OLD TOWN, Maine — When opportunity presented itself, Jason DeSisto took full advantage Thursday afternoon.
The Orono High School senior catcher saw a chance to do something players at his position rarely do — steal home plate — and the move gave the undefeated Red Riots the lead for good as coach Don Joseph’s club defeated Old Town 6-3.
Orono, the top-ranked team in Class C North entering the contest, is 7-0 this spring. Old Town, whose only loss entering the game was at Class A Bangor, is 7-2 and among the leaders in Class B North.
Orono had just tied the game at 1-1 earlier in the top of the fourth inning when Cam Shorette reached second base on an error and scored on Zack Dill’s ground single up the middle.
DeSisto reached on a fielder’s choice, took second on a wild pitch by Old Town starter Gabe Gifford and advanced to third as Ellis Spaulding grounded out to shortstop.
DeSisto then used knowledge he had gained while on base two innings earlier to make the daring theft of the final 90 feet to home plate.
“In my previous time up I was on third with two outs and coach and I looked at each other like, ‘Should I go?’” DeSisto said. “The batter struck out then but we had noticed that the pitcher was going from the windup and wasn’t paying attention to me, so the next time up we found ourselves in the same scenario and coach said, ‘Don’t make it obvious but go,’ so I just went.
“That was the first and probably only time I’ll steal home.”
Orono added two more runs in the fifth to stretch its lead to 4-1 and, after Old Town countered with two in the bottom of that inning, the Red Riots secured the insurance they needed. They capitalized on four walks and a hit batter to score twice more in the top of the sixth.
Dill, who started the game at shortstop behind starting pitcher Cam Shorette, came on to pitch 2 1/3 innings of two-hit, scoreless relief to hold the Coyotes in check late in the game.
“Cam’s a great pitcher. He put me in a great spot where all I had to do was come in and throw strikes,” said Dill, who struck out four and walked no one. “The plan all along was that I was going to start this game, but then we had a rainout on Tuesday so we had our ace [Shorette] available for this big game.”
Dill and Shorette combined for nine strikeouts and two walks while limiting Old Town to six hits.
Gifford worked five full innings for Old Town, allowing no earned runs on four hits while striking out nine, walking two and hitting a batter.
Three Old Town pitchers limited Orono to just five hits, all singles.
Old Town took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Gifford reached on an error, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out, opposite-field single to left field by cleanup batter Casey Downs.
Shorette then retired the next 11 batters he faced.
Orono took its 2-1 lead in the fourth, then sent eight batters to the plate in the top of the fifth.
Consecutive singles by Dana Crocker, Zach Needham and Caleb Ryder loaded the bases with no one out. Shorette then hit a comebacker to the mound and Gifford threw home for a forceout, but the ensuing throw to first base hit Shorette in the basepath, enabling him to reach base and allowing Needham to score to make it 3-1.
Dill walked to reload the bases, then DeSisto was hit by a pitch to force Ryder home and give the Red Riots a three-run cushion.
Old Town got those two runs back in the bottom of the inning. Connor McCannell had a one-out infield hit, Seth Haverlock walked and Isaac Hayes capped off a 12-pitch at-bat with a single to left to load the bases.
After Shorette retired the next batter, Matt Seymour singled to left to drive home McCannell and Tanner Evans drew a bases-loaded walk to rally Old Town back within a single run.
Dill then came on in relief of Shorette and induced Downs to pop out to third baseman Javier Santiago in foul territory to end the inning.
Hayes was the game’s lone repeat hitter with two singles, while teammate Noah Thibodeau added a sixth-inning double.