WINDHAM – It should’ve been like the Hulk vs. Thor; instead, it was more like the Hulk vs….well, most anybody else. While the Storm took to the Eagles’ home turf on Tuesday afternoon looking as full of Hulk-smash as ever, Windham looked very much off their game. Scarborough jumped ahead early and never looked back, routing their hosts 15-0 in five innings.
“I’m really pleased with the way my kids responded today; we were ready,” Scaborough head coach Tom Griffin said. “It was a good opportunity for us to see what we have.”
“We just wanted to send a message to everybody that, ‘This is what we have,’” Griffin said. “We wanted to play the game, and play hard and play it all out and just see what happens. Try to win all phases of the game. And we went out and dominated from the get-go. Put them on their heels a little bit, and good things can happen when you get something going.”
Windham head coach Travis Demmons was patently disappointed “Just mental errors. We made a lot of physical errors too, but we’re a much better team than that. Last year, we were in a similar situation, and we battled much better. We played much cleaner. It just comes down to execution…Scarborough executed really well, and we didn’t.”
The game, between the only two teams still undefeated in A South, looked – at least on paper – like it had the potential to be a back-and-forth affair culminating in a narrow result. For their part, Scarborough had, to that point, hashed 122 runs – and only given up four. Windham, meanwhile, had posted 148 runs of their own (though they’d played one more game than the Storm). They’d also relinquished more than the Storm, however: 42. Perhaps in the teams’ defense lay the critical difference, then.
Both coaches remarked on the importance of defense.
“We always try to build from the defense out,” Griffin said. “If you’re going to be a State Championship team, that’s what it’s going to be in the long run. Games are going to tighten up into the playoffs; it’s not going to be these big blowouts. Usually, the defense is going to make the difference. We pride ourselves on our defense, and to the kids’ credit, they’ve been working really hard on the defensive end. It’s been pretty fun to work with these kids; they’re awesome.”
“Defense is huge,” Demmons said. “Pitching is obviously very important, but you’ve got to be able to field the ball and throw the ball. That’s what I tell anyone who comes to any clinic I’ve ever run. And I can’t say it enough: Scarborough executed, they put the screws to us, and our girls didn’t rise to the occasion today. Hopefully, we’ll get another crack at them and perform much better.”
The Storm jumped out front early, going to 3-0 in the top of the first on runs by Chloe Griffin, Laura Powell and Sam Carreiro. But give Scarborough an inch and they’ll take at least a mile, as Demmons observed.
“Right from the get-go, the girls came a little bit – “sleepwalking” is kind of the term I would use, and did use with them,” Demmons said. “You can’t spot Scarborough a 3-0 lead in the first inning on pop-flies that should’ve been caught. Then they just packed on.”
The Eagles stymied the Storm in the top of the second, though. Where Windham had appeared nerve-wracked to begin the game, they seemed to have settled down a bit by the time their follow-up turn in the field rolled ‘round. Starting pitcher Dani Tardiff lured three consecutive Stormers into outs, the first an infield fly to second basemen Taylor Tibbetts, the next a flyout to Chloe Wilcox in left and the last a flyout to Katelyn Troiano in center.
Windham could not get their own bats going against Scarborough Starter Abby Murrell, however, and themselves stumbled, 1-2-3, through the bottom of the second.
Griffin praised Murrell. “Abby had a great game; she was just right-on. She hasn’t really been spotted in the limelight, but now it’s her time to shine a little bit.”
The top of the third, then, is when the Storm broke the game wide open: Scarborough scored 10 in the stretch, with Powell, Lily Volk, Murrell, Carreiro, Lindsey Kelley, Courtney Brochu and others all rounding the bases. Murrell was the big hitter in the inning, launching a three-run homer over the leftfield fence.
Tardiff checked out midway through the inning, having given up nine hits and 10 runs all told. It simply hadn’t been Tardiff’s day – normally, the Windham ace is among the best in the league. Demmons talked about one factor affecting her performance of late:
“Dani had shoulder surgery in the off-season,” he said. “So her velocity isn’t where it was before. She’s having to pitch – instead of just throwing the ball, she has to pitch. And she’s struggling to hit her spots”
“Right now, we’re a work of art in progress,” Demmons continued. “By the end of the year, I want to be, whatever, the Mona Lisa. A fine work of art. And right now, same thing with Dani. She’s a microcosm of our team: She’s trying to work her way back to what she was last year.”
Windham’s lone hit of the day was a nice one – a hard double grounder into centerfield by Olivia Mora in the bottom of the fourth – but it was also far too little, far too late. Scarborough added two more in the top of the fifth to seal the deal.
Griffin expressed further pride in his girls. “This is an extremely hardworking group,” he said. “Every single kid on that team comes out every day in practices and gives everything they’ve got. We just talked about that. All our hard work really showed out here. Everything we’ve been doing, defensively, offensively.”
No. 1 Scarborough, now 10-0 on the season, travels to Marshwood on Thursday the 18th. They visit Thornton the following day and host Westbrook on Monday.
No. 5 Windham, now 10-1, traveled to Gorham on Wednesday the 17th. They host the Maine Girls’ Academy/Falmouth on Friday the 19th. and TA on Monday.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME
It wasn’t Dani Tardiff’s day in the circle, as Scarborough made good contact against her and built a substantial lead over Windham in the early going.
A Scarborough grounder tumbles toward Windham third basemen Alex Morang.
Windham shortstop Lauren Talbot fires off a throw to first on an infield grounder.