BANGOR, Maine — Houlton High School had some decent scoring chances during the first three innings of Tuesday night’s Class C North baseball title game against Mattanawcook Academy, but came up empty.
Yet even after the No. 2 Lynx scored first, the top-seeded Shiretowners made sure many of their subsequent opportunities did not go unrealized.
Houlton erupted for five runs in the fourth inning, then scored four times in the fifth en route to a 10-1 victory over Mattanawcook at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
Coach Jim Castner’s Shiretowners (14-3) play South winner Hall-Dale of Farmingdale (18-1) in Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. state title game at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
“When they scored that one run there in the fourth inning I wasn’t worried, but as a coach you’re kind of like, we’ve got to respond,” Castner said. “We put five up there and I’m really proud of the guys. They hit the ball hard and ran the bases well.”
It was only the third regional championship for the Houlton baseball program, which finished as the Class A state runner-up in 1976 and 1983.
The Shires had a more recent bit of inspiration.
“We came here sophomore year and we lost, and ever since then we’ve been hungry,” said senior left-hander Pat Howe. “Last year we lost in semifinals to a very good Orono team, then this year we came back and we knew we had to take care of business and that’s what we did.”
Once the floodgates had opened, Houlton was able to connect frequently against Lynx pitchers Corbet Arnold and Brayden Pepin. The Shires racked up 15 hits, spearheaded by three singles each from seniors Nick Perfitt, who had four RBIs, and Isia Bouchard.
Sophomore Keegan Gentle drove in three runs with two hits, including a double, and Colby Callnan chipped in with two singles.
Howe picked up the victory on the mound, limiting Mattanawcook Academy (12-7) to five hits and one run. He struck out 10, including seven consecutive batters starting with one out in the first inning, and walked five before giving way to sophomore Jason Collett, who pitched two innings of two-hit, shutout relief.
Perfitt said balance is among the team’s key strengths this season.
“We’re solid 1 through 9,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of guys that stick out over anyone else. Even the guys that come into the game (off the bench), they’re always solid.”
Sophomore Jackson Weatherbee singled twice among seven hits for the Lynx, who committed four errors. Arnold gave up eight hits and five runs with two strikeouts, a walk and two hit batsmen over the first four innings.
MA broke the scoring ice in the fourth inning when Brady Pepin scorched a one-out infield single off the pitcher’s glove, but was erased on Arnold’s fielder’s choice. Scott Dorn drew a walk, setting the stage for Malcolm Slomienski, who pulled an RBI single past the third-base bag.
Houlton answered with a five-run uprising in the bottom of the inning. Howe got things started with an infield single to the shortstop hole and moved up on Morgan Phillips’ single to right. Bouchard followed with a pretty bunt single down the third-base line to load the bases.
Gentle’s run-scoring single through the left side and Perfitt’s slicing, two-run single down the line in right, on which a throwing error led to a third run, gave the Shires a 4-0 advantage.
An infield throwing error resulted in the fifth run crossing the plate.
The Shires kept the offensive momentum going in the fifth against Pepin. A throwing error put Phillips aboard, before Bouchard laced an opposite-field double to left. Gentle pounded a two-run double to left-center and Perfitt raked a run-scoring single to left-center.
Nick Brewer worked a two-out walk and Callnan ripped a single to left, then the fourth run of the inning scored on a passed ball to make it 9-1 Houlton. The Shires added an insurance tally on Perfitt’s RBI single.
“It’s a great group of guys, I couldn’t ask for anything more as a coach,” Castner said. “They work hard, they listen and they’re close.”