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Baseball: With talent and depth, Scarborough shifts focus to sustained playoff run

May 27—SCARBOROUGH — A year ago, the Scarborough High baseball team's season ended abruptly.

A Class A South quarterfinal loss to No. 6 Marshwood left the higher-seeded Red Storm disappointed. Despite being beaten by top-tier pitcher Noah Fitzgerald, the good feeling from an 11-5 regular season and a third-place place finish in A South evaporated after they failed to advance in the postseason.

This year feels different. Scarborough finished the regular season 15-1, winning its eighth straight game on Saturday, a 12-0 decision over Portland at Hadlock Field. The Red Storm will likely enter the Class A South playoffs as the No. 1 seed. Scarborough is also poised to have an 11-day break between its regular-season finale and the regional quarterfinals on June 6.

"Last year, we were all young. That's part of the reason we fell short last year," said Tyler Archambault, a slick-fielding senior shortstop. "This year, we're all older. We've been playing together since we were 10 years old. We've all grown together. It took last year to all grow together at the varsity level. This year, we're all more mature. Bigger, stronger and mentally more mature, as well."

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Scarborough lost only one player from its 2023 team, Coach Wes Ridlon said, adding that team expectations didn't change — "Finish in the top four."

One effect of last year's early playoff exit was that Scarborough, despite all its returning players and a deep pitching staff, wasn't tabbed as the favorite entering this season. That distinction went to Falmouth (13-3), which is second in the standings.

"I think people definitely thought that we would be in the mix, in the middle of the pack. I don't think anyone thought we would be where we are," said junior Erik Swenson, the staff ace. "But I credit it to my coaches. We have a great team, we have a strong team."

The Red Storm have won close games. They have come from behind. They have handled many teams with ease. The one setback came to Deering (5-10), and they nearly recovered from a 7-0 first-inning deficit in that one, losing 8-7.

Scarborough's success starts with its pitching.

Swenson, who has verbally committed to pitch for the University of Maine, is 5-0 with one save. He recently beat his future Black Bear teammate, Falmouth senior Brennan Rumpf, in a 2-1 pitchers' duel. Swenson has struck out 58 over 31 2/3 innings, and compiled a 0.66 ERA.

Zak Sanders has stepped in as the No. 2 starter after an injury to senior Harrison Griffiths. Sanders is 3-0 with three saves and a 0.78 ERA. He has 34 strikeouts and six walks over 27 innings.

Sophomore Ryan Shugars (4-0, 0.56 ERA), senior right-hander Mason Porter and sophomore righty Nate Masters have contributed to the team's 0.86 ERA. Opponents are hitting just .167 against the Red Storm.

"Our staff is very effective because we throw strikes and we mix up speeds with efficiency," Sanders said. "First-pitch strikes and getting people to make outs, not necessarily strikeouts."

Scarborough's improved offense emphasizes batters reaching base.

In a 12-1 mercy-rule shortened victory over Windham on May 21, the Red Storm had seven hits over four innings (as the home team, they did not need to bat in the fifth). But they had 19 baserunners, thanks to walks, hit-batsmen and defensive errors.

Ridlon said he and his staff stress the value of hitting hard ground balls. On grounders, the defense has to field the ball, throw the ball and catch the throw, as opposed to a fly ball, "when all they have to do is catch it for an out."

Matthew Fallona is hitting .432 and leads the team in hits (19) and RBI (16). Mason Porter (.326, 14 RBI, team-best five extra-base hits), Archambault (.321), Sanders (.348, team-high 23 runs), and left-fielder Patrick McCue (.297, 14 RBI) have also contributed to a team that is hitting .288 overall.

Even better, the Red Storm's on-base percentage is .410. McCue (.518), Porter (.492), Fallona (.491) and Sanders (.455) lead the club in OBP.

Once on base, Scarborough goes into attack mode.

"That's definitely our image. We like to put pressure on people as early as possible on the base paths," Porter said. "Especially if there's a pitcher we see is struggling a little bit, as much pressure as we can put on the base paths as possible is what we like to do."

Sometimes Scarborough runs into outs. In the first inning of the Windham game, Sanders scored on a wild pitch. Ridlon then waved home Fallona from second base on the same play. Fallona, however, was out by a couple feet to end the inning.

"We love the hyper-aggressive base running," Archambault said. "We love to put stress on teams and we love to take the extra bags we can, even if that means we get thrown out sometimes.

"We figure at this level, we can get more runs that way than outs, and it's worked pretty well for us the last two years."

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