Orono High School scored the tying run in the seventh inning and scratched out an unearned run in the top of the eighth to edge Fort Kent 3-2 on Wednesday night in the Class C North baseball final at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
The 11-8 Red Riots, who lost their first three games, return to Mansfield Stadium at 2 p.m. Saturday to play undefeated Lisbon, a 4-3 winner over Sacopee Valley of South Hiram in the Class C South final.
Fort Kent, making its first appearance in a regional final since 1949, ends its season at 17-2.
With one out in the eighth, Cam Shorette was hit by an Eden Paradis pitch. He quickly came around to score the go-ahead from first base when the throw on Dustin Shaw’s sacrifice bunt went errantly down the right-field line.
“We needed a run so I got it for us,” said Shorette, a sophomore shortstop. “When I saw the ball go to the fence, I just took a turn and kept going.”
Orono senior right-hander Connor Robertson then retired Fort Kent without scoring after a one-out error by the Red Riots in the bottom of the inning to cap off a five-hitter.
“He got stronger as the pitch count went a little higher,” Orono coach Don Joseph said. “Seniors play with a different intensity, and when you’ve got a senior on the mound whose arm feels great — he’s had a great season for us — you’ve got a lot of trust in him.”
Robertson, who missed nearly all of his junior season due to a knee injury, secured his second win of this postseason. The first was a 1-0 no-hitter against Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln in the quarterfinals. He turned in an economical, 95-pitch performance, striking out five and walking one while throwing 60 pitches for strikes.
“Coming off that no-hitter in the quarterfinal I had some confidence coming in,” Robertson said. “I just knew I had to throw strikes and our defense would be there. They played great defense tonight and all the credit is to them and (catcher) Jason (Desisto). He called a great game.”
Robertson was challenged on the mound by Paradis, a right-hander who threw just 60 pitches over the first six innings and did not face a three-ball count until the seventh.
Paradis, one of seven seniors in Fort Kent’s starting lineup, scattered nine hits during a 99-pitch effort and allowing two earned runs while striking out five batters and hitting three — all in the final two innings.
“We knew we were going to hit the ball,” Robertson said. “But the pitcher for Fort Kent threw a good curveball and it took a while to adapt to that. He threw the curve on any count and we weren’t used to that.”
Robertson’s bid for a second straight no-hitter lasted one pitch, as Camden Jandreau led off the game with a double to the fence in left-center field. Jandreau went to third on Paradis’ comebacker to the mound, then scored on Josh Soucy’s groundout.
Orono left two runners aboard in the top of the second, then tied the game in the third. No. 9 batter Caleb Ryder led off the inning with a pop single to left, stole second and went to third on Jayden Dana’s groundout to shortstop before scoring on Kohle Parker’s single to left.
Fort Kent regained the lead in the fourth. Soucy led off with a soft line single through the shortstop hole, then took second on an errant pickoff throw and went to third on Austin Plourde’s groundout to shortstop. He scored on a wild pitch to give the Warriors a 2-1 edge.
Orono sent out its 7-8-9 batters to face Paradis in the top of the seventh.
Desisto was hit by a pitch to open the inning after watching as his catchable foul popup along the first-base line fell harmlessly among three Fort Kent players.
Paradis then struck out Jordan Cota on a missed third-strike bunt attempt and retired Ryder on a check-swing comebacker to the mound that moved Desisto into scoring position.
That brought up Dana, who had the walk-off game-winning single in Orono’s come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Lisbon in the 2017 Class C state final. The second baseman delivered again, lining a 2-0 fastball through the shortstop hole to drive home Desisto with the tying run.
“It was all on the line at that point, two outs and a runner on second,” Dana said. “I got the opportunity and I had to capitalize on it. I had to do my job.
“I’d been in that position before, so I knew what to do.”