Lisbon High School pitcher Tyler Halls fires a pitch during a game against Mountain Valley High School in Lisbon on Friday.
LISBON — Already one of the most feared players in Class C baseball as the 2017 season began, Lisbon’s Tyler Halls grew into one of the most complete players in the state in 2017.
Halls was the ace of a formidable Greyhounds pitching staff, an outstanding center fielder capable of tracking down anything between the two gaps, and a powerful hitter able to use the whole field to get on base who then terrorized catchers and pitchers with his speed once he got on.
Halls’ ability to dominate a game in so many ways while leading Lisbon to its first state title game in 29 years earned him the Sun Journal’s All-Region baseball player of the year for 2017.
Getting the ball in such a talented athlete’s hands would seem like a winning strategy, and Lisbon coach Randy Ridley gave the ball to Halls whenever he needed a big win.
It usually took Halls a few pitches to look the part of an ace. If teams got to him at all, it was usually in the early innings as the southpaw tried to find the feel for his 12-to-6 curve ball.
No matter how many he threw in pregame, Halls couldn’t get a feel for the breaking ball.
“It never really works in warmups,” he said. “It usually didn’t work until I got about 10 curve balls into the game.”
But, unlike past years, Halls had the patience to let his curve come to him.
“Even when he wasn’t throwing it for strikes early in the game, he kept throwing it just to get a feel for it,” Ridley said. “He became more of a pitcher. He hit his spots well. He set kids up. And he threw his curve.”
The curve crossed the plate in the strike zone more often than not once Halls found it. It made his fastball all-the-more devastating and helped him strike out 40 batters in 36 innings and post a 2.13 ERA.
Halls’ role as the Greyhounds’ stopper was never more evident that in their quarterfinal game against defending state champion Sacopee Valley.
Trailing the team that beat the Greyhounds in last year’s regional final, Halls entered the game in relief and threw five scoreless innings while Lisbon rallied from a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3 walkoff win.
“Tyler came in and just said, ‘Enough’s enough. We’re the better team and we’re going to prove it,'” Ridley said.
Halls helped prove it with a key hit during the seventh-inning rally and ultimately scored the winning run after prolonging the inning by using his speed to escape a crucial rundown.
Halls originally batted leadoff to take advantage of that speed, but moved down to the No. 2 spot after showing an ability to hit to the opposite field.
“Tyler really became a hitter,” Ridley said. “He started hitting the ball with some power the other way.”
“It made a big difference for me,” Halls said. “Everything I hit the other way was hard, and it really allowed me to take advantage of my speed.”
Hitting between brothers Noah and Ryley Austin, Halls thrived, batting .444 (.478 on-base percentage) with a home run, 14 RBI and 22 runs scored. Three of his four triples were to the opposite field, according to Ridley.
Triples were rare for the opposition when Halls patrolled center field for the Greyhounds.
“It was where doubles go to die,” Ridley said. “With Tyler, if you hit a ball in the gap that you thought was going to be extra bases, it wasn’t going to happen with him chasing the ball.”
“I could rely on my speed a lot in center field,” he said. “I had to be a leader out there, too. Our first game, we had two freshmen starting in left and right and I had to be a lot more vocal and take charge out there.”
Halls and his fellow seniors took charge of the Greyhounds’ historic run to their first regional title since 1988. They rode a wave through C South wins over Traip and rival Monmouth to a showdown with C North champion Orono in the state championship.
As expected, Halls started on mound and, for the first six innings, was as dominant as Ridley has ever seen him. He allowed just one hit and retired 17 in a row as the Greyhounds built a 3-0 lead.
Momentum turned on a dime, though, as Orono hitters aggressively jumped on first-pitch fastball after first-pitch fastball in the seventh to avoid being tied up by Halls’ curve.
Orono ultimately walked off with a stunning 4-3 win that conjured memories of another shocking, last-minute loss Halls and some of his teammates suffered in the Class C state football championship last fall.
“It hurts, and we’re sad that we couldn’t finish it,” Halls said. “But the community was just happy for us to be there, It was the first time Lisbon had been in a state game since 1988. I’m proud of my team.”
“It was a tough loss for all of us and I had all kinds of questions about what I could have done differently. But Tyler was the one to come up after the game and say, ‘Hey coach, it’s all good,'” Ridley said. “After it was all said and done, he was the strong one of the group saying, ‘Hey guys, we did our best. Let’s move on.,'”
Halls is going to move on next fall to Western New England University, where he will resume his football career. An outstanding quarterback at Lisbon, he will line up at wide receiver, not only at WNE but at next week’s Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl.
2017 Sun Journal All-Region Baseball Team
Jarod Norcross Ploude Edward Little Sr. P/INF
Colton Carson Oxford Hills So. P/1B
Tyler Halls Lisbon Sr. P/OF
Grant Hartley Edward Little Jr. 1B/DH
Jacob Hickey Winthrop Sr. P/SS
Hunter LaBossiere Oxford Hills Jr. OF
Hunter Landry Lewiston So. OF/P
Nick Lerette Lisbon Sr. C
John Pepin Mtn. Valley Sr. SS/C/P
Hunter Richardson Monmouth Sr. SS/P
Ryley Austin Lisbon Sr. SS/P
Ben Bernier Poland Sr. P/SS
Bennett Brooks Winthrop Sr. OF
Josh Eliot Telstar Sr. SS/P
Troy Johnson Oxford Hills Jr. 3B/P
Noah Preble Spruce Mtn. Sr. OF
Damien St. Pierre Edward Little Sr. P/OF
John Henry Villanueva Gray-NG Sr. SS/P
Riley Volpe St. Doms So. P/1B
Tanner Wheeler Telstar Sr. P/OF
Honorable mention: Brayden Bean, Oxford Hils, Sr.; Evan Cox, Lewiston, Jr.; Jordy Daigle, Spruce Mtn. Jr.; Travis Hartford, Monmouth, Sr.; Brian Hewitt Leavitt Jr.; Jacob Kraske, Buckfield, Sr.; Jackson Ladd, Winthrop, So.; Bobby Shelley, St. Dom’s, Sr. Bryce Whittemore, Dirigo, Sr.; Jake Wiseman, Poland, Sr.