Oxford Hills’ Colton Carson celebrates after getting out of a jam in the fourth inning of the Class A North final Wednesday, June 12, in Augusta. Brewster Burns photo

Opponents either got to Oxford Hills ace Colton Carson or they didn’t get to him at all in 2019.

Correction: Even when they got to him early, opponents couldn’t really get to Colton Carson in 2019.

Whenever the 6-foot-5 right-hander took the mound for the Vikings, it was no secret that it would take some time for Carson to find his stride, and his 90-mile-per-hour fastball.

“Like the coaches say all the time, it takes me a little while to get loose,” Carson said.

Indeed, frequently after one of Carson’s starts, Oxford Hills coach Shane Slicer would mention that Carson wasn’t at his best for the first 20 or 30 pitches.

Keep in mind that usually over the course of those first 20 or 30 pitches, the University of Maine-bound ace was still probably the best pitcher in the state. It’s just that once he found his rhythm, he was unhittable, and that makes Carson the Sun Journal All-Region Baseball Player of the Year.

During the Vikings’ 16-0 regular season, Carson rung up nearly twice as many strikeouts (68) as combined walks and hits (13 and 23) in 46.2 innings. He went 7-0, allowing less than a base runner per inning (0.77 WHIP) and all of five earned runs (0.75 ERA).

His final two playoff starts as a Viking showed Carson at the top of his game, and at his best, which, as far as coach Shane Slicer is concerned, are two different things.

As dominant as he was in no-hitting Skowhegan in the Class A North quarterfinals (eight Ks, three walks), Carson impressed his coach and inspired his teammates with a gritty performance in the regional final comeback win over Edward Little.

Thrust into immediate trouble by an uncharacteristically shaky defense, Carson limited Edward Little to one run in the first inning.

With pitcher Ethan Brown frustrating the Vikings’ offense, the pesky Red Eddies kept the pressure on Carson with seven hits in seven innings. But the four-year starter, whose junior year ended with a 14-strikeout, two-hit loss to Bangor in the regional final, was determined to pitch the Vikings to a title, even if he didn’t have his usual electric stuff.

“I thought he was magnificent,” Slicer said. “They hit him, but no walks. No walks was the key.”

“Just getting out of the first inning with one run (was impressive), and it wasn’t by any means his fault what happened in that inning, it was us,” Slicer said. “He minimized and he got stronger and stronger. I saw a focus that (said), ‘This is on my shoulders now. I’ve got to pitch like Colton can pitch.'”

Pitching like he can pitch meant Carson (nine strikeouts) reaching back for a little extra when Eddies did get on base, and keeping his faith in his defense, despite its uncharacteristically shaky start.

“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.”

The Vikings rallied with a run in the fourth and two in the sixth to win 3-1 and claim the school’s first regional title since 2010. With Carson ineligible due to pitch-count rules to pitch in the state final, they missed out on winning their first state title since 2010 with a one-run, extra-inning loss.

Carson is a key to one more Oxford Hills team’s championship chase as the ace of the Bessey Motors American Legion team, which is virtually a carbon copy of the tight-knit Vikings’ roster. Before he throws his first pitch for the Black Bears, he wants to finish strong for his home team.

“He could have gone and done some other things, did some AAU circuits, played away from his buddies. The offers were there for him to pitch all summer somewhere else, and he wanted to stick with his friends,” Slicer said. “That says it all. He’s a great teammate.”


Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: