ORONO — While many hitters like to pull the baseball when given the opportunity, Orono High School second baseman Charlie Boyle prefers the opposite field.
So when he got a first-pitch fastball on the outside corner of the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday, Boyle was in his personal hitter’s heaven.
Boyle drove an opposite-field triple down the right-field line, then scored on a wild pitch to give the eighth-ranked Red Riots a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over ninth-seeded Houlton in an Eastern Maine Class C preliminary-round contest at Mahaney Diamond.
Coach Don Joseph’s club (10-7) advances to play at top-ranked Foxcroft Academy (15-1) in Thursday’s quarterfinals. FA defeated the Red Riots twice during the regular season.
Houlton finishes 7-10.
Orono had rallied from a 3-0 deficit with three unearned runs on four Houlton errors in the bottom of the fifth.
Yet the Red Riots were still struggling against the off-speed pitching of Houlton righthander Ian Gervais, managing just two singles through six innings.
“He started everyone with a curveball and he’d get you off balance, then his fastball would seem quicker,” said Boyle.
But when Gervais started the bottom of the seventh with a fastball Boyle was ready, and when Houlton right fielder Ian Bauersfeld couldn’t come up with a diving catch, the ball rolled toward the fence on the artificial turf.
“Most of my power is to the opposite field and he gave me an outside pitch and I just went with it,” Boyle said. “[Bauersfield] sprinted for it and the ball didn’t make it to his glove, so he was off balance and I was thinking three right away.”
Houlton turned to reliever Chris Anderson, hoping a harder thrower might generate some strikeouts with the deciding run 90 feet from home plate.
But with a 1-0 count on Brandon LeVasseur, Anderson threw a wild pitch and Boyle scored easily.
“It was very intense out there,” said winning pitcher Jake Stoddard. “We definitely didn’t play how we could have, but I’m glad it went our way.”
Stoddard, a righthander, yielded just five hits and seemingly got stronger as the game progressed — he faced just 13 batters and allowed one hit over the final four innings.
“I was using my fastball a lot,” said Stoddard, who struck out four and walked two. “But to throw them off a little I used my curveball every once in a while.”
Houlton took a 1-0 lead in the second as Gervais singled to center, reached third on an infield groundout and a wild pitch and scored on Jordan Bragan’s single to center.
The Shiretowners stretched their lead to 3-0 an inning later. Johnny Fitzpatrick walked and scored when fellow freshman Parker Sanderson doubled to left-center. A sacrifice by Josh Harvey advanced Sanderson to third, and he scored on Mike Ring’s ground single to left through a drawn-in infield.
Orono loaded the bases with one out in the fourth only to have Gervais strike out Sean Kilpatrick and Cam Dwyer to get out of the jam.
But an inning later, Gervais wasn’t as fortunate. Though the only hit of the uprising was an infield grounder to second base by Tyler Eddy, the Red Riots capitalized on four of Houlton’s six errors of the game to tie the contest, with LeVasseur adding a sacrifice fly for the only RBI of the rally.
“We had some miscues that really came back to hurt us,” said Houlton coach Shawn Graham. “When you put six errors up on the board in pretty much routine situations it’s really tough to win ballgames.
“Up until the fifth we had a couple and were able to work around them without any harm, but in the fifth we had a couple that really hurt.”