Oxford Hills’ Janek Luksza dives to snag a ground ball the Class A North final against Edward Little on Wednesday in Augusta. Brewster Burns photo

Oxford Hills’ and Lisbon’s pursuits of state baseball championships and perfect seasons conclude Saturday afternoon on diamonds 75 miles apart.

The teams are a lot closer when it comes records (both 19-0) and storylines.

For Lisbon, which faces Class C North champion Orono at 2 p.m. at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium, it’s a two-year redemption story, dating back to a stunning loss to Orono in the 2017 championship game at Mansfield.

For Oxford Hills, the Class A state championship against A South champion Scarborough (15-4) at 1 p.m. at Augusta’s Morton Field is the culmination of a four-year journey for a grizzled and talented senior class that has progressively climbed the ladder each year, spurred this year by its own redemption story.

Four years ago, as freshmen, they went through the perennially contending-program’s version of taking their lumps by going 11-5 and losing in the regional quarterfinals. They advanced one round further each ensuing season, last year suffering a crushing regional final defeat at the hands of nemesis Bangor, which went on to win its record fifth consecutive state title.

“I think losing last year in the North championship, that really set a fire in us to want to come out this year and play the best we can and get it,” senior shortstop Janek Luksza said.

Oxford Hills entered the season as Class A North favorites and, with Bangor failing to even make the playoffs, rapidly emerged as the prohibitive favorite.

They rolled through the 16-game regular season by outscoring foes, 166-15, then opened the playoffs with a no-hitter from their ace, Colton Carson, in a 7-0 win over Skowhegan, their ninth shutout of the season. They survived a pair of 3-1 nail-biters, first in in the semifinals against Lewiston, and then in the finals, coming from behind to beat third-seeded Edward Little, to make their first appearance in the state championship since winning it all in 2010.

Both Oxford Hills and Scarborough used up their aces in Wednesday’s regional finals. Junior Wyatt Williamson, who caught Carson’s no-hitter, then tossed a complete game five-hitter against Lewiston, will get the start for Oxford Hills.

Vikings coach Shane Slicer expects Scarborough coach Mike D’Andrea will will counter with senior Jack Clark, who dominated top-seeded South Portland in relief of ace Nick Thompson in the Red Storm’s 11-inning 3-2 win. Clark fanned six in 3 2/3 shutout innings, unofficially throwing 40 pitches, which makes him still eligible to take the ball on Saturday.

Like the Vikings, the third-seeded Red Storm started their playoff run with a shutout, 4-0 over Cheverus, then won a tight 3-1 semifinal over Falmouth.

“I don’t think they mash the ball, but they’ve also won a lot of close games, so they’ve got to be mentally tough,” Slicer said. “The South was tough this year, and you don’t get through that if you’re not pretty damn good.”

The game also features a matchup of former University of Maine teammates and two of the state’s top coaches, Slicer and D’Andrea. Slicer has coached the Vikings to state titles in 2005 and 2010 and has matched wits with D’Andrea, who led Deering to six Class A state titles, in American Legion tournament contests over the years.

Slicer said having coached against D’Andrea may prepare him and his team for his teams’ trademark aggressiveness, but said, “Whether you can stop those tendencies or not …”

“He rolls the dice. He’s not afraid. He tries to make your defense play on their heels, so he’ll do a lot of things that other teams won’t dare do,” Slicer said. “I also think he’ll have them mentally ready for the challenge.”

Lisbon High School’s Daytona McIver snags a drive during the Class C South final Wednesday in Standish. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

‘FLAT-OUT EXCITED’

Lisbon coach Randy Ridley knows the fact that the Greyhounds will once again encounter Orono two years after the stunning 2017 state championship on the same site will dredge up unpleasant memories for some of his Greyhounds and their fans.

Orono rallied from a 3-0 deficit to score four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and win 4-3. Two Lisbon seniors were sophomore starters that day, shortstop Lucas Francis and pitcher Noah Austin, and formed the 1-2 pitching punch that propelled the Greyhounds back to the final this year.

But much of the Greyhounds’ success is due to a group of underclassmen who were not a part of that game, which leads Ridley to downplay the redemption factor heading into Saturday.

“I’m just flat-out excited to be there again. I know the boys are excited to get going, too,” Ridley said.

“I knew there was potential to get here, but how we got here was completely, totally unexpected,” Ridley said.

The combination of Francis and Austin made Lisbon among the preseason favorites in C South, but those two and junior DJ Douglass were the only returning regular contributors from last year.

“Four or five of my kids are first-year varsity starters, and for them to step in, it’s just been a joy and, in some ways, mind-boggling, to see what they’ve done,” Ridley said.

Bolstered by the contributions of freshman Hunter Brissette and sophomores Justin Le, Levi Levesque and Daytona McIver, the Greyhounds went unbeaten in a tough Mountain Valley Conference schedule that featured eventual regional semifinalists Hall-Dale, Monmouth and Mountain Valley (Class B).

They had a fairly easy time in the Class C South’s first two rounds, dispatching Old Orchard Beach 7-1, and Monmouth 8-0, before having to rally from a 3-0 deficit in the fourth inning to defeat Sacopee Valley 4-3 in the regional final.

No one in the state can claim a tournament run as unexpected as Orono’s (11-8), which went into the season needing help from young contributors, too. Besides six seniors, eight sophomores and two freshmen comprise the roster.

The Red Riots muddled through a .500 regular season to earn the No. 4 seed in the North. But senior pitcher Connor Robertson no-hit Mattanawcook in a 1-0 quarterfinal win that served as the springboard to a pair of eight-inning upsets, over top-seeded George Stevens Academy, 6-5, in the semifinals, and over No. 2 Fort Kent, 3-2, in the final.

“They don’t quit. Sort of like Sacopee Valley, they’re a bunch of grinders,” Ridley said.


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