Spruce Mountain shortstop Brett Hunt pauses after tagging out Neil Larochelle of Lisbon after Larochelle overran third base in Lisbon on Friday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

LISBON — With a packed schedule next week, Lisbon coach Randy Ridley had a plan to use his best pitchers against Class B opponent Spruce Mountain on Friday but limit their pitches enough to have everyone eligible to take the mound when the Greyhounds face Class C rival Winthrop on Monday.

“Lucas (Francis) was only going to go to the 60-to-65 range because I wanted to have him available for Winthrop on Monday,” Ridley said. “Neil (LaRochelle) was our instant relief, and it worked out that he came in with the bottom of (Spruce’s) order, and with the top of the order coming up, I’d have Noah (Austin) finish the job and have just about everybody to pitch Monday because we’ve got four games next week.”

One of the biggest threats to such a plan is defense, or lack thereof. Not executing in the field can shorten a pitcher’s outing in terms of outs.

Fortunately for Ridley, unbeaten Lisbon’s defense was perfect, its pitching outstanding and its offense opportunistic in making Spruce Mountain pay for seven errors with five unearned runs in a 6-0 win.

“It’s happened a lot in our games this year,” Francis said. “As a team, we’ve made, I think, four errors all season, but other teams are averaging at least four or five errors. You notice that. It definitely helps us out a lot. When those teams are making errors every inning, we like to hop on and put the pressure on and put the ball in play because that puts runners across the plate.”

Francis, LaRochelle and Austin combined on the four-hit shutout for the Greyhounds (10-0).

Working very quickly, Francis started and tossed 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out five.

“(Working quickly) is more or less to keep the hitters off-balance,” Francis said. “When I’m working at my pace, it forces them to work with me and not me working with them. I like to control the tempo up there.”

“Our defense right now is playing well,” he added. “You can’t ask for more as a pitcher.”

Lisbon High School pitcher Noah Austin throws to the plate during the top of the seventh inning against Spruce Mountain in Lisbon on Friday. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

LaRochelle relieved him to get the final out in the fifth via strikeout, then gave way to Austin, who struck out two and hit a batter in his two innings of hitless relief.

“Whoever we put out on that mound, we’ve still got a very solid defense behind them,” Ridley said. “Whether it’s Lucas on the mound with DJ (Douglass) at short, or Noah on the mound with Neil in center, we’re still very solid all the way around. And they’re playing with a lot of confidence to make those plays, which is what we need to have.”

Each team turned a double play, including Francis snaring a line drive back to the mound and throwing out a runner at second, to erase base runners in the second and keep it scoreless until the bottom of the third.

That’s when Spruce’s defensive woes started and quickly snowballed. Two errors put runners at first and third with one out, which allowed Hunter Brissette to knock in the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Phoenix starter Bryson Bailey appeared to end the damage there by getting Noah Austin to hit a pop up behind shortstop, but it was dropped, plating Mason Booker to make it 2-0. Singles by Francis and Neil LaRochelle score Austin to extend the margin to 3-0.

“That what our whole job is, to keep putting the pressure on when they make those mistakes,” Ridley said. “I’m very pleased with how we’ve been playing. This was a good, tight game for a few innings, but I could just feel that we still had control throughout the whole game.”

Lucas Francis of Lisbon High School rounds third base on his way to home plate during the fifth inning of Friday’s game against Spruce Mountain. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

“(Bailey) has pitched very well all season long. He’s gone two complete games (including Friday), but we just make mistakes,” Spruce Mountain coach David Frey said. “That’s what’s killing us. We’re a lot better than our record indicates.”

Lisbon added its only eared run in the fourth on Brissette’s RBI single, and single unearned runs in the fifth and sixth. LaRochelle drove in the run in the sixth with a single.

Brissette, Francis, LaRochelle and Jack Tibbets finished with two hits apiece in Lisbon’s 10-hit attack. Bailey led the Phoenix (5-6) with a double and a single.

Spruce Mountain shortstop Brett Hunt fields a ground ball during Friday’s game against Lisbon. Sun Journal photo by Daryn Slover

 


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