After breezing through 6 2/3 innings in Saturday’s Class C baseball state championship game at Bangor’s Mansfield Stadium, Lisbon High School senior Noah Austin found himself in a bit of a jam, and on a very short leash that he didn’t even know existed.
Leading 4-0 entering the inning, he had given up a Dustin Shaw single to lead off the seventh and Shaw ended up scoring on a two-out wild pitch. Austin had lost his control, two other Orono baserunners were on base, and suddenly, the potential tying run was at bat.
“We four coaches were talking, and basically what we said, was ‘He’s got one more pitch. Let’s see what he does with it,’” Lisbon coach Randy Ridley said.
Austin threw a strike on that one pitch, Orono’s Caleb Ryder hit a soft line drive toward the pitcher, and Austin lunged to catch the ball, end the game, and give the Greyhounds a 4-1 win.
Lisbon finishes the season 20-0, while Orono ends up 11-9.
Ridley, who had fallen victim to a seventh-inning Orono rally in the state title game two years ago, wasn’t about to let that happen again. Not that he told his pitcher about the coaching staff’s plans, of course.
“I did not know about that until they [told me] afterward,” Austin said. “I lost my control there. I stopped throwing the ball the way I had the first six innings and I started trying to aim it to those last two batters … I reared back and threw it to that kid, and luckily he hit it right back to me.”
Austin featured a sneaky fastball and a knee-buckling curve that kept the Red Riots off balance for much of the afternoon. He was especially tough early on, striking out six straight batters in the second and third innings en route to an 11-strikeout performance. He gave up just three hits, walked two and hit a batter.
“He’s a bulldog. He’s going to come at you,” Ridley said. “He’s going to throw every pitch he can possibly do, and he’s going to throw them for strikes.”
Ridley said Austin typically pitches to contact, but was dominant on Saturday.
“He saw something in that lineup that he could utilize that outside pitch and that curveball to keep them off balance all the way through,” Ridley said.
Lisbon struck first, scratching out a run in the third when Austin grounded a single up the middle, moved to third on a Lucas Francis single, and scored on Neil LaRochelle groundout.
Lisbon built up a cushion an inning later when Levi Levesque (single), Justin Le (RBI triple) and Daytona McIver (RBI double) strung together hits off Orono sophomore pitcher Cam Shorette.
Le had some doubts about his long drive down the left-field line. And he had a bit of trouble on the basepaths.
“I thought it was foul, honestly, when it was going down,” Le said. “I started stopping, and then I heard it was down, so I just kept on going. I almost tripped over second base, too.”
Meanwhile, Orono managed just two baserunners over the first five innings, only one of whom reached third.
Shorette, a lefty who entered the game with a 5-3 record and a 1.98 earned run average in 11 appearances, kept the Riots close with a solid fastball and nifty breaking ball.
Shorette allowed just seven hits, struck out eight and walked three. He also hit a batter.
Austin praised his opponent’s effort.
“He didn’t throw anything straight. Everything had movement on it. It looked like he had a two-seam [fastball] and he had a nice changeup and a really nice slider,” Austin said. “He was getting everybody off balance in the first couple of innings.”
Orono coach Don Joseph said his pitcher battled hard.
“I don’t think we saw his best game today, and part of that obviously is Lisbon. He didn’t seem to have his really hard stuff or his hard slider,” Joseph said. “But he’s a warrior. He’s a sophomore, and he’s had a great season.”