LEWISTON — For the second start of his Oxford Hills varsity career, sophomore Riley Chickering drew Lewiston, a team that scored 27 runs in its last game.
While a similar outburst was unlikely Monday, Chickering knew he and his defense had to do everything in their power to stop the Blue Devils merry-go-round on the basepaths.
The southpaw tossed a complete game four-hitter and batterymate Jordan Croteau's two-run homer in the first inning provided him with the cushion he needed as Oxford Hills handed Lewiston its first loss of the season, 3-1, at Franklin Pasture.
"I was pretty nervous when coach (Shane Slicer) told me I was starting," Chickering said. "(Getting out to an early lead) was nice. It's a whole lot easier to pitch with a lead than pitching from behind."
"Riley throws strikes. You've got to love it," said Croteau, a junior catcher. "He pitched to contact and we had a great day out in the field today."
Both teams played well in the field, but the biggest play came in the sixth when the Devils (4-1) put runners at first and second with one out. After pinch hitter Eric Soucy flied out to left for the second out, Alex Small stroked a base hit up the middle. Center fielder Nick Bowie charged the ball and unleashed a strike to the plate to get David Cusson by more than a step.
"It was a huge momentum swing. Nick Bowie's got a great arm," Croteau said. "I knew we had a chance when he let go of that ball."
"I made some strategic moves I'd like to have back and one of them was sending Cusson," Lewiston coach Todd Cifelli said. "I took the bat out of one of our best hitters (leadoff hitter Luke Cote, who was on deck and had two hits) in a big spot. The goal was to get it to 3-2 and put pressure on them."
The Vikings (4-1) put pressure on Lewiston starter Corbin Hyde immediately. Matt Beauchesne drew a walk to lead off the game. After Bowie grounded out, Brandon Campbell doubled to center field to knock Beauchesne in.
Croteau followed by yanking a 3-2 fastball over the fence in left for an early 3-0 lead.
"He's a good pitcher," Croteau said. "He was throwing me tough pitches, curve ball after curve ball. I fouled them off and finally got the count full. He threw one right down the middle and I just drove it."
Lewiston got a run back in the bottom of the first when Cote led off with a single, advanced to second on a balk and to third on a fly ball to right and scored on Hyde's sacrifice fly.
That was the only inning the leadoff batter would reach for Lewiston, but Chickering still had to work out of trouble a couple of times before the sixth. He stranded runners at first and second with one out in the third by striking out Lewiston's No. 3 and 4 hitters, Hyde and Chris Madden. In the fifth, he got out of a bases loaded jam with two out by getting a fly out to right.
"You've got to give him credit for shutting that lineup down, and defensively we were relaxed. We played well," Slicer said. "And we played with a lead. That kind of took them out of their small ball stuff because Riley didn't have too many baserunners on."
"I was getting ahead in the count with my fastball and curveball and I was able to put the ball on the corners," said Chickers, who struck out six, walked four and hit a batter. "My defense helped me out a lot."
Hyde (7 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 2 BB) helped himself out of a jam in the third with a spectacular play. With a runner at third and two out, Croteau hit a slow bouncer towards the second baseman, who was playing on the back edge of the grass. Hyde hustled off the mound, dove for the ball and backhanded it with his glove to first base to get Croteau for the final out.
Hyde went on to work out of bases loaded, one out jam in the fourth and went on to retire the final 11 Vikings.