AUGUSTA — For the first 5 1/2 innings of Wednesday’s Class A North baseball final, it appeared third-seeded Edward Little, which had been dominated in two regular-season meetings against undefeated Oxford Hills, would beat the top-seeded Vikings at their own game.

Ethan Brown’s pitching, backed by steady defense and timely hitting, kept him and the Red Eddies locked in a 1-1 pitchers’ duel with Oxford Hills’ ace, the University of Maine-bound Colton Carson.

Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer pumps a fist after winning the game. Brewster Burns photo

As Carson had done a couple of times earlier, Brown appeared to be on the verge of escaping a jam when he induced a ground ball to shortstop by Will Dieterich with Vikings at first and second and two out.

Shortstop Austin Brown fielded the ball cleanly and flipped it to second base for the force out that would have ended the inning, but the second baseman, with pinch-runner Isaiah Oufiero bearing down on him, couldn’t keep the ball in his glove. Janek Luksza took advantage of the Eddies’ stunned reaction to scamper all the way home from second with what proved to be the winning run in a 3-1 victory at Morton Field.

“It feels great,” said Carson, struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter while scattering seven hits. “Last year, we were on the other side (a 5-1 loss to Bangor on a walk-off grand slam), and that’s never easy. It’s never fun. To be able to come back and get to the state game this year is huge, especially with the group of guys that we have.”

“One more to go,” he added.

The Vikings (19-0) will face A South champion Scarborough (15-4) for the state title at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Morton Field. Edward Little finishes at 13-6.

“It didn’t come easy. Brown had us off-balance, for sure,” Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer said. “I think we gave them one in the first. We were probably too jacked up. That happens sometimes. It’s like a football game for these guys. We had to grind. It was going to be a close one. We knew it.”

Cade Truman added an RBI single that scored Oufiero for the insurance run.

With two strikes on him, Oxford Hills’ Will Dieterich reaches out to slap a base hit to center field to score the tying run in the Class A North final Wednesday in Augusta. Caroline Burns photo

Edward Little got the tying run to the plate on Austin Brown’s two-out infield hit, but Carson got a called third strike to end the game with his third strikeout of the inning and ninth of the game.

Edward Little took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first courtesy of two uncharacteristic fielding faux pas by the Vikings, although neither was officially ruled an error.

Austin Brown (two hits) led off the game with a pop fly to short right that froze the first baseman and right fielder, allowing Brown to leg out a double when it dropped in between.

Christian Beliveau followed with a good bunt and plenty of hustle down the line to beat Carson’s throw and covering second baseman Rodney Bean to first base and put runners at first and third.

Ben Cassidy (two hits) knocked Brown in with a clean single to right. Carson escaped without any more damage with a pair of fly balls, including a nice running catch by Will Dieterich in right field, and a nice play of his own on a sharp grounder back to the mound.

“Throughout the whole game, I just knew if I fired strikes, I had confidence in my defense behind me,” Carson said. “Like I said all year, we have the best defense in the state. I know whatever it is, my team is taking my back. That just motivated me to throw strikes, to keep pushing through it.”

Edward Little second baseman Jacob Arel throws the ball to first to get an out during the Class A North final Wednesday in Augusta. Caroline Burns photo

Cam Slicer (two hits) greeted Ethan Brown with a leadoff single and stole second, but Brown started pounding the outside corner and settled in with a pair of strikeouts to get out of the first. He went on to retire eight Vikings in a row, four via strikeout.

“Ethan showed what a competitor he can be today,” Edward Little coach Dave Jordan said. “I was very, very proud of him. He took the ball. He didn’t say much in pregame or anything like that. He just had a great focus and fire in him. I can’t say enough of the effort he gave. He put us on his shoulders.”

“He was throwing his curve where the umpire would call it. The umpire was calling it off the plate and he threw it there,” Oxford Hills catcher Wyatt Williamson said. “He did a great job.”

Williamson picked off an EL base runner to erase a one-out infield hit in the second. Carson made a bigger escape in the fourth with a strikeout after allowing back-to-back two-out singles and a wild pitch that put runners at second and third.

“Towards the end of the game, he was definitely really dialed in and just pounding the strike zone,” Williamson said. “The velocity got up as the game went on. We made a couple of mistakes in the first inning and let them score a run, but he was just too dominant after that.”

“Colton dug down,” Slicer said. “This is his last outing with our uniform on, and you certainly saw some velocity in the last inning. He didn’t walk anybody, and that’s the key for us. If we don’t walk anybody, we can defend. We didn’t defend at certain times, but we did when we needed to.”

Oxford Hills’ Colton Carson winds up for a pitch during the first inning of the Class A North final Wednesday in Augusta. Brewster Burns photo

Oxford Hills gradually started taking less anxious swings off of Brown (six innings, seven hits, one earned run, five strikeouts, zero walks) the second and third times through the order and finally got to him in the bottom of the fourth.

Luksza ignited the game-tying rally with a double to the gap in left-center. A nice charging catch by Beliveau in center kept him at second temporarily, but Williamson advanced him with the second out, a fly out to right.

Dieterich quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole to Brown before lining a fastball up the middle to plate Luksza.

“I took two bad swings to get down 0-2,” Dieterich said. “Janek gave me a look at third base (telling me), ‘You’re pulling your head.’ I didn’t pull my head on that one, got lucky and made some nice contact. It felt pretty good to tie that game.”

“It was huge,” Carson said of the tying run. “When you’re battling behind the whole time, it’s not the same feeling. When you get a run … it’s almost like a sigh of relief and boost of confidence at the same time.”

Bean got the winning rally going with a leadoff single over the leaping Austin Brown into left. Luksza followed with a perfect bunt near the first-base-side edge of the grass in front of home plate that he was able to beat out to put runners at first and second.

Edward Little’s Austin Brown almost comes down with a soft line drive during the Class A North final Wednesday in Augusta. Brewster Burns photo

On Ashton Kennison’s ensuing grounder, Ethan Brown got Bean, the lead runner, at third for the first out. The runners at first and second remained there when Williamson flew out to center for the second out before Dieterich’s fateful grounder.

“You never expect another team as good as them to make an error, but we got a little lucky,” Dieterich said.

For Jordan, whose team lost twice to Oxford Hills via the mercy rule, 11-1 and 14-0, during the regular season, the final score wasn’t much consolation except to show how far the Red Eddies had come in a short time.

“We had some mistakes on the bases that probably came back to bite us at the end,” Jordan said. “We really needed to get that second or third run, and against a team like that, you have to keep putting runs on the board.”

“We wanted our guys to be tenacious and battle the whole time, and I thought that we did that,” he added.

Senior Will Dieterich jumps above the pile of teammates celebrating after the win in the Class A North championship Wednesday in Augusta. Brewster Burns photo