Members of the Orono High School baseball team and their fans celebrate after Connor Robertson scored the winning run to cap a four-run, seventh-inning rally to beat Lisbon 4-3 in the Class C baseball state championship game at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor on Saturday.
BANGOR — It all started when Orono’s survival instincts kicked in.
Survival instincts led to aggression. Almost instantly, aggression led to momentum. Momentum quickly turned into an onslaught.
As far as Lisbon is concerned, there are no words to describe what happened next except heartache.
Orono scored all four of its runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull off a stunning rally in the Class C state championship baseball game and defeat Lisbon, 4-3, at Mansfield Stadium on Saturday.
It is the first state title for the Red Riots (14-6) since they won Class B in 1994.
Jayden Dana’s two-out single drove Connor McCluskey home with the winning run. It was the fourth hit of the inning for the Red Riots, who had gone into the seventh with just one infield hit for the game.
“I’m still in shock,” said Dana, a sophomore second baseman. “It’s a wonderful feeling.”
The Greyhounds were in shock, too, after seemingly having their first state title since 1979, when they were in Class B, wrapped up.
Lisbon starter Tyler Halls dominated Orono through the first six innings and went into the seventh having retired 17 in a row since surrendering the infield single to Jackson Coutts with one out in the first inning.
“He pitched phenomenal. They hit the ball at the end,” Lisbon coach Randy Ridley said. “We just couldn’t finish it. It’s not due to lack of effort or heart. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
“He threw a great game, especially with his tempo,” said Coutts, who retired the final 13 Greyhounds to pick up the win on the mound. “He works pretty fast, so as a hitter, it’s tough to combat that. He has a good curve ball and he can locate his fastball pretty well.”
Mixing those two pitches, Halls, a lefthander, struck out nine and allowed only two batted balls out of the infield through the first six innings on just 69 pitches.
Seemingly with one swing, that all changed in the seventh when Coutts ripped the first pitch of the inning into right-center for a double.
The next three hitters followed Coutts’ lead and swung at the first pitch, too, and got on base.
“We knew he was going to pitch ahead and he wouldn’t want any bases on balls, not that he was falling behind our batters very much,” Orono coach Don Joseph said. “So we said if you see a fastball that you like go after it. We were a little, I won’t say intimidated, but maybe a little hesitant early in the game. I think Jackson’s opening hit got us a little less tense at the plate.”
Nate Desisto followed Coutts with a bloop into short right field that was close enough to being caught that it forced Coutts to hold up at second.
Kohle Parker followed with a sharp grounder to the left side that could have been a double play, but instead ricocheted off the shortstop’s leg and behind second base. That allowed Coutts to score the Red Riots’ first run.
Connor Robertson clubbed the first pitch he saw toward the left field line for a double that scored Desisto and pulled Orono to within 3-2.
McCloskey briefly broke up the run of first-pitch damage by swinging and missing at the first pitch he saw. He tapped the second pitch a few feet to the first base side. Halls pounced on it and flipped it to home plate, where catcher Nick Lerette tagged a sliding Parker for the first out.
Parker hurt his leg on the collision at home and the game was delayed briefly while he was tended to and then carried off the field.
With Lisbon’s infield playing in, the next batter, Kaleb Bouchard, worked the count to 2-2 before hitting a grounder to second. It was hit too slowly for second baseman Nick Austin to do anything but throw to first for the second out while Robertson scored from third with the tying run.
With the winning run at third, Dana, who had flown out to left and grounded out to first in his previous plate appearances, stepped to the plate looking for a fastball to drive. He got it on the first pitch, and sent into into left field to end the game.
“I was just trying to hop on the first pitch I liked,” Dana said. “Our main thing was, just jump on the first pitch and don’t get behind in the count. We were getting behind in the count and that curve was getting us.”
“Jayden’s been a quiet hitter all year, sort of under the radar. But he always seems to get the big hit,” Joseph said.
Lisbon (15-5) scored all of its runs off Coutts in the third inning. Ryley Austin’s one-out single scored his brother, Noah, from third.
After a walk to Lerette, Lucas Francis hit a chopper to third that Robertson charged and threw wildly past the first baseman, allowing Ryley Austin (two hits) and Lerette to score.
Francis’ infield hit was the Greyhounds’ last. Coutts (10 strikeouts, four hits, one hit batter) allowed just one more baserunner. Francis reached first on a wild pitch after swinging at strike three with one out in the sixth. He stole second, but McCluskey threw him out trying to steal third.
“Jack’s the real deal. He’s a Division I player (heading to Rhode Island on a full baseball scholarship),” Joseph said. “I told these guys earlier, Jack is the Hemingway hero, you know, grace under pressure.”
Lisbon had one other chance to score thwarted in the first inning when shortstop Evan Kenefic dove to knock down Ryley Austin’s sharp ground ball up the middle and prevent Noah Austin from scoring from second.
Coutts escaped the jam with a called third strike and ground out to third.
“He realized if you put the fastball in there, we’re going to hit it hard, and he threw mostly curve balls the rest of the way,” Ridley said.
“We’ve played five or six one-run games this year,” he added. “Or we’ve had to go 12 innings one game, nine innings another, eight innings another to get wins. This team is a seasoned, veteran group and they know how to win games. But sometimes it’s just not mean to be. (I’m losing) a great bunch of seniors and I just wish we could have gotten this one thing for them this one last time in their career.”
Noah Austin (5) of Lisbon slides into second base ahead of the tag by Orono shortstop Evan Kenefic for a stolen base during the third inning of Saturday’s Class C baseball title game in Bangor. Orono won 4-3.