Levi Levesque hoists the Class C state championship baseball trophy as he and his Lisbon High School teammates make their way down Lisbon Street during the Moxie Festival parade in Lisbon Falls last July. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of stories about the effects of the cancellation of the spring sports season.

Before COVID-19 shut down his senior spring season, Levi Levesque kept his 2019 Class C baseball state championship ring hidden so as to stay focused on the 2020 ring he imagined would sit beside it for the rest of his life.

The ring now sits prominently on a bureau in Levesque’s room, a reminder that no season should be taken for granted.

“We wanted to show this year that it was the program and not just a couple of guys (responsible for Lisbon’s success),” Levesque said. “We wanted to remind everyone that Lisbon as a baseball town generally produces good talent. And we felt like, as seniors, it’s your responsibility to be the leaders of the team, and we thought we could be that and then hopefully win another title and ride off into the sunset.”

“But,” he added, “there’s no ride.”

Levesque, a first baseman, was one of three returning senior starters on this year’s Greyhounds, along with second baseman/pitcher Jack Tibbetts and pitcher/shortstop/outfielder DJ Douglass. Lisbon also had a rapidly developing young nucleus of sophomores and juniors who played key roles in their undefeated season, led by sophomore outfielder Hunter Brissette, who was an MVC first-team all-star as a freshman and was the leadoff hitter in a lineup in which no one batted under .300.

The Greyhounds did have two huge holes to fill with the graduation of MVC Player of the Year Lucas Francis and Noah Austin, the 2-3 hitters in a potent lineup and the dominant 1-2 punch of the pitching staff.

Besides being Lisbon’s first state title in 40 years, the 4-1 win over Orono in the state championship last June was redemption for those seniors, who were on the field when Orono rallied in the seventh inning to snatch the 2017 crown.

Lisbon’s Jack Tibbetts touches first base before Hall Dale’s Josh Nadeau reaches the bag during a game last May. Lisbon pitcher Noah Austin rushes in for the assist on the play. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The mission for this year’s seniors was to try to put their own stamp on the program and maintain the standard that’s been set with two regional titles and one state title over the past three years.

“One of the really upsetting parts (about the season being canceled), we had something to look forward to for this spring, since we won it last year, which was defending our title as a whole team with most of our guys back,” Tibbetts said.

“With what we had coming back this year,’ I had a real good feeling about repeating,” Lisbon coach Randy Ridley said, “or at least getting back there (to the state game).”

Ridley and assistant coach Jake Gentle had a plan to utilize the Greyhounds’ strength — their depth — to make another title run. Ridley acknowledged getting through Class C South again would have been another big challenge, especially with the added target of being defending champs.

But the lineup, with juniors Neil LaRochelle and Daytona McIver also back to help, should have still produced. Douglass, Tibbetts and LaRochelle were experienced arms expected to anchor a pitching staff that the coaches felt could go eight-deep. Rather than relying on their two aces to go deep into games, Ridley felt they could take more of a committee approach, with junior catcher Justin Le being a steadying influence.

“Lucas and Noah kind of brought him along last year and, having that experience from those two guys, I know Justin would have been the support this pitching staff needed on the mound,” Ridley said.

Instead, Ridley finds himself occasionally stopping at Lisbon’s baseball field and sitting in the dugout trying to envision Le having a conference with one of his pitchers, or the Greyhounds executing a hit-and-run.

Lisbon High School catcher Justin Le tags out Sacopee Valley High School’s Brandon Capano at home for a key out in the Class C South final in Standish last June. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“The seniors are the ones having the hardest time. I just wish I could fix it,” said Ridley, who noted that it was his first spring without baseball in about 35 years.

“The thing I told them is I know you’re disappointed, but one thing to remember is that you’re leaving the field as state champions,” Ridley said.

Ridley knows that isn’t much consolation, especially for the seniors. But Tibbetts said while the story of his high school career will always seem unfinished, the ending it has will always be special.

“I had a few things I didn’t accomplish last year that I was hoping to this year, but I have no regrets,” said Tibbetts, who is currently scheduled to report for U.S. Air Force basic training in September. “We gave it all we had and I’m extremely proud to go out the way we did.”

Levesque and McIver were among those who went on to win a Class D football state championship five months after celebrating on the diamond. But not knowing whether that would lead to another championship this spring is almost an afterthought for Levesque and Tibbetts, lifelong friends who would enjoy just being able to sit in a dugout together again with their teammates.

“Even everything I thought I disliked about baseball, I would give anything to be doing right now,” said Levesque, who will enroll at the University of Maine to study construction engineering technology in the fall. “I’d love to just be the guy who goes out to warm up the left fielder between innings.”

Tibbetts younger brother, Levi, is a freshman, and losing an opportunity for them to play on the same team adds to his disappointment. But at least he and his brother can play some catch in their backyard.

“We haven’t really seen our friends in a long time,” Tibbetts said. “I think the biggest thing is the social aspect. Even if we were just at practice, we’d be together.”


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