I don’t follow professional basketball very closely but I had been keeping an eye on the Golden State Warriors to see if they would become the first NBA team to go undefeated in the playoffs. They ended up winning the championship but along the way they lost Game 4 of the finals and finished with a record of 16 wins and 1 loss. It brought back memories of the 2007 New England Patriots team that ran the table with a 16-0 regular season record, but lost the Super Bowl to finish at 18-1, thereby missing their place in the history books as the “greatest team ever”. Of course, all that pales in comparison to the U-Conn women’s basketball team that won 111 straight games spanning several years before losing an overtime heart-breaker this past April. As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end”, and it did.
Enter the Scarborough High School girls’ “Red Storm” softball team that recently chalked up several consecutive undefeated regular seasons only to lose in the playoffs and be denied the state championship. They’re back with a vengeance in 2017 and have racked up eighteen straight wins towards a bid for the regional crown against Portland and – with a victory – a shot at the coveted state Class A title. With a possible perfect season in the making, I packed up my camera gear and headed up to St. Joseph’s College in Standish to photograph the game and cheer for my hometown team.
The Storm had already beaten #2 seeded Portland 9-0 during the regular season and so expectations were high that Scarborough would move on to the state championship game. Yet, despite the confidence exuded by the players during the warm-ups, I sensed some degree of nervousness based on the knowledge of past playoff failures. As the sun slowly began its descent towards the horizon the umpire’s shout to “play ball” couldn’t come too soon.
During my twenties and thirties, I played softball in a men’s “recreational” (code word for beer drinking) league. I managed the company sponsored team and I was even league president for a year. My brainchild as president was to schedule the opening day of the season on a Sunday with each of the sixteen teams in action. Everybody got to play. Problem was, that Sunday happened to be Mothers’ Day. The irate phone calls – from both husbands and wives – didn’t stop for at least a week. Needless to say, I didn’t run for re-election.
Slow-pitch (also code for beer drinking) softball that I played doesn’t require the skill level of the fast-pitch version. In slow pitch, strikeouts are practically non-existent since the ball is gently lobbed in high arc fashion to the batter. Not so in the fast pitch sport. Even at the high school level, that ball is humming as it streaks towards the batter’s box. I only wish I could “throw like a girl” after watching these young women pitch.
Facing an outstanding pitcher at any level is a daunting task and I expected the ferocious Portland Lady Bulldogs to quickly be reduced to a much meeker Golden Retriever status by Scarborough’s hurler, Abbie Murrell.
That didn’t happen and when the first Portland batter launched a solid base hit, I feared bad things might be forthcoming. Abbie settled down and got out of that first inning jam and in the bottom half of that frame her teammates put up a BIG crooked number and they never looked back.
Portland made things interesting in the final inning but it was way too little, too late. Final score: Scarborough 8 – Portland 3.
Scarborough (19-0) will now play Skowhegan (17-2) for the Class A state title on Saturday. Based on their performances all season, it may take a “perfect storm” to topple them.