.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

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