BANGOR, Maine — Victory appeared to be almost a forgone conclusion for Lisbon High School heading into the bottom of the seventh inning of Saturday’s Class C state championship baseball game.
Left-hander Tyler Halls had mastered Orono batters, allowing only an infield single and two balls out of the infield while retiring 17 in a row.
The Red Riots, their confidence shaken, desperately needed some inspiration. Jackson Coutts was happy to oblige.
The poised senior lashed a leadoff double to center field, igniting memorable four-run rally that lifted Orono to a 4-3 victory over Lisbon at overcast Mansfield Stadium.
“Our message going into the bottom of the seventh was, we’ve got to keep believing because crazy stuff happens,” said Coutts, who will play baseball at the University of Rhode Island next season.
“That’s the best feeling ever,” he added. “I don’t know what to say. It’s amazing.”
Orono (14-6) won its third baseball state title overall, the first since 1994.
As decisively as the Greyhounds had dominated behind Halls, coach Don Joseph’s Red Riots turned the tables with an resilient come-from-behind performance.
The defeat was crushing for Lisbon (15-5), a team with several players who last fall experienced an agonizing loss to Maine Central Institute in the Class D football state game.
“We just couldn’t finish it,” said cordial Lisbon coach Randy Ridley, fighting back tears. “It’s not due to lack of effort or heart, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Coutts, whose infield single in the first inning was Orono’s only hit until the seventh, also inspired on the mound. The rugged right-hander allowed just four singles while going the distance and did not wither after a two-run throwing error gave Lisbon a 3-0 lead in the third.
He struck out 10, walked one and hit a batter.
Hall had tantalized Orono batters with an effective overhand curveball and a good fastball. He finished with a five-hitter and nine strikeouts with no walks.
“They guy was a heck of a pitcher, Tyler Halls. He handcuffed us early and he was very good,” said Joseph.
Later, the Red Riots altered their offensive approach and began hunting strikes early in the count to avoid falling behind and being victimized by Halls’ curve.
“We said, if you get a pitch you like, go after it, don’t get in a hole,” said Joseph.
Coutts took that to heart to lead off the seventh. The left-handed hitter went up looking for a first-pitch curve and got one, driving a double to left-center.
“As soon as he got that they started to get a little momentum, they started to believe,” Joseph said.
Nate DeSisto reached on a pop-fly single behind first base and Kohle Parker’s hot smash could not be handled by the shortstop and allowed a run to score.
Connor Robertson laced a double down the line in left to plate the second run and put runners at second and third.
“[Assistant] coach [Adam] Gray circled us up and said, this is your last chance, just play with everything you’ve got,” said Robertson. “We went out there and hit the ball.”
Connor McCluskey’s attempted safety squeeze bunt toward the mound resulted in Parker being cut down at the plate — where he suffered a leg injury — but McCluskey alertly raced to second base on the play.
Kaleb Bouchard delivered the tying run with a groundout to second base to bring up No. 8 hitter Jayden Dana. The sophomore raked a single through the left side to plate McCluskey and send the Red Riots into a jubilant celebration.
“I was extremely nervous going into it, but that first pitch that I saw, I knew coming in it was the one,” said Dana.
“I was so excited (after the hit). It was just crazy.”
Lisbon players reacted with disappointment and frustration.
“When you give a team any ounce of hope, they will take advantage of that,” said Ridley.
Lisbon grabbed a 3-0 lead in the third. Noah Austin hit a fly-ball single down the right-field line, stole second and took third when a passed ball on a swinging third strike required a throw to first base.
Ryley Austin broke a 0-0 deadlock with a sharp single to left and stole second, then Nick Lerette walked. Lucas Francis hit a short chopper for an infield single, but the third baseman’s throw bounced past first, allowing two runs to score.
Sean Scott lined out for the final out and Coutts faced the minimum 12 batters the rest of the way, allowing a single baserunner (strikeout, wild pitch) who was cut down trying to steal.
Ryley Austin singled twice for the Greyhounds.
“It’s a storybook ending and you couldn’t script it any better,” said Joseph.