Lisbon pitcher Noah Austin fires a ball from the mound during last month’s baseball game in Lisbon. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

The Class C South championship (6:30 p.m. Wednesday, St. Joseph’s College) will begin before dusk but could go deep into the night, based on history and pitching depth.

Top-seeded Lisbon (18-0) and No. 6 Sacopee Valley (12-6) will, in some way, add to their own playoff history, which has involved some recent nail-biters.

“We don’t play them in the regular season, but the past three years it’s seemed like we’ve been on a collision course in the playoffs,” Lisbon coach Randy Ridley said.

First the history, recent and trending. Twice last week Sacopee Valley (12-6) twice made the near two-hour bus trip to and from central Maine, and twice they flew home with extra-inning upsets. They shocked defending state champion and No. 3 seed Hall-Dale, 7-6, in 10 innings, then took out second-seeded Maranacook, 5-4, in eight innings.

Ridley said he didn’t get a chance to scout the Hawks but it’s easy to discern they can’t be taken lightly.

“From what I’ve heard against Maranacook and Hall-Dale is they don’t quit,” Ridley said.

Last week extended a remarkable stretch of postseason games involving the Hawks that have gone to extra innings, ended with a walk-off or brought the tying run to the plate in the final at-bat.

“I have no idea how we get into that predicament,” Sacopee coach Kevin Miner said. “I guess we just can’t score enough runners in a regular game. It’s not good if the coach has a heart attack.”

Sacopee’s only playoff game last year, a 5-4 prelim loss at Winthrop, was a 7th-inning walk-off for the Ramblers.

Lisbon and Sacopee last met in 2017, when the top-seeded Greyhounds, en route to the C South title, edged the ninth-seeded Hawks in the quarterfinals, 4-3, rallying from down 3-0 to win on a wild pitch in the seventh. It was Lisbon’s revenge for the 2016 regional final, in which Sacopee, coming off a 3-2, nine-inning win at Monmouth Academy, rallied from down 6-4 for a walk-off 7-6 win in the seventh. The Hawks went on to beat George Stevens Academy for the state title, taking an early 3-0 lead and holding on to win, 3-2.

Both teams will start their ace on Wednesday. Ridley will send out senior Lucas Francis, who started against the Hawks in the 2017 quarterfinal. Miner will give the ball to his son, Dylan, a senior who started, and homered, in the win over Hall-Dale, allowing one earned run in 5.1 innings before being lifted for the 110-pitch limit.

“He’s a legit ace,” Ridley said. “He’ll probably be the hardest thrower we’ve seen all year. But I have every bit of confidence in my kids being able to hit that.”

Coach Miner watched Lisbon beat Hall-Dale 3-2 at the end of the regular season and came away impressed with a lineup featuring Francis, Noah Austin, DJ Douglass, and Hunter Brissette.

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

“They’re a very good team. They’re top three hitters can definitely hit,” Miner said. “It’s just like any of us in Class C, we’ve got three or four kids that can really hit the ball and if the other half hits the ball, we win the game.”

The Greyhounds’ unbeaten record indicates their lineup’s and overall balance. The offense and the pitching staff led by Francis, Austin and Douglass have each done its share this season, while the defense has gotten steadier and steadier.

“We’re playing solid defense,” Ridley said. “We’re making good plays when we need to. Sometimes we make a great play, but we’re really making the routine plays like we’re supposed to, and that’s what’s going to help us out big-time in this game coming up.”

Pitching depth could make the difference, too, since this is the first game combining the teams’ history with the pitch count. Besides Miner, who his father said can throw consistently throw in the mid-80s, the Hawks have McGwire Sawyer, who got the save against Hall-Dale and allowed two runs in seven innings in the start against Maranacook, and Brandon Capano, who earned the win in relief against Hall-Dale.

“McGwire, he hasn’t got the velocity but he’s got a lot of movement on his stuff,” Miner said. “Then I’ve got Brandon Capano, who came in in relief for Dylan after he ran out of pitches, and he’s a good thrower.”

For once, it is the Hawks who will be making the short bus ride, from South Hiram to Standish, but both coaches know the atmosphere and bright lights at Mahaney Diamond can be a little daunting. Fortunately, both teams have veterans who have at least gotten a taste of the experience.

“Brandon and Dylan, my two captains, were freshmen on (coach) Eric Anderson’s team when we won states. They didn’t play, but they got to have that experience, so I’m hoping they’ll be able to communicate to the boys what to expect. And I’m communicating with them if we play loose, we play well. If we get uptight, we don’t do well.”

“With my guys that have been there (such as Francis and Austin), they’re going to be that calming force in the field and in the lineup,” Ridley said. “They’ve already been passing on valuable information to the young kids to get them ready for it.”

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